Friday, 19 December 2008

Guidance to institutions outsourcing their email

I've recently been involved, along with colleagues from JISC and UCISA, in pulling together some guidance for those universities and colleges who are considering outsourcing their student email services to a 3rd party.

One of the most interesting discoveries when working on this was the number of institutions who are either actively considering or actually already going down this path. This is no theoretical 'what if' scenario any more.

Interestingly all institutions have so far limited the scope of their outsourcing to student email services only as these seem to throw up less management issues than working with staff email and related information systems. But if these early projects are successful I wonder how soon it will be before someone decides to extend the reach of their outsourcing solutions to incorporate institutional information and data regardless of these complications.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Do you run serious records management?

I received a curiously titled email the other day (it was a commercial sales one from Aiim, no doubt received by lots of records professionals, so no confidences being broken).

Its subject heading was 'Do you run serious records management?' (as opposed to what: trivial records management, fun records management?...) It was advertising a one day training event in Slough around Moreq2. Aside from the title, the email's opening lines also struck me as interesting:

Does your organisation have a heavyweight records management obligation?
If so, MoReq2 - the Model Requirements Specification for the Management of Electronic Records - is something you need to know about.

I think this is probably the first time I have seen an open and 'official' admission that the kind of 'heavyweight' RM systems covered by Moreq and formally by the TNA testing regime are only likely to prove suitable in a limited number of specific, 'niche' areas. It definitely seems as though the days when EDRMS were being touted as the answer for organisations large and small and from every sector under the sun have well and truly gone for good. Certainly, despite its slightly odd tone, the email's title also implies that we are witnessing a welcome return to the notion of 'fitness for purpose' when it comes to records management - rather than the recent assumption that 'one size fits all'

Thursday, 13 November 2008

A spot of vanity publishing

There's been a small flurry of reviews of Managing the Crowd being published over the past couple of weeks. It's always fascinating (and a little daunting) reading what fellow professionals have to say about your work and I've been delighted - and relieved! - at the reception it has received. Thankfully the tone of most seems to be 'I don't necessarily agree with all you've had to say, but I'm really glad you said it' which is exactly the response I was hoping for.

Anyway, for those interested in hearing what others have made of it I can point you in the direction of reviews by:
- James Lappin in the Records Management Society Bulletin Issue 46, November 2008
- Barbara Reed and Stephen Clarke in the latest RMAA IQ magazine
- Marieke Guy in Ariadne (available online - hurrah!)

My thanks to all those who have taken the time and trouble to publish their thoughts and views about the book and in doing so are helping to keep debate about the issues well and truly alive

Friday, 7 November 2008

Why doesn’t the government realise our green credentials?

It’s hard to ignore the ever growing pressure on organisations, particularly those in the public sector, to reduce the carbon footprint of their IT infrastructure. This culminated recently in Greening Government ICT, a 20 page paper produced by the Cabinet Office to help government departments to play their role.

It’s a mine of useful information, ranging from the simple and obvious (‘shutdown PCs after office hours’) to the technical (‘specify low power consumption central processing units and high efficiency power units’).

Point 18 in Annex B appears to offer promise to records managers everywhere by mentioning a ‘data centre audit’ as a recommended step to be taken before then spoiling it by clarifying that this is about where your servers should be located in a room to increase air supply rather than referring to any form of information audit as we would recognise.

The ‘Areas for potential carbon reduction’ does at least mention ‘Remove unnecessary/duplicated data or information’ as an action (though as point 44 of 51 its hardly given high priority). Even more tellingly it has nothing listed under ‘possible implementation methods’. How depressing is that for records management? Apparently the Cabinet Office know of no possible technique for identifying what information stored within an organistion is ‘unnecessary’ and can, therefore, be safely deleted? Isn’t that exactly what records management, and appraisal in particular, have to offer: a proven methodology for identifying what information still has value and must be retained and which can be safely removed?

What a missed opportunity.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

What's in a name?

Alan Bell raises some interesting issues in a recent posting about the wisdom (or not) of ‘Records Management2.0’ as term, his main argument being that although the technology and how we need to do things has changed this has not, and should not, change our fundamental goals and objectives and that as such “ all this talk of version 2.0 is perhaps not as helpful as it could be”.

As the person who coined the phrase Records Management2.0 (though hardly original I know) it may be surprising to hear that I don’t necessarily disagree with much of Alan’s argument, as the following extract from my keynote at the RMS conference indicates:

“The archive and records management professions are innately conservative; indeed we rightly pride ourselves on taking the ‘long view’, a position that is entirely appropriate when you consider that we are responsible for record collections often spanning several centuries. But, I would argue that whilst our professional goals and objectives should remain absolutely fixed and solid, this does not mean that our methodology and working practice must do likewise. The two are not inextricably linked and indeed it is not just desirable, but necessary, that we are prepared to constantly and fundamentally challenge the way in which we do things, to ensure that we are fit and able as a profession to continue to strive to achieve our objectives”

Where Alan and I do differ, I think, is in the degree of change required; whether this does or doesn’t justify the moniker ‘2.0’ and the practical usefulness of it as a term. For all the reasons laid out in my book I do believe that the issues raised by the Web2.0 movement – and not just of a technical nature, but reflecting the changing attitudes and behaviour of users, the nature of organisations and how information is viewed in culture and society – do fundamentally challenge enough of the old order of records management to make a clear division with what has gone before both necessary and desirable. Though at the same time we should not lose sight of the fact that for all the apparent difference implied by the 2.0 suffix, it is still attached to the term ‘Records Management’ and as such there is more that unites us than divides us.

In many respects I think Alan’s thoughts and this response demonstrate that the term Records Management2.0 is serving its intended purpose. I believe the most important role it can currently play is in raising awareness of the issues and generating debate (and hopefully solutions) about what this means for the records management profession. My own view remains that the depth and degree of rethinking and change required does legitimise the decision to call it something other than just ‘records management’, and given that such change is a direct result of the impact of Web2.0 it seems to make sense to me to be obvious about that link.

For me, another advantage of keeping a very deliberate and obvious link between Web2.0 and Records Management2.0 is to avoid confusion about its aims. From some of the responses I have received both from some individuals and professional bodies I do sometimes worry that people think I am advocating throwing out all that has gone before and replacing it wholesale with the kinds of methods and techniques outlined in the book. Nothing could be further from the truth. Where records management works, great. We have ISO15489 and a raft of other standards and best practice telling us all how to do it in time-honoured fashion and there is little or no place (for now at least) to be taking the kind of steps that I am advocating. Hopefully the Records Management2.0 title makes it clear that what I am talking about are solutions designed to fit very particular issue – those with their origins very firmly in the technology and movement that we know as Web2.0.

