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Dark Data - Friend or Foe?

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Dark Data - Friend or Foe?

Dark Data was much talked about at IRMS13. It was referenced in a number of the keynotes and breakout sessions including the NUIX session 'mastering your dark data, how to become an information superhero' which is featured on the Conference blog.
Dark Data is obviously a bit of a hot topic for NUIX who recently issued a press release regarding their work with EDRM to cleanse the Enron Data Set of private, health and personal financial information, removing more than 10,000 high risk items. 
As a profession, Enron taught us a great deal and was one of the first case studies that really enabled us to ensure that the 'message' regarding the importance of information and records management practice, good information governance and the management of information and data related risk was heard at board level and recognised as a strategic priority within business. 
In my work as an Information Risk Manager, previously working in Information Governance and Assurance and with a career history taking in most parts of Information and Records Management practice, I am acutely aware of the threat that information presents to an organisation. Whether that be the threat of legal action, regulatory censure, fines, loss of reputation, stakeholder impact or otherwise, the impact can be far reaching; it can result in the demise or collapse of an organisation, the loss of millions or even billions of pounds in lost revenue and recovery charges, the loss of jobs and even, as in the worst of cases, can result in a real human impact with the loss or limitation of life.
It's not hard to demonstrate the impact of risk; there are a great many case studies that we can learn from and sessions such as those at IRMS13 demonstrate how wrong things can go and how much we have to do to ensure that it doesn't to happen to us. Organisations understand threats, they recognise that bad things are best avoided and your leadership teams will eagerly respond to risk reports and will work hard to ensure that mitigation action is planned and taken to minimise the potential negative impact to the organisation.  
Its therefore very easy to present a compelling argument for the use of discovery tools to mitigate risk and ensure compliance but its much trickier to convince your Board that it also presents an enormous opportunity, something which is all too often overlooked when considering the conundrum of Dark Data. 
The tools that enable the discovery and cleanse of information that presents a threat to our organisations also provides an opportunity. 
We can learn a lot from the Dark Data kept in the cavernous spaces that exist within our IT environments and we can use it for business advantage; in the majority of organisations Business Intelligence, Analytics and Big Data projects are far removed from the detail contained and captured in unstructured content strewn across servers and stashed in silo's. The Golden Nuggets in our information cache are literally lost amongst all of the detritus that is created and captured within an organisation on a daily (even hourly) basis and this is where the delights of discovery tools that enable you to understand the information that resides in these dark spaces really make a difference. 
It used to be that the 'Knowledge Management' function within an organisation would be the place to go for this 'mashed up' view of the information held by the organisation. There would be lots of Knowledge Managers and lots of Knowledge Management jobs and these folk worked in an organisation to tell us what we already knew but didn't know we knew. They'd do lots of reading, have a bit of a think and bundle together their findings with some data and analytics to present some detailed insight about the state of the sector, the nation, the market opportunity etc. etc. etc.
I think that Knowledge Management and Knowledge Managers have become less popular because everyone can access information systems more easily and there are cleverly designed tools that enable fairly inexperienced users to undertake complex analytics in order to produce information that is useful to them. However, this is sometimes only part of the picture because everything else is buried deep in the Dark Data space or lost amongst the masses of information that exists within an organisation. This is where I think that the discovery tools that support our risk mitigation and compliance can also support our improved understanding and knowledge of our business and enable us to better support our stakeholders. It might even help us to save more money and deliver better services. I think that discovery tools are part of the solution to the enormous issue that is Big Data, because the volumes are simply too great and we will never b e able to bring it all into a structured or controlled state and pre-empt the many various requirements that multiple users will have of that information.
I think that the challenge for us as Information and Records Management professionals is enabling our senior decision makers, our Board members and the movers and shapers within our organisation to understand the true potential of the tools that enable us to discover and unearth the treasures that are currently buried within our organisations as well mitigate risk and ensure compliance. I think it is also where the great many roles and jobs that exist in the information and technology sectors really start to converge and where a deeper and more detailed understanding about the variety of opportunities presented by our information to our organisations will enable our organisations to master its Dark Data.

Annual General Meeting, Annual Report and Accounts

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The IRMS Conference 2013 is almost upon us, the Executive Committee have worked incredibly hard to provide us with another fantastic event full of interesting, inspiring and thought provoking speakers.

