Shacking Up – IT and RIM In Love

Back in June (2013) during the ARMA Canada Regional Conference I attended a pretty good session delivered by Emily Gusba (Information Management Lead, GCDOCS Implementation at Natural Resources Canada). Emily was accompanied by Trevor Banks and Julie Colgan (ARMA Int’l President, Julie rocked as a last minute walk-on for Debra Power who is all better now). The session, titled Learning IT-ese, was about IT and RIM (Records & Information Management) having to work better, together. Essentially, the point was that RIM had to learn to speak IT.

A couple of weeks ago I had an email exchange with Charmaine Brooks of IMERGE and one of the topics that came up was … wait for it … IT and RIM needing to work better together.

Now, I’m all for IT and RIM working better together, but I don’t mean what you think they (see above) think you think they mean. Simply put, we’re not on the same page. Bear with me a bit …

IT and RIM are both service providers within their organizations, n’est pas? They serve the same clients, though they provide different but complementary services. RIM and IT also have a symbiotic (some would say parasitic, but that’s just mean) relationship with each other. The truth is that one’s not much good without the other.

RIM and IT need to join together, not to serve the purposes of RIM, but to serve the interests of the entire organization. Having RIM sit with IT to explain RIM’s wants/needs (in whatever language they choose) is, in a word, crap. IT and RIM need to approach stakeholders with a joint message; “Your stuff needs managing and governing and we’re the team to do it for you.” Yes, children, RIM and IT need to get together and become a formidable team. They need to approach the cheque-writers (notice Canadian spelling, thank you) as one.

When Marketing wants to migrate from one platform to another, RIM/IT needs to be in those meetings TOGETHER. When HR wants to implement a new HRMS, IT/RIM needs to be there to make sure all that information flows correctly throughout its lifecycle.

When I talk about RIM I don’t mean the RIM we knew from the paper days; I mean what RIM can and should be in 2013 and beyond. Drop the Records reference and focus on the Information and the Management, regardless of the medium that information is created or stored in. Join with IT to become IM&T (the M comes before the T because you need the management bits before the tools) and provide your clients the information services and governance that they need. In some organizations there still is, and always will be, the need for the Records part of RIM. However, the Records function really needs to be a subsidiary of the IM&T group.

If IT provides the plumbing, and information is akin to water, then RIM performs as the treatment facility. IM&T not only gets the information to you, they make sure that the information you get is clean and safe. (Sorry about the crappy analogy.)

Yes, RIM and IT need to work together, but not as two different parts of the organization. They need to join and serve the organization as a single unit. I’m not saying that RIM professionals ought to become developers or systems analysts. Nor am I advocating for IT professionals to become Records Managers or Archivists. What I am saying is that the IM&T TEAM needs to incorporate roles that address the Information Management and Governance needs as much as the Information Technology needs. Separating RIM from IT hasn’t really worked all that well after all, has it?

14 Comments on “Shacking Up – IT and RIM In Love

  1. Thanks for the honorable (or is it honourable?) mention. :).

    I’m all for this, but I don’t think it’s new. What is missing, and always has been missing, is *leadership*. With no chief strategist at the helm to right size the efforts and call the inevitable cage matches, we end up with, well, piles of crap scattered across the infrastructure.

    Hat tip to you on the point of focus on the business. That’s the ticket. If we look there, the answers will come. And a leader just might emerge as a result.

    Carry on, my friend; carry on.



    • I agree that it’s not something new. I also agree that a void in leadership is not helping matters. It comes down to recognizing the criticality of information and assigning acountabilities based on that criticality. I think many orgs understand how critical information is, they just haven’t got the will or stones to properly assign accountability in a way that actually synchs up how RIM and IT need to fuse.


  2. Julie is right, it’s a long runner and policy comes from above. The point is also that technology usually dominates (because it’s tangible) when it comes to the value proposition. Going TOGETHER is often wishful thinking and sitting at the same table I have rarely seen that this worked in the sense of “equals” and a caring leadership.
    yeah, carry on selling what nobody wants (who cares?).


    • Hi Juerg

      I still believe that we need to try. I think a lot of the fault lies with us in the Info Mgt roles because we’re not delivering the right messages to the right stakeholders.



      • Fine. To deliver the right message you need to have a lot of empathy to understand what the stakeholder really wants. normally this is the old formula of the users rights … having the right information at the right time, in the right form and size etc.
        the insight deficit must be mastered by the user/business itself ….


    • Juerg – to your second comment …

      You’re right. However, those of us in RIM & IT have the skills and experience to guide the business and help them fill the gaps. If we don’t, we’re not much good and ought to be kicked out. I’ve always believed that a large part of my role is to facilitate understanding.


  3. Love the post. It is important that the tools and techniques of IT and RIM work together to solve the needs out there.

    The trick is solving the right needs. Both IT and RIM professionals need to understand that they serve the business. When I say business, I don’t mean the lawyers. I mean the people making, marketing, and selling the products and/or services. Both groups need to understand that without properly meeting those needs 1st, the other needs may never be met.

    Your post address a key issue, but it is just one of the factors out there. Keep on writing. 🙂



    • Thanks, Pie.

      You bring up another point; IM&T can serve as a unifying presence in organizations. They’re in a position to understand, at a detailed level, what every other business unit needs/wants to be effective. Dude, it’s why IM is such a cool thing to do. 🙂


  4. I love this article and would love MORE! Thankfully at my firm Records reports to IT and over the past few years, the guys in IT have come to see how Records and IT MUST work together since my records policies have to have the backing and infrastructure of IT and that infrastructure must be able to support and adhere to the records policies. It isn’t always easy but RIM and IT can work together….and quite well! Thanks again for the article!


    • Thanks, Pamela.

      It sounds like your firm is in a fortunate position as regards RIM/IT coexistence. If you’re ever in the mood to blog about it, I am fairly certain I can suggest a couple of venues that’ll be happy to host/publish.


  5. At the risk of raising my head above the parapet, I’d like to announce a bit of Chris Walker inspiraction-into-action: I have a very romantic engagement next week. An IT analyst and I (IRM specialist) are going to get hitched. Mr IT analyst will be my match-made-in-heaven to enable us to provide a beautiful united front to drive compliant front line and back office service improvement driven by business requirement within the framework of IM and IT principles and with a focus on real life constraints, risk management. Key to this will be an ever-present understanding that as IM and IT we are not an end in ourselves but fundamental foundations of the means to multi-faceted organisational ends. We are doing this for a Scottish local authority and its complex and interdependent internal and outward facing functions. I am excited and optimistic that we can shake off the vestiges of the cross organisational divides that may have been relevant in pre-IT days but present real obstacles to exploiting the potential of digital working Here’s to the three musketeer principle – all for one and one for all.


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