Friday, 24 October 2008

A Records Manager's 2.0 Manifesto

Taking our inspiration from Laura Cohen's Library 2.0 Manifesto, the following 12 statements were agreed by contributors to an online forum hosted on the Records Management2.0 Ning social network held on Friday 3rd October.

The aim of this manifesto is to encourage records professionals to positively embrace the opportunities and challenges presented by the increasing use of online technologies (variously referred to as Web2.0, Office2.0 social software, cloud computing and Software as a Service) within their organizations and to actively consider their implications for records management theory and practice. By doing so we hope to encourage debate within the profession, promote research and stimulate innovation – thus empowering records managers to play a full and important contribution to the shaping of this major new IT paradigm.

A full list of those who contributed to the drafting of this manifesto is included at the bottom of this document.

1. I recognize that the world of information culture is changing fast and that records management needs to respond positively to these changes to provide systems, policies, advice and services that are helpful to my organization, my teams and my colleagues.
2. I will educate myself about the information culture of my users and look for ways to incorporate what I learn into the records management solutions we offer.
3. I will let go of previous practices if there is a better way to do things now and will actively work towards the elaboration and formulation of new principles and practices.
4. Whilst I recognize the need for final assured quality in record-keeping systems this should not inhibit constant experimentation, innovation and development.
5. I will help users to take advantage of the Web2.0 services they need to deliver the agreed benefits to our organization.
6. I will avoid requiring users to see things in records management terms but, rather, will shape services to reflect users' preferences and expectations.
7. I recognize that records management does not have all the answers and will work openly, collaboratively and constructively with other IM and IT professionals in tackling the issues we face.
8. I recognize that it is not easy for users to keep records and will endeavor to develop automated and embedded RM solutions so as not to add unnecessary burdens to their working life.
9. I will work to improve the organization’s capability of keeping and understanding its records so far as is possible, whilst recognizing that we will never have perfect solutions for capturing and managing our records.
10. I will, at all times, strive to maintain a balance between the needs of my users and the legal, regulatory and operational requirements of my organization.
11. I recognize that although technology moves quickly, organizations often change slowly and will work to expedite our responsiveness to change, whatever its pace.
12. I will strive to deliver a service both users and management can trust and that is transparent and open to all stakeholders.

Contributors to the drafting of the above include:
Steve Bailey, Matthew Brown, Clare Cowling, Nicola Franklin, Rachel Hardiman, Tony Haworth, James Lappin, Elizabeth Lomas, Ton de Looijer, Tom Munzer, Phillip Ruston, Nicole Schulz

We are currently exploring the possibility of having this manifesto officially 'endorsed' by some of our professional bodies and would love to hear from any representatives from such bodies. We would also be interested to hear what individual records professionals think about the manifesto and how best to further promote its contents to our fellow professionals

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

What happens when there are no 'clouds' in sight?

Its all very well outsourcing your mission critical applications to 3rd party providers, but what happens if they prove to be less reliable than expected?

The recent outage of Gmail for 24 hours seems to have reminded many IT managers of some of the potential downsides of cloud computing and of no longer being a master of their own domain (literally!).

"a major concern and objection to SaaS applications is their performance and availability, since they're provided by the vendor via the Internet and accessed by end users through browsers. When the applications become slow or altogether unavailable because of problems in the vendors' data centers, IT administrators have little to do but sit and wait for the problem to be fixed. This often creates extremely stressful and tense situations for them if the outages are prolonged and their end users become angry."

More details of this incident and the problems caused are available from Computerworld

Friday, 26 September 2008

Apple's Genius points the way for RM2.0

In Chapter 9 of ‘Managing the Crowd’ I make the point that “Largely as a result of … technical advances, we now live in a world defined by information storage; ours is now a culture in which size most definitely matters. Just take each new generation of iPod that hits our shops. Have you ever seen an improved ability to decide what tracks you want to delete quoted as a selling point? No. The fact that it now has a 16Gb memory, compared with the 8Gb available last year, or the 4Gb the previous year, however, most definitely is”.

In this context it was interesting to read over the weekend that iPod will no longer be selling their 160GB iPod Classic. As the Daily Telegraph puts it, “ (perhaps) people have realised that, although the iPod has the potential to put their entire CD library in their pocket, they only ever listen to a few hundred favourite songs”. So maybe there are limits to our love affair with storage after all.

More interesting still, particularly in relation to Records Mgt 2.0, is the new ‘music-recommendation engine’ which the new Nano has built into it. According to the article by Claudine Beaumont Genius will scan through your music collection looking at genres, the number of albums and songs you have by a particular artist, as well as the ratings you have given them. It will also look at the characteristics of the song itself, such as beats per minute… (it then) beams it back to the iTunes mothership. From there, it is able to build dynamic playlists of other recommended tracks, based not only on your library, but that of other iTunes users with similar tastes”.

So here we have the appraisal of large volumes of content based on information value and decided by a combination of both user opinion and user behaviour. Plus a system which combines the views and actions of the individual with those of the broader user community to provide a more informed analysis based on the ‘wisdom of the crowd’. Well whad’ya know. If we were talking about online business records, rather than music records, I’d say that Apple have just taken a pretty big stride towards realising Records Management 2.0.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Google - the future of the newpaper archive?

Another interesting innovation from Google, News Archive Search that will make 'millions of pages of archived newspaper content available for free'.

Okay so most of the publications currently covered are from the US, but it surely won't be long until many of the major UK papers and periodicals start to get the same treatment?

I'm sure it will prove popular with many users, able now to search and browse from the comfort of their home PC using the same simple search engine that they have grown accustomed to. It might prove more of a mixed blessing for the archive repositories that currently house and provide access to the original newspapers (or their nausea inducing counterparts on microfilm): on the one hand encouraging would-be researchers to continue their studies using the additional material they may hold within their repository; but on the other resulting in far less 'bums on seats' within the archive. Plus, of course, increasing the popular assumption that there is no need to visit an archive any more as its "all available on the web"...

Monday, 1 September 2008

Office 2.0 – a reality check?

Rachel posted such an interesting comment on her experience of using Office2.0 technologies at the recent Society of Archivist’s conference that I thought it deserved picking up in a separate posting.

