IRMS Conference: Celebrating 40 years of records management

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the IRMS and this was suitably celebrated at a packed conference in Manchester this year.

Siobhan King, Senior Consultant here at Metataxis, attended this exciting event last month – read on to learn about her experience: 

This was one of the biggest Information and Records Management Society events I have seen in a long time, and big in so many ways. There was a large number of attendees, a programme packed with a wide range of contributors and topics and as always, a great variety of exhibitors in the Vendor Showcase hall.

The majesty and size of the venue (at the Klimpton Clocktower) was a fair indicator of the popularity of the conference, as were the queues for the lunch buffets. (Yet another opportunity to network and meet new people.)

Celebrating this big anniversary for their professional association allowed for some reflection for information and records professionals. Overall, I would say that over the past 40 years, records and information management has emerged as a much more self-assured (if somewhat sometimes under-appreciated) profession. I was really pleased to meet Anne Cornish who is the president of RIMPA (Records and Information Management Practitioners Alliance) and Wendy McLain, president of ARMA (Association of Records Managers and Administrators) International from Australia and the United States respectively. Both were there as a show of the convergence of information and records management – not only internationally – but also between different professional organisations as well. This is a really welcome development.

Fads have come and gone (remember blockchain?), but records managers still remain. I was half expecting to be bombarded with multiple sessions about how ChatGPT and AI will change my life – and I was pleasantly surprised this was not the case at this conference.

Instead, I would say that the presenters were much more practical in approach. Many presentations were case studies from organisations who have actually walked the walk and not just talked the talk. There were so many good sessions and I could not attend or summarise them all but the ones that really got me thinking were:

  • James Wood from Northumberland Estates talked about Records Management in SharePoint Online with an E3 Licence. And how Northumberland Estates have done this is to leverage existing functionality within the boundaries of an E3 licence as much as possible. This has meant some up-skilling and venturing into areas of Microsoft that many Records Manager are less familiar with. Wood himself is an Information and Records Manager who pushed himself to learn new skills using Forms, PowerAutomate and even PowerShell to achieve a clean and well thought through design.
  • David Canning from the Cabinet Office, Lise Jaillant and Rob Bath presented an excellent session on conquering the digital heap. Canning’s discussion of how they implemented e-Discovery methods to get on top of their digital estate was particularly interesting. This was a combination of introducing new methods and some AI to radically reduce their digital footprint. And I have to say for me it lead to more meaningful conversations with many of the vendors in the Showcase hall. I’ve always been keen to be involved in a project where AI is part of the solution to tackling the digital heap. Even more so now someone has done this and shared the results.
  • Kay Young and Kate Valente from the Food Standards Agency talked about how they migrated from an EDRMS to SharePoint. They managed to achieve this at an impressive pace and with only a few small bumps along the way. Their successful journey was very encouraging to any other organisations in the same boat of having to move from an EDRMS to Microsoft 365. Plus their advice to tell people that migration is happening until they are bored of hearing it was absolutely invaluable.
IRMS Conference

Overall, the vibe at the conference was generally really positive and collegial. This year, because of the presence in Manchester, bees and hives were heavily referenced in conference packs, session names and even honey themed prizes in the trade hall. Dare I say, there was a real buzz in the air. We already can’t wait for the next one!

EDRMS success for Scottish public sector organisation

26 May 23 – Empowering staff to confidently work with new records management solution on Microsoft 365.

Metataxis is delighted to be supporting a local Scottish council successfully deploy a new Electronic Document and Records Management System (EDRMS) on Microsoft 365.

The project has followed a three phased approach, comprising an independent solution review and recommendations, the development of Governance and Information Architecture frameworks for Microsoft 365 and finally, the implementation of the new EDRMS on Microsoft 365.

With Phases 1 and 2 now complete, we have undertaken a mid-project review with this local authority and are delighted to hear that they are thrilled with the rate of progress and project quality.

As Records Management experts, our consultants recognise that Electronic Document and Records Management System roll outs can be lengthy and costly projects. This is why we are collaborating closely with the Council to show and share how to undertake the project roll out successfully by themselves.

Empowering employees with records management skills

By developing a comprehensive toolkit to follow, including clear, easy to use, templated documents to support on-going design and governance, the in-house team will be able to confidently manage the new EDRMS, becoming completely autonomous and negating the need for further spend moving forward.

Explains Noeleen Schenk, Director at Metataxis: “Here at Metataxis, we are all about empowering organisations. This is why have adopted a collaborative approach to this EDRMS implementation, offering staff full knowledge transfer in order to drive sustainability, up-skill the team while keeping costs down.”

The project is due to complete by summer 2023.

Read more about our records management services or simply contact us to discuss how we can help your organisation today.

Microsoft Teams vs SharePoint

The great debate: Microsoft Teams or SharePoint

In her latest blog, Siobhan King, Senior Consultant at Metataxis, discusses the key differences and challenges of using Microsoft Teams or SharePoint for document management.

To Teams or not to Teams

That is the question that most of our clients have been grappling with since the platform first appeared on the scene five years ago. Many organisations are in a position where they have been actively using Microsoft Teams in some form for around three years. It was the pandemic that forced many of them to take the leap back in 2020, rapidly adopting Teams and yet still telling someone they are “still on mute” is a part of our daily lives.

Should you use Microsoft Teams for document management?

While the decision to use Microsoft Teams to conduct online and hybrid meetings is a no-brainer, less straightforward is whether to use Teams as a document management platform.

