We have a problem in Records Management.
Technology that we’ve been comfortable using for many years is inadequate.
It’s been inadequate for 20 years.
That’s obvious to all of us in one way or another.
How many agencies have catch rates at 20% or lower?
It isn’t just a matter of staff adoption – although that’s still an issue.
How can staff keep records about processes that are managed in a structured data system?
When we’re handling it badly, we’re making decisions about what “rises to the level of a record” and deciding that it’s not stuff in that system because that’s not a record keeping system, so it’s very difficult to work with, and generally belongs to IT who don’t understand records.
When we’re doing it well, we’re understanding the underlying technology and what it’s capable of, and writing policy and executing process to ensure that at some point, that data is maintained as useful information and evidence of business activities.
And that’s really the crux of it.
The old technology isn’t working for everything, so either it has to change, or we have to.
Personally, I don’t think the old tech can change enough to cope with the new world – it’s still a paper paradigm, and we’re already moving beyond electronic paper representations. I also don’t think the new world will deliver the kind of records experience that is “good enough for government work” – because the new world doesn’t understand records, and the underlying principles of records are still the right ones.
We need the new world, and the new world needs us.
We can’t be effective if we have a narrow definition of records.
So we need to change the technology that we’re comfortable with.
We need to understand databases, web servers, middleware and apps – for a start, because people are relying on the information they provide every day of the week, and we can’t abandon them to the idea that someone else MIGHT be able to reconstruct what they saw.
We need to change the technology we’re comfortable with, if we don’t, I’m pretty sure there won’t be a records profession – and then we’ll have to get comfortable with the new technology anyway.
I’d like to think that these are all original ideas, but Barbara Reed, Gillian Oliver, Frank Upward and Joanne Evans were writing about it in RIMPA newsletters at least as early as 2008. Have we learned?