Rachel is absolutely right in pointing to how reliant the ‘dream’ of Office2.0 is on the nuts and bolts of technical infrastructure and quite correct that at the moment that infrastructure is not yet sufficiently developed to turn the dream into a reality. However, I suspect the phrase ‘not yet’ is really key here. In response to Rachel’s experiences I think I would offer the following points (aside from a hearty ‘well done’ for the whole experiment!).

The infrastructure is still developing, but developing fast. I know (from bitter experience!) that relying on wifi access for internet access when on the road can still be a very patchy and frustrating experience. But, what I would say is cast your mind back 5 years or so and then compare it with today. Five years ago I couldn’t even get a mainline broadband connection for my rural home. Today, not only do I get a reasonable BB connection, but I actually first read Rachel’s comments on my Blackberry whilst walking the dog round a field this morning…

Similar evidence of progress can be seen around the country, whether it be wifi hotspots in stations and coffee shops or the increasing number of hotels that are now offering connections (including an increasing number providing free access). Of course this isn’t the same as being universal and I suspect that it will be some time – perhaps another 5 years or so – before coverage begins to approach this. But I find it hard to believe that it won’t happen soon – just look at the rise in mobile phone coverage over the past decade.

Incidentally, Rachel may have had more luck with a 3G card than she suspected. I’ve used one for several years now and though not without their own frustrations, do mean that access to the internet is possible pretty much anywhere you can get a mobile signal (at least at GPRS speeds, if not 3G).

It might also be worth checking out the potential of Google’s Gears. I’ve not yet got round to trying it myself, but the logic of a piece of software which enables offline access to services which are normally only available online (including Google Docs and Zoho) would seem a potentially valuable means of plugging this temporary gap as seamlessly as possible.

So, I guess in summary its worth saying that this blog is called ‘futurewatch’ for reason! The reality of the universal, seamless access to the web that is required to fully realise Office2.0 may still be a little way off, but personally I still have no doubts that it is the direction in which we are heading.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

How not to panic when you lose your laptop...

There was an interesting post (now sadly removed) from a delegate at the Office2.0 conference which flew in the face of the current convention: a man who fears that he has lost he his laptop but loses no sleep about the data he might have lost. Okay, so losing something as valuable as a portable computer would have been no laughing matter and then there is all the hassle with filling out insurance forms, sourcing a new machine etc, but (and here is the crucial difference) no panic about the data that’s been lost with it. No fear about personal information falling into the wrong hands. No paranoia about identify theft.

The difference? This owner of this particular laptop relies on his laptop for little more than access to the internet. No data is stored on it (and in all likelihood virtually no applications either). He is a proponent of Office2.0 technology and as a result his data is all stored on secure, backed-up, safely housed, hulking great servers that can’t get left in the back of a taxi or dropped down the back of a pub sofa.

Okay, so I no it is not as black and white as that and there are plenty of potential risks to data security posed by reliance on external service providers and wireless internet connections – but all the same, perhaps in the current climate there is something to be said for moving back to a situation where the client machine is little more than a dumb terminal, devoid of stored data and therefore devoid of risk and of value to a third party. A move which Office 2.0 is perfectly placed to enable. It lets your staff wander around the country with laptops, it lets them work wherever they need and it lets them have access to the data they require - it just doesn't let them take it with them, with all the attendant risks this seems to bring...

Monday, 11 August 2008

Records Management as part of Staff Development?

We held our first online workshop on the new Records Management 2.0 social networking site last Friday on the topic of ‘what does RM have to offer the information literate user? Though the number of participants was quite low, the debate was lively and certainly interesting enough to justify arranging another scheduled workshop on another topic in the near future.

One of the thoughts which the discussion prompted in my own mind was the potential value of the RM function actually forming part of the ‘staff development’ (or similar) unit within an organisation – usually to be found as part of the Human Resources function. As we all know, the records management team - or individual records manager - can currently be found in a wide variety of places within the organisational structure (IT, information services, legal/compliance, facilities management, Chief Execs office etc) but rarely, if ever, within HR.

At first glance they might seem unlikely bedfellows, especially given the great stress placed on RM as part of legal compliance in recent years. But my fear is (as expressed during the discussion) that we, as a profession, are currently seen by many individual users as being too bureaucratic, heavy-handed and ‘dictatorial’ and therefore as part of ‘the problem’; rather than as an ally, someone with practical answers to real problems and someone who understands and sympathises with their needs. I know many of us strive to take as many steps in this direction as we possibly can, but perhaps by so often being inextricably linked to the policy and management functions of the organisation we make this task far harder to achieve than it would be if we were seen to be on the side of the users. After all, at the end of the day it is their actions – rather than policy frameworks and central diktats – which have the greatest impact on how our records are managed. To a great extent this has always been the case, but is a trend which continues to increase the more technology continues to empower the individual user.

There is often a lot of talk about the records manager making use of the ‘carrot’ as well as ‘stick’ but my suspicion is that this is usually more along the lines of "this new process/system/policy that I am about to force you to use is actually great because…", rather than "what could we do to help make your life easier?".

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

An admirable summary of Managing the Crowd

I am indebted to James Lappin at TFPL for posting as succinct a summary of the main points contained within Managing the Crowd as you are ever likely to find.

In fact, it makes me wonder what I wasted the other 60,000-odd words on...

Friday, 1 August 2008

Launch of the Records Management 2.0 social networking site

Some of you may recall from previous postings that I have been keen to try to conitnue discussion and debate about the future of records management and in particular with regards to its role in the 'Web 2.0 world'; and hopefully to find ways of enabling those with an interest in this area to work together to create practical solutions.

After investigating a few different approaches I settled on creating a social network within Ning, not least because this platform combines the ability to keep in touch with like-minded colleagues with useful tools including online forums and event management. To be honest, I was still thinking through the details of how best to take this foward when a particularly interesting and robust debate about the future of records management on the Records-managment-uk jiscmail list convinced me that now was the right time to run with this (ready or not!). As with any such site, it will succeed or fail depending on the commitment of its members. Initial take up has been brisk, lets hope this burst of enthusiasm is sustained and turned into ongoing collaboration, discussion and progress.

If anyone else would like to join this site, please drop me an email and I will send you an email in return containing the relevant joining instructions.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Separating management from storage

I’ve recently been mulling over the nature of the relationship between where we store the information we create (the repository) and the rules governing its management – not least because it seems to represent one of the fundamental divides between the approach to records management which I am advocating (RM2.0 for shorthand) and the majority of ECM products on the market.