Microsoft Teams

SharePoint has traditionally owned this space within the Microsoft platform and is indeed the solution that underpins document management within Teams. The key question for organisations over the past few years has been whether they operate in a “Teams-first” or “SharePoint-first” environment. This means, from a user experience perspective, do people live in Teams all day and save their documentation under the Files tab in Teams (which maps to SharePoint) or do they flick between applications depending on which activities they are carrying out?

Initially, when Teams was first popularised, many organisations conceptualised Teams as a collaboration platform while SharePoint continued to be seen as the place to store documents and records. This seemed a safe bet for early iterations of Teams, where the functionality was focussed more around meetings, chat and document collaboration. For the meatier business, such as managing documents and records, SharePoint was more appropriate because you could add metadata, create content and apply controls such as retention labels. But increasingly, as the Teams integration starts to catch up, this argument seems less and less relevant. Today, Teams makes use of many of the same functions as SharePoint, including content types, document sets, columns, term sets, edit in grid and retention labels. The argument about Teams vs SharePoint does seem redundant, especially from a compliance perspective.

Control and compliance

In terms of controls, there is one reason why your organisation might prefer SharePoint to Teams as a document and records repository. 

In SharePoint, there is slightly more scope for centralised control of things like external sharing than there is in Teams. Currently, SharePoint Admins are able to set more restrictive rules across the board than Teams. There is generally more scope to set things to the least permissive level possible, whereas Teams Owners have more leeway. If your organisation has a lot of sensitive information that needs to be controlled, you might want to think carefully about adopting Teams as a document repository.

Secondly, if your organisation has a group of Site Owners and Teams Owners who have a poor understanding of how the platform works, or of your information compliance requirements, you might be minded towards a more controlled environment. You will of course need to provide your Teams Owners with a lot of support to understand how things like sharing and Guest Access work – though you would need to do this anyway.

Managing your document libraries

The other thing you might need to think about is the way Teams and Channels translate into SharePoint document libraries. Whenever you create a Team, the channel structure is replicated in a SharePoint site under a document library called General.

SharePoint document library

There are all sorts of implications to consider here, including the risk of sprawl and deep folder structures, especially when it is left up to users to create. Teams members are able to do a lot more than SharePoint site members – it’s network drives all over again! If you’re wanting some form of control over your site structures, then you will need to look carefully at how you’re using Teams right now and whether this is feasible based on how you currently organise your information. Are your Teams naturally very simple and easy to navigate? If so – great. Teams could just do the job for you. But if your Teams are a bit of a mess already, you might need to think carefully about how you manage this.

User experience and usability

Microsoft Teams usability

There is another very simple but significant consideration in this debate, and that is usability.

Having columns in Teams is all very well, but it’s no good if you have several columns that you need to be able to see at once and you have to do a lot of scrolling, or shrink the screen to a microscopic size to see all the detail you need. This one is a difficult one to get around. The truth is for activities that require a lot of data on the screen, operating in Teams is really clunky. It’s also not particularly easy to add metadata to documents in Teams right now, even with grid view. It seems really picky on such a seemingly small thing, but this is something that will a major impact on someone’s day. Your records repository is dull and unsexy enough already for users (sorry, but it’s true) – don’t make it even less desirable by giving it a horrible interface.

Key considerations: control, design and preference

Of course, Microsoft Teams is a work-in-progress and we’ll continue to watch and see how this powerful tool will evolve further over time. But increasingly, as I’m seeing as things converge, the key considerations are maintaining a level of control, design and preference.

If you would like to discuss how you can optimise your Microsoft 365 environment to get the most out of Teams & SharePoint, simply contact us.

Embracing a New Information Generation at IRMS 2023

21 April 2023 – Hear thought-provoking keynotes from leading speakers discussing the role of information management in the future.

The Information and Records Management Society (IRMS) annual conference takes place from 14-16 May 2023 at the Klimpton Clocktower Hotel in the heart of Manchester city centre.

And we are really looking forward to being part of this exciting event.

IRMS 2023

Bringing together 400 practitioners, compliance managers, senior executives and other key stakeholders from a range of organisations across all industry sectors in the UK and beyond, this year’s IRMS conference features a diverse programme with many points of interest.

From records management with ‘only’ a Microsoft E3 license to managing data governance in a “move fast and break things environment” as well as a closing keynote asking what the future holds for records management, this year’s event promises to be full of informative content and networking opportunities.

Siobhan King, Senior Consultant at Metataxis explains: “The IRMS 2023 is a great opportunity to network with peers and hear from a great line up inspirational speakers – as well as discovering the latest innovations in records management. I’m really looking forward seeing everyone there.”

What is the IRMS?
The IRMS is the association for information professionals and students, supporting and bringing together all those working in information governance, records management, data protection, information security and more, across all industry sectors, in the UK and beyond.

Find out more and book your place at the IRMS Conference 2023 today.

Addressing information management issues

Join the Information Revolution!

Our latest podcast is now live!

This new episode discusses the Records and Information Management issues faced by many organisations.

You can listen to the Metataxis team in New Zealand, Judi Vernau and Michael Upton, along with their guest, Karl Melrose (Leadership Through Data), and hear them discuss the future of information management and how you can raise the value of information management and increase the visibility of records management in the workplace.

Watch it here.

You can also check out their other podcasts where they discuss topics in information management practice that are relevant for today and the future.

The team also invite other industry insiders to talk about what they’re doing, and how their practice is changing.

Watch our entire Information Revolution podcast series today and discover more about the latest trends and best practices around information management, information architecture, data retention and more.  issues