Talking records – podcast discussion with Christian Walker

In this podcastChristian Walker and I discuss whether records management is compatible with enterprise 2.0.  We talk about the problems of capturing records into a records systems such as an EDRMS.  We ponder on whether anyone could or should integrate their EDRM with a web service such as Twitter or Facebook.

I express mixed feelings about the concept of asking users to declare things as a record. (Chris wrote a blogpost ‘records matter, declaration doesn’t‘ last year, with a more recent follow up).

We discuss whether text analytics could be used to automatically select which e-mails should be saved as a record. We conclude that you probably could in isolated areas of your business, that you studied in depth and trained the analytic engine in, but that it would be difficult if not impossible to scale it up over all the activities of an organisation.

We discuss the challenges of using the word ‘record’ given that when anyone uses it you don’t know whether they mean one document or a collection (large or small) of documents. Chris wonders whether it is viable to carry on using the word ‘records’ but neither he nor I could come up with an alternatiive.

We end up talking about the proposed (but postponed) SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act). Chris opposes the idea that a platform such as a filesharing site should be closed down if some of its users contribute content that infringes intellectual property rights.  He says it is up to content owners to protect their content online. He calls the media backers of SOPA ‘dinosaurs’.  I recall that we records managers get called dinosaurs too and I try to draw parallels.  The new media companies of Silicon valley (Facebook, Google, Twitter) are interested in the platform rather than the content.  The old media companies (Disney, News International) and records managers are interested in the content rather than the platform. The thing that records managers and old media have in common is that sometimes we seem to be swimming against the times.

Chris blogs at http://christianpwalker.wordpress.com/   and tweets as @chris_p_walker

Click here to play the podcast:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/talkingrecords/RecordsManagement_and_E2.0.mp3

MoReq2010 update

The DLM Forum held their triannual conference in Brussels last month.  The conference brought together archivists and records managers from across Europe.  The DLM forum had earlier in the year published the MoReq2010 electronic records management system specification, and there was much talk of the specification at the conference.

The DLM forum released the first sets of test scripts to vendors immediately prior to the conference. This is a significant point in the life of an electronic records management system specification. It means that vendors get to see exactly how their products will be judged by test centres.  This gives them a solid basis for deciding whether or not it will be worth their while modifying their products to comply with the specification.  It means they can get down in ernest to the work of preparing products to comply with the specification.

I have two predictions to make about MoReq2010.  Firstly that it will be a slow burner, secondly that it will end up being the most influential of the world’s electronic records management specifications.

It will take some time before the exact nature of MoReq2010 compliant products becomes apparent.   It is likely that MoReq2010 will lead to a very heterogenous set of products, ranging from products that simply manage records held in one type of application (products that simply manage records held in SharePoint, products that simply manage records held in an e-mail system) to products that can manage records held in any application that the organisation uses.  This is in contrast to the previous generation of electronic records management specifications (from DoD 5015.2 to MoReq2) that led to a very homogenous set of products – namely those products dubbed ‘electronic records management systems’ (EDRMS).

It was interesting to hear Jon Garde say at the conference that he hoped that the acronym that comes to be applied to systems that comply with MoReq2010 is ‘MCRS’ (MoReq2010 compliant record system) rather than ‘EDRMS’.

The second reason why MoReq2010 will be a slow burner is that it is the first specification which has been designed to be added to as it goes along.  One of the key learnings from the last seven years has been the realisation that the digital world is constantly creating new formats. Although we as records managers are primarily interested in the content and context of records rather than their format, we have to acknowledge that different formats have different management requirements.  The old paradigm of documents being aggregated into files is hard enough to apply to e-mail, let alone blogposts, status updates, discussion board posts and wiki pages.  E-mails tend naturally to aggregate themselves into e-mail accounts, blogposts aggregate themselves into blogs, status updates aggregate themselves into streams, wiki pages aggregate themselves into wikis.

MoReq 2010 takes a more generic approach. In the core requirements (the requirements that any MCRS has to adhere to) it talks in a rather abstract fashion of the system being able to manage ‘records’ that are grouped into ‘aggregations’ and which receive their retention rule from a records classification.   This begs the questions – what formats of records can any specific MCRS manage? How will it aggregate them?

The core requirements of MoReq2010 will be supplemented by extension modules.  At the DLM forum conference it was announced that extension modules were being written for specific types of record formats (for example e-mails), and for particular types of aggregation (for example the traditional ‘file’).  Buyers will be able to see what record formats and what types of aggregations a particular MCRS will be able to manage by looking at which extension modules the particular MCRS complies with.

In theory extension modules could be written for any and every format that came along and that had specific management requirements.  In practice this is likely to depend on the  capacity of the DLM forum to produce such extension modules.  Whereas the core requirements of MoReq2010 were substantially the work of one man (Jon Garde, with help from colleagues such as Richard Blake) it is hoped that a much wider base of people will contribute to the writing of extension modules. At the conference Jon appealed to those assembled to step forward and volunteer to help in the writing of these modules.

Jon Garde predicted an explosion in MoReq2010 over the next 12 months, as both MoReq2010 compliant products, and MoReq2010 extension modules started to appear.

As I write this post the most influential electronic records management specification in the world is the US DoD 5015.2.   That specification is looking increasingly jaded and outdated.  It was last revised in 2007, and the latest version does not reflect the changed nature of the digital landscape in organisations since the rise of both social computing and of SharePoint.   Over the medium term MoReq 2010 will overtake DoD 5015.2 in importance provided only that vendors find it feasible and profitable to develop products that comply with it.