Did the title hook you? Good. Now pay attention!
I had the pleasure of being invited to talk at this year’s Information and Records Management Society Scotland meeting. The theme for the day was ‘New skills, new perspectives and new networks’.
When the meeting was opened by Claire Johnson I learned the goal of this meeting was to talk about how the Society’s communications can be improved to increase effective dialogue and interaction between people involved in or interested in information and record management as well as people on the periphery of the profession, like me. The presentations kicked off with Heather Jack talking about ‘The psychology of effective information and records management’ which was very interesting.
The main thrust of her presentation was it is the way the discipline is introduced and talked about that hooks people and helps them to see the importance of it. Like most areas of public services, things that are not main delivery channels or services are being cut back or cut out altogether and so the importance of properly resourcing or prioritising information and records management is falling by the wayside. Cutting back on records management, says Heather, is dangerous but you can’t get across to a broad spectrum of people why it is dangerous unless you contextualise and tell a story. Have a look at this resource called Lest We Forget which documents horrible happenings on the back of poor record keeping. Let's also not forget that Scotland's own Public Records Act came out of an examination of systemic child abuse.
As someone who has only come to know more about information and records management recently (and initially mainly to find out why on Earth Officers were being stopped from, for example, using their own devices or email accounts for work purposes) I think Heather is spot on. As an Officer I probably don’t give a hoot that the documents I’ve taken off my council’s estate are sitting in Dropbox or Gmail because my workplace offers me such inefficient working tools, I have to bypass them. Maybe I’ve heard of this EDRM thing but I don’t know why it’s in place or what I need to put in it. I’m just told I have to and I would argue that’s not an effective approach in changing behaviour.
The potential for costly consequences- financially and otherwise- are everywhere and can be avoided if record keeping and information management systems are in place. But it’s difficult for people who are not well versed in information and records management, in the obligations of their organisation to keep records to prioritise the issue or in fact consider their documented work as needing to be kept at all. Again, as things stand, most people will probably prioritise ease of working over records management so in my humble opinion for most organisations the proverbial will need to hit the fan before they realise their information and records management arrangements are poor. So who’s up first having to endure the costly court case, procuring an expensive and unnecessary service or chucking time and money down the pan because the management of information and records is poor and because of a failure to help staff understand the importance of them?