ON RMAA Convention 2008 – report (2)

In my blog post on Monday I gave a brief summary of the presentations I attended at the RMAA Convention in Sydney. I have finally sorted through my notes and here are some of the discussion points.

The keynote speaker was Dr Julie McLeod from Northumbria University who spoke about the adoption and adaption of records management tools and methodologies. She was interested in the question: “do organisations consider their (standards and methodologies) applicability”. This is one of the considerations that I often find myself contemplating – what standards to adopt and how to apply them, or are they applicable to the workplace context at all?

There were some key drivers for adoption of the international standard – best practice, credibility, profile, promotion. For those organisations starting out, compliance and governance, nature of the standard, and resourcing issues were most important. Against the adoption or adaption were competing resources and priorities, low incentive, lack of newness, and the belief that standards weren’t that important. Finally, some organisations from the study had actually ceased to use the standard at all, albeit modifying the standard and adapting it to better reflect organisational context (something I believe is often necessary). The upshot is that the international standard is still subject to context and/or the needs of particular organisations.

In addition, another study that looked at records management compliance toolkits (IGT, IMCC, RMCAS, and Risk Profiler) had a range of responses. Not surprisingly, the responses related to the applicability of what the toolkit could deliver within the organisational context. The value and benefits of the toolkits were expressed in these key areas:

  • assess and measure compliance and capacity of the the organisation in terms of records management
  • benchmarking
  • to help identify strengths and weaknesses

Personally, I don’t find much value in prescriptive toolkits but I am willing to explore the four used in the study to understand their potential applicability in the real world, or otherwise.

The third study presented by Dr McLeod was AC+erm – accelerating the pace of change in electronic records management. The study explored critical issues and strategies, coming up with 19 critical success factors, ten of which were specific to electronic records management systems. People featured in eight themes and common amongst them were these three:

  • lack of senior management understanding about records management and uncertainty about their own role in relation to it
  • records management needs different skills and knowledge base than other business areas
  • records management principles need to be valued as an integral part of the organisation

The results should not have been a surprise to those working in the information and knowledge industry!

Professor McLeod concluded by saying that the evidence from her research indicated that standards and methodologies were being adapted and adopted, both in terms of tools and principles. Organisations were doing research and work-based evaluations about records management. And there is growing support to advance the principles and practice of records management within organisations. The final analogy was the bridge – based on standard principles of design and construction, but adapted for specific use and locations. Professor McLeod looked forward to bridging the gap between principles and practice even further.

My comment here is that the intersection between theory and practice makes perfectly common sense if you allow yourself to adopt and adapt according to the specific needs or challenges of the environment in which one works. The emphasis may differ, but practice and theory (standards and methodologies are part of that) are worthy of dual and intertwined consideration. I never see them being self-exclusive.

I am attending an Institute for Information Management (IIM) breakfast tomorrow morning and hope to hear more from Professor McLeod at that (very early) function.

More commentary on the Monday RMAA Convention presentations tomorrow evening…and I will follow that up later with some discussion about intranets and content management, another workplace project I am working on with my team.

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