Sunday, August 17, 2008

Geek or Nerd?

I'm dissatisfied with the traditional definitions of these terms. Heck, Wikipedia wants to merge the two entries... The way I see it, A nerd is someone who has a bunch of specialized knowledge by virtue of concerted effort and study, generally formal education in a particular field. A geek is someone who has similar knowledge, but has gained it out of sheer desire to attain that knowledge, perhaps on the job or through experience. Nerdiness pays the bills; geekiness is what you do for fun. Cliff Clavin is a classic extreme geek in my book, although he often wanders into the world of triviality.

So I'm a nerd about records management and Chicago history, but I am a geek about airplanes, computers, and trains. Ok, elements of my computer knowledge border on nerd-dom, but only in a few small areas.

Funny thing is that I periodically call upon my geekiness to help out my nerdiness. So why do I keep some things classified as "geeky" -- particularly the computer stuff? Well, the way I see it, I know a lot about computers for a records manager and I have some particular areas of knowledge that will spin an IT manager's head around. But when you run up against people who really know computers, you're just a minor geek against their nerdiness. That happens with a fair amount of regularity when talking to two members of my staff. These guys are hardcore. A couple months ago, I showed one of them my home network layout. He then showed me his home network. He runs a series of virtual machines. He has built in hardware firewalls. He has various filters running to keep the bad stuff out. I simply trust Symantec and Linksys. My other staff member will periodically walk me through the finer points of forensic analysis, root kits, and hackerdom. I smile, nod, and play sponge -- there's geekiness to be learned here!

At the end of the day, I have to assimilate all that stuff, apply good judgment to the decisions that I have to make, and hope that I'm properly translating all this stuff to the lawyers. Oh yeah, there's another set of geekiness in my world....

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

ATR: RIM Best Practices

Mimi's been making me think again. She's had any number of posts recently that have provoked some thought on my part. But one recent posting that included her list of "Best Practices" is fodder for this post. Now these being blogs, I'd suggest that these ruminations aren't the end-all and be-all on the matter. But Mimi is pretty solid on hers and I'd like to spend a bit of time on mine.

Here's Mimi's list:
  1. Keep right amount of information for right length of time
  2. Meet all legal requirements
  3. Control costs
  4. Demonstrate good faith through consistent implementation
  5. Protect vital/historical records
  6. Produce information quickly and efficiently
  7. Integrate policies/procedures organization wide
  8. Establish ownership and accountability
  9. Ongoing organization-wide training
  10. Compliance controls: audit against ISO 15489

I like them, but I think that I would generate my list in this fashion:

At a Strategic Level:
  1. Establish senior management program support and appropriate organizational placement.
  2. Drive consistency into all RIM practices.
  3. Ensure global / enterprise-wide program implementation.
  4. Develop policies, not guidelines.
  5. Mandate training.
  6. Require annual compliance.
  7. Audit compliance.
  8. Support legal discovery efforts.
  9. Support data privacy efforts.
  10. Support organizational heritage collections.
At an Operational Level:
  1. Efficiently locate and deliver needed records to requestors.
  2. Associate appropriate information attributes (metadata) to all records.
  3. Ensure that cost savings generates value for the organization.
  4. Minimize end-user impacts.
  5. Develop systems to efficiently disposition records on a regular basis.
  6. Develop systems to ensure preservation of records on legal or tax hold.
  7. Leverage imaging systems to replace hard copy systems where appropriate and as part of a business process.
  8. Utilize document / content management and email management systems whenever possible.
  9. Continually seek program feedback and incorporate user suggestions for continuous improvement.
  10. Hold vendors accountable through service level agreements with meaningful penalties for non-performance.
I think RIM managers often focus too much on the operational aspects of the profession and not enough on the strategic aspects. I think we often focus on delivering the records to the end user and not on ensuring that all records creators are trained on RIM practices and checked for compliance.

In years past, I had distilled my thoughts about records management to three terms:
  1. Record worthiness: Assurance that the integrity and fidelity of records is maintained, regardless of the media upon which the record is stored.
  2. Records retention: Assurance that records are retained consistently, in accord with applicable governmental laws and regulations.
  3. Records efficiency: Assurance that records are maintained in an efficient and cost-effective manner, while providing timely access to the records by the end users.
I think these can be powerful ways of breaking down what we do, but they do leave unsaid much of the strategic approach to managing records.