In the pre-Web 2.0 world there was a division between the applications we used to create information (e.g. MS Word) and the repository we used to store our outputs. We didn’t store our documents in Word, we stored them on our C://, on a separate file server, or even a removable storage device (though the MOD are beginning to wish they hadn’t!). All of which created a separate shared repository available for the storage of unstructured information created by a range of applications. This, in turn, influenced the nature of first EDRMS and latterly ECM technologies, the majority of which included their own separate repository for storage and intrinsically linked it to their management/rules layer.

As noted in Managing the Crowd: "The crucial difference with Web 2.0 services such as You Tube, Flickr, Facebook and the like is that they are content storage repositories as well. They no longer just represent the tools, but also the filing cabinet" which changes things considerably – especially when you consider that the majority of these services may be hosted outside the organisation. In this model there is no shared underpinning repository, nor is it possible to create and rely upon an intrinsic link between the management/rules layer and the repository of content we wish it to control. To my mind, this places those systems which are built upon the assumption of a combined repository and rules layer at a severe disadvantage by closing off the ability to manage information which it does not itself ‘physically’ hold.

One of the reasons for musing over this now was in the wake of an interesting chat I had the other day with some folks from Computer Associates marking the release of their new CA Records Manager product. In contrast to most other ECM products it apparently does not include its own integral repository – it’s a management layer only, managing content in its original native location. Though there are still currently limitations in terms of how widely this management layer can be applied (not yet extending to encompass the externally hosted Web2.0 services mentioned earlier) it seems to me to at least represent a more open-ended solution which at least offers the promise of achieving some of these wider, more demanding goals, further down the line.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

The need for dynamic records management

I’ve made the point before that one of the greatest challenges posed by Web 2.0 to records management is the fact that the underpinning focus of control has now shifted significantly from the organisation to the individual (a fact acknowledged by Time magazine two years ago when it made ‘You’ its prestigious ‘Person of the Year’ in recognition of the fact that in the Web 2.0 world ‘You’ control the information age. This trend is, of course, contrary to many of the assumptions on which records management is based which relies upon and extols the virtues of organisation-wide standards, policies and conformity.

In the latest print edition of Information World Review (though curiously not yet on their online version which is still showing last month’s column) David Tebbutt alludes to the same general trend in relation to social networking technologies:

“Forget centralised planning and control. No one can plan these connections, or their value, in advance. Power shifts to the participants who, frankly, deserve it most”.

Though not talking specifically about the RM and governance agenda, its not difficult to see how these same trends apply in this context and point to the need for far more reactive and dynamic approaches to information management which are able to adapt and change ‘on the fly’ .

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

The 10 (published) principles of Records Management 2.0

Finally, after many months of effort and angst, I have held a copy of my finished, published book in my hand. Authors are prone to equating the process of writing a book with that of pregnancy and giving birth to a child. Rather foolishly I tried this analogy earlier today to my wife who is currently 7 months pregnant….

Without sounding too clichéd I would genuinely love this book to represent the beginning, rather than the end, of this (self imposed) mission to rethink and reinvent records management to ensure it is fit for purpose in the modern world. I have been gratified to receive several supportive emails from around the world from other professionals who share my concerns and desire to initiate change. What I would love to do is to build on this by establishing a community of like-minded records managers, plus those from related professions such as the library world and of course the web technologists. I am sure that collectively there exists the expertise and range of skills required to make a genuine difference to our profession, its just a question of identifying the right online tool(s) to facilitate this creative discussion and, perhaps, finding the odd bit of funding to help make this happen. I make no apologies for the fact that my book raises far more questions than it answers, but now those questions have been raised and are out there for discussion lets move on to actually doing stuff: practical stuff that results in applications and approaches which can make a real difference. If anyone is interested in being part of such a community feel free to let me know, likewise if you are familiar with any ‘business models’ and/or technical platforms to help realise them (or sources of funding of course).

Finally, I thought I would end with some of the conclusions from the book (don’t worry, it doesn’t spoil the ending!). Part of my conclusion is that what we need at present is a set of guiding principles and shared characteristics which help define ‘Records Management 2.0’ and which can be used to set the parameters for any further development work in this area. More detail on each of them is given in the book and naturally they are all open for discussion (see Principle 9) but I thought they might at least get the debate started and were a fitting way to celebrate the arrival of the book.

Records Management 2.0 must be:
1. scalable to an (almost) infinite degree
2. comprehensive: with the potential to address all aspects of the management of information throughout its lifecycle
3. independent of specific hardware, software or physical location
4. extensible and able to absorb new priorities and responsibilities as they emerge
5. potentially applicable to all information
6. proportionate, flexible and capable of being applied to varying levels of quality and detail as required by the information in question
7. a benefits-led experience for users, that offers them a positive incentive to participate
8. marketable to end users, decision makers and stakeholders
9. self-critical and positively willing to embrace challenge and change
10. acceptable to, and driven by, the records management community and its practitioners

Friday, 6 June 2008

The way forward? Niche solutions for niche problems

One of the (very few) advantages of being laid up at home with tonsillitis has been the opportunity to catch up on some reading when energy levels allow.

One thing which caught my eye and which I never expected to see was an advert in the 17th May issue of The Spectator for an advert for a records management system. After all, think about it? When was the last time you picked up a major, national current affairs periodical, with no ties to records or information management and saw such an advert? I thought so.

The full page advert is for Niche Records Management Systems, a specialist system for police forces and is jokingly aimed at the new Mayor of London, Boris Johnson (presumably on the assumption that he should buy it for the Met Police). Of course, in reality, it’s designed to appeal to more than just one person but what we can assume from this is that this is an advert for a records management system which is not aimed at the records manager, nor even the IT manager – but the senior executive, policy maker and purse string holder.

The ad then goes on to spell out in clear empirical terms what benefits have been derived from implementing such a system by other police forces (e.g. “Hampshire Constabulary – a sex offender caught in four hours, not two days; North Wales Police – 42% reduction in case file preparation time” etc).

Now these are bold claims and I’m in no position to be able to comment on the true contribution of records management or this particular system to achieving them (so please don’t see this as any endorsement of this particular product which I know nothing about). For me the interesting thing is to contrast this with the usual way in which RM systems (and often RM as a whole) are marketed. Here it is being sold as a specific answer to a specific problem; rather than as an enterprise-wide ‘bucket’ and ill-defined answer to all information woes.

