Friday, 1 February 2013


I have been wondering lately about a potential conflict between knowledge management and records management. This worries me because I am a Knowledge Manager with responsibility for information and records management.

Increasingly opportunity is opening up for knowledge sharing using cheap, external, open source and free online platforms. We want to be innovative and open and to save money in doing so. I want to make the most of the vast knowledge held by staff in this agency to benefit the whole organisation, external stakeholders and more broadly.

Knowledge management is all about sharing; talking, meeting, blogging, commenting and collaborating. Most of the exciting new places that allow us to do this easily, are outside of the traditional technologies and systems (e-mail, word etc) we currently manage and use. Social media, collaborative platforms, podcasts, video, online forums, the cloud. Places we don't own, can't track, aren't secure and don't allow for easy record keeping. I can't differentiate between knowledge and information for record keeping purposes.

Do we go back to the age-old argument about what is a record, redefine what information we need to keep (policies, minutes, decisions etc) and forget about the online conversations and collaboration (tweets, blog posts and comments etc)? These are not always transitory or recorded elsewhere as information. Or do we find a way to harvest (my favourite buzzword from 2012) records from these new technologies and put them into our existing electronic document and records management system (EDRMS)? I fear that we are already creating so much noise in our records management systems that useful information gets lost (but that is another post).

OR is knowledge sharing, if open and transparent, negating the need for us to keep records at all? The freedom of information (FOI) argument for record keeping is somewhat reduced by open access to information. If you put everything on your website, there would be no need for formal FOI requests, which saves resources spent on staff wading through internal systems to find and provide access to that information. But the need to keep historical and business records still exists. We still need to be able to refer back to conversations or transactions where a business decision was made for reporting and accountability purposes. We still need access to our records in order to do our business, to work efficiently and to get the most benefit from our information and knowledge.

No-one seems to have the answer yet and while the various state and federal archives and records authorities seem to be aware of this growing problem, they aren't providing much in the way of leadership.

So while my KM self is getting excited about collaborative platforms, microblogging and document sharing, my RM self is worried. Any advice?