Monday, 9 June 2008

Google Apps


I have now been using Google Apps for a few weeks and thought I would share my experiences with you.

Set Up

Costs about £6 per year.

You can have up to 200 user accounts, each with their own email address, mine looks like paul@the Usable addresses seem fine. You also have web pages and can create child pages, similar, but lacking the functionality of sharepoint by a long margin.

I created a slide presentation and collaborated with two other people as it grew. the main value here was that the slide deck, was not moving, I just created editorial/view rights to other users, easy to do.

I also created a document and did some spreadsheet design, all similar to other products, but with much reduced functionality. In addition you have a google messenger tool and some other bits n pieces.

Speed and viewing was fine, very good actually.

What would it be like in a business environment?

As you might expect, the main concern was security, followed closely by accessibility, all really surrounding itself around the term "Control". Would the business really be in control? At present I think not. Also what about version control? What if they change the software apps and it is not backwards compatible?
I suppose a great deal of guarantees will be needed.

I would sum up by saying that there is definite potential and I applaud Google for their development, something I would not have said 12 months ago.

If you want to know more email me at my work address

Friday, 9 May 2008

Web 2.0 Google Apps etc


I attended a web ex meeting (online meeting with dial in) yesterday about google apps.

It has got me thinking about that which Steve Bailey shared with us at conference.
At the web ex we were considering whether or not our organisation would move to hosted facilites.

The consensus at the meeting about the use of products such as Google apps was yes, but only when Google had addressed issues around business continuity, security, compliance, reliability etc.

However, at Leicestershire County Counicl we are already dipping our toe in. We are now actively developing the use of google maps and integrating with existing solutions, instead of an intenral mapping solution, we are moving to google maps,principally due to speed and update issues.

But is this only the start?

Lets face it, their solutions for business already includes, amongst other elements:-

Google docs, including spreadsheets and presentations
Google Talk
Google Sites
Extensibility API's

I have to say that if they develop good rm practices within their hosted solutions, it may only be a matter of time before we take the leap, using Google or whatever else appears on the web 2.0 horizon.

In any case I have created a google apps environment and will be doing some rudimentary testing, has anyone else created a google apps account?

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Conference 2009

We've had lots of positive feedback about conference this year. I was very impressed with the way it went (save for drastic pc failure on one particular session!)

This blog has had nearly 800 hits in just over a fortnight, which is amazing.

We're beginning to plan for next year this space.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Search Versus Classify

This blog is so good I think we should continue beyond the RMS Conference content.

In an unashamed effort to slavishly sponsor my MSc dissertation, can I recommend that you go to an online survey at

The survey is entirely confidential with an option to supply your email address should you wish to do so.

It has some significance in that I do hope to have elements published in leading RM journals (yes that also means the Bulletin), perhaps avoiding the "confined to a dusty corridor syndrome" so many dissertations suffer from.

Paul Dodgson
Business Partner, Information Management Leicestershire County Council

MSc RM Student at University of Northumbria, UK.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Records management principles and practice

Julie McLeod gave us a fascinating insight into what's happening in the academic world. It's great to hear that there are projects going on that treat our discpline with the (growing) respect it needs and deserves.

Juile pointed out that we live in a world of increasing complexity, contradiction and ambiguity; diversity and interconectedness. And in this fast dynamic, agile world records management still has to make its way but not without challenges, principles and best practice.

Challenges. The challenges for Julie are around ICTs, the legal framework within which we operate, updating our knowledge and skills to keep abreast of changes, the human and organisational elements that shape us, all within our records management requirements. We all want seemingly contradictory things; faster response times but a better work life balance. Do we need to adapt our rm practices?

Principles what records are, what they represent? What is records management? Principles are borrowed from other systems and we've developed them.

Practice what is best practice? Standards/guidance/tools/toolkits

We need to develop all these elements into a coherent whole so we can move forward into the records management future we all are trying to shape / influence / develop.

Julie also noted the work going on with three particular projects; InterPARES, the clever metadata project and espida

InterPARES is looking at the reliability and authenticity of erecords including long term digital preservation.

Clever metadata project is looking at how metadata is created once but used many times, particularly looking at that metadata for which there is no need for people to add themselves.

espida was a project for managing intangible benefits and included looking at the value of information. The main outcome is a blueprint for making a business case, balanced scorecards. Two real case studies have been sucessful.

All of these projects were designed to look to the future not the past. And when we do that, it's important to note that there are three dimensions to take into account ... principles, perspectives and players.

Northumbria University has done two witness seminars...exploring the essence of records management /examining the issues and challenges of email.

The ACerm project is concentrating on the accelerating pace of change in ERM. It is perhaps, the first ever RM project looking at evidence-based outputs and its work will, therefore, be valuable and important.

There are two PhDs being undertaken in the area in investigating risk and erm and continued communications.

The links between the principles, perspectives and players in records management will give us results which are powerful and (post?) modern, enabling us to move the profession forward into the 21st century.

