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.