There are five critical issues we need to think about in making the KM/knowledge services/archives connection: figuring out what you need, identifying who’s responsible, developing a strategy, developing solutions, and implementation.
Now we must identify the steps we take to make that connection practical. Those of us who work in this field use the tagline that with knowledge services we are “putting KM to work” – knowledge services is the practical side of KM.
What does that mean?
Simply that if we want to look at practical applications for knowledge services with respect to archives management, we bring in what we might in another conversation call a “framework of factors.” These are management tools we have to consider if we are going to integrate archives management into the corporate knowledge strategy:
1. Critical success factors. How do we measure how well our archives management scheme works? What are the baselines for our success? What are the milestones? Do we measure things (like how many items are processed and filed in a given period of time, how much money we spend, how much staff time is used for particular tasks)? Or do we measure effects: how useful was a particular archives set in a particular project? what gains were recorded for the organization because this or that specific archive was consulted?
2. Training and Awareness-Raising. Who knows how to access corporate archives? Is there enterprise-wide knowledge of what’s in the collection? Is the finding aid for the archives collection well understood and user friendly? In some organizations, archives management and access is the responsibility of a specialized staff of archivists. How are they trained and what are their qualifications? Do they in turn serve as trainers for corporate staff, to ensure that all corporate affiliates know how to access archives, or is access limited to particular staff (presumably the archivists).
3. Technology (which includes space and facilities management for non-digitized archives). If the enterprise has built a shared drive, are digital archives captured there, or is the shared drive limited to current materials? If the latter, how do they “transfer” to status as “archives.” How are decisions made about digitizing hard-copy archives (including decisions about disposal or retention of the original archives?). A useful resource dealing with technology and archives is the Archive Management Organization (without the “s”), which seeks to “de-mystify” the archives management process. [AMO also offers a useful definition of “archiving” which strategic knowledge specialists can use in working with company colleagues: “an ancient practice involving the thoughtful selection, storage and maintenance of collected objects.” Well said.]
Connecting into the knowledge services archives management scenario is the application of social media networking tools, which cannot be ignored in any company or organization. How can these wonderful new technologies (from the most elementary e-mail system to the most elegant and sophisticated on-line “conversation” tools) be used in archives management? And for that matter, how do we archive their content? Do we?
4. KM. We define knowledge management as working with knowledge. Once you have established a knowledge services archives management framework, the next step is to determine how the archives are used. Assess what’s there (what’s been collected, what’s missing, and what archives should be collected in the future); then identify and codify how the materials are used, who uses them, and what happens with the knowledge generated through the use of archival materials. Build what you learn into the KM/knowledge services archives strategy.
Here’s an example: Making the point that not all archives use relates to the company’s external products and services, archives management can also support internal management objectives. Linked to the corporate knowledge strategy, management has authorized building a company-wide experts database to provide contact information for everyone affiliated with the company. In addition, professional expertise, projects completed, and other vital background information is to be included. The objective is to strengthen internal knowledge development and knowledge sharing (KD/KS). There is some record of an attempt in this direction in the early 1990s, and before the new experts database project is too far along, the company’s Director for Knowledge Strategy requires a report on lessons learned in the earlier attempt.