I found this to be a compelling tale of how principles and practice can interact, interlink and drive positive change.

Interview session - What's next for TNA?

An extremely interesting and informative session highlighting the work the TNA is doing in the knowledge/info/records management area. It outlined what they are doing now and what has been happening since they gave up testing EDRM products.

They spoke of the Machinery of Government change project. The ability to move electronic files from one govt dept to another... from one EDRM system to another...which relied on defining a detailed metadata mapping regime. Designing workable solutions. It has to work.

It makes me wonder whether it's technically possible and, even, desirable to have a national, central government EDRM system. Wow, now that would be something, wouldn't it?

James Lappin, who conducted the whole interview with his customary intelligence and sensitivity asked if EDRM had been a success...

Has edrm been a success?

The reply, of course was a qualified yes. Change (management and culture) was the biggest headline... Richard Blake noted that we didn't realise how big it was going to be... Another big issue was how users interact with the systems. There was a widespread belief that EDRM systems were too intrusive. That's a view I certainly subscribe to. See below My intelligent office.

Early EDRM systems were said to be quite crude. Vendors are now developing and providing technology which is moving into the background. We're in a period of considerable evolution.

James wanted to know what lessons TNA had learned from the exercise.

What would you have done differently?

Richard noted that the 2004 target was challenging. 2004 was a steep learning curve for everyone; particularly as there was no detailed guidance on how to do it.

I'll say amen to that. I helped my organisation be the one of the first to roll out an EDRM system, only to realise that hardly anyone else was meeting the target.

What have been the alternative solutions?

DEFRA has built their EDRM system using Sharepoint. (I'll come back to this in a later post.) Islington Council use Alfresco. Sharepoint isn't free.

The environment is moving from edrm to ecm. For TNA, it doesn't matter what system you use so long as you're managing your information to suit your business needs. A wise way of doing it.

It takes huge intellectual effort to manage an EDRM system with lots of components, especially as you have to think carefully about how things integrate - or even, if they do. Orgs have to think carefully about how they work.

James wanted to know what TNA thought about Sharepoint as an EDRM system.

What about Sharepoint?

The out-of-the-box system is very basic for Records managers. For example, there's no easy way of getting emails in to it... you have to create new environments and manage them both.

But it's on lots of people's agendas so we have to consider how we'll use it.

Can TNA influence Microsoft?

It's on the agenda. TNA's testing programme might have finished but they still need to have dialogues with suppliers about how their products meet our needs.

TNA has a programme to work with other National Archives to help influence and explain their concerns. The jury is out on how successful TNA will be but there's an indication that people are willing to talk to them.

Which countries are in the lead...what can we learn from them?

It's important to note that we, in the UK, have achieved more that some countries. Comparisons are not necessarily fruitful as different countries are developing along different lines, even though the issues are the same everywhere.

A stimulating debate was appreciated by the very large audience. It's always really interesting to get the latest update from TNA about how their world is working.

EDRM using Sharepoint

Roger Smethurst's engaging look at how DEFRA brought in an EDRM system...well, how they harvested their electronic records...(geddit??) using customised Sharepoint applications.

They didn't want a onesizefitsall EDRM system because DEFRA is a diverse aggregation of government departments. People work in different ways, different parts of the organisation work differently, so they need to work with this difference and not force everyone to work in the same way. But there's also a big need to work they looked at Sharepoint which they thought would meet their needs.

There are 3 building blocks within Sharepoint they worked with mysite, teamsite (workspace) and RM.

Roger pointed out that users aren't records managers...(where have I heard that before?) Users want their work to be easy, reusable and portable; records managers want to organise, to put stuff in one place, managing it with rich metadata....with lifecycle management. Users just want to get on with their work.

Users hate fileplans...RMs like them cos they add order. But web portals add urls which users do like and understand. If you can use automated record capture, the users will love you for it. Well, maybe love is too strong a word for it...but you get my drift.

They used Mysite to manage the appraisal (IPR) process.

Record declaration from teamsites, document libraries are declared and sent to a record repository, router sorts it via access controls, to a record centre.

Less burden for end users, but more responsibility for RMs. Not just about technology it's abt adapting to the change.

3 options for object type based on the level of its importance...high, medium, low. It's the only metadata users had to enter. There was a huge educaion programme with the roll out of this.

I'm fascinated with this approach and would love to see it in action. I do share TNA's reservations about it though. For one thing it still doesn't link well with email. What was Microsoft thinking? Access rights are difficult. And if you don't manage it properly you can, if you're not careful, end up with Sharepoint sprawl. A mass of unstructured unrelated data that's grown despite your best efforts to manage it.

Nevertheless, Roger's energetic presentation and his undoubted enthusiam for his subject created a lot of interest from the floor...delegates were really keen to understand how it works. As its based on Microsoft suite of tools we'll all be watching developments with great interest.