In a previous post I mentioned that my article "ECM is Dead" provoked a lot of discussion. Some of that is still ongoing but basically there were three main threads to the debate:
- Lite ECM
- The future of RM
- Alan's status as a 'pretender and idiot'
As anyone who knows me, the last point really got my back up :-)
I will come back to the lite ECM debate at a later point - and have been asked by another magazine to write a more substantial piece on how to select such products, so will pick that debate up then.
The future of RM as a standalone discipline though is the one on top of my mind. And what follows is in edited form the key themes and thoughts that ran through this debate, not my own thoughts as such. First though its important to say that I was genuinely suprised at how this debate developed. Though some contributors fell into the third camp of 'Alan doesn't know what he is talking about' most took my suggestion that RM needs to look again at how it moves forward in good spirit. Two major elements discussed were:-
- The professional status of RM professionals
- Broader classification categories for 'records'
To take the first point up, there seems to be a lot of concern that RM professionals are not taken very seriously in the business, and that maybe more training and certification is required. Although more training is generally always a good thing, I am not sure that this truly addresses the problem. In my own field (fingers crossed) I hope to be employing a number of high quality strategic advisors for our clients - covering the topics of ECM/RM/WCM etc. People who truly understand the business concerns, the technical dimensions and limitations - and can quickly assess a complex situation and advise the client on how to move forward. But where the heck am I to find such people? There is a need for professionals to come through - with an understanding of Information Architecture, Record Management, Document Management and Business Dynamics. But people I interview today are either technologists or just bright generalists who may over time pick up the skills. Can CRM's grow into that role? I don't know...but bottom line is there currently is a major skills gap - and in my opinion we need to start training people who understand the lifecycle of information from creation to destruction. RM is an element of that - and dedicated RM specialists are also an element of that - but that is just not enough. RM needs to get more strategic, have a bigger and more ambitious vision, and is need of a makeover.
The second topic that generated a lot of discussion and more directly referenced my article was on the need to look again at RM methods of record classifications. In particular the need to become less dogmatic and to develop bigger classification buckets for content, that accept that the huge volumesof information now being generated will grow not decrease, and that the 'cubbyhole' mentality to borrow a phrase is no longer practical. The phrase "Pragmatic RM" really seemed to resonate.
I think this debate though is not just about RM, its about managing information and we have few information management specialists. I am one of those who has in past lives built genuine compound/virtual documents. And anyone (and I mean Anyone!) who has done this knows just how quickly one comes to regret such an exercise. The tools (Documentum or whatever) are superb and do a great job of supplying usable functionality to build and maintain such things. But they quickly fall into disuse and the level of fractionality that one can sensibly develop is extremely limited. To take a book analogy, one can manage chapters in a compound document, but even though the functionality is there to take it to paragraph level or less - it simply stops making sense after a while. To look at it from a different perspective most RM departments that manage paper records do so superbly. Things are where they should be and can be found immediately. Converting much of that paper to electronic media is pointless. As the volume of paper - though it may seem large is actually in manageable
proportions. Whereas the volume of electronic documents is so huge as to be virtually impossible to manage in the same way, using the same categories and methods.
I will pick this post up at a later point, but as I will be in Finland on monday and tuesday - London wednesday - Las Vegas thursday & friday I may be doing more sleeping than typing!
In conclusion - RM needs a major rehaul of its current practices. What is being done now is good and I have great respect for RM professionals (it is my own background too - but the RM community has been slow to respond in terms of practical and pragmatic new methodologies to manage todays electronic needs. In parallel the growth of DM and ECM without a concurrent growth in business professionals means we have quite a chasm to cross.
RM - WCM - ECM is about Information Organization, the barriers between each are valid at a technology level to some degree, but in a usage manner are artificial. In short we all need to work together to figure out how to remove some barriers, respect others and to develop a new empowered and professional workforce that can step up to the task.