Observations and Survey Results – ARMA IM Days – Ottawa

Dec 02

ARMA IM Days was a great success once again – congrats to the planners and organizers of this annual Ottawa/National Capital Region chapter event. This year Candy Strategies had its own booth – a first! I’m always curious to know how records and information managers – especially in public sector – prepare and adapt to change. As a way to spur conversation and get into the heads of the (mostly) public sector information professionals, I prepared a 12-question survey.

Disclaimer #1 – The survey response set is quite small, so may not be fully representative (a dozen responses out of 270 event attendees).

Disclaimer #2 – I bribed people to do the survey by giving them free macarons.

Because of the small set of responses, I initially thought about scrapping a published analysis, but after eyeballing the responses, saw that the patterns seemed to align to some of the research that AIIM published in 2011 in the “Records Management Strategies” Industry Watch. So there might be enough here to draw some conclusions, or at least ask some important questions for further research.

Who responded? Primarily federal government employees (83%), holding job roles such as business analyst (1/3), manager of an IM/RM or Document control project (1/3), solutions/technical architect (1/6) and Team Lead of a project/program (1/6).

What I was most curious about is how quickly records managers in Canadian government are extending their reach into “new” content and media types. As public communication becomes more web and mobile enabled, social media adoption rises and open data sets are released, how are retention and preservation policies keeping pace. In a nutshell – well, they’re not. Yet.

Less than 17% of respondents could confidently say that their government department had an overall plan for digital preservation. This is worrisome. The majority either did not know what the plans were, or confirmed there was no such plan. We’re already hitting the concrete wall with some file formats from the last couple of decades – even older Microsoft formats are not immune from the growing threat of format rot. Organizations that are not thinking about this now may be too late.

Total 12 responses

The next few questions focused on capture, management and retention of “newer” types of business content and communication. Here I found some similarities to the 2011 AIIM Records Management survey, mentioned earlier. Overall, the newer the authoring tool/platform, the less likely it was that records managers were involved in its overall management. This is a problem. If records professionals don’t learn from the debacle that was email management 10-15 years ago, the pattern will be repeated with new web, mobile and social communication forms. We’re not learning the lessons of history quickly enough.

Email overall is handled adequately, with 2/3 of respondents confident that all or some email communication was under records control. Instant messaging and corporate chat systems? Not so much.

12 Responses

Next up? Content on public-facing web sites, external and internal social media postings. Once again, extension of information management principles and retention schedules are sorely lacking when looking at “newer” forms of digital content. (Though government web sites have been around for well over a decade…)

12 Responses

Note: I divided social media into external (official postings via department accounts to Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and internal (in-house collaboration sites, activity streams, wikis, etc.).

12 Responses

Finally, I wanted to dig into the records and information management thinking behind the hot-topic of open data. With significant momentum around the world, including a new commitment to open data throughout 2013 by the Treasury Board Secretariat in Canada, I wanted to know how open data sets would be preserved, retained and disposed. If a business, researcher or data journalist wanted to use this open data, how long would it be accessible and available? Is there an end of life to published open data?

The results were mixed – as many respondents were managing some open data sets as those who are managing none at all. And as many respondents had no idea if there was any management of open data as those who did not think their department had released any open data sets. (With over 270,000 open data sets now released by Canadian Federal government, must also wonder if the respondents just weren’t aware of what their department was doing).

12 Responses

What’s the overall takeaway from this small survey? That we’re still thinking about the management of government records too late in its lifecycle. We’re repeating the mistakes of the email era by waiting until the volume is overwhelming and we’re forced to deal with the content from an Access to Information, audit or discovery process. Web, social, mobile and open data initiative have just begun to hit the mainstream in public sector… what are we waiting for?

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