LEADER Q&A: Scott Sammons, Chair of the IRMS

The Information and Records Management Society (IRMS) was formed in 1983 and today boasts 1000 members from across the UK and around the world, spanning the public, private and third sectors. This year its annual conference, which takes place at the Celtic Manor Resort from 19th – 21st May, will focus on maintaining trust  as its Chair, Scott Sammons explains to the ID Bulletin. 

Why is the IRMS conference focusing on trust for the conference this year?

In 2018 we saw one of the largest changes in Information Law in 10 years – the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). As many people know byScott Sammons IRMS now, the GDPR is designed to harmonise and bolster the standards for how personal information is handled and utilised in the 21st century. A core part of that is establishing and maintaining the trust your customers and citizens have in how you look after their data. This is about more than just following the letter of the law or finding clever loopholes or hiding places; it’s about taking accountability and responsibility for what you do with data and respecting the value and importance of data. As information and records management professionals we have a key role to play in supporting our respective businesses in achieving this, so this year we are looking at what ‘trust’ means, how it can be achieved and how it can be maintained with some fantastic speakers from across the public and private sectors.

Can you share some of the key themes the conference will be addressing this year?

Managing information often comes down to technology, the law, best practice and the skills of those charged with looking after data and records. Therefore, all speakers are split into these 4 main themes. Talks are given from people actually within the business doing the day job right the way through to technology innovators and industry thought leaders. We have input from the regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office, on how they approach the subject of trust as well, all adding value and diversity to the conversations over the two days in Wales.

What are some of the key issues facing the records management sector?

Like all sectors we face challenges around budgets, priorities and even Brexit. Many C-Suite executives do not see the value in managing information effectively but do see the value of an effective business and of access to data. Our challenge therefore is to sell them on the benefits of managing data effectively while also managing it responsibly as a core value of the business. These things often take resources, either in terms of time or people or indeed cold hard cash. Given the 1001 different financial pressures an organisation faces, things like information management can often take a back seat to something else.

With the current confusion (at the time of writing – this is changing each and every day!), we – like many other sectors and professions – are seeing businesses and indeed public sector organisations being wary as to what the future holds. If an organisation is uncertain about next year’s budget, the financial pressures we all face are made worse as many don’t want to take the risk of committing to a programme of work running past Brexit and into the next financial year until they know what that next year might look like. Even at the IRMS it is something on our radar. The more challenges our members face, the more challenges we face as a membership-funded organisation. Brexit is something else very much on the discussion for May, but who knows where we might be by then!

What has been the impact of GDPR on the sector as we approach the one-year anniversary?

A mixed bag to be honest. In terms of awareness and discussion, GDPR has been fantastic for getting good data and records management on the C-Suite agenda. We are seeing more people come into the information community and more organisations looking to get involved with the community in order to share ideas and best practice.

On the flip side, with Brexit and the current ICO stance on a few key issues, we are also seeing a number of organisations thinking that GDPR is going the way of the millennium bug. They are wrong, but without an effective regulator to keep the momentum going, and all the noise and uncertainty of Brexit clouding the playing field, I wonder if some of the hype and buy-in is starting to fade away and be replaced with other priorities.

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