The IRMS Executive schedule the Annual General Meeting (AGM) at Conference to enable as many of our membership as possible to attend without requiring additional travel or time away from the office, in the past we’ve not always given enough time to the AGM and you will see that this years event will take place from 16:00-17:00 in the Balmoral Room. 

All of our members are encouraged to attend and this year we have also encouraged feedback from those members unable to attend Conference via email (the deadline for which is c.o.p 17th May 2013 to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ).

One of the primary discussions at the AGM will be the annual report and accounts, these have been included in the most recent IRMS Bulletin and an email has been sent to all members with a link to the Annual Report on our website.

There are a great many highlights to the successes of the Society in the past year and I certainly recommend a read.. 

The AGM is your opportunity to have your say, whether that be to challenge decisions made by the Executive Committee or whether it be to put forward a proposal for consideration as we continue to improve the way in which the Society works and the services we are able to offer to our members. 

The IRMS will only ever be as strong as our membership and our shared commitment to the profession and I am looking forward to continuing our hard work next year and would welcome the input and/or efforts of any of our members as we continue to support our profession. 

If you’re headed to Brighton, have a safe trip and enjoy the conference. 

The future of Records & Information Management in a world dominated by data

Thursday, 09 May 2013

The IRMS Conference is nearly upon us and if you enjoy my blogposts here, I suggest you subscribe to the IRMS Conference Blog as I will be producing mini-posts (I guess I could call them bloglets) for the keynote sessions and for the breakout sessions that I attend. 

If you are a regular reader you will know that Big Data and the associated topics are of interest to me, particularly with consideration to the credentials that are necessary if information within the enterprise is to be considered reliable and trustworthy. I think that this years Conference is going to be a real eye opener in terms of how much integration and collaboration there needs to be if the full potential of enterprise information is realised through big data programmes and the threat of information that is retained is to be fully understood. 

The world of data management has traditionally been distinct from the wider world of information management; data programmes are often driven by IT or specific business areas whereas Information and Records Management, if such a function even exists within an organisation, focus specifically on document management and control, whether physical or electronic format 

If we go back to the beginning and consider what Records Management actually seeks to achieve we can see that ISO 15489-1:2001 defines records management as;

“the field of management responsible for the efficient and systematic control of the creation, receipt, maintenance, use and disposition of records, including the processes for capturing and maintaining evidence of and information about business activities and transactions in the form of records”. 

I would question how many organisations manage this ‘efficient and systematic control’ of the various aspects of information in its lifecycle and wonder how many ‘firefight’ against the tsunami of information that is generated within the various processes that exist within even a small organisation. 

I think that this is particularly relevant where you consider the legal obligations of businesses to maintain proper records or evidence of an event; Legal Accountability is often a driver for introducing or recognising Records Management practice as critical to business success. 

Usually, recognition of the importance of good Records and Information Management practice follows an event that has either impacted an organisation or has negatively affected one of its peers. The global financial crisis is a good example of this, the information cited in the various Inquiries into the conduct of financial services organisations has highlighted the absence of good records management practice and its not surprising that this sector has recently been on a recruitment drive for qualified and experienced professionals. Other good examples can be found in the Energy Sector, Engineering, Healthcare and various Public Sector organisations which highlights that there are few organisations that have actually managed to tame the threat of information that they retain and attempt to master in order to realise its value. 

So, as a profession this leaves us with a lot to work out I think that there will be a great many opportunities to consider how we ensure that we’re part of the information infrastructure within organisations now and in the future. 









When did document, content and records management become Data Management topics?

Thursday, 02 May 2013

So, lately i’ve been doing some research into the wonderful world of Data Management Standards and I found something both useful and interesting on the website of DAMA International

As you can see, there is a group out there who are beavering away producing some excellent information and resources to support Data Management concepts and practices. 

The Wikipedia page for Data Management references the topics covered by the DAMA DMBOK (Data Management Body of Knowledge) and you will find the following headings; 

  • Data Governance
  • Data Architecture, Analysis and Design
  • Database Management
  • Data Security Management
  • Data Quality Management
  • Reference and Master Data Management
  • Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence Management
  • Document, Record and Content Management
  • Meta Data Management
  • Contact Data Management

so, a great many of you will immediately identify the parallels between Data Management) as grouped by the DAMA DMBOK) and recognise those topics that are mainstays of Information and Records Management practice and part of the heritage of our profession. 

but my question would be,

how many of you are involved in these activities in your organisation? 

