Skip to main content

How does a record become an archive? Meet the IRMS

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Cataloguing, Preservation, Records Management

This post was written by Shona Robertson, Head of Information Records Management.

We’re proud to announce that our Information & Records Management Service has been nominated for the UK Information and Records Management Society Team of the Year! Read on to find out more about the team and why we’ve been nominated. If you’re an IRMS member you can vote for us here

A team of 10 staff, the Information and Records Management Service (IRMS) develops, advises on and implements information management (IM) policies and practices for the end-to-end management of current business information. Our aim is to ensure this information can be found quickly and easily, when it’s needed, sensitive information is protected, vital information is safeguarded, staff have the skills to manage information, and risks are reduced and the Houses comply with their legal obligations. In our work we also identify information with historical value and make sure it gets transferred into the safe custody of the Parliamentary Archives, where it will become the archives of the future.


Since mid-2017 we have been working in partnership with the Parliamentary Digital Service to roll-out Office 365 across the two Houses. One of the largest digital transformation programmes in recent years, Office 365 replaced an electronic document and records management system (Meridio) which was out of support, as well as shared and personal drives, with state-of-the-art cloud technology. As a critical supplier to the programme, our team were there every step of the way. We worked with users to clean up information prior to migration, design document libraries and metadata tags to improve retrieval of information, to delivering training to super-users. By working so closely with the Digital Service on the delivery, we made sure this wasn’t simply a technology roll-out, but an opportunity to raise awareness of and compliance with information management across the board.

We also fully decommissioned the Meridio system. By making engagement with disposal a prerequisite of getting a new SharePoint site, we got approval to delete over 75,000 folders containing over half a million documents which were out of retention. Of the remainder, about 2.5 million were migrated to new SharePoint sites. In collaboration with the Parliamentary Archives’ Preservation and Access Team, we also successfully implemented digital transfer from Meridio to our digital archive of approximately 250,000 records. This is a significant achievement, and will ensure the preservation of unique and significant records from the past decade for generations to come. Some of the records identified demonstrate Parliament’s response to era-defining events – like those of the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union – whilst records from ad-hoc Committees scrutinise issues as diverse as Artificial Intelligence, Political Polling and Sexual Violence in Conflict. To the best of our knowledge, we are the first UK institution to deliver end-to-end digital records transfer to a corporate digital repository.

With the programme also came the opportunity to embed Open Data principles in practice, by encouraging change in how staff search, discover and re-use information. Like many organisations, staff in Parliament are often very protective of their information, and hesitant to proactively share with people outside of their immediate team. Following sign off from our information governance committee for a new information sharing model, we worked with staff to open their eyes to the benefits of being more open with their information– and helped educate people how to secure sensitive information appropriately! Approximately 45% of the 1100 libraries created have been opened up internally. There’s more work to do here, but we have reduced barriers to collaboration, information sharing and reuse, and put in place the foundations to establish a more positive knowledge sharing culture, where we can better exploit and get ongoing value from our information.

We also know how important it is to learn from the lessons and experiences of other information and records managers. In the past two years we have done much to increase our professional profile and engagement with others and give back to the wider profession. Members of the team regularly speak at events, having recently delivered talks at the Association of Departmental Record Officers, Open Data Institute, IRMS Conference, and UCL MA course, among others. We are frequently contacted by organisations wanting to learn from us, and are delighted to offer any assistance we can. We always aim to be honest about our experience and provide practical advice to other professionals.

The team’s success is due largely to our ethos – we are a hardworking, high-performing, well respected team and strive to provide the highest level of service possible to our customers. We are definitely NOT the ‘records police’!
This approach is clearly valued by the people on the receiving end, with one Managing Director putting it quite simply: “I fully appreciate the short timescales and pressures your team were under to deliver the project on time, not to mention the abnormality, disparity, quantity and volume of dispersed information disseminated across the various repositories. This dedication, friendliness, expertise and willingness to deliver a gold standard solution did not go unnoticed and is much appreciated by me, the senior leadership team and all who have dealt with you and your team during the role out.”

Aside from measurable successes related to the roll-out, the main reason we believe we deserve to be recognised as ‘team of the year’ is the way we work together as a team –this has been our main learning point along our Office 365 journey. Inspired by agile and reflective programme management techniques, we have changed how we work, all for the better. We celebrate each other’s successes and share our failures so that we can all learn from them. We have moved to a model where we don’t expect perfection – instead we strive for excellence, the best quality in the given circumstances. And we look for ways to make new ideas work, not for reasons they won’t. But most importantly is that we pull together and support each other – a successful team is only that if everyone works together.

Sharing and comments

Share this page