Developing your inner geek

By Jesse Wilkins posted 06-14-2010 12:11



I speak and write a lot about technology issues. Periodically someone will come up to me and ask, "How can you stay on top of all this stuff? It never ends - how can normal people like me keep up?" My first response is that you don't have to grok the nuances of database normalization, storage provisioning, or Java development. But you do have to understand the basics of the technologies in your organization and that are on the horizon, and you have to understand how they may affect your organization and how it manages its records. 
In this post I will lay out some strategies for how you can learn about technology and keep on top of new developments that will impact your RIM program. 
The first step is to recognize the need to develop and maintain some technology credibility. Lots of RIM professionals already get this. But there are still too many that adhere to Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law of Prediction: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." I maintain that RIM professionals who do not understand the technology their organizations use to create and manage information are derelict in their professional obligations. 
There are a number of low-cost ways to acquire information about current technologies. The first is this community and others like it. Vendors, analysts, experts, and users regularly post information about technologies, solutions, and lessons learned. AIIM has two communities now, around ERM and Enterprise 2.0, but others will likely be forthcoming. Similarly, ARMA has been running its iConference for some time now. And there are any number of opportunities to engage in "social networking 1.0" through email lists like RECMGMT-L
It's also important to engage in face-to-face networking and education through chapter events, webinars, and conferences. Local chapter meetings are often low-cost and feature case studies and speakers who are thought leaders. Webinars typically cost nothing but an hour of your time. And the big conferences - AIIM and MER in the spring, and ARMA in the fall - bring everyone together for several intense days of education and discussion. 
The government also provides a number of technology-focused resources - many governments, many technologies, and many resources. The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration and many of the state archives provide guidance on how to manage email, for example, or whether broker-dealer conversations on Facebook fall under FINRA's regulations (they do). The UK, the EU, Australia, and many other countries provide similar sorts of guidance. 
Professional and trade associations can be a valuable source of information in two respects. First, groups like AIIM, ARMA, TAWPI, the International Council on Archives, and the DLM Forum regularly convene groups of experts and volunteers to develop guidance on new technologies and applications. AIIM, for example, has microsites with resources on ERM, capture, SharePoint, and others. And ARMA is currently working on a guideline on "Outsourcing Records Storage in the 'Cloud'". 
Second, they often include vendor members including solution providers, analysts, and consultants. These are the folks developing and implementing the technologies and ensuring they are relevant in the marketplace. Some of the content consists of thinly-disguised sales pitches, but the majority of it is relevant, content-rich, and to some extent vendor-neutral. 
And finally, today there is a wealth of relevant information available through other social networking sites. I have found Twitter to be an amazing source of high-quality content with the added benefit that my contacts filter the flood of information for me: if certain folks post a link, I know they have checked it out and found it valuable. Same thing with links posted to blogs - and of course those blog posts are often cross-linked through Twitter. 
The bottom line is that there are numerous resources available to address all aspects of technology. Most of these resources are available at little or no cost except your time. Start with the folks you know and ask them what they rely on to stay current - your RIM colleagues, your IT or legal staff, or the folks at your table at the monthly chapter meeting. Check out the AIIM and ARMA websites as starting points. But make the commitment to develop and maintain your technology "chops". 

#TAWPI #ElectronicRecordsManagement #ERM #ARMA #NARA #ICA #DLMForum #AIIM #technology