On records, information and knowledge management strategy

Lately, I have been giving a great deal of thought with respect to information and knowledge management strategy. This is partly because I am working on an electronic document and records management business case and implementation plan at my current work, but also because I want to place the records management case within an organisational knowledge and information framework.

Traditionally, records management has been a stand alone discipline focused purely on documents and records. That was my early experience in that field! But of course, electronic document and records management systems have grown to significant levels of sophistication, as any of the major EDRMS vendors will tell you! At the same time, we also have digital library management systems and web-content management systems.

But the landscape is changing fast as the explosion in information, particularly user-generated content, gathers even greater volumes of information to capture, store and access across a range of different media and repositories. We have seen the physical information world become the digital information world and now the social digital world – Web 2.0.

The transformation is really very obvious in photography, for example. The modern evolution looks like this: a photographic print in physical storage, a digital image stored in a personal computer file, and a digital image stored on a shared global internet platform, like Flickr, for potentially unlimited distribution and comment.

As information has exploded exponentially, across a range of media and via a plethora of channels, organisations are looking at ways that provide a whole-of-enterprise approach to information and knowledge management. And I believe that records management is becoming less an independent arm in the information landscape, and more an integrated process and functional system within a whole-of- enterprise information and knowledge management environment.

I am less interested in discussing turf wars between records managers, librarians, and knowledge managers these days. It seems to me that there are significant benefits of information convergence by utilising a range of information tools and processes for enterprise advantage.

What I am really interested in is how whole-of-enterprise information and knowledge systems can work for organisations utilising specific records, information and knowledge management tools and processes. I can see that to achieve such a whole-of-enterprise solution will depend on a greater degree of co-operation and collaboration at the broad information management level than what often happens now, especially in large organisations. Ironically, as a knowledge manager myself, I can see that information professionals need to collaborate more and to lose the defensiveness that comes with our historical traditions. Moreover, I see human resource management playing a greater role in the discussion about human and social capital, all of which fits the domain of information and knowledge management very nicely.

I can say with a fair degree of confidence, based on my experience and observations, that whole-of-enterprise records management, information and knowledge solutions will become more the norm than the exception. Organisations will look to leverage the complete suite of operational knowledge and information practices and procedures in a completely integrated and almost seamless architecture. These systems and processes will support the organisation’s explicit knowledge needs.

In addition, these systems and processes can contribute to social capital by making information visible across a range of formats – creating network links between people as well as documents and artefacts, and facilitating collaboration spaces and communities within and across organisational boundaries.

In looking at a strategic approach for organisational information management, I believe that we now need to leverage an integrated (or even federated) suite of record, information and knowledge management practices and processes for operational excellence.

Our strategic thinking should therefore be focused on determining how best to utilise our records management, information management and knowledge management practices and processes for whole-of-enterprise advantage. And as I have noted before, we need to keep the dialogue happening with human resources to maximise the intellectual and social capital of the organisation’s people – a resource that needs operational integration as much as systems.

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2 responses to “On records, information and knowledge management strategy

  1. We’ve taken a shot at an integrated approach to knowledge, information and records at the policy level Brad… http://www.greenchameleon.com/gc/guide_detail/information_and_records_management_policy_development_guidelines/

  2. Great to see this post, Brad. (And, hello Patrick – you’ve got a real gem in Marita, great pairing! Policy is key.))

    One of the challenges I see in this domain is the difficulty in elevating RM to a management level. It can be done, of course. I was the first non-union records officer at the management level in British Columbia some years back, and a colleague is now a VP for RM in a global investment firm. Nonetheless, the field suffers from comparison to its entry level…sort of like under-recognizing the CFO as someone who is tied to a calculator.

    A factor in the transition is that RM is essential to transparency. There are myriad examples from our friends in the US over the last 8 years in which anti-transparency has been legitimized. Bear in mind that NARA not only provides extensive policy, it also is backed by law. Having held the counterpart role in Hong Kong, I can observe from experience that respect for record-keeping, and for the effort made to ensure accurate records, must be modeled from the top. That is rare.

    Ultimately, what is captured and how authenticity and reliability is preserved are key to knowing. While it is true that technology can do much to ensure a platform independent, change tracing, appropriately framed access to content, most organizations continue not to address the need. The result (speaking now from my manager role) is a tremendous drain on time spent dealing with matters in which meaning is assumed or confused because a record exists, but is out of context, or incomplete, or modified.

    Additional challenges exist in the area of informatics, extraction and use of meaning in context. The availability of information (even knowledge) does not correlate with the competencies and skills involved in effective use.

    Ultimately, we come back to people. That makes it fun!

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