Many of our members are less engaged in activities relating to data management, MI Production and business intelligence and analytics, but, my guess is, that many of our members could (or should) be engaged. Afterall, who is it in your organisation that understands the  common terminology, semantics and natural language that are recognised as master or reference data? Who here has supported the definition and development of meta data standards? but who here is engaged in this activity in their organisation?

Its interesting to see that the DMBOK 2 (due for release later this year) no longer references Document, Record and Content Management as a separate ‘function’ within IM, it states that 

‘ “Documents and Content” has changed locations.... to highlight its increasing importance as part of the scope of data to integrate, analyze and interoperate’

I’m unsure whether Records Management is still referenced in the DMBOK2 (its not immediately obvious from their website) or if all information is perceived as potentially a Record? I’ve asked to see the document as part of its open review so shall report back if am able to be part of the review process, if not, I shall follow up in the Autumn when the final version is released. 

The IRMS has recognised the importance of IRM within Data Management activities, hence our Conference this year taking the theme of Big Data and bringing together a wealth of fascinating folk who will share their experiences of using IRM practice within a data discipline. if you’ve not already booked your tickets, I would highly recommend getting a move on (there are only a few tickets remaining) because its going to be a incredibly useful event for anyone working in an Information or Records Management role in any business that uses Enterprise tools.. 

For many, data is the lifeblood of an organisation but the good governance of data, as with any information type, is essential if that information is to be relied upon to ensure accountability and support decision making. Good decisions and good judgement rely on good information. Good information is only achieved through good management and good management is based upon policy, standards and controls that ensure consistent management of information, in a controlled way that withstands scrutiny.

So, Records, Document and Content Management have always been a Data Management topic but now that the data asset held by even a small organisation is big, its time that the IRM profession recognised its role in its management. 

Guest Blogger - Katharine Stevenson. Records Management : Think Wider

Sunday, 21 April 2013
If you remember back in my earliest blog posts, I invited contributions for all of you would-be bloggers in our esteemed community of records and information management professionals, this weeks post is one such contribution provided by Katharine Stevenson, Information and Records Manager at Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and is on the subject of Records Management and thinking beyond the traditional perceptions of the boundaries of our responsibilities. 
Its very insightful piece and a perfect trigger for discussion around this topic (its easy to leave comments and we will respond to all that are received). I would also liek to thank Katharine for supporting our blog and participating in its development. 
If you like what you read and would also like to contribute a blogpost, please drop me an email; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - this is very much a collaborative endeavour and I welcome your input.

Records Management - think wider

Many organisations think an EDRMS ensures they are complying with records management requirements. But really, it is only part of the solution - and only when implemented well. 

Records Managers need to be more aware of all data - not just the documents sitting in the EDRMS. And certainly not just the 'declared records'. They also need to be aware of how that data should be managed throughout its lifecycle.
Data exists in more places than you think. It's not only in your EDRMS (if you have one) or your SharePoint site. It's not even only in your shared drive or outlook account. It's in the HR System you use, the Finance system, your intranet, website, twitter...The list goes on. Oh and don't forget your back up tapes!
Data is everywhere and needs managing, just as much as the declared records do. It's not a job for IT - they'll just spend money on providing bigger storage space or another system. It's a job for the records manager because we understand things such as disposal, access, creation. Things that help to ensure the data/information/record (whatever you want to call it today) is managed. 
So how and where do you begin? It's simple, you take charge and decide where things go and how best to manage them. Not everything needs to go in an EDRMS. Not everything can. Getting involved early on in business requirements for new IT systems is one of the best ways in ensuring all data/information your organisation creates and handles is managed throughout its existence. 
But, I hear you ask, I'm never asked for my opinion. Don't let that stop you - get involved! Talk to your procurement and IT teams; explain the benefits of ensuring systems comply with information and records management best practice; use real examples of where data in databases has become unmanageable; use the DPA to argue for better deletion policies; use FOI (if applicable) and The Lord chancellors code of practice as your persuasive tool. Above all don't just sit back and think 'job done' just because you have an EDRMS, Shared drive or paper filing system - you've only just begun. 

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