“Mining for Information” – Trends and Takeaways from the ARMA Canada Conference 2013

This year’s ARMA Canada Conference saw the idyllic city of Saskatoon transformed into a hotbed of Records and Information Management (RIM) thinking and debate. The theme “mining for information” provided a platform for a slew of forward-thinking presentations that challenged many long accepted notions within the Canadian RIM community. Some exciting themes that emerged from this year’s conference include:

Information Governance

Information governance is being promoted by ARMA and the RIM community as a more holistic and progressive framework than the narrow confines of traditional records management. A key message repeated over and over again was the need to think beyond Records Management (RM) compliance as the end-goal of RIM initiatives. Julie Colgan, President Elect of ARMA International, made it clear in her key-note presentation that rather than thinking in terms of information compliance, we should consider all information, “either as an asset or a liability.” In strategies that focus on leveraging information rather than simply complying with RM requirements “good enough is perfection”.

Furthermore, the conference saw many presentations attempting to expand on traditional RIM activities with governance requirements including emphases on:

  • Policies, objectives, and permissions
  • Access and ownership
  • Change management as user management
  • Legal implications of the e-record
  • Retention and disposition as the foundation of information governance

Information Architecture and Information Usability

Systemscope led the discussion around modernized Enterprise Information Architecture (EIA) and its relationship to RIM best practices. Our own Lynne Hunks pushed the agenda forward with an account of the emerging “IM Architect” role, its purpose, and how it is distinct from both an Information Architect and Systems Architect.

Furthermore, my own poster presentation on information use, faceted classification and the Core Information Architecture (IA) Model pushed forward the credo that “information has no value unless it is used”; an idea that is becoming increasingly accepted in the IM community. Questions arose as to the feasibility of the implementation of such an approach, but ultimately everyone I spoke with was convinced that with the correct marketing, faceted classification would be a compelling sell both to senior management as well as to the core user groups of the given system.

Communicating with IT

Another big topic at the conference was the growing necessity to communicate with IT in the build-up to electronic records management. Sessions focused on communicating with IT, as in Emily Gusba’s hilariously Shavian “Learning to speak IT’ese”; as well as on understanding the function of IT itself, its main concerns, its focus on structured data, etc. Common terms such as “archiving”, “technical”, and even “architecture” were seen to have significantly different meanings in an IT context. Ultimately the sessions reinforced the need for RIM to be able to express business needs to IT departments with as little noise or miscommunication as possible.

Jason Abdelhadi is a consultant in Systemscope’s Enterprise Information Management practice.


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