There is no mention of this system helping your police force to cope with FOI or vague promises to reduce costs. No, its selling points are its direct contribution to achieving the specific organisational targets on which senior managers are themselves judged. This is not RM as a universal panacea, nor RM as self-evidentially important. It is RM as a specifically designed niche solution to a niche problem in a niche market and as such is aggressively targeting a market which we seldom seem to reach.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Increasing interest in Google Apps

When I first started hitting the conference circuit and blogsphere last year with my concerns regarding what the rise in Web2.0 and particularly Office2.0 solutions might mean for the future of records management, many I spoke to thought it would never happen to their organisation. So whilst it may have been an interesting theoretical exercise, many dismissed much of what I said as being largely irrelevant to their organisations and their circumstances - particularly if they worked in the public sector. Even at the RMS conference in Edinburgh last month many I spoke to were still clinging to this belief.

But all the while the signs are that this is the direction in which we are heading. Whether this be the use of YouTube to conduct public consultation, as addressed earlier this week, or Paul Dodgson's post on the RMS Blog discussing how Leicestershire County Council is already 'dipping its toe' into Google Apps to explore its potential. Certainly in the Higher Education sector things are moving a pace. Whereas this time last year there were only a couple of examples of institutions wishing to outsource their email to externally hosted services there are now dozens with most IT departments currently at least exploring the pros and cons.

Make no mistake about it: this is something we, as records and information professionals, need to come to terms with and quickly - and not just by paying lip service to it, but by developing new approaches which meet records management objectives in radical new ways.

Monday, 19 May 2008

YouTube but who manages?

Very interesting to hear today that Gordon Brown is to conduct a ‘Question Time style’ discussion forum with members of the general public via YouTube. Of course this isn’t the first time that there have been high profile users of the service, with both the Queen and The Archbishop of Canterbury using it to broadcast their Christmas messages for the first time last December. Number 10 have also had their own YouTube channel for some time now (alongside a rather interesting and eclectic mix of other stations!)

What strikes me as different about today’s announcement, however, is the fact that on this occasion the Government will be using YouTube to conduct a two-way dialogue: with members of the public posting their questions to the PM and (as I understand it) he then answering in kind via the same media. This is a potentially significant difference with resulting implications for its subsequent management. Previously YouTube was just one of many channels of distribution being used (with the apparent safety net that it didn’t matter if the Queen’s speech was being distributed by YouTube as the traditional ‘master copy’ would undoubtedly continue to reside and be managed internally). With this announcement, however, the ‘record’ is surely the combination of both questions asked and answers given with any separation between the two rendering the final record of little informational or evidential value. And it seems to me that only YouTube alone will be in a position to ensure the integrity and longevity of this evidence.

I suppose in this instance it could be argued that hosting such a debate via YouTube is fundamentally little different from the Prime Minster appearing on a televised discussion programme such as Question Time, where the final record belongs to the television production company or broadcaster and is therefore their responsibility to manage, rather than the government’s. Where this comforting analogy might breakdown in the future is if more and more public bodies start to use established Web2.0 services such as YouTube to collect evidence or conduct public enquiries in ways which rely on an accurate record of the dialogue being preserved as part of the formal decision making process. That may still be some way off at the moment, but announcements such as that made today suggest that it is a question of ‘when’, not ‘if’ that day arrives.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

EDRMS: The case against

I've just finished playing my part in the mock trial at the RMS Conference: 'Has EDRMS been a success?' with me playing the part of the prosecution and David Bowen from Audata Ltd acting for the defense. My opening statement pointing out the failings of EDRMS are now available via GoogleDocs (its a 10 minute read).

I should, of course, point out that this is not intended to be a balanced, reasoned piece, but as forceful and convincing an argument as possible (after all, this was my Rumpole of the Bailey moment) - though that's not to say that I wouldn't stand by these comments....

Monday, 21 April 2008

From YouTube to YouManage: The need to democratise information management

I thought I would make available the text of the keynote presentation that I have just given at the RMS Conference in Edinburgh. The paper explores themes which will be familiar to readers of this blog, namely the challenges posed by the move to Web/Office2.0 and the way in which records management will need to radically change its methodology in order to remain relevant.

The only way I can see to achieve this is for us to control less and trust more: that is to trust the collective wisdom of our users to assist us in the management process. As ever, all thoughts and comments gratefully received and I look foward to continuing the discussion in Edinburgh with delegates over a beer in the bar this evening...

In fact the first feedback is now available via Keith Gregory's live blogging from the conference, worth a look for his take on all the sessions coming up over the next couple of days

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Sharepoint: new technology; same issues?

The TFPL workshop on Microsoft Office Sharepoint 2007 (MOSS) I attended yesterday provided some interesting food for thought at a time when MOSS is increasingly being mentioned as ‘the next big thing’ in records and information management.

I thought I would share a few of the observations which occurred to me at various times throughout the day. Some – or indeed all – may just display my own ignorance of MOSS and its capabilities. If so, I’d appreciate any enlightenment from those who may have more knowledge than I.

Firstly, there seemed a sense of déjà vu about some of the proceedings. Many of the claims now being made of MOSS (a single point of access and management control for all corporate information, integration of structured and unstructured data, reduction of duplication, breaking down of silos etc) seem very similar to the claims which were being made about EDRM systems 6 or 7 years ago - but which rarely seem to have been achieved in practice. Many of the case studies made the point that, though linking to line of business applications and other systems is possible with MOSS, few had actually gone down this route due to the technical complexities and resulting costs (sound familiar?). This begs the question of whether, despite its theoretical potential, will the reality of implementing MOSS, as with EDRMS, actually fall far short of this mark for most organisations, leaving it as a partial solution for unstructured data only?

Secondly, none of the presenters really broached the topic of how MOSS handles external content. Does it allow the user to integrate information they have found useful or have used which it held on external websites or within external services (such as YouTube or Flickr) with the other internal information that it relates to – for example as part of their Mysite or a Teamsite, and if so, how is this achieved?

Thirdly, and on a related theme: there was little real mention of Web2.0 throughout the day and where it was mentioned it was mainly in the context of barring its use or turning it off. Some did mention that they provide their users with their own MOSS-provided, approved versions of blogs and wikis. Though this might seem a sensible compromise I have long had doubts about the sustainability of this approach. Not only will we always struggle to keep pace with the functionality and user experience offered by external providers but also, it seems to me, it risks cutting the technology adrift from most of the underlying movements which make it attractive in the first place (taking advantage of the ‘wisdom of the crowd’, ubiquity of access and reuse, the ability for a user to record the ‘totality of their life, free from the rapidly disappearing borders between their work, domestic and professional lives). All themes explored in further detail in my book…

Fourthly, many people still seem to be tying themselves in knots trying to square the circle of which pieces of information represents records and which do not and, as a consequence, some organisations see MOSS as an acceptable vehicle for managing their corporate records (such as DEFRA) where as others do not (such as KPMG). This again touches on issues discussed in my book where I argue that as even the most basic and unofficial piece of information has the power to hurt or help an organisation just as much as the most formal of records –why worry about the distinction?

