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CC South 14th March

May 4, 2016

A small but perfectly formed group of archivists and records managers came along to the most recent Cardigan Continuum South meeting on 14th March. We met at Ebb & Flow in Southampton on a quiet Monday evening. We decided for a change to talk about an IRMS podcast: James Lappins’ discussion with Barclay T. Blair about big data, information governance and records management. Before talking about the chosen podcast we chatted over drinks about the upcoming changes to the ARA Registration Scheme and the need for some of us to get our portfolios ready in time for the October 2017 deadline.

Being from a variety of organisations, we had a balance of opinions and different levels of experience that led to a very interesting discussion. One of the first talking points was about what Hadoop is – none of us knew exactly what this meant and from some definitions we’d looked up, we tried to get our heads around it! We settled on the concept that instead of having a database that contains a single set of data in a single location, it was a way of distributing data and processing power over lots of different locations and so enabling the processing of ‘big data’. Currently although we are all aware of big data, none of our responsibilities extend to managing it.

Two big ideas from the podcast stood out to all of us. Firstly, we didn’t agree that data is necessarily good or bad but somewhere in the middle (see a similar discussion about how data is the new sugar). But we did agree with the assertion that changes in technology have overtaken changes in theory… the practical example being that the proliferation of emails in inboxes, and the information and attachments they contain, have stopped records from being actively filed.

Our thoughts later turned to information governance (deciding it’s an umbrella term for ALL activities that manage information, not just those relating to compliance) and then onto records management (RM). We discussed the drivers for RM and classification:

* Limiting the choices that users make when they work with documents, putting records into relevant categories instead of letting users make free choices about descriptions

* Narrowing search and so improving how records can be found

* Supporting archivists as it can be impossible to organise and understand a transfer of ad hoc information

* Also security is becoming a very news-worthy issue and so we saw the value in the idea that we need classification to separate out what needs securing most, surely otherwise we must secure everything?

Ending the meeting on a positive note we discussed how RM has a particular role to play in organisations – taking a long-term view of information to counter business focus on immediate needs. However, we did say that if we could have a magic RM tool, it would be the ability to make people care more about their information and records, which would be much more useful than any technical solution!

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