Wednesday, 6 April 2011

IRMS Conference 2011 - Risk vs Opportunity

The one concept that will stay with me more than any other from this year’s conference is risk.
That isn’t to say that there was any lack of variety in the topics for the sessions – this year was perhaps one of the most varied in that regard of all the conferences I’ve been to over the past eight years.  We had sessions:
·         from the Information Commissioner
·         on MoReq 2010
·         updates on FoI
·         trying out the Big Bucket theory of retention scheduling in practice
·         describing e-Disclosure developments
·         quantifying business benefits of IRM
·         about cloud based RM
·         on open source and open standards
·         discussing marketing your records service
·         offering a Sharepoint surgery
How did all these subjects boil down to a consideration of risk?
For the Information Commissioner it was important to emphasise not only the financial risk of public bodies incurring a fine of up to £500,000 for getting it wrong, but also the reputational risk of being ‘outed’ on the ICO website as being under investigation or having had an enforcement notice served on them.
From an e-Disclosure point of view Ed Sautter of Meyer Brown made it clear that the risks of incurring very high costs in the process of searching for ESI (electronically stored information) were only equalled by the potentially very high fines or court costs that an irate judge might impose on a firm thought to be hiding, losing or disposing of incriminating data.
The ‘Big Buckets’ retention schedule session gave us all a chance to try and create some buckets and then attempt to classify some record types into them, which had quite a few of us scratching our head! The ultimate message of the session was that, if you make your retention schedule too complex and unwieldy, your users will simply not use it and you risk having lots of unstructured information being kept indefinitely (or deleted inappropriately).
The panel for the ‘Electronic Futures’ debate, which included Ed Fowler from Capgemini, Dave Camden from Flare Solutions, James Lappin from Thinking Records and Tom Gilb from Result Planning, came to the conclusion that a key risk was simply that information created now is likely to be inaccessible in 20 years+ time due to problems with digital preservation.  Their initial solution – put anything vital on paper in a box – also fell down as audience members pointed out that cost savings have meant changes to paper suppliers, so that paper used today is highly unlikely to last 20 years.
 Following on from this session Ed Fowler ran a packed session on Cloud based records management, and while he tried to balance the opportunities with the threats of using this new (low cost, easy, fun and therefore tempting) medium, he didn’t altogether succeed and I think the audience was left feeling even more wary of Cloud than when they started.  However, as Ed pointed out, the chances are that users in almost all organisations are busy storing their documents on Google Docs or Flikr or elsewhere anyway – with all the attendant risks of losing it, exposing it to overseas legal frameworks, etc.
Even in my own session, on marketing your RM service, the discussion sessions around ‘who do you need to market to’ and ‘what topics keep your CEO awake at night’ inexorably came back down to risk – risk of higher costs, reputational risk, risk of losing income, risk of litigation.
This concept was summed up nicely in the panel debate on electronic futures – we have not only come out of the filing cabinet (basement!), to become professional records managers, we are now moving beyond that to become information governors.  Our role now has to be about creating the rules for managing information, not being the person to whom the user brings the box of files.
- Nicola Franklin

1 comment:

  1. The electronic futures debate was profoundly depressing. My quote of the conference: "If you can't read it, it's already dead. Chuck it out." But I don't get why people are so down on microfilm...