IRMAC History

Can you believe that this organization is celebrating its 27th birthday this year? Probably some of you weren’t even born when it started. And many of us were still in school – elementary, high school or possibly university. I’m not aware of anyone here today who was part of the original group.

Back in 1971, data base technology was in its infancy and the people who were trying to figure out how to use these products decided to get together and talk about their problems and solutions. They called themselves the Data Base Users Group.

Within a couple of years, this data base management stuff started to take off, attendance increased and the group incorporated as the Data Base Assocation (Ontario) Inc.

I first joined the group about 1980, when I became responsible for the IMS data bases where I worked. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been coming for eighteen years!!! Makes me feel a little old. At that time, the average attendance was in the twenty to thirty range and many of the speakers were vendors discussing their reporting and query tools.

Gradually, the whole area of data base management broadened, and the association began to look at the newly developing area of data administration. First it was James Martin’s bottom-up canonical synthesis methodology. It didn’t take people long to discover that that was a lot of work (as well as being very difficult to say) and top-down data modelling techniques began to be developed, along with the tools to support them. There was also a growing interest in data dictionaries as a central place to store data definitions. The Data Base Association covered all these topics and for many of us, this was where we learned about data management.

As the eighties progressed, it became obvious that the name Data Base Association was no longer appropriate – we almost never talked about actual data bases and data base management systems any more. The DBMSs all had their own user groups to handle the technical issues. So the board ran a contest to come up with a new name for the group, which better reflected the state of the art at the time. Some people suggested names with the words "Data Administration" in them and others suggested "Information Resource Management" type names. At the time, Data Admin was the term most commonly used for the type of work we did, but once again, topics (and our responsibilities back at work) were beginning to broaden, and the term Information Resource Management was beginning to be used. So the board decided to look to the future and use the new terminology, so the name Information Resource Management Association of Canada was chosen.

And not just the topics and the name of the organization changed over the years. Of course, the people changed, both board members and members. We moved from hotel to hotel, covering just about every hotel in the downtown area. We changed our meeting time from 1:30 to 9:00. We helped IRMAC chapters get up and running in Ottawa and Victoria. We sponsored conferences and published a newsletter. Now we have a web site and communicate through e-mail and fax instead of snail mail. We created a Special Interest Group for Data Warehouse and became affiliated with DAMA International.

Through it all, there have been some constants. First and foremost, an annual lunch, first in May, now in June. (Sometimes with wine, and sometimes without, depending on the state of the bank account that year.) But also constant has been the opportunity to meet with people who are struggling with the same problems we are, and people who have found workable solutions to those problems. And the opportunity to develop our presentation skills by volunteering to speak at a meeting (in front of a more sympathetic audience than we might find at work). I started slowly myself – my first presentation was a short one, as part of a panel discussion, which was about what I could handle at the time. Some years later, I was able to be the sole speaker at a meeting. We have also always had the opportunity to develop our leadership skills and our contacts by joining the board. I found my eight and a half years on the board to be very much a learning experience. I got to know the other board members and their work situations quite well, and we had some lively discussions on hot topics as we discussed the upcoming year’s agenda and who we might get to speak about the issues.

All in all, it’s been a pretty good 18 years or so for me, and I hope to have many more!

Suzanne Bond
June, 1998