Implementing Technology Means Managing Cultural Change

Article excerpt

The Toronto Chapter of ARMA (Association of Records Managers and Administors) must be doing something right. At a time when many professional groups find attendance at their conferences and seminars dwindling, ARMA was able to increase the number of attendees to their 20th annual Toronto Chapter Educational Seminar by 64 percent over 1991.

"In fact," says Vaughn Warrington, president of the chapter, "it is the most we have ever had attend the annual seminar." For a chapter which had about 400 members, getting 230 people out for a two-day event, is no small achievement.

When the number of people signing up for the seminar dropped in 1991 to 140, the ARMA executives knew that they had to do something to attract interest, and to encourage members to commit the time and the money to attend in 1992. "We really strove to attract high-profile speakers and to provide current topics," Warrington says. "And this attracted both members and non-members alike."

They decided to organize the seminar into five tracks or themes--basic, technologies, managing, industry specific, and progressive records management. Attendees could choose to focus on one track, or to mix themes according to their interests. It was, however, the first time that the ARMA chapter had offered a certificate for completion of the basic program, which covered such topics as information gathering techniques, micrographics and marketing to senior management. Although many sessions attracted larger numbers, forty people completed the program and received the certificate. It provided a solid core of people who wanted to be at every seminar in the series, a good idea for those conference organizers who find it difficult to maintain interest for the duration of a program.

One of the big topics in the technologies track was imaging. Vigi Gurushanta, one of the foremost authorities on the subject in Canada and currently in charge of automated records management projects at the Royal Bank of Canada, told his audience that 95 percent of all information is still on paper. We are in a transitional state, he suggested. Although we know what the technology can do, we are also very comfortable with what we have had for hundreds of years--mounds and mounds of paper. Only 4 percent of paper is now on optical disk, and the problem, for records managers at least, is how they can move the other 96 percent.

There are many ramifications of converting to a paperless office, not the least of which is the cultural change that results in organizations. Within a corporation, Gurushanta said, making the same information available to everyone means everyone can make the decisions, or at least, contribute to the decision-making process. That accessibility makes it difficult for companies to operate in a hierarchical structure, and moves them toward an integrated structure.

For any organization with vast amounts of paper to control, it is essential to avoid the "keep it for the sake of keeping it" syndrome. Reviewing current and future retention schedules is a crucial step. Scanning is expensive and slow, and you should be sure that you want to keep material which will undergo conversion. There are four choices for the "must keep" items. …