Friday, 6 June 2008

The way forward? Niche solutions for niche problems

One of the (very few) advantages of being laid up at home with tonsillitis has been the opportunity to catch up on some reading when energy levels allow.

One thing which caught my eye and which I never expected to see was an advert in the 17th May issue of The Spectator for an advert for a records management system. After all, think about it? When was the last time you picked up a major, national current affairs periodical, with no ties to records or information management and saw such an advert? I thought so.

The full page advert is for Niche Records Management Systems, a specialist system for police forces and is jokingly aimed at the new Mayor of London, Boris Johnson (presumably on the assumption that he should buy it for the Met Police). Of course, in reality, it’s designed to appeal to more than just one person but what we can assume from this is that this is an advert for a records management system which is not aimed at the records manager, nor even the IT manager – but the senior executive, policy maker and purse string holder.

The ad then goes on to spell out in clear empirical terms what benefits have been derived from implementing such a system by other police forces (e.g. “Hampshire Constabulary – a sex offender caught in four hours, not two days; North Wales Police – 42% reduction in case file preparation time” etc).

Now these are bold claims and I’m in no position to be able to comment on the true contribution of records management or this particular system to achieving them (so please don’t see this as any endorsement of this particular product which I know nothing about). For me the interesting thing is to contrast this with the usual way in which RM systems (and often RM as a whole) are marketed. Here it is being sold as a specific answer to a specific problem; rather than as an enterprise-wide ‘bucket’ and ill-defined answer to all information woes.

There is no mention of this system helping your police force to cope with FOI or vague promises to reduce costs. No, its selling points are its direct contribution to achieving the specific organisational targets on which senior managers are themselves judged. This is not RM as a universal panacea, nor RM as self-evidentially important. It is RM as a specifically designed niche solution to a niche problem in a niche market and as such is aggressively targeting a market which we seldom seem to reach.


Nicola Franklin said...

"...a market which we [records managers] seldom seem to reach."

As a recruiter of IM/RM/KM/etc staff, I can say that we have seen a slowly and gradually increasing number of requests for help with filling RM vacancies from police constabularies - so maybe this is changing?

Steve Bailey said...

Hi Nicola,

Thanks for your comment. I was actually referring to the senior management/decision maker audience as the one which RM seldom seems to reach, rather than police forces - but its good to know that the profile of RM is picking up in this sector all the same.