March 18, 2011
Colloquium Speaker: Ren Cahoon
L. Reynolds Cahoon (Ren) recently retired from Lockheed Martin as Director of Advanced Programs. He represented Lockheed Martin around the globe in its work to provide the methods and technology to help governments manage and preserve their valuable digital materials and to advocate record’s role in continuity of government and in ensuring that the records that document our turn on the planet are preserved and available for those that will follow us. Prior to joining Lockheed Martin, Ren served as Senior Advisor on Electronic Records to the Archivist of the United States at the National Archives and Records Administration. He worked with Federal Agencies, State and Local Governments and Industry to build Electronic Records Management capability into government computer systems and into commercial products and services so that records created electronically would be managed and appropriately preserved for future generations. Ren began his Federal service at the National Archives in 1996 as Assistant Archivist for Human Resources and Information Services and Chief Information Officer--a position he held for nearly ten years. As CIO, Ren oversaw initial development and acquisition of the Electronic Records Archives. This computer system is designed to authentically preserve any type of electronic record, created by any kind of software, on any type of computer and to make it searchable and readable for hundreds of years into the future. Prior to his appointment with NARA, Ren was the Managing Director of the Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was responsible for world-wide department operations, including microfilming and digitizing records, 2500 family history libraries and nearly 100,000 volunteers supporting the libraries and transcription of genealogical information into computer databases. He also oversaw development of the key family history computer systems, most notably FamilySearch and Personal Ancestral File. Before assuming his role in world-wide records preservation and access, Ren was a Financial Controller for Inland Steel Company and a struggling professional musician. Ren has spoken to audiences around the world on the role of human behavior, culture, system dynamics and technology on information governance, compliance, preservation and access. He is a CIO Sage in the Partnership for Public Service. He has co-authored articles on information management and preservation and is a fellow of the Utah Genealogical Society. He has served as a commissioner for the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists and on the Executive Committee of the Federal CIO Council. He has also served on the Board of the Civil War Trust and as a member of the International Council on Archives Automation Committee. Ren has a BA in Management from Governors State University.
The way we work has changed. The way we manage the information that work produces has not kept pace. For nearly 60 years, new initiatives, systems and technologies have been funded, designed and implemented without adequate consideration for how the information and records these technologies create will be managed, preserved and made available over time. The result will be huge, gaping holes in our digital history - if we don’t do something now. As alarming as that may be, our imperiled history is among the least of our problems. Consider: Precipitous decline in support staff More litigation and regulation Accountability, transparency, security and privacy demands Increasing tension between need-to-know and need-to-share New and evolving information types and media streams Ever more documentation being created Shifts in cost and visibility to litigation, protracted search and suboptimal decisions We are drowning in the digital swamps of our own unmanaged content while panning for those few nuggets of information gold buried there. Our increasing volume of unmanaged information is costly, unproductive and most importantly, unsustainable. What are the initiatives, structural changes and behaviors necessary to stanch the flow of unmanaged, unpreserved information? What are the next actions? For 31 years, Ren Cahoon has been helping organizations around the world manage and preserve their most important materials for future generations. In this lecture, Ren will suggest an enterprise-ecosystem, life-cycle approach to managing, preserving and exploiting our valuable digital assets now and far into the future.