Breaking out of our niche February 6, 2014

MagicianThe Gartner Magic Quadrant assessment for Enterprise Content Management from September 2013 is really interesting (and thanks to Don Leuders for the reference).

In these Magic Quadrant assessments, Gartner looks at all the dozens of tools operating in the ECM space and determines whether they are leaders, challengers, visionaries or niche players. They define ECM tools as those that do records management, document management, workflow, scanning, web content management and social content management.

This study is useful for all working in the records and information management space. It shows that there is a lot going on in what we see as our part of the content management market. It shows that there are a lot of different systems clearly being embraced by many different areas of business and being promoted by the very influential Gartner. It also shows the way the content management market is evolving, potentially showing the types of functionality that will enable the ‘survival of the fittest’ into the future.

Now it is an international assessment so it highlights an extensive array of systems, more possibly than those that predominate in Australasian markets but, even bearing this in mind, I think it also highlights the risk that we as records and information managers could be allowing ourselves to become niche. Niche can be cool, niche allows for differentiation, niche allows for specific and unique skills. But in evolutionary terms, niche can be risky. In the wild, species that become too dependent on a particular food source or habitat have their fate specifically determined by the fate of that food supply or environment.

As information professionals, we need to be alert to these risks in our own environments. Just this one study shows how diverse technological environments are becoming in our own areas of specific expertise. As information professionals, we are definitely more than a specific piece of technology and we must ensure that our advice and practice reflects this. We are able to offer value in all areas of corporate information management and we need to make this point very clear.

It may be that specific forms of technology, namely EDRMS, can offer great functionality, management, assurance and accessibility for a good proportion of corporate information and therefore many information management strategies may ultimately recommend their use. But we do all need to ensure that there are not explicit, one way ties between our information management requirements and specific technology solutions.

This one Gartner study shows there is a wealth of technology options out there just in this specific product space. If our organisations are using several of these systems, in combination with a number other applications, we need to respect this and work with this, which may mean working in different technology spaces. As a profession we may have niche skills, but let’s not allow ourselves to be pushed into a technological niche. We may have specific skills and systems, but we can also translate our skills and knowledge into many other areas.

If you want to discuss ways of pushing your practice into these different areas, please contact State Records. Or, we are running our popular (and free) Managing recordkeeping risk in business systems workshop again this year, the next one on 19 February. This workshop brainstorms ideas for how you push information management beyond traditional EDRMS boundaries to manage the massive range of business information out there.  So come along and debate how as a profession we can offer value in all areas of corporate information management.

photo by: elvum
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