Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Our invisible profession

When a national incident such as an outbreak Foot & Mouth Disease occurs it is a sure bet that journalists and commentators will look to professionals such as vets, biologists and experts in disease control to explain what the problem is, what has gone wrong and what needs to be done to put it right. The same is true of virtually every other type of incident or accident you can imagine: from crash investigators and air traffic controllers after a mid-air collision; to surgeons after a series of botched operations.

Indeed for some professions it seems as though there presence is only ever recognised or given any consideration when a lapse or error by one of their number highlights the fact that they exist at all. I'm thinking here of the people who check the points on railway tracks, hospital cleaners or those responsible for checking machinery within a factory.

I mention this now because the overriding thought which struck me during the reporting of the loss of millions of child benefit records by the government was how invisible the records management profession seems to be in all of this. So far as I could see there was no 'records management experts' consulted by the media to explain what may have gone wrong, or what should have happened; nor even reference to the failure of records management as being a root cause.

In a story regarding just about the biggest and potentially most significant ever failure of records management in the UK the records management profession does not get a single mention, not one, neither as villain nor potential saviour; and that has to be a worry. Is our profile really that low? Is the true extent of our professional remit really that narrow and the impact of our actions really that negligible?

I hope not.

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