Lastly, to something that was conspicuous by its absence from any of the presentations – email. There was some talk about the collaborative elements of MOSS reducing reliance on email, but nothing to quantify this – nor to explain how those emails which inevitable must remain are managed within a MOSS environment. I’ve no doubt it is possible, it would just be good to hear how.

So plenty of food for thought and more questions than answers, but, then again, isn’t that always the way??

Monday, 31 March 2008

Managing the Web2.0 'crowd'

It seems that the Government are beginning to sit up and take note of the potential offered by Web2.0 – and not just from the technical perspective, but in recognition of the social, political and economic change that it promises as well. This is certainly the message which comes through from a recent speech given by Tom Watson MP, Minister for Transformational Government, on Monday 10th March 2008, where he said:

‘So let me tell you where I stand.
I believe in the power of mass collaboration.
I believe that as James Surowiecki says the many are smarter than the few.
I believe that the old hierarchies in which government policy is made and crucially for you in this room the way in which it is delivered – are going to change for ever.
People tell me that we are entering a post-bureaucratic age. I don't accept that. It's just old thinking – laissez faire ideas with a new badge.
The future of government is to provide tools for empowerment, not to sit back and hope that laissez-faire adhocracy will suffice. ‘

The April 2008 edition of Government Computing also devotes its front cover and lead story to Web2.0 and the need for government to "seize the day". In particular this piece points to the need for government to take a step back when it comes to implementing Web2.0 services and rather than going away and "spending a lot of civil service time and money trying to come up with web2.0 applications for themselves, it would be much better to allow more information to become public and allow groups like mySociety… to develop the applications". The piece also points to examples such as Patient Opinion of where sites set up independently from government have proved extremely useful in improving public services.

Interestingly, this piece does not mention any of the issues associated with the management of Web2.0 information. Of course management issues are never the most interesting and attention grabbing elements of a project and so often get consigned to the background, and this might be the case here. It may also be because the whole notion of imposing any form of management control appears out of kilter with the ethos of Web2.0 where, it is often assumed, anything goes – the equivalent of the parents spoiling the kid’s party.

But as our institutions and services increasingly begin to look towards a Web2.0-based future they are going to have to bite the bullet and tackle information management issues to ensure that such services are robust and reliable, as well as novel and democratic.

As I’ve mentioned in passing in previous posts, I have tried to develop this side of the debate by writing a book and I’m pleased (and relieved!) to say that the first draft is now with the publisher and due for release in June. The book is called 'Managing the crowd: Rethinking Records Management for the Web2.0 world' and is published by Facet Publishing. Probably the best way to provide a summary of the central argument of the book is to reproduce the content of the advertising flyer:

Imagine a records management (RM) future where the user community collectively describes the value and properties of a record using the wisdom of the crowd; where records retention, description and purpose are determined by their users, within general boundaries defined by the records manager. It may sound far-fetched, but could represent a way forward for managing records.

It has never been more apparent that RM as traditionally practised will soon no longer be fit for purpose. With the increasing plurality of information sources and systems within an organization, as the deluge of content increases, so the percentage of the organization’s holdings that can be formally classed as records declines.

In the Web 2.0 world new technology is continually changing the way users create and use information. RM must change its approach fundamentally if it is to have a role to play in this new world. This provocative new book challenges records managers to find time amidst the daily operational pressures to debate the larger issues thrown up by the new technological paradigm we are now entering, and the threat it poses to established theory and practice.

A range of stimulating ideas are put up for discussion: why not, for instance, embrace folksonomies rather than classification schemes and metadata schemas as the main means of resource discovery for unstructured data? Adopt a ranking system that encourages users to rate how useful they found content as part of the appraisal process? Let the content creator decide whether there should be any access restrictions on the content they have created?
This is a thought-provoking book which questions received wisdom and suggests radical new solutions to the very real issues RM faces. Every records manager needs to read this challenging book, and those that do may never think about their profession in quite the same way again.

I’ll post a few more details of the books central arguments over the next few weeks, but am happy to answer any specific individual questions directly.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Taxonomies: may be it is all a myth?

Jim Connelly has published an article in this month’s RMS Bulletin, entitled ‘Functional taxonomies: myth or magic?’ Aside from the opening assumption that the birth of functional classification dates back to 2001 (odd, as I remember having lectures about it when studying for my Records Management Masters in 1997, and of course the first function-based JISC Study of the Records Lifecycle came out in 1999!), it’s an admirably succinct overview of the pros and cons of adopting either a functional, subject or organisation based approach to developing a corporate-wide schema.

The interesting thing from my perspective is that although the relative strengths and weaknesses of each of these different flavours of corporate-wide classification schemes is debated, there is no consideration given as to whether the notion of the classification scheme (of whatever hue) really is fit for purpose. I would argue that rather than just assuming the validity of corporate-wide classification schemes, we should, perhaps, be questioning whether they really meet the needs of our organisations now, and into the future.

For example, do we, in fact, kid ourselves that our classification schemes meet the needs of our users, who actually require a level of granularity far below that achieved by most classification schemes? Despite our best efforts, do records managers really understand the complex business processes which define our organisations (I speak as someone who started their career in the pharmaceutical industry and certainly never understood the intricacies of the drug development process)? Are classification schemes really comprehensive enough – especially function-based schemes - which may struggle to incorporate information which was not created as the result of one clearly defined process (e.g. photographs or even blogs). And, perhaps most significantly of all, how will we, on a practical level, be able to apply our corporate classification scheme to information and records being created and housed in a myriad of disparate, unconnected and externally hosted systems as we move further into a Web2.0 world.

The article suggests that it is ‘time to look at functional systems or schema objectively’. I would argue that it is time to cast the net even wider than that and, instead, to look at some of the fundamental assumptions on which all classification schemes are currently based.

New kids on the blog

The state of records management blogging in the UK continues to go from strength to strength.

Not only do we have the welcome news that the RMS will be providing free WiFi access at their conference in Edinburgh and encouraging live event blogging; but also the arrival of a new blogger, in the form of Alan Bell's One man typing blog.

