Future Proof Update July 2009 – Technology and the changing nature of records management July 23, 2009

New technologies are transforming the way organisations work. Thoughtfully planned and implemented, they can bring real business benefits. Too often, however, we rush into the adoption of new tools and fail to properly consider their role and purpose. Similarly, we often fail to consider how our existing records management practices will cope with these new ways of working, and seek to fit old methods to new problems. In response to this problem, one UK records management author has come up with the concept of ‘Records management 2.0’.

Steve Bailey, in his book Managing the Crowd: Rethinking records management for the web 2.0 world (Facet Publishing, London, 2008) argues that traditional records management as we know it needs to evolve in order to meet the needs of the web 2.0 world. Factors driving this change include the increasing breadth, complexity and volume of digital information that we are creating and using, the control and management issues raised by cloud computing, and changing behaviours in relation to information, as evidenced by the popularity of social networking, folksonomies and user reviewing. Bailey asks: how can we harness this change for our own purposes? For example, how can records managers learn from the fact that many users will tag a resource on the web but are unwilling to enter metadata in an EDRMS?

Bailey proposes a radical rethink of the role of users in recordkeeping systems. He suggests allowing users greater ability to describe, review and even rank information resources based on their usefulness and relevance, enabling users to suggest access levels and contribute to the decision making process about the retention of information. To continue to achieve our information and records management goals, Bailey argues, we need to find ways to make records management tools popular in the same way that online services such as the bookmarking site Del.icio.us are popular – by adopting their functionality, format and style. In this way, he argues, records managers can both make the recordkeeping system a tool that users ‘love and can’t manage without’ and can take greater advantage of users’ in depth understanding of the information they create and use every day.

Understanding users’ information requirements and preferred ways of working will be key to succeeding with more user-centric recordkeeping strategies. Methods such as surveys, observation and interviews can allow you to gather information on your users to help improve your recordkeeping systems and processes to ensure they are appropriate and effective in a web 2.0 world.

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