Six months after ...

Publisher's note

By Gerard Knapp

Six months after ...

It's easy to be cynical about emerging trends, but six months after our first feature on knowledge management (KM), we find the concept is gathering steam.

KM's most convincing proponents are not really the vendors, but the executives employed by some of Australia's largest - and some may say progressive - organisations. These people are called knowledge managers or chief knowledge officers and they're not necessarily from an IT background.

Indeed, it helps to be IT-literate, but the greatest obstacles to the adoption of KM principles are not technological; rather, they're cultural.

So while it's easy to laugh at outlandish claims by technology firms, I rarely laugh at our inherently selfish nature to hoard our information - because that is what we believe makes us special. Overcoming "25,000 years of human instinct", as Dr Peter Drucker says in our lead story on page 12, will be quite a challenge before KM is truly universal.

The other side to this sharing concept is the belief that widely offering your corporate knowledge to all users is the equivalent to giving away corporate secrets. Information, or knowledge, is now the true capital of any organisation, so by sharing this information easily, skeptics say, you're basically giving away your strategic advantages.

This is where control and security are paramount, and what we find at the heart of any KM system is a tightly integrated middleware layer, whether it's a specific KM or document management system.

The Federal Attorney General's Department is busy at work on new legislation that will give electronic documents and digital signatures the same legal weight as their paper equivalents. The aim is to speed up the adoption of e-commerce by Australian industry.

But the implication is that ALL organisations will have to implement far better document storage and control to comply.

Losing documents off the server will be the same as throwing out the contents of a filing cabinet, and, depending on the final shape of the legislation, you may be liable in the same way.

In this issue, our special legal correspondent provides an introductory guide to the legalities of electronic documents.

This is a landmark issue for Australian organisations, and the team who put together this issue of Image & Data Manager.

We've also interviewed the newly appointed director of NSW State Records, who could become the role model for all records managers in the future.

Responsibility for the control and storage of electronic documents is one of the major emerging issues for all Australian organisations. In this profile, we find the NSW government has taken the lead by including everything from email and voice-mail through to paper as "state records".

It's probably worth asking yourself - how is your email being backed up? Only on the hard drive? If that hard drive falls over and loses everything, by later this year you could be in breach of a new federal law.