Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Feedback on the rise of Web2.0 and the need to develop Records Management2.0

I gave a repeat performance in London yesterday of my paper on the challenges to traditional records management posed by the rise of Web/Office2.0 and the need for us to develop radical new approaches to solving them. I allowed a good amount of time for discussion at the end of my paper and received some interesting and varied comments.

It’s difficult to recall and summarise every comment made, so my apologies to any of those who attended who feel I may have missed or misconstrued anything vital in the following.

Some (a minority I would guess) agreed whole-heartedly that this was a challenge that was definitely heading our way soon and agreed that we needed to be thinking along the kind of radical lines I was advocating (ie using the wisdom of the crowd to help manage the crowd in the way I outlined in Option 4 of my paper).

On the journey home I reflected that most of the other comments focused around two other main view points:

1. ‘This won’t affect my organisation’. This was because senior management in the public sector distrust any external agencies and would therefore never allow their information to be stored and managed by 3rd parties. In addition some of those present from the private sector felt their current policy framework which forbids use of non-corporate systems and claims corporate ownership of staff outputs would be enough to keep this at bay (effectively a combination of both Option 1 and 2 of my original four options)

2. ‘This will be someone else’s problem to deal with’. Interestingly one person in the audience already used online collaborative tools when working on projects with colleagues from other organisations, but felt that as she then ensured that the final record was captured in her organisational system that this largely neutralised the problem. If all staff are taught to do likewise we could therefore take advantage of the benefits, whilst circumventing the problems of managing this stuff as records (Also covered by ‘Option 2’ of my four options).

In addition others felt that it was down to our IT colleagues to provide a solution, a popular choice being for them to develop their own ‘in-house’ alternatives to external Web2.0 solutions which can then be safely rolled out within the organisation (‘Option 3’ of my four options!).

Personally and as stated in my original paper I do have severe doubts regarding the wisdom of relying on any of Option 1,2, or 3. In fact by the time I had read the newspaper on the journey home and opened up Google on my PC I had already found enough reasons why I feel these approaches are doomed to failure.

In response to the first scenario: make no mistake, regardless of the sector you work in I guarantee that your organisation will be affected by the implications of staff using Web/Office2.0 within the next two years. If in doubt, take a look at the range of organisations who have already signed up to use Google Apps including leading multi-national private companies, universities and even government departments. I also recalled Euan Semple’s keynote speech at this years RMS conference where he confidently predicted a world in the near future where the best and brightest young talent in the workforce would expect access to such sites as a basic human right and would refuse to join any organisation that denied them this.

As for the suspicion of senior management in the public sector to trust such sites, yesterday’s London Evening Standard included an article about the British Foreign Secretary, David Milliband: “asked if he intended to join the social networking Facebook craze, Mr Milliband said: ‘Eventually…" Now this might just be a case of a politician trying to appear in touch, but come election time you can guarantee a whole raft of MPs and potential MPs will be using just such systems to reach out to young voters. This could never be achieved by them creating their own version of Facebook (I can’t see HousesofParliamentBook being a big social hit somehow) which means I fear for this reason and many others that just leaving it to IT to produce officially endorsed versions of such systems for internal consumption is also a short-sighed approach. Its also one which suggests that we as records managers should restrict our sphere of influence to just managing the records and systems we already have (another suggestion made yesterday and one which to me seems like committing professional suicide)

One of the best quotes I heard at the conference yesterday came in conversation over lunch and summed up the situation perfectly: ‘You can’t stop a bulldozer by standing in front of it; the only way is to get behind the wheel and control it from there’. I couldn’t have put it better myself.


Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Two very different visions of the records management future

The latest edition of the Records Management Society Bulletin publication includes a lead article by Frank McKenna, CEO of Knowledgeone Corporation entitled ‘Technology as a tool: where is records and document management heading?'.

This is without doubt a far reaching piece which covers a wide spread of the technical developments likely to influence records management in the near future. These range from improved WiFi Services and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology to wearable and even implanted computers. The amazing thing about this piece is that despite this radical depiction of a world transformed by technology the only unquestioned constant for the author appears to be the presence and continued central importance of an EDRMS (Electronic Document & Records Management System).

For each and every new technology mentioned McKenna discusses its likely impact not in terms of how it may fundamentally change user behaviour or the way our organisations' function (and therefore create records) but in what it may or may not mean for the development of the EDRMS. The following couple of quotes probably encapsulate this as well as anything – though there are plenty of others that could have been chosen:

“Better programming tools and techniques (.NET, SOA, PHP, AHA, Ajax, etc): Most of these make it easier and faster for IT people to roll out and support EDRMS solutions”

Or better still:

"As far as EDRMS solutions go I don’t really see records and information managers rushing out to get (micro) ‘chipped’, at least not within the next 10 years. After that who knows…”

Its almost as if EDRMS have become a kind of professional oxygen for us – our imaginations can foresee and invent all manner of wild, exciting and improbable futures which might await us, but apparently the one unquestioned and unchallenged constant within each of these brave new worlds, just like the air we must always breathe, is the EDRMS.

Contrast this rather disjointed vision of the future with Jesse Wilkins excellent blogging from the recent Office2.0 conference in San Francisco. No prior assumptions, no sacred cows – just matter-of-fact observations about the fundamental changes that are occurring in technology as we speak and what they may mean for information and records management.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Beginning the Records Management 2.0 journey

I mentioned in an earlier posting that the time would soon come when we need to move beyond identifying the problems facing the future of records management and to start the process of defining possible solutions.

The presentation that I gave last week to the Society of Archivist’s Annual General Conference in Belfast tried to take the first small and faltering steps in this direction by defining the four possible approaches to addressing the challenges posed by the rise of Web2.0 and Office2.0 which I would argue are open to the records management profession.

In summary I believe these four available options to be:
1. Ban all use
2. Rely on a policy framework
3. Enterprise Content Management
4. Records Management2.0

Further details on each can be found within the full text of my presentation now available via Slideshare (you will need to download the presentation rather than just view online as the full script is contained within the 'Notes' pane of each slide).

Naturally this is only the beginning of what will be a long and complex journey and one which will inevitably include many wrong turns, dead-ends and head scratching along the way. But it at least it promises to be an interesting trip! For anyone interested in hearing an expanded version of this paper, plus the opportunity to discuss the four options you might be interested to know that I shall be presenting another session on this topic at the forthcoming Unicom 'Records Management Update' conference in London on September 25th.