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.