It's good to see so much thought and debate being shared during these exciting and demanding times for the records management profession.

Happy blogging!

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

How to keep those servers cool!

There’s an interesting article in the latest edition of Government Computing magazine (unfortunately there is no e-version of the article to link to). The article in question is entitled ‘Greening the data centre’ and refers to the problems that organisations are encountering in terms of rising energy costs resulting from the ‘hot and hungry’ new blade servers that organisations are cramming into their data centres. According to the piece it is predicted that between 2000 and 2010 we will have "installed six times the amount of servers in our data centres and 69 times the amount of storage".

The problem is apparently that our data centre buildings are not designed to cope with the power required and heat generated by such machines, plus of course energy-consumption is now a political and ethical hot potato.

Now the interesting thing is the range of possible solutions outlined in the article. These vary from ‘better power management in data centres’, through to ‘taking your servers… and virtualising them’ or simply replacing old technology with new.

Nowhere does the rather obvious suggestion of ‘keeping less information’ get a look in. It would be interesting to know what percentage of the content of these steaming servers is actually still useful and still required? Of course the volume of information organisations create and need to retain is always increasing – but I bet there is still a huge percentage that could safely be destroyed if only anyone knew what it was, and whether it was still actually required…

But given that the main contributor to the piece is a Vice President at IBM perhaps its not that that surprising that the suggestion is to buy more kit, rather than to make better use of what exists already…

Monday, 28 January 2008

Blogging - whats it all about??

Interesting to see a new records management blog appearing, with the launch of the new Records Management Society (RMS) blog. Seeing this, combined with recent experience from my own blog has prompted some thoughts about what blogs are for, what they do best and what perhaps they are less good at.

Take my previous post on this blog, for example, within which I attempted to summarise a very interesting and lively debate which had been occurring for several days on the records management JISCmail list, and to encourage the debate to continue. As one of the main protagonists of the debate I began to feel as though the email list was not the best forum for continuing the discussion, not least because we risked imposing a good number of messages on the entire membership of the list on what was a fairly niche subject. Transferring the debate to a blog seemed the obvious answer: the debate could continue, the comments would be displayed in a structured sequential order and only those interested would be affected.

The result? The debate was killed stone dead; not a single comment was received and this was after I even posted the first comment to keep the ball rolling and advertised its presence on the blog via the same list on which it had previously featured. Now of course it could just be that the discussion had come to a natural conclusion and interest had faded away, but this appears not to be the case. Firstly, a number of further emails were exchanged via the JISCmail list which kept the discussion very much alive for a few days afterwards, and secondly according to Google Analytics the blog posting in question received a fair number of hits (65) – its just that none of these led to further contributions.

I find this interesting, not because of this particular example but because of what it may imply regarding both the role of blogs in general and also user preferences when it comes to vehicles for debate.

It appears that despite a general despair about the quantity of emails sent and received it still seems the default mode of e-communication and perhaps will do so for far longer than we had envisaged. For whatever reason maybe reports of its demise have been greatly exaggerated and despite a plethora of seemingly more sophisticated and interactive technologies its place is assured for some time to come. Perhaps its one of those rare examples of a piece of technology that hits a particular nerve and becomes so ingrained in the human psyche that people will continue to use it even when numerous and ‘better’ alternatives exist (the wrist watch being another example)

This also prompted me to consider why it is that I maintain this blog. Yes, user comments are a very welcome and important part of it, likewise the whole notion of encouraging and promoting debate within the profession. But if I am honest the reason for starting it and for continuing to maintain it is as an outlet for my own thoughts and views. I don’t claim them to be any more accurate or important than anyone else’s - I just wanted the means to be able to record them and to share them with whoever may find them of interest in a quicker and more responsive way than publishing journal articles or conference papers. If readers are sufficiently interested or otherwise stirred to comment on what I have said so much the better, but I shall continue to write whether the comments come in a flood, trickle or drought. Looking at the comment-to-posting ratio of other blogs I read I suspect that other bloggers feel much the same.

There is nothing particularly startling about the above, after all it reflects the origins of the blog as a Web-log. I suppose I could create and maintain my own full website and use that for the same purposes of online publishing but a blog enables me to leverage all the advantages but without the hassle and cost of hosting, designing & maintaining a full website; this leaves me free to just focus on writing what I want to say. It is, however, interesting that even organisations which already have existing sophisticated and informative vehicles for online dissemination via their websites still see the merit of maintaining a separate blog. It will be interesting to see over time which the average user prefers and whether it is actually the website rather than the email which is most affected by the rise of the blog…

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

An interesting debate on RM in the Web2.0 world...

Readers of this blog might be interested in an impromptu debate which occurred yesterday on the Records-Management-UK email list. The discussion was kicked off by a seemingly innocuous email pointing out the availability of peripherals for laptops which enable broadband-speed wireless connection, even where there is no WiFi service available.

This soon led to an interesting cut and thrust regarding the relative merits of web2.0 and the role of records management in this regard (before moving onto a debate about how best to continue the debate!).

I thought it worth bringing the main trust of this discussion to the attention of those not on this particular list, whilst also providing one means for anyone interested to continue the debate without monopolising the list in question.

What follows may miss out one or two of the side-shoots of this discussion but hopefully captures the essence. It reads from top to bottom and I’ve kept the first names of the author of each message at the foot of the relevant message to enable the reader to keep track of the ‘to-ing and fro-ing’.

I’ve also responded to Peter’s last message through the blog’s comment facility…

Happy reading and my thanks to all those who contributed!


Hello all,
I’ve just had the following gizmo brought to my attention by a Business Information Systems colleague. Despite its irredeemably tacky name, it looks incredibly useful – essentially, a USB stick that gives full broadband access from your laptop wherever you are (once you have mobile phone network coverage).

Two RM implications struck me at once:
(1) There is now absolutely no excuse for people working remotely to store data on hard drives or portable media devices, with all the data security and version control problems that attended those practices. Instead, organizational networks can be accessed directly through the broadband connection. No more ‘MI5 loses laptop with country’s entire defence network details in railway station café’ headlines!

(2) The possibilities opened up for managing electronic records in developing countries or remote regions with little or no reliable IT or land-based communication infrastructure. Ubiquitous mobile broadband access could now be coupled with web-hosted applications and storage to facilitate robust systems for managing electronic business records with minimal resources.

On the face of it, this is that rare thing in mobile communications technology over and beyond the basic ability to phone or text people – a truly useful development rather than a gimmick. But perhaps there are drawbacks I don’t know about. Has anyone out there actually used this device?


