Managing Records, Managing People

 Last month I attended an All Day Educational Event sponsored by several ARMA chapters in the New York Metropolitan area. The event featured many excellent speakers who presented on topics including e-discovery, privacy of information, information governance trends, the Presidential Records Management Directive (PRMD), and career development and workplace presentation skills. Perhaps breaking good conference protocol, I bounced around and listened to presentations from several of the different designated tracks and attended sessions on executive report writing, navigating achieving the goals of the PRMD, and the future of information governance. Each presentation had a different message, but I still walked away with the same overall takeaway: it’s all about the people.

                As archivists and records mangers we can become narrowly focused on the information that we govern. Appraisal, access, preservation, dissemination, exhibition, retention, disposition, compliance, regulation…on and on we focus on handling the documents and records of which we are custodians. In my experience with other professionals in the field, many of us have an innate sense of value. It’s the degrees of value we discuss in class, but for many of us it’s a natural understanding: informational value, historical value, intrinsic value, administrative value. Most of us just get it, and we care about it too, but it does not come naturally to everybody. So what about those who lack that je ne sais quoi? How can we do what we need to do as professionals if people who create or use records are not engaged?

                This is why archivists and records managers need to be just as skilled at managing people as they are managing information. To be a manager is to guide and to influence, to teach, and to catalyze progress and change when necessary. In a recent RMRT blog post fellow Steering Committee member Christie Peterson wrote with insight about our OTHER skills as records managers. Being an effective manager of personnel should be included in all of our skill sets.

As I’m sure we all have experienced, records, documents, and information can be personal. Within organizations, workflows are unique and individualized. We sometimes have the touchy job of getting in the thick of important business and operations that to others might not seem like OUR business. How can we tell people how to organize their email or use particular file naming conventions? This is where our management skills come in. On top of our know-how of standards and best practices regarding information, we must effectively guide others to work with information from the start of its lifecycle. The buzz of “information governance/IG” seems to incorporate the importance of this active voice of records managers and archivists as key individuals in any organization. Of course, this is all easier said than done. The mix of corporate environments, individual personalities, and general management will make our tasks either harder or easier.

Good records management will boil down to good management of people. We must gently balance our understanding of records value and the great lengths to manage this information, and understanding the needs of the people who create these records by showing up to work every day and doing their job. So, add one more line item to your resume. Even if you are a lone archivist or records manager, you’re still managing and supervising every day.   

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Join an ARMA TweetChat February 18, 10am CST!

Happy Valentine’s Day, fellow archivists and records managers!

I hope many of you are preparing to enjoy a long Presidents’ Day Weekend. Back at work on February 18th at 10am CST join an ARMA International TweetChat using #assessIG to discuss information governance, risk mitigation, and other information management topics. This Q&A forum will run for 30 minutes. Follow ARMA on Twitter at @ARMA_IT. Find out more on ARMA’s website here. 

ARMA 2013 Conference Wrap-Up

Full disclosure: I was not able to attend the ARMA conference this year. However, I hope many of you did have the opportunity to visit lovely Las Vegas for the 58th annual gathering!  For those who are interested ARMA has provided several web seminar series for those who were unable to attend or for those who would like to revisit the sessions once again. Series are broken down by skill level including the Core Skill Level Conference, Management Skill Level, and Strategic Skill level, all of which are described and can be purchased following this link: http://www.arma.org/Conference/2013/LasVegas.aspx. Good news for those who attended because beginning November 27 these webinars will be available for 60 days of free viewing!

A colleague of mine who is an archivist and records manager was fortunate enough to attend the conference. I asked her what she felt was the biggest takeaway from her experience at the conference and she summed it up for me in two words: Information Governance. Information governance might not be a familiar phrase to those outside the realm of records management, but in essence all archival professionals dabble in “IG.” Information governance, if I may take a shot at loosely defining it, is effectively creating, managing, preserving, and usefully promoting records and information typically within an organization.  In 2012 ARMA developed an Information Governance Professional Certification which aims at a scope beyond that of traditional RIM.  In a future blog post I will discuss this certification in more detail.

Back to the conference. Part of the reason why I am involved in SAA’s Records Management Roundtable is because I am very interested in the convergence of the archives and records management fields. I am finding that the two realms are becoming less distinct in some ways while growing apart in others. In my own career I’m eager to see what is yet to come in terms of mergers and divisions. In regard to ARMA 2013, how do the proceedings of this conference relate to those in SAA who are primarily archivists, or dual-role professionals who span the border and assume both archives and records management tasks? For those who attended (and even those who did not!) please chime in and share your thoughts in the comments section.  What are the biggest takeaways from the conference this year?  Did you find that information governance was the biggest theme?

P.S. ARMA 2014 is in sunny San Diego!

Bridging the Gap between Developers, Vendors and Practitioners

Last month NARA held a panel discussion bringing professionals together to discuss the future of RM, namely a call for progressive services and solutions to better manage the growing and changing needs of the field.  In a blog post, Cheryl McKinnon of Forrester Research provides her takeaways from the session here: http://blogs.forrester.com/cheryl_mckinnon/13-09-25-nara_to_software_vendors_help_government_rethink_records_management. Also embedded in the blog are links to view the recorded session as well as the RFI (although the period for submissions has lapsed). With the Presidential Records Management Directive (PRMD) in effect NARA seeks to mark progress toward goals in several areas on or before December 31, 2013 including transitioning to a digital government. You may find more information here: http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/memos/ac23-2013.html. This panel session touched upon several of the looming PRMD goals and requirements, however I found the session itself a means toward addressing and bridging the gap between the various professionals who do jobs that impact the records management industry.

Whether implicit or explicit, the panel held by NARA addressed that there is a discord in the lines of communication between software developers, vendors, and records management practitioners and professionals.  The fault cannot be placed on any one group however. In McKinnon’s takeaways she highlights several areas in which we can all do a better job. Allow me to summarize the summarization: Developers need to work toward more open source solutions and aim for interoperability, vendors need to drop the jargon and PowerPoints and effectively speak to the needs of their customers, and records managers and practitioners need to adopt progressive technologies more readily and drive the industry toward successfully meeting goals and demands.

I can only speak from an RM perspective, but I have felt this dissonance between industries at many a meeting. While engaging with others during a phone conference or at a networking event I have thought to myself, “Are we all here for the same reason?” In many cases, no, we are not. At times this has generated a dose of skepticism on my end which has hindered negotiations more times than not and deters operations. Each individual of course has his or her own professional or personal needs to serve. Some come from a business perspective, others technological, while others academic. The fact of the matter in the current state of things is that we all need each other to get our jobs done.

While the panel from NARA addressed government-specific directives, the RM world at large can benefit from this important discussion about the intersection between industries. Have you experienced this disconnect in your operations? Have you found ways to reach middle ground? Do you think that in the future the RM field will demand more individuals who are jacks-of-all trades?