A future for records in a KM world?

A future for records in a KM world?

Records management applications to evolve as KM tools, or fade away?

By Hannah Birtles

Will records management software exist in the future world of knowledge management? Is there a future for records managers? Image and Data Manager spoke to Frank McKenna, managing director of Australian software developer, GMB Research and Development, about the future of records management.

For someone who has helped establish Australia's apparent leadership in records management products, the principal of the software company takes a surprising view of the future for his company's products.

RecFind, GMB's main records management software product, is used by every Australian state government as well as organisations in the UK, Canada and Thailand. It has more than 600,00 users in Australia alone.

But it's a dinosaur, he said. Records management software will only exist in the future as a key part of the knowledge management system, while records managers will only exist if they adapt, learn about IT systems (or be taken over by IT professionals) and become knowledge managers.

In response to the issue of whether records management software will exist in the future, Mr McKenna said "That depends upon our perspective of the future, but given that we accept that the real future is five years out or more the answer is an unequivocal no."

"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that records management software is a dinosaur due for extinction."

He predicts that in the short term the market will stay relatively the same. However, in three to five years the market share will start to diminish and after five years he expects that no market will exist.

This is surprising considering GMB's products are solely records management software. When taking into consideration that records management software is more than likely to exist in the future as part of a knowledge management system, Mr McKenna's views change somewhat.

In this case, he sees a rising market share in the short term, a healthy market share in three to five years' time and in the long term expects that all enterprises will be using knowledge management software incorporating records management principles.

Image and Data Manager also asked Mr McKenna whether the records manager will exist in the future.

"Even through I am a firm believer that the term records includes all corporate objects, regardless of form, the majority of the business community simply does not agree and cannot be convinced. I am therefore of the firm belief that records management functionality will be incorporated into knowledge management solutions and that IT professionals will assume the responsibilities of records professionals within five years. This is simply the inevitable result of a battle between low tech and high tech."

Records managers will only exist if they are prepared to take on the job of knowledge manager, he said.

In regards to knowledge management, Mr McKenna added: "A knowledge management system cannot run your business and it should not be expected to make decisions for your business. A knowledge management system is a decision support system and its role is to assist humans to make better decisions by making humans better informed."

He concluded that knowledge management will be a major requirement of all successful organisations over the next few years.

"The information management era is over and the knowledge management era is upon us. Within two to three years, any organisation that has not yet implemented a knowledge management system will fall behind those that have.

"Knowledge management systems will finally provide the productivity gains the industry has been promising for the last 30 years and has failed to deliver," he said.

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