As the sole discipline with the moral and academic authority to defensibly destroy unneeded, risky information, records management is the last line of defense between those organizations we serve and those organizations who want to enrich themselves on the valuable information our customers create.
ARMA once understood this and proudly defended the records management profession against the myriad organizations so intent on preventing us from doing our jobs.
But information is the new currency. And ARMA is a business. And somewhere over the last decade or so the leadership at ARMA chose to turn their backs on records management professionals and submit to these very same powerful organizations – and the millions of dollars in sponsorship money they provide.
Unfortunately, making a deal with the Devil tends to warp our sense of right and wrong and it’s not long before we find ourselves behaving in ways that we once considered appalling. ARMA was certainly not immune to this, and over the last few years the association has acted horribly in the name of protecting their revenue streams at the expense of the records management profession it once so proudly represented.
To be clear, this is not a simple accusation I am making. It is something I have lived through for the last two and a half years.
On Friday afternoon of September 15, 2017, I was having cocktails with my wife and her parents when I received an urgent email from my manager at IBM. It was a short message demanding that I immediately “discontinue all public posting” and stating that a recent social media post I had made had “caused a concern” with some of IBM’s clients.
The following Monday I learned that “a very important client” had read something I had posted on social media and had complained forcefully to some very high-level people at IBM. I was told that I was not allowed to know who this person was, but I would be contacted by some sales reps who work with “her.”
The following day I had a very tense phone call with two men from the corporate sales team who said they worked with the client who was so offended by my social media posts. They refused to tell me who she was but indicated that she was a very powerful figure in the records management community and that she had complained directly to some of the top leadership at IBM.
I tried to convince the two salesmen to let me know who the client was that I had offended so badly so that I could reach out to her to apologize and try to help her understand that my post – like all my previous social media posts – was solely intended to promote the records management profession at a time when I believe the discipline is critically important to the success of every organization, and it was never intended to offend anyone personally.
But the salesmen refused to listen to my explanation and only seemed interested in ensuring that I would discontinue any social media discussions for the foreseeable future. I told them I couldn’t promise anything, but I would discuss it with my manager.
On September 22, 2017, I was issued a ‘Warning Letter’ from IBM’s Human Resources Department demanding that I immediately cease engaging in “any behavior or actions which are, or could be interpreted as, inappropriate, unprofessional, or otherwise in violation of company policy” and that I “do not interact with or engage in retaliation or further dialog against anyone with whom you believe may have brought these issues to IBM’s attention.”
This warning letter came as a devastating blow to me both professionally and personally. Up to that point in my career I had prided myself with the fact that I had always conducted my career with absolute integrity and honesty. And I had managed to create a long legacy of completely delighted customers going back more than twenty years. So, it shouldn’t be hard to understand why I wanted to know everything about the complaint that precipitated the warning letter, because I knew that my career would never be the same again.
During the following week, I arranged a number of phone calls between various individuals and groups within IBM in hopes of learning more about the accusations against me and the best way to mitigate the consequences. Though none of the people I spoke with would tell me the source of the complaint, I was lucky enough to hear one of the people engaged in a heated conference call refer to the person who complained as “that woman from ARMA.”
At first, I was shocked. I couldn’t imagine that someone from ARMA – the organization formerly known as the Association of Records Managers and Administrators – would so brutally attack the career of someone in the very profession the association once supported.
But, over time, it began to make sense to me. My public defense of the records management profession, as well as my support for new, innovative records management tools not modeled on the antiquated DoD 5015.2 Standard, were seen as a threat to some of the most powerful organizations in the world. These organizations wanted me silenced, and they were using ARMA to see that it happened.
This notion was confirmed to me on September 27th when I received an unsolicited email from ARMA promoting something called ‘Ready-to-Go Records Management in the Cloud.’ It turned out that this was a cloud-based records management solution that ARMA was paid to promote to members of the Association. And the cloud environment used to host the solution was provided by the very company I was working for, IBM.
By the time all this began in the Fall of 2017, I had already begun speaking to the DoD Inspector General in my attempts to expose the failures of DoD 5015.2-cetified records management solutions and the devastating consequences they have. Deciding this was a much more important struggle, I chose not to bring “the woman from ARMA’s” attack on my career to the public’s attention, despite being explicitly obligated to by the ICRM Code of Ethics.
But this recent story (and this additional piece) have finally helped start me down the road to exposing the government’s mismanagement of its information resources and I now believe I have no reasonable justification for not publicly discussing this and call for a complete investigation.
ARMA’s Board of Directors has known about this person’s attack on my career for almost a year and has apparently done nothing. If you are a records management professional and/or a member of ARMA, for the sake of our profession, please help me by contacting the Association’s leadership and demanding to know the answers to the following questions:
• Who is “the woman from ARMA” who contacted IBM and used her influence in the industry and her position in the Association to demand my termination?
• Given that she did not work in a vacuum, who else in ARMA leadership participated in this attack on my career?
• Are “the woman from ARMA” and/or any of her co-conspirators Certified Records Managers and, thus, subject to the ICRM Code of Ethics?
• What other records management professionals have suffered attacks on their careers by members of ARMA leadership, but never knew?
• Was there a quid pro quo arrangement between ARMA leadership and the organizations opposed to records management for the Association’s attempts to silence me?
The war on records management is very real. It pits the most powerful organizations in both the Private and Public sectors against the public’s right to accountability, transparency, privacy, and security. ARMA has chosen which side of the war the Association is on. If you are a records management professional, it is time for you to decide as well. Please help me defend our honorable profession and demand ARMA leadership be held accountable for their actions.