02 June 2016
The 24th annual MER Conference ended May 25 amid solid growth and optimism. That refers to both the attendees and the conference itself. This was a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-to-work edition of MER. There was a notable lack of identity-angst, replaced by a prevailing attitude of, “We know why we’re here,”, “We know what needs to be done,” and, “We want to learn the tools, strategies, and tactics that are going to get us where we need to go.”
No one asked, “What is Information Governance?” (IG). No one described it as a buzz word that would fade. With minor variations, the presenters and attendees addressed IG as a strategy of cooperation: the search for synergy amongst an organization’s stakeholders in information. The quest was for a common vision, collaboration, and resource sharing that casts out redundancy.
This was a welcome departure from trade shows where software vendors commercialize IG and define it to mean their product. At a recent expo on legal technology, I saw a plethora of signage trumpeting IG. Closer inspection yielded little more than tools for eDiscovery, predictive coding, and technology-assisted review.
This new found confidence and identity is significant for MER, which started as Managing Electronic Records when business records were first being digitized in large numbers. Now, according to several of this year’s presenters, electronic records management is a tactic under the strategic umbrella of IG. Of course, both are essential to organizational success. While technologists and legal people were in ample attendance, the majority of registrants came from records management. It may be true (as was often said) that records officers are uniquely qualified to spearhead IG initiatives in their organizations.
The conference itself appears healthier than ever. Attendance was at or near capacity, and relaxed vendors filled every available spot. I spoke with several of the latter, who expressed high satisfaction with their involvement. One told me, “If I could only do one show a year, it would be MER.”
I have to note the unusual nature of the vendors: In contrast to major expos, there were no bullhorns, contests, models, or magicians. The people staffing the tables (no booths!) were knowledgeable. They were not pushy, and there was none of that all-too-familiar desperation to succeed. How helpful, and how refreshing!
The plenary sessions carried forth the roll-up-your-sleeves theme. The breakout sessions, covering a spectrum of subjects, ranged from good to superb. I am eager for the forthcoming recordings of the sessions that ran concurrent with my top choices. [Thoughts on session content will be in future Blog posts.]
Arguably, the highest value of MER comes from the networking. About half the attendees were first-timers, so there was plenty of new perspective. That expanded my horizons. There were also the voices of experience, those seminal thinkers who provide effective answers to vexing questions.
Over the years, MER’s quality has ranged from helpful to inspiring. I would characterize this year’s edition as progressively solid, leaving me eager for next year’s edition.