27 July 2005 - London Group Meeting
Notes from the 27 July meeting
- A name change was agreed from 'RMS London Circle' to 'RMS London Group', to align the group with the other local and sectoral groups of the Records Management Society
- The Group would meet once every three months, at different venues around London
- The co-ordinators of the group were Fatima Zohra James Lappin, and John Davies. The co-ordinators asked if anyone from the private sector would like to become a co-ordinator for the group. Helyn Parr has since been co-opted as a co-ordinator
- The Group has a page on the RMS website
- Group discussions take place under Chatham House rules (comments not attributed to individuals or organisations)
Fatima Zohra described the challenges, joys and frustrations of managing records in Local Government, against the backdrop of Freedom of Information and the Lord Chancellor's Code of Practice.
She then put the following question to the group:
'Is managing records in the private sector very different from managing records in the public sector?'
A lively discussion followed in which it seemed that many common challenges were faced by records managers in both sectors.
Records managers in the private sector faced a battle for organisational resources and attention just as their colleagues in the public sector. Private sector companies were prepared to invest in information that could be proven to add value, and were prepared to take steps to comply with legislation or mitigate risk. But records managers had to fight hard to hook into these agendas.
Engaging with colleagues
Colleagues from all sectors faced challenges in engaging colleagues around records management.
We heard various opinions and experiences on the relevance of records management language and theory including:
- 'the concept of records means nothing to people in my organisation. I've stopped using the word'
- 'I find records management theory very useful. It helps me clarify what I think, and what I think the organisation needs. I use it as a bedrock position when discussing with colleagues but recognise that what I actually do is a compromise between my position and those of colleagues in the organisation coming from a non-records management perspective'
- 'records management theory seems to me to be based on outdated models of organisations from the 1970's (large centralised organisation churning our high volumes of records of a similar type)'
New horizons for records managers
The opportunities to link up with people from other disciplines were discussed. A records manager in a PLC had been able to display records management at a high profile (and fun) corporate information security fair (and this was a real fair, complete with coconut shy).
Records managers would benefit from more input in their training on technological and legal issues. The Department of Constitutional Affairs had plans from for a postgraduate academic qualification in Information Rights Management, including a records management component.
Our friends the auditors
- Members from across the sectors reported that they had benefited from good relations with auditors
- A records manager in a public sector organisation, and in a bank reported a similar experience: they had been audited by auditors who did not know about what records management involved. During the course of the audit they taught the auditors about records management, and ever since then the auditors had been taking records management to other areas as part of their audits. They both described the auditors as their biggest allies in their organisation
Changing customer needs
- A change in customer needs had been noticed by records managers in both the public and private sectors: whereas in the past customers had asked records managers for a file, or a box, now people are asking for much more specific information from records. This required not just an ability to locate relevant records but an ability to interpret them and provide content from them.
Working across sectors
- Records managers would benefit from greater information sharing across the various sectors in which we work. This would both help spread ideas and good practices, and help us understand the range of career paths available to the modern day records manager.
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