Resilient records and information management

Europe's biggest information and records management conference covered information governance, information security and access and more.

The IRMS (Information and Records Management Society) Conference hit Brighton (UK) in the last week of May.  The 2012 themes were: Information Governance, Security and Law; Head in the Cloud, Boxes in the Basement. This is the biggest conference for information and records managers in Europe and this one was certainly the best I've attended over the years. 

Why do I say that?  Excellent speakers, good topics, a wide range of breakout sessions, interesting trade show, plenty of time to meet and talk, good venue, and wonderful weather.  What more could you want?

Security vs. access

The Conference opened with a keynote speech from Oliver Morley, CEO of The National Archives who talked primarily about the challenges we all face about the preservation of digital records.   From his archival perspective, this is the big topic and it was very useful to get an insider's view about what is being done in government to ensure the continuity of the digital heritage and its availability into the future.

Oliver Morley stayed on the stage and was joined by Claire Johnson, Victoria Lemieux and Julie McCloud to form a panel discussing the relationship and tension between security and access.  Transparency emerged as the topic of the day with a lot of questions asked about Freedom of Information and availability in general.  A key concern was the perceived danger of organisations deliberately not record keeping to avoid- or is it evade - disclosure in the future.  Given the current revelations from email and SMS in the Leveson Enquiry, organisations may well adopt stricter rules about how to create and store communication in any medium and this may well pose ethical dilemmas for the information and records manager.

The future of RM and IM

The second keynote of the day was delivered by Victoria Lemieux, Director of the Centre for the Investigation of Financial Electronic Records, at the University of British Columbia. Vicky has a background in economic history and finance and is now exploring all sorts of hi-tech and creative developments and their implications for knowledge and information management. Her predictions for the not-too-distant future included avatars to replace the records manager and intelligent devices that we wear. Talking to Vicky later that day, she wondered if she'd been too futuristic but then agreed that it's best to know about this stuff in good time!

After more breakouts and workshops, the IRMS set down to its AGM before people rushed out into the sun for cold drinks and ice cream.  Tans topped up, everyone came back to the hotel for a drinks reception and Gala Dinner where Sally Gunnell was the speaker and gave a powerful talk about motivation and achievement.  Awards, music, dancing made sure that it was a late night for many.

Achieving resilience

The second day of the conference opened with a keynote from Dave Snowden, Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Cognitive Edge. Dave was in vintage form and "rapped" through a challenging set of ideas from anthropology, neuroscience, and philosophy by way of his children's party anecdote and the basketball court video. Powerful advocacy for new ways of organising to achieve resilience; Marx and the Inquisition thrown in for good measure. Records managers take note!

After another set of excellent morning sessions, we came back to the main hall for the fourth keynote of the Conference presented by David Smith, Deputy Commissioner and Director of Data Protection.  David gave an extremely interesting overview from a regulatory perspective on the EU Data Protection proposals on which he's been working closely. 

The final keynote address was delivered by Professor Julie McLeod from Northumbria University.  She advocated the need for proportionality in the RM approach rather than a constant and perhaps unrealistic striving for an idealized and unattainable perfect state.  This was a massive challenge to the status quo. 

All in all, a very good conference.  If you're not an IRMS member, then look into it.  If you're a member but didn't attend, make sure you do next year but get in quick because I think there will be a rush.

John Davies is the Head of Business Consultancy, Public Sector Software Division at IDOX plc.

Photo of beach huts at Hove courtesy of Benedict.Adam via Flickr.