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AC+erm – 'Accelerating positive change in electronic records management' – was an Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded project (2007-2010) that critically explored issues and practical strategies to support accelerating the pace of positive change in managing electronic records (ERM).

Its focus was on designing an organisation-centred architecture from three perspectives: 

1.People including vision, awareness, culture, drivers and barriers

2.Working practices including processes, procedures, policies and standards

3.Technology in terms of the design principles for delivering effective recordkeeping.

The investigation considered what (if any) vision organisations had for their office environment; their vision of recordkeeping in the context of their mission; the drivers and influencers for ERM (e.g. risk management, compliance, corporate governance), and the barriers to implementing ERM.

A novel combination of methods was used: a systematic literature review, a series of virtual Delphi Studies, and four face-to-face colloquia. A blog was used to disseminate ideas and findings regularly to the widest possible audience, influence change as the research proceeded, encourage participation, and spark trans-disciplinary debate ( One objective was to develop vignettes crystallising aspects of the findings in the form of tools or exemplars of use to practitioners, users and other stakeholders. Prototypes of three – fridge magnets, rick pictures and a story – were tested by participants.

Note: AC+erm is pronounced āsirm; the + is silent, and simply indicates that positive change. 

Project Beneficiaries

The intended project beneficiaries were the four key stakeholder groups in managing electronic records - records and information management academics and practitioners; record keepers; IT/systems administrators; and managers - in any organisation anywhere. The intended benefits were to raise awareness and understanding of what is required for effective records management and to add value by:

  • Providing a deeper understanding of ERM issues and problems for practitioners and academics
  • Providing strategies, tactics and practical solutions, grounded in expertise and experience, for accelerating positive change in ERM
  • Building partnerships between key stakeholders and understanding of this trans-disciplinary subject
  • Engaging the wider ERM community – record keepers – to raise awareness of roles and responsibilities, leading to action.

The impact of the research has been to change, influence and shape the behaviour of practitioners and academics. Its reach has been international. At the United Nations Secretariat’s Archives and Records Management Service (ARMS) based in New York it has influenced the development of policy, practice and service provision and has been used in decision-making processes and strategic planning. It has also helped to shape professional development support for UN staff in other parts of the world and has been used by academics in the UK, China, Canada, New Zealand and Scandinavia to inform the content of modules and lectures for continuing professional development with practitioners. AC+erm influenced Oliver and Foscarini’s book Records management and information culture: Tackling the people problem. 2013, Facet (p. xi-xii). Further details see: Record-keeping strategies for the digital age 



Project Team

PI: Professor Julie McLeod, iSchool, Dept. Computer & Information Sciences, Northumbria University  

Sue Childs, Rachel Hardiman (Research staff, Northumbria University)



Steering Committee

Steve Bailey, JISCinfoNet

Adrian Cunningham, National Archives of Australia

Ishbel Duncan, University of St Andrews

Philip Jones, Staffordshire County Council

Judith Lowe, Ward Hadaway

John McDonald, formerly of Libraries & Archives Canada

Frank Stowell, Portsmouth University

Mike Wardle, Grainger Plc


Plus staff from different faculties in Northumbria University: Paul Chan, Sylvia Ellis, Gillian Maw, Kevin Hilton, Alistair Sambell and Richard Slack



Events and Activities

A series of colloquia, to validate and extend the Delphi studies, proved to be valuable for discussion and interaction between records professionals, academics, and experts and users from other disciplines.

Colloquium 1 (9 Oct 2008, London) focused on the people issues of ERM with around 50 delegates adding to the e-Delphi data.

Colloquium 2 (26 Mar 2009, Birmingham) focused on the process issues of ERM with over 30 delegates examining and commenting on prototype vignettes / tools developed from the data.

Colloquium 3 (24 Sep 2009, Edinburgh) focused on the systems and technology issues of ERM with around 30 delegates exploring the issues and solutions using some of the project vignettes / tools.


The final colloquium (4 Mar 2010, Newcastle upon Tyne) was a Northumbria Witness Seminar Conference. 50 delegates and witnesses debated the links and synergies, actual and desired, between research and practice in the field of records and information management.

Reports and Publications




The freely available outputs comprise:


·         Systematic literature review on people, process and technology aspects of ERM, case studies and critical success factors

·         Delphi studies on people, process and technology aspects: Thematic analyses presented in different forms (e.g. text, graphs and tables, mind-maps, word clouds) and phenomenological analyses of selected issues, including actors and contexts; the ‘bottom line’; change management; cultural change; and records management principles and methods

·         Colloquia 1–3

·         Colloquium 4 Proceedings of the Third Northumbria Witness Seminar Conference

·         Vignettes

o   Snakes and Ladders: Opportunities and pitfalls in records management

o   Phenomenological Analysis: Actors and contexts

o   Phenomenological Analysis: The bottom line for records management

o   Phenomenological Analysis: Principles and methods of records management

o   Phenomenological Analysis: Essential skills for records management

o   Mind Map: Electronic Records Management solutions

o   Rich Picture: Managing risk

o   Narrative / story: Privacy, security and access

o   Word Cloud: Solutions to ‘people’ issues in managing e-records

o   Fridge Phrases:

o   Video

·         Cynefin synthesis of people issues and solutions to help decision makers make sense of a range of business problems and situations in dynamic contexts and take appropriate action (, and make the findings more readily usable by practitioners in their own contexts

·         An organised list of key relevant resources (last updated in November 2009)  


Other resources[JM1] 

·         Project blog:

·         A custom Google search engine for ERM based on the principal websites identified in the resources document and other sites.

