Monday, 11 June 2007

Records Management Society Conference, Brighton, 30 April

On 30 April 2007, I attended the first day of the 10th Annual Conference of the Records Management Society of Great Britain (RMS), in Brighton. Although I have been a member of the RMS for several years, this was the first conference I had been to. I must say, it was one of the most vibrant and stimulating conferences I have attended for some time.

The term 'Records Manager' may not conjure up a vibrant and stimulating image in most people's minds, but the worldly job title belies not only its hidden fascinations, but also its increasing importance to both public and private sector organisations today. Although I was there just for the one day as a speaker rather than a delegate - and so did not get to attend any of the main presentations - mingling with the delegates in the exhibition hall at coffee breaks was enough to convey an impression of real professional commitment and intense interest in the practical problems which RM presents.

I am sure few would disagree that organisations which provide products and services to the consumer should be accountable, not only for the quality of those products and services, but also for ensuring that the way in which they are generated or manufactured and delivered, should be ethical, legal, non-exploitative and conducive to socio-economic health and well-being. In a nutshell, that's what RM is about, and RM practitioners do not shirk that responsibility even though it is far from easy to achieve in practice.

Once they have determined what needs to be treated as a record of organisational activity (not easy with the gigabytes comprising most organisations' daily information traffic), one of the things Records Managers need to do, is to classify each record in a number of ways. Retention class determines how long a record should be kept; equally important is classifying a record by each Function > Activity > Transaction which generates it or uses it. That's needed so that if any question of the propriety of organisational behaviour should arise, then a full audit trail of the record, from creation to destruction, may be retrieved and presented as evidence.

Managing knowledge at this intense level of detail may not be everyone's cup of tea, but Records Managers approach it with a sense of duty which one can only hope to see matched at some point in other areas of an organisation.

I was there - with three other speakers in my session - to argue a specific viewpoint on the topic 'Is classification is necessary'. The idea was to stimulate thought and discussion on what the role of classification is in RM terms. Although no hard-and-fast conclusions were reached, at least the participants were exposed to a range of different perspectives and, hopefully, felt better-enabled to make up their own mids what the answer to such a question might be.

I certainly found it an enjoyable exercise, and the final plenary of the delegate groups involved seemed to agree, to the extent that the RMS plans to run a similar session again at next year's conference. Further details are available on the RMS site.

No comments: