Transacting e-Business: is RM being passed by?

Rick Barry, Principal, Barry Associates


Keynote presentation at the Records Management Association of Australia (RMAA) 2002 National Convention, 17 September

 2002, Adelaide, Australia


Introductory Comments


Thank you RMAA – National President Chris Fripp and the other officers and Board for your outstanding leadership of RMAA and your support for this convention. Thank you Convenor Brigitte Stephen, Kristen Keley, President, RMAA SA Branch, Helen Onopko and the other members of the Organising Committee, and to Elisabeth Eaton who did the heavy lifting behind the scenes for Festival City Convention and who, with Brigitte, has been very kind and patient working with me over the past several months. And thanks to all of the delegates here without whose support there would be no Convention. I would like to express my appreciation to State Records of South Australia, Pickfords, Objective, the National Archives of Australia and all of the other sponsors, who literally put their money where their mouths were, for their commitment and support to RMAA this Convention and my presence here. 


This is the third time that I have had the honor of being invited to make a keynote presentation at an RMAA function, to be followed by the latest in a series of workshops in several Australian and New Zealand cities in recent years. I am personally honored and grateful for your sponsoring my visit with you again. Times are very hard financially, making it particularly difficult to sponsor international speakers these days. Yet, your leadership was sufficiently committed to the view that RMAA members need and want to hear about practice and issues internationally, to take on that burden. I appreciate that and am thankful for it, and will do my best not to disappoint you. I feel this way not only out of self-interest, but because I truly share the same view. I too have served in professional association conference program committee roles in my own country, and have always made it a point to promote speakers from other countries (including Australia) to share experiences with North American delegates. We talk a great deal about knowledge management in the records management field. International exchanges like this are evidence that we don’t just talk about it but, to the extent professional associations are able to do so, we practice it.


I come here to Australia, and to RMAA as I have on several previous occasions, with mixed feelings of excitement to be in the company of the ARM giants who produced 4390, NAA’s numerous outstanding guidelines over the years, VERS metadata model and Western Australia’s model State Records Act of 2000 legislation to mention just a few; but, most especially to take the podium in the seat of the continuum theory, something I have promoted in my own country for several years. I am happy to be able to tell you that the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has recently put a draft paper up for discussion in which it is proposed that NARA now be guided by the continuum approach to recordkeeping. In a paper currently out for comment, “National Archives and Records Administration Proposal for A Redesign of Federal Records Management,” NARA proposes the following fundamental changes in its approach to recordkeeping:

6. NARA's approach to records management would be based on the ISO Records Management Standard 15489, and its focus on trustworthy records (authenticity, reliability, integrity, usability). In developing policy and guidance, NARA would articulate its requirements in terms of agencies documenting their business processes and using risk assessment to determine appropriate records management approaches.

7. NARA would adopt the records continuum model which requires that "archives" be identified early in their "life cycle" and then managed as archives as long as needed. This approach in the U.S. context would involve NARA in records relating to rights, government accountability, and records of continuing value from the beginning and focus NARA on monitoring how they are managed.

Thus, while we hope that we will be able to bring our own perspective to such conferences as this one, it is quite clear that we continue to be very much influenced by the theory, practice and messages coming from Down Under. And do not disdain theory, despite comments I have to say later about balance between theory and practice. There is a simplistic view held by some that the records management professionals are only interested in real-world practice while archives professionals are only interested in never-never land theory. As Terry Cook put it in his usual eloquent manner in his seminal lecture series to the US NARA staff, 21-22 April 1999, Archival Appraisal and Collection: Issues, Challenges, New Approaches:


It is important to remember that the opposite of practical is impractical, not theoretical.  Theory is rather the complement to practice, and theory and practice should interact and cross-fertilize each other, rather than one being derivative of or dependent on the other.


I also come here with feelings of trepidation to follow such outstanding speakers; and with feelings of nostalgia as I reflect on my first visit to Australia during the Vietnam War when I was a Navy pilot doing joint exercises with the RAAF squadrons then at Richmond and Townsville. I come especially this time with a touch of nostalgia, because I know it is likely the last time that I will carry out a professional engagement like this in your great country, as I make ready for retirement at the end of the year. Most of all, though, I come with what I hope is a message that is frank and challenging, but one about which I feel very upbeat for you and your Association because I know you are up to the challenges I will raise.


Transacting e-Business: is RM being passed by?


Several months ago, the Convention Organising Committee asked me to address this question at this Convention. I agreed, although with some concern over whether Australians would appreciate someone coming here from another country and putting this question to you. However, as I became involved in actually writing this paper, it became apparent that the question I was asked to address was not only a very good one that the Convention program committee obviously did consider relevant to Australia, but it was one that is in no way limited in its relevance to Australia. The next order questions that the major one gives rise to are ones that must be addressed in every country. The answers may vary some in scope and timing from one country or jurisdiction within a country to another, but it is truly a universal – international – set of professional challenges that we are talking about. Also while preparing this paper, I saw the need to take some poetic license with the original title and I hope that this will not detract from the program committee’s original idea of the keynote. Here is how I will amplify on the original title: Transacting e-Business. Let’s take the broadest interpretation of e-Business and include e-Government there. Is records management being passed by? For reasons that will become apparent later, if they are not already, let’s also read that to mean more broadly the practice of archives and records management (ARM). And while we are at it, let’s also say that, in this context, ARM also refers not just to the practice but to the professionals who engage in that practice: archivists and records managers. Thus the question I speak to is: Transacting e-Business and e-Government: Is ARM being passed by?


And the answer is…Yes…No…and:  Maybe. Let us count the ways

E-volution – a new era


But first, let’s put the question into context with the theme of this RMAA 2002 Convention: “Evolution - a new era.” We all observe the infusion of technology at every layer of our society – business, entertainment, education, home life and general communications and living. Will it all really add up to more than a tiresome list of Es – e-Business, e-Government, e-Commerce, e-Tailing, e-Tainment, e-Learning and, yes, e-Docs and e-Records? Or will it all together add up to more than of the sum of their individual parts? Many of us believe that it will; that, together, it will all truly be an evolution – an e-Volution – to a new era.


The e-Volution has long since begun. The era that we are talking about is our time.




If necessary to make the point, I could entertain you with statistics and examples like those you have no doubt heard before from various gurus, social scientists, and tech-watch analysts such as IDC and the Gartner Group[1], for example that:

·        the Internet and World Wide Web constitute the most profound change in human communications since the invention of the printing press.

·        by 2005, knowledge will double daily; e-books and e-periodicals annual sales will reach about US$4 billion; and annual figures for email messages will rise to over 9 trillion from 100 billion in 1995.

·        more than 400,000 people downloaded Stephen King’s digital novella in one month.

·        although the overall picture is mixed, circulation figures for print newspapers are unmistakably on a downward trend, while online newspaper readership is growing.[2]


But I won’t regale you with a shower of such examples. Even the most doubtful among us should not need to be persuaded to the view that the e-Volution is real, and it is now. While it runs across the whole spectrum of human activity, it is, and will to a large extent continue to be, largely driven by e-Business. That is the engine with the purchasing power and multiplier effect that we must tame or be tamed by. e-Business is also increasingly driving e-Government because of mandates for agencies to provide online citizen access to services and information, and to eliminate paper and paperwork.


What has technology wrought?


None of this is to suggest that we are or should be happy about everything the e-Volution has brought (or wrought) and likely will.  Many people, myself included, have serious reservations about some aspects of the e-Volution.


The Good


We know that it has many potentially positive aspects:

·        more efficient operations

·        improved services

·        better citizen access to, and involvement in, government

·        greater direct access by ordinary people to digital copies of art, literature, and historical documents once the domain of scholars and the privileged

·        distance learning, especially for fully employed people trying to elevate their skills, for the disadvantaged, and for many developing countries


The Bad


We also know that the e-Volution is not all good. Many of its promises are yet to be delivered upon. At the same time, there are real problems:


·        threats to intellectual property, employment, personal privacy, including identity theft

·        the gap between info-haves and the info-nots

·        psychological isolation for those drawn from the real world into a virtual screen world;

·        threats to unsupervised children by cyber-predators;

·        the use of increasingly powerful “bots,” virtual “people” and other software agents that are raising serious social concerns, etc. 


We don’t have to believe what comes with technology is all good, however. Breaking news: Most of us will neither be asked for permission nor be able to control the roll out of e-Business or the e-Volution more generally. Whatever it brings, we are going have to deal with it. If history is any judge, CIOs, CTOs and other IT professionals won’t be able to call all the shots either.  In my experience, IT specialists have never been the most reliable predictors of future workplace technology. Like everyone else, they have their own hopes for the future and their own territories to promote and preserve. This gets in the way of objective forecasting. I could tell you some stories about that, but later. No. Change will come from new generations of workers wanting to do things differently and from technological innovation.


Will the e-Volution even include archives and records management? Don’t presume. The answer isn’t pre-ordained. It depends on how well we read social, economic and workplace signals and warning signs and information technology tea leaves, what we can do about them, and what we really do do about them.


Theory v Implementation


We’ve made great strides in the development of theory and models for recordkeeping, and have much to be proud of in the area of standards building – much of that coming straight out of Australia as I noted earlier. But how much have we done by way of actual implementation of enterprise-wide electronic recordkeeping systems? What’s the score?


How have we done implementing systems to capture:

·        digital email records into electronic recordkeeping regimes?

·        employee-to-employee (E2E, a.k.a business-to-enterprise (B2E)) intranets

·        organization-to-partner (business-to-business (B2B)) extranets or

·        organization-to-client (business-to-client (B2C)) World Wide Web sites


How are we doing with integrated enterprise resource-planning systems (ERPs)?


Those are the ones that so many organizations installed to replace legacy stovepipe systems as a way of avoiding Y2K problems, and that we continue to install to overcome mounting problems with unintegrated, legacy systems? Legacy systems, I might add, that as rickety and stovepipe-like as they were, nevertheless were – what shall we say – ‘paperful’ systems that produced mountains of paper or microform records that we knew just how to deal with.


What’s the score?


If it were a ballgame, the electronic records implementation scoreboard would look like:

·        Trendy IT: 5

·        ARM: 0.


In short, we are already getting left behind. Are the other guys going to bring in a new game plan when we go back onto the field? Is there a chance to turn this game around? I believe the answer is "Yes!" on both accounts. We can count on new game plans that are sure to go beyond the Web as we know it today, in addition to all the old plays as well; but there is still time to turn the scoreboard around. To do so, however, we have many challenges to overcome at the personal, organizational, professional, national and international levels.


Will ARM get passed by? Is it getting passed by now?


The question I was asked to pose today is: will ARM be left behind in the escalating e-Volution process?  I wish I could give you answers that had greater precision and clarity; but in this business it isn’t always possible to have complete clarity even in the questions, let alone the answers. But let us at least try to count some of the ways in which we will, won’t and may or may not get left behind.


The Ayes Have it: ARM is getting passed by


The answer surely will be yes for:

·        records managers who don’t acquire higher-level education and training and keep skills up to date. [Over the past 10 years, I have observed a noticeable increase in higher education requirements, graduates and related skills pools for archivists, but not so for records managers. Why not?]

      It will be YES for recordkeeping in organizations that fail to distinguish between recordkeeping and recordmaking technologies and ensure that the latter not only produce essential records, but that they are captured and preserved in an appropriate, trustworthy ARM environment.

·        YES for professional associations that fail to meet the challenge of fully promoting the interests of good recordkeeping and the importance of the recordkeeping function and profession – both within and outside the records management community. Many professional organizations today are facing great challenges in declining memberships, revenues and relevance. RMAA is fortunate through good leadership to be in a growth mode, but so were other professional organizations not so long ago that are now suffering diminishing memberships and revenues; growth cannot be sustained without also continuing to pay close attention to services and relevancy to professional needs. (ARMA is likely to see this with RMAA’s decision at this Convention to open a New Zealand chapter and the likelihood that the New Zealand chapter of ARMA may switch its affiliation over to RMAA.)

·        YES for organizations that try to hang on to specialized document management (DM) systems that are records management applications (RMAs) but lacking in broader functionality to support enterprise knowledge and content management needs.

·        YES for professionals who build firewalls between archivists and records managers and archives and records management functions, which is one of the reasons why I prefer to use the ARM acronym to embrace functions of both groups and their tight integration. 

·        YES for those ARM functions that are or may be automated.  


In a paper accessible in the Guest Authors section of, Chauncey Bell eloquently stated this most important last point about ARM functions. He said:


What roles will be available to archivists and records administrators? As you have seen happening in other disciplines and professions, some of your roles are going to change or even disappear, and the lines may blur between your roles and the roles of librarians, historians, and even information professionals and computer programmers. We cannot know exactly what your jobs will be like in ten years, but one thing is certain: your job is not to be a more sophisticated computer. Most of today’s managers and most of the current body of management practices and theory are at a loss to cope with multiple emerging worlds of relationships and action. They need your help.[3]


The point is reinforced in the Standards Australia Committee IT-021 Technical Report, “Work Process Analysis” draft standard of July 2002 that states:


As computer applications become more sophisticated, there exists the possibility of automating those work processes, including the recordkeeping processes, and can be extended to less structured activities such as complaint management and general correspondence management. Work process analysis from a recordkeeping perspective is essential for developing such an automated application.


Those are some or the ways in which ARM is being, and may continue to be or become, bypassed. Minimizing forces operating in that direction presents challenges that will not be easy to overcome. I submit that we have no choice but to stand up to those undertakings….But wait! There are other powerful forces at work in the other direction.


The Nays Have it: ARM is not getting passed by


And the answer will be no:

·        for records managers who do extend their formal and continuing education in information management and technology  and records management, and make the ARM links with knowledge and content management.

·        NO for organizations that see recordkeeping not as an independent, parallel function, but rather as integral to core business activities.

·        NO for functions that are better served by human intellect – building partnerships with core business managers, CIOs/CTOs, corporate lawyers, auditors, facility managers; designing ARM aspects of information and technology infrastructures; setting standards; business systems analysis; and providing human intervention where needed.

·        NO if trustworthy recordkeeping becomes a ubiquitous commodity that is embedded in virtually all business systems – and if ARM professionals, and their managers, step up to the role changes that entails.


The ‘Maybes’ Have It


And the answer will also be maybe, depending on:

·        how quickly organizations embrace wireless, voice mail (vmail), instant messaging (IM) and other trend-setting technologies as the preferred modes of business communication.

·        MAYBE, if and how quickly system developers provide recordkeeping solutions for voicemail, IM and other new technologies.

·        MAYBE, if ARM professionals make their case to the public right now with the continuing fallout from Andersen Consulting, BAT, Enron, HIH, WorldCom, and the growing list of collapsing companies being investigated for improper, unethical or fraudulent business activities by pressing lawmakers and regulators, legitimate business people who want to separate themselves from the others, and the public more generally to recognize the innate bonds between good management, accountability, trustworthy recordkeeping and the inviolability of records, and the importance of tough whistle-blowing protection laws.

·        MAYBE, if the understanding of the public and other professions’ image of records management improves and demands some of the changes outlined above. Public image of ARM is a matter of such concern that it is a key agenda item for the International Council on Archives XXXVIth International Round Table Conference on Archives (CITRA) will be held in Marseilles on November 13-16, 2002. (CITRA[4] is the elite committee of ICA that consists of the national archivist of member countries). Yet, I have seen no discussion of this important issue on the Australian, Canadian, US or UK archivists or records management lists, only unrelated joking and lamenting about the projection of ARM professionals in novels and movies. I’ve seen nothing to suggest that the national archives members of ICA, or ICA itself, have sought input from their national professional communities (or anyone else for that matter) on this important agenda item.


Recordmaking vs Recordkeeping Systems


The extent to which records management and records managers will be overtaken by the e-Business-driven e-Volution, is very much contingent upon the extent to which organizations understand and account for differences between ‘recordmaking’ and ‘recordkeeping’ systems. 


Simply stated, recordmaking systems are systems that create documentation that we know has the characteristics of ‘recordness’.  That is, they produce documentation (more frequently now not in paper form) that appears to meet the usual conditions of recordness. We all know what those definitions look like and there are others we could use here.

·        documentary evidence of a business process or transaction, in any medium

·        created by a competent person or designated system

·        in the normal course of business

·        at or around the time of the event

·        that is recorded and

·        ‘witnessed’ through communication to other persons or enterprise system


If a system produces documentation that looks like, feels like, tastes like – smells like –records, by whatever your definition, then it is probably a recordmaking system. That, however, doesn’t in and of itself qualify the system as a recordkeeping system. Lamentably, and increasingly, they are not. We know that structured transaction systems, such as ERPs produce mountains of objects that have great recordness, as do even very unstructured communications such as email and recorded vmail.  This is already well recognized in some legal jurisdictions, and is becoming more recognized in others. I understand that here in Australia, at least at this time, email qualifies as legal evidence only if both parties to litigation agree. With global, multi-national e-Business, this could change. Stay tuned.


Caution: Although we define records as evidence of business functions, don’t confuse the terms “record” and “legal evidence”.    All records constitute potential evidence if maintained in a trustworthy recordkeeping environment, such as would be required by AS ISO15489. However, all forms of evidence are not records, including certain documentation that is not part of any recordkeeping regime. An organization may argue that documentation that has not been captured into, and maintained as part of, its trustworthy recordkeeping environment does not rise to the level of being trustworthy records. It may argue that way, but that does not change the fact that in some jurisdictions such documentation, for example uncaptured email or instant mail, may be introduced in court as evidence. And that could come back to hurt the organization, if it has no better form of the documentation to present in opposition to the claimant or to dispute the validity of the other side’s “evidence”.



Examples of (Hard-)Core Recordmaking Systems


·        Old fashioned office systems, email

·        EDMS

 Back room – ERP

·        Front room – Customer Interface Management (CIM), Enterprise Relationship Management (ERM)

·        Integrated voice/text/data systems

·        Workflow

·        GIS-centric facility management systems (Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Computer-Aided Facility Management (CAFM), Computer Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS)

·        Intranet, extranet, websites


Recordkeeping Systems


By contrast, recordkeeping systems, as you know, are those with robust functionality for records capture, maintenance of integrity and authenticity, long-term preservation and disposition management, for example as may be described in the US 5015.2 Records Management Applications (RMA) standard that has been approved by the Archivist of the US for all US federal agencies, or in other RFPs. Although not mandated, most portions of the standard are applicable to state and local government and private sector recordkeeping needs. For this reason, many private sector companies, academic institutions and state and local governments opt for limiting their RFP invitations for DMS selections to suppliers with 5015-certified systems including such systems as Objective Corporation’s Objective 2000, Tower Software’s TRIM, TrueArc’s FOREMOST, and about two dozen other products or partnered products certified under 5015.2 by the US Joint Interoperability Test Command after software testing.


The problem with most earlier RMA systems has been that while they had good recordkeeping functionality, they were lacking in the more advanced document management capabilities that were not regarded as essential to recordkeeping, such as were provided in systems like Documentum and groupware document creation support as provided by Lotus. CTOs/CIOs consequently usually would not go with an RMA unless partnered with an EDMS with robust DM capabilities. Integrating two parallel systems like this results in a high “total cost of operations” or ‘TCO’ – anathema to the CTO/CIO. I recommended to one client, who had already initiated bids from EDMS/RMA partnerships, that the organization should select a pair, but then evaluate the individual members of the pair. They did and concluded that the RMA could cover both their DM and ARM needs, and at enormously less TCO than the pair.


Now we face a new breed – enterprise content management (ECM) systems – that will likely displace even the best of the old EDMS and what I call EDMS+ systems – the RMAs that have robust document management functionality. These CM systems incorporate all of the DM functions and much more, to support portals and knowledge-based mandates and integrate content across platforms including publishing and maintenance of web-based applications. Unfortunately, most do not have ARM functionality. One exception that I am aware of is Tower Software’s Context. Tower seems to have reversed its strategy in an important way. Rather than promoting it as an RMA with serious DM capabilities, as has been practice with earlier TRIM products, with its Context product Tower appears (at least in the US) to be taking the position that, when paired with ComWeb for the web management function, it has developed a nearly full-scale ECM system that is aimed at CIOs and the CM market, but that – oh by the way – can readily handle those pesky records objects and happens also to be 5015.2-certified, with its necessary recordkeeping functionality. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out, especially – speaking of pesky – for financial management transaction systems that use relational database software.


            Tarian has also departed from the old approach and promotes the idea of embedding recordkeeping functionality within core systems. Both of these approaches stand back from earlier treatment of recordkeeping as an independent function and take a Trojan-Horse approach to integrating recordkeeping with broader business needs. In my opinion, they are more likely to succeed with CTOs/CIOs who continue to call the shots on enterprise systems, because they integrate ARM functionality and core systems and reduce TCO. If those approaches work – and I think they has a very good chance of doing so – ARM will not be passed by. The job will change considerably in ways that might not be acceptable for some incumbents, but the function will remain intact and become stronger than it has been since the infusion of PCs and email systems in the early 1980s when things started to go down hill.

Survey of South Carolina State IT Directors


Last year, I conducted a brief client survey of members of the South Carolina IT Directors Association that may be of interest to you. I use it here for illustrative purposes. It would be much better to do similar surveys of state governments across Australia, and I urge that you do that.  In the meantime, you may wish to see the results of one line of questioning in South Carolina and make your own assessments as to its current or future applicability here.


The survey showed extensive use of websites and intranets by state agencies and very. Despite slow take-up in ERPs and extranet implementations, in comparison to the private sector and many Federal agencies where these technologies are in much greater use, it was obvious that recordmaking systems were on the rise while recordkeeping systems remained few and far between.


About 70% of IT Directors (including CIOs and CTOs indicated they had responsibility for the recordkeeping function, including electronic records. Among several issues that they were asked to rank, one was:


How do you regard electronic records (ER)? Non-issue? Issue? Major Issue?


Respondents were asked how they ranked several potential issues. In one such question, they were asked: How do you regard electronic records? No issue? An issue? A major issue? These responses were separated into two groups: those who had responsibility for ARM functions and those who did not. Over 95% of the respondents who had the ARM portfolio considered ER an issue or major issue. About half as many of those without ARM responsibilities, as compared to those with such responsibilities, regarded ER as a major issue, reflecting the gap in their understanding of and commitment to the issue (probably including providing for essential budgetary resources). One might reasonably conclude that the greater the responsibility of CIOs/CTOs/IT-Directors for records management, the better their appreciation for electronic records and other ARM issues. That is a start, but the record is still mixed, however, as to how well and how soon this will translate to enterprise electronic records implementations.


Keeping ARM from getting passed by


Think about the organizational placement of the ARM function. Does it promote or work against the idea that ARM is an independent set of functions. Or, conversely, that recordkeeping is an integral part of business processes? If it promotes RM independence from core business, is the placement of the function likely to create growth in recordkeeping capabilities and resources, or diminish them? If it diminishes them, what measures must be undertaken to overcome the seemingly natural bias against, or simply disinterest in, recordkeeping and/or records managers? If, on the other hand, ARM is regarded as integral to business processes, might ARM take a leadership approach in promoting the CIOs’ agenda for enterprise content and knowledge management systems while promoting solutions that also address corporate ARM requirements and related risks? In the process, ARM may also ride on the budgetary coattails of CM, KM or other priority enterprise systems.

Strengthening the Case for Electronic Records


Corporate and legal mandate vs business need


Historically, ARM leaders have taken the easy way out: basing their compliance needs largely on legal or corporate recordkeeping mandates. In this approach, the organization in some mystical way is seen as the client for ARM services. That doesn’t work any more. In the current and foreseeable e-bus/e-gov climate, ARM has to make a better business case for what it does in terms of also supporting business program aims and related staff. Records often constitute the largest and best maintained legacy knowledge base in the organization. Beyond risk reduction, which has been a hard sell, what stronger business case can be made? Now, more than ever, corporate records assets can serve core business needs and, with the right policies and technology, still meet traditional corporate recordkeeping needs.


Greater public and other professional support


We need to get the public and other professions on the side of the angels.  What can we do, individually and through our professional associations, to foster a more enlightened and supportive view in the public and among professionals in other disciplines? A view that sees the critical role of ARM in fostering government by law and that won’t stand for anything less than complete inviolability of records? When was the last time we saw our case simply but compellingly put in a non-professional, public venue – an Op-Ed piece or letter to the editor in a high-circulation newspaper? Or a paper in a journal of another discipline? When have we seen the ARM case made by professionals in disciplines outside our community – lawyers, judges, auditors, journalists, legislators and other records-reliant professionals?


Balancing the short- and long-term perspectives


Do we take a sufficiently long-term perspective? Can we continue to take a bite-sized approach to ER problems as they arise? Do we adequately focus on:

·        Management’s need to tackle the underlying information and technology infrastructure in a way that includes ARM requirements

·        Our role in getting that message and those actions across


If we can’t do this, we will continue to swim harder upstream but move faster and faster downstream, away from our goals. If we really want to take a long-term perspective, we must continue to build further on what we have done to provide for:

·        Greater integration of the needs of the archives and RM communities

·        Interoperability of, and interaction between, systems for capturing, maintaining and, where required, transferring records of continuing value to archives – where feasible at time of initial creation and use.


Balancing the producer (introspective) and user (external) perspectives


Do we tend to take a producer or introspective view more than a user or external perspective? The international electronic records research and development agenda would suggest so. It has, in most cases, been very inward looking:

·        Functional requirements for recordkeeping

·        Process modeling of ARM functions

·        Development of metadata models, etc. 

These are all essential undertakings, no doubt; but what about research that considers:

·        Trends in the user worlds where others create records, e.g.:

·        What is needed in the design of graphical user interfaces (GUIs), and in the not distant future possibly language user interfaces (LUIs), to facilitate capturing all that metadata we expect from users without turning them off?

·        What are user tolerances for meeting such recordkeeping needs and why?

·        Broader workplace and technology surveys along the lines of South Carolina

·        What is popular in the youth sector and home market that may soon become common in business, government and academia, and that could have significant consequences for recordmaking systems and recordkeeping?

·        Other workplace studies, e.g., how work is conducted away from the office at home and while traveling. 

Such outward looking research could be done separately as well as part of research aimed to meet the needs of other sectors while simultaneously contributing to our understanding of the workplace in which we operate and likely recordkeeping implications of the e-Volution. [A current example is the joint US NARA/San Diego Super Computer project to devise a scheme for preserving electronic records for at least 400 years.] We regularly lament the lack of appreciation of our world and issues among CEOs, CIOs and other business managers. Do we do much better in understanding their worlds, even as they apply to our work? Can we count on national archives, universities, private researcher institutions and our national research centers to fund studies to help us improve those understandings? If not, what can we do to fix that? Isn’t this all information that we need to know to do our jobs?


Market Research Studies


What do industry workplace and IT market studies in Australia say about such things? What emphasis is there on such subjects in university computer science curricula? Are our university faculty colleagues in graduate ARM departments encouraging joint ARM/computer science studies and student dissertations in these areas? Or is the focus chiefly on areas of high ARM theory – very important, but not exclusively so.

What can professional associations do?


What can our professional associations, professional journals and conference calls for papers, and our national archives do to fill in these important gaps, reflect the results in the planning of new systems and promote legislation to support changes where required? 

·        How often do we address our legislators on legislation crucial to sound recordkeeping? Are we relinquishing our role to strong business interests in fashioning legislation? Where were the Australian professional associations represented in the development of the important Electronic Transaction Act (ETA) legislation? Where were the American professional associations represented in our corresponding Uniform Electronic Transaction Act (UETA) and Uniform Computer Information Transaction Act (UCITA)?  They were not, and in the case of the US, attorneys representing business interests wrote their own definitions of ‘record’ into the law including politically motivated exclusions based on medium.

·        How much have we invested in making system developers better partners in our work?

·        How often do we ask of them more than to purchase a stand at our conferences? What about sharing the conference podium with them to help exchange our concerns and obtain more responsive products and services?

·        How about other professionals (judges, attorneys, auditors, journalists, legislators) who rely enormously on the assets contained in trustworthy recordkeeping systems? Can we better understand their worlds and enlist their support in similar ways, including as convention speakers?

The answers to these questions, in my opinion, will open up important ways in which professional associations can and should contribute to making certain that ARM is not passed by.

What can individuals do?


So I ask: what have you done for yourself today? Each of us individually and our professional associations, universities and national archives collectively own the largest part of whatever image others hold of the ARM function and of ARM professionals and how that bears on the support we receive or don’t receive to do what needs to be done. In many countries, regrettably our image has been lacking. We have an old and venerable profession. What is in our control to preserve the best of it? Do we need to change some of our language, position titles and descriptions, organizational arrangements? Not simply the trappings, or as a gimmick to change the image, and not just as part of a good PR campaign, although that is badly needed too. In the main, such changes should be to transform the substance of what we do where needed to reflect current and future needs? And to accept the corresponding training and education implications.


Yes, management this and IT that…but what are we prepared to do to elevate our own public image from what that we see in movies and novels and list discussions and more recently in a leading news media report on the Catholic Church crisis. A spokesperson for Roman Catholic religious orders,

such as the Jesuits and Franciscans that are not associated with parishes stated that they felt it was inappropriate for priests guilty of pedophilia to always be discharged from the Church.


[Rev. Ted] Keating [executive director of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men] and others suggested the religious communities would find places for offending priests, such as "working in the archives," or house them in a "safe setting" such as a monastery "so we could keep an eye on them…These men would not return to any kind of public ministry. They're not out there ministering where they could have any kind of access to the faithful." (Emphasis supplied.)[5]



It does not project a very good image of the records function. Rather, it is seen as a dumping ground for problem cases. That is not the first time we have heard that image projected. Nor does it reflect a very good understanding of what recordkeeping is all about, including the important role of outreach and human interaction; but it did get front-page coverage.  I didn’t see any responses to that coverage from professional associations or individuals, regrettably myself included.


Concluding, in Peter Weir’s great film The Last Wave when asked one more time by his frustrated defense attorney – “Who ARE you?” – the Aboriginal finally broke his silence. “Who are YOU?”    To which I would add only, “and what do you want to be?” In the responses you give, individually and collectively as a profession, you will find your own answers to the question of how and where you will fit in to the certain and potentially very rewarding e-Volution.


ã 2002 Richard E. Barry

[1] Mention of products, services and companies are for illustrative purposes and do not necessarily constitute an endorsement.

[2] Source: Dot Journalism, 30 July 2002.

[3]  Organizational Change and the Role of the Archivist,” Keynote Speech by Chauncey Bell Senior Vice President, Business Design Associates, Inc., at the Annual Meeting of the Society of California Archivists, Friday, May 1st, 1998, Pasadena, CA.

[4] Conférence internationale de la Table ronde des Archives (CITRA). At time of writing, Ian E. Wilson, National Archivist of Canada serves as President of CITRA.

[5]Bishops' Policy on Abuse Questioned,” by Hanna Rosin, Washington Post, August 10, 2002; Page A01.