Deep breath….and exhale.

I just returned from a quick and jam-packed visit to the windy city for the Managing Electronic Records (MER) 2014 show, and thought I would share a few MER murmurs, post-show fashion.

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This year marked the 20th anniversary of the MER conference, but it happens to be the inaugural event for both myself and for Sherpa Software. We sent a fair-sized delegation to represent, based in part on the very targeted audience. This is a group of individuals at the higher end of the records management spectrum, and that is important for two reasons: for one, it meant that these were thought leaders who would be interested in exploring the latest solutions. Additionally, the caliber of educational sessions would attract the best and brightest in the world of records management and information governance.

MER has a small but focused attendance, as I mentioned; therefore, the setting is much more intimate than those who attend events like TechEd, MEC or Connect might be accustomed to. This is 300+ individuals and vendors who gather to network and discuss best practices for better management of records and other electronic data – and let me tell you, the conference doesn’t disappoint.

From the vendor perspective, I can’t remember ever participating in an event that focused so well on the integration of the conference attendees and exhibitor companies. All MER activities encouraged group participation, to ensure that after four days, you pretty much recognized everyone – and chances are, you shared a few war stories with most. My hat is off to Chris Glatz and her colleagues at MER 2014 and Cohasset Associates who organized the event.

From an attendee’s perspective, one I’m fortunate enough to share by the way the event was organized, the educational value and networking with colleagues was well worth the trip. I heard several people remark that they have gotten to know each other from years of attending and feel like old friends. – old friends that can share experiences and help solve each other’s challenges. The sessions promise to do that as well, now that everyone has returned home with a vast wealth of new knowledge.

The overwhelming theme of the show this year was information governance (IG). Specifically what it is, how it is different (than records or information management), who owns it, where is it going and where to start if you want to put together a true information governance program. This surprised me to some degree; I guess I didn’t expect this particular crowd to still be so uncertain of the role of IG, but one thing everyone agreed on was that it is gaining momentum and had better be addressed by every organization regardless of how, where or by whom.

I came away with a few central concepts I would love to share over the next several weeks via the Sherpa blog; here are some of the points you can expect follow-up on if you check back for my ramblings over the summer: IG needs to be strategic and not tactical like records management; collaboration and communication are key and must combine RIM, legal, IT and business units; start building IG by developing an IG council; senior leadership buy-in and support are also key to a successful IG strategy; and finally, who owns the IG initiative – an ongoing debate.

In addition to my future musings, check out the white paper series by Sherpa’s own Rick Wilson on Implementing a Corporate Information Governance Program, starting with part I. (More to come!)

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