·         Groups of web links on Sqworl offering a stripped-down categorised version of online resources.


Articles and Papers

McLeod, J. & Childs, S. (2013). The Cynefin framework: A tool for analyzing qualitative data in information science? Library & Information Science Research, V35(4), pp.299-309.

McLeod, J. & Childs, S. (2013). Tackling the wicked problem of ERM: using the Cynefin framework as a lens. Records Management Journal, V23(3), pp.191-227.

McLeod, J. & Childs, S. (2013) A strategic approach to making sense of the “wicked” problem of ERM, Records Management Journal, V23(2), pp.104 – 135.

McLeod, J. (2012). On being part of the solution, not the problem: taking a proportionate approach to managing records. Records Management Journal, v22(3), pp. 186-197

McLeod J, Childs S & Hardiman, R. (2011). Accelerating positive change in electronic records management: headline findings from a major research project. Archives & Manuscripts, V39(2), pp. 66-94

McLeod J, Childs S & Hardiman R. (2010). Transforming information and records management through research and development? 3rd Northumbria International Witness Seminar Conference 4 March 2010, Newcastle upon Tyne. Northumbria University.

Hardiman, R., Childs, S. and McLeod, J. (2009). Transformation through research? The AC+erm project and electronic records management. Records Management Society Bulletin, 151, p3-7.

McLeod, J. (2009). Accelerating positive change in e-records management: the AC+erm project at Northumbria University. ARC Magazine (Society of Archivists), No 233, p. 24.

Childs, S. McLeod, J & Hardiman, R. (2009). Accelerating positive change in electronic records management – an empirical toolkit of solutions. UK Academy for Information Systems Conference Proceedings. AIS (Association of Information Systems), 31 March - 1 April 2009, Oxford. Electronic Library.



McLeod, J. (2012). Proportion not (necessarily) perfection: progressing practice for positive progress. Keynote presentation at the 15th iRMS (Information and Records Management Society) Conference 27-29 May 2012, Brighton, UK. Available at:

McLeod, J. (2012). Big Buckets: the future of retention scheduling? Presentation at the iRMS (Information and Records Management Society) North Meeting, Retention Schedules, 5 July 2012, Durham, UK.

McLeod, J. (2012). What we learned from AC+erm: how records managers can meet the current challenges in e-RK. ARA Records Management Section 2011 AGM & Workshop, 18 Jan 2012, RBS, London UK.

McLeod, J. (2010) AC+erm: Accelerating positive change in electronic records management. Icelandic Records Management Association. 9 April 2010, Reykjavík, Iceland.

McLeod, J. (2010) Managing electronic records: Systems/technology approaches for your organisation. (Based on findings from the AC+erm project).Icelandic Records Management Association. 9 April 2010, Reykjavík, Iceland.

McLeod, J. (2010) Records management - What future in the Web 2.0 world? Icelandic Records Management Association. 9 April 2010, Reykjavík, Iceland.

Managing electronic records: issues, approaches and ‘best fit’ for your organisation. Workshop CILIP North East, Newcastle upon Tyne, 29 September 2009.

Hardiman, R. (2009) The AC+erm project. Society of Archivists Conference 2009, 2 September 2009, Bristol, UK.

McLeod, J. (2009) AC+erm: Accelerating positive change in electronic records management. Society of American Archivists Third Annual Research Forum, 11 August 2009, Austin TX, USA.

McLeod, J. (2009) RM in a Web 2.0 world. North East Records Management Forum meeting, Newcastle City Council, 26 June 2009.

Hardiman, R. (2009). Transformation through research? The AC+erm Project. Records Management Society Annual Conference, 19-21 April 2009, Brighton.

Childs, S. (2009). Accelerating positive change in electronic records management – an empirical toolkit of solutions. Annual UKAIS Conference, 31 March - 1 April 2009, Oxford.

Childs, S. (2009). The AC+erm Project: A Brief Tour. EDRM in Practice ’09, 24 January 2009, Birmingham

Hardiman, R. (2008). The AC+erm Project: A Brief Tour. Records Management Society London Group meeting 19 November 2008, London.

McLeod, J. (2008). Toolkits for Advancing Practice. RMAA Post Convention Seminar 24 September 2008, Perth.

McLeod, J. (2008). Toolkits for Advancing Practice. RMAA Post Convention Seminar 16 September 2008, Melbourne.

McLeod, J. (2008). ERM in a Web 2.0 world: accelerating positive change. IIM Seminar 11 September 2008, Sydney.

McLeod, J. (2008). Bridging the gap: adopting and adapting principles to advance practice. RMAA Conference 8-11 September 2008, Sydney.

McLeod, J. (2008). Accelerating positive change in e-records management. Society of Archivists Conference 28 August 2008, York.

McLeod, J. (2008). Records management principles & practice in the post-modern world. Records Management Society Conference 21-22 April 2008, Edinburgh. [AC+erm project referred to as example of UK research] See also IRMS website

McLeod, J. (2007). Electronic Records Management: accelerating the pace of change. Records Management Society, Scotland Group meeting 11 January 2007, Edinburgh.

 [JM1]These can be part of the Reports & Publications page and so can the articles & papers. It would just be helpful to have sub-headings as there’s so much

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