This may well be a convenient way of delivering wireless access (in addition to all the existing ways) but it would not, for me, replace having files available to me locally. The speed of wireless, never mind unreliability and unavailability in many parts of the country does not provide the service I am looking for.


There may be truth in what you say for now, but I wonder how long this will remain the case? I suspect within the next 5 years or so the current limitations that you rightly point out will have disappeared and the advantages of online access to centrally held master copies will be seen to far outweigh the disadvantages. I always believe we should look at where the technology is likely to lead us in the near future, rather than feeling constrained by its current limitations. (its abit like a century ago saying ‘I’m sticking with my horse and cart, those automobile things are always breaking down and running out of fuel!!)

Andy is also right to point out that concentrating on wireless dongles and cards is probably bit of a technological cul-de-sac. I think Andy is right and it will be the gradual but relentless spread of ‘commercial’ wifi services to public spaces that makes the real difference. As I mention in my SoA paper, the role of wireless cards will probably be restricted to those more remote ‘rural’ locations where commercial factors don’t make a wifi service viable – so they in effect fill a temporary and ever-reducing gap in coverage.


Happy to play the luddite on this one. Don't share the general enthusiasm in respect of Web.2 and file storage heaven.

"Tough luck it's inevitable"? Yes, probably and certainly there's a need to address it - but I want to see 'rules' and that seems to fly in the face of what Web.2 offers - and its main attraction. (ie - unrestricted freedom)

No doubt rules will emerge retrospectively after something goes wrong. (they usually do) Don't ask me to speculate on what might go wrong (luddites don't have to) but once the imagination is given over to the ideas of Web.2 and Google storage, I find images from 'The Matrix' coming to mind!!!


The problem is, it probably won’t make two hoots of difference whether we as records managers share the enthusiasm for web2.0 or not, the simple fact is that users do and we bury our heads in the sand at our peril. If records managers ruled the world (God, what a thought!) it might be different, but we have to acknowledge that when it comes to shaping the IT trends which are redefining our culture, society and economics (as well as our organisations) our opinions tend to count for virtually nothing. Saying we don’t approve and don’t endorse the technology might be one approach for us to take within our organisations, but pretty soon it is likely to be one that is soundly ignored by all and sundry.

Organisations do not come more traditional than the Royal Household and the Church of England and if both of those saw fit to use YouTube last year for their respective Christmas broadcasts I think we can be fairy certain that these technologies are now well and truly beyond the ‘techno-geek’ phase and here to stay…

List users interested in this subject might be interested to know that I have a book coming out in the summer: ‘Managing the crowd: rethinking records management for the Web2.0 world’ which explores these issues and the challenges it poses for records management in much more detail!


Without being drawn into the wider Web 2.0 discussion (I’m not a luddite but perhaps in a long career I’ve experienced too many ‘next best things’ not to be a little skeptical about the extent to which ‘organisations are being re-shaped by it’), Steve’s final example hardly clinches the argument. They may appear traditional organisations, but both the Church of England and The Royal Household have very savvy media relations and publicity machines and would be looking to use all possible delivery mechanisms and outlets for their respective messages, including YouTube. I suspect there are just as many technogeeks in those organisations as in any other – though there are, inevitably, probably more in academia than in most other sectors. It would be more interesting to know that they kept the records relating to the planning, creation and production process in a Web 2.0 environment, or indeed their ‘record copy’ of the final broadcast.


Might be worth remembering that both email and the web owed their origins to the ‘technogeeks’ in academia too, but it didn’t seem to stop them spreading rather further than that…


True. But it’s also true that those particular tigers have created difficulties for corporate organisations which they have yet to solve (before moving on to the next best thing) and as PK suggested in his post they are now facing the cost. We need to distinguish between what works for individuals and what works for organisations. Where the individuals are employed by corporate bodies – we should stop calling them users and recognise that they are agents in this context – these two things may be incompatible. Individuals in the corporate context need information to do their job. The organisation needs records as evidence of what it has done, usually for a much longer period and long after the original ‘tagger’ has moved on. That requirement will not change. Technology on its own, no matter how clever and ubiquitous, is not going to meet this challenge and what we should be trying to do is to find ways of moderating the process – rules if you like to use Gerry’s word – so that we get the best of both worlds.


Someone at a conference I once spoke at made the very pertinent observation that "you don’t stop a bulldozer by standing in front of it, you stop it by getting behind the wheel"
On that basis, all I would say is that if we are going to continue to insist on taking a traditional rules-based ‘manual’ approach to the management of information we are (in the immortal words of Private Frasier) "Doomed, all doomed…"


They’re not manual world rules but rules that produce a desired outcome irrespective of the medium. You can’t get behind the wheel of the bulldozer unless you know how to drive it and then you need to know what it is that you’re going to flatten. Flattening everything because you can would hardly be the desired outcome.
A pedantic point – records and information are not inter-changeable terms.


At the risk of boring the rest of the RM world I think this had better be my last post on this particular topic…

But I just wanted to point out that my use of the term ‘information’ was quite deliberate in this context. Focusing on the (rapidly diminishing) percentage of an organisation’s information that fulfil our criteria as ‘records’ and ignoring the fate of the rest is not only career suicide, it is exposing our organisations to a considerable risk to their assets by ignoring the fact that a significant proportion of the information it holds may well be equally as important (and potentially as dangerous) as our records.

As a simple example you only have to consider the paradox of talking about ‘records management’ in the context of dealing with freedom of information to appreciate this point…. At the end of the day the recipient is usually only interested in the content, and that could equally appear in a piece of ‘information’ as in a record’. Likewise that content could be equally as incriminating for the organisation whether it be noted on a scrap of paper or within a formal record keeping system.

What is surely needed are ways of ‘scaling up’ the principles which lay behind records management to cope with the volume of information held by organisations, not reasons for ignoring the true scale of the problem

Over and out!


My last post too.

What is all this information that isn’t a record and where is it? Why does the organisation have it? Who created it? Is it supporting a business activity or is it just sitting there, waiting? Perhaps your definition of a record and records management is too narrow.

The FOI point conflates what the requester receives with its source. The fact remains that the public authority must turn first to its records to provide information about what it has done or plans to do. It may need to process the content to extract the information in a way that answers the question but that is a different issue. Similarly, those records still have to perform the continuing evidential task.

Steve, I look forward to your book where no doubt you will have the space to develop the proposed solutions as well as posing the questions. In the end the records still need to be identified and managed.