IRMS Conference 2016: A Better Future?
I think this year was my 5th IRMS Conference. A mere amateur perhaps compared to some but with that much committed I think I can register valid comment and this year I’m pleased to be able to reflect on what I felt was a noticeable ‘sharper’ event. Its clear that the formula for IRMS Conference is well established but within that consistency it was great to see that ‘sharpness’ embodied in a more focused and impactful gala dinner and awards – the show piece for Conference.
Thinking more about the business of information, which of course is why IRMS exists, I had two personal agenda points in my mind this year. The first, the measurement of information health/quality/value and the second the skills and focus of information professionals in the age of electronic content (social, structure, unstructured, whatever). At Conference it was the latter that got most airing as I sought to better my understanding of how records managers and other information professionals start and develop; for me, the key question is how are these people being provided the essential foundations for dealing with ‘mega’ terabyte scale information?
An information hierarchy of needs is at the heart of this question and its application at scale is what IRMS’ target demographic needs to address if it is to enhance its standing and add value to its business customers. However, in a limited canvassing of Conference delegates it was hard to find evidence of how the profession and IRMS is actively addressing the challenge. It was great to speak to newly-minted records/archive managers, IRMS execs and others but few, if any, could describe anything beyond personal endeavour and an on-the-job approach to up-skilling in this way.
For sure, my sample would certainly not withstand scientific rigour, but I had hoped that it would have been easier to find a good example. Maybe the profession has more pressing needs? From my perspective its hard, however, to think of one given the proliferation of data, the increasing imperative placed on its good governance by regulation and the extent to which solutions are becoming practical. In my experience, this situation is leaving a vacuum which is being filled by IT, legal teams and consultants and forward-looking organizations investing in their own people resources. With respect to those people, none of these are good things in the long term:
- IT has other things to do and its development is necessarily aimed at information technology and infrastructure.
- Consultants and legal teams are expensive. Legal is always matter-focused and usually reactive and consultants come and go.
- Organizational investment meets a certain need but, on its own, does not build a profession or development path that does a good job of advancing thinking for the future.
So, staying with the IRMS Conference 2016 theme of this article, I guess I’m asking if and how IRMS, its Conference and records management in general is responding and preparing its members for current information challenges? The new records managers I met described little content in their education and professional qualifications relevant to my question; further, the content of IRMS events I have attened has been insuffient in my view to make any real difference. This is clearly an opportunity and a challenge. In five years time, who will be using Active Navigation’s technology and similar solutions? I think an advanced type of records manager could play an important role here but, then again, maybe others will step in. I’d love some feedback from those in the know if I’ve missed something here.