Thursday, 26 March 2009

"The new operating system for business"

Interesting little interview with Don Tapscott discussing his views on how Web2.0 is fundamentally changing the nature of business.

I was particularly struck by the comments: “In his view, business models and strategies must be restructured to reflect the highly ‘networked’ nature of society in the Web 2.0 age. For Tapscott, social networks are nothing less than “the new operating system for businesses
businesses must understand and incorporate the learning and working styles of the generation that has grown up with the Internet if they are to attract the best talent.”

I couldn’t agree more with both these statements and indeed, as readers of this blog and my book will already know, have repeatedly made very similar comments over the past couple of years.

If Tapscott is right and social networks are ‘the new operating system for business’ the imperative for records management to adapt to meet this challenge seems every bit as urgent as I have been suggesting.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Measure for measure

Those who’ve heard me present at various events over the past year or so will know of my growing concern that the RM profession regularly appears guilty of making unsubstantiated claims about how investment in this area will increase organisational effectiveness, decrease overheads and generally offer a positive return on investment. Note: I’m not saying that none of these are necessarily true, simply that there appears to be no empirical, reliable data to prove these assertions. There’s no shortage of 'statistics' banded about but, despite my best efforts, none of those quoting them have so far been able to provide me with the definitive raw data from which they are apparently derived (the mythical Coopers & Lybrand study being the most noteworthy and oft quoted example).

Delegates at our Building Bridges conference held in Newcastle earlier this week spent much of the second day debating whether or not this is, indeed, the case and whether it in fact matters – after all, there has always been more to RM than simply the bottom line with improvements to corporate accountability, legal compliance and maintenance of the historic record all being important, but essentially immeasurable, benefits. But, at the same time, I remain fearful (particularly in the current economic environment) that RM remains vulnerable if it cannot be seen to pay its way. I know of several RM projects that are multi-million pound initiatives. Is it really conceivable that an investment on this scale is unable to demonstrate the ROI? Even if it was during the boom times I very much doubt whether this is the case now – or will be for several years to come. Moreover, as budgets diminish so our organisation’s risk threshold will, by necessity, get higher leaving even our tried and tested compliance arguments more open to scrutiny than before. Worse still, we run the risk that if we are unable to prove that we are, indeed, part of the solution that management may mistakenly start to view us as part of the problem – representing an administrative overhead and bureaucratic lily-guilders that can no longer be afforded.

I’m currently embarking on a JISC-funded project to discover whether it is possible to quantifiably measure the return on investment of RM and, if so, to produce data which proves this once and for all (at least for the F/HE sectors). That this work should be happening against the current backdrop of economic turmoil is completely coincidental, but may yet prove the most important driver for completing it that there could be.