While professional knowledge workers in the archives and records-management community have retention schedules and (presumably) guidelines for dealing with content, others working in strategic knowledge services do not necessarily have that expertise and background.
Yet archival questions come up frequently, and with today’s fast-moving management demands, much of the issue has to do with archiving materials that go out-of-date quickly.
What kind of decisions are made? And at what management levels are these decisions made? For example, internally generated research memos are valuable at the time they are prepared and certainly invite staff to learn from one another. The content is valuable at the time the memo or research report is prepared and disseminated, but is it of archival importance? Is this content appropriate for the organization’s legacy files?
One colleague describes the problem succinctly:
“Does it make sense to archive the research papers written throughout the organization if they get out of date rather quickly?”
That colleague proposes a workable and – from the KM/knowledge services perspective – relevant direction: “Wouldn’t it be better to build more of a knowledge network, so we at least identify people who are knowledgeable in a particular area? Is it necessary to retain the documentation and transitory reporting that supports the network’s decisions and workflow?”
SMR International’s comment: Absolutely. Communities of practice and shared solutions are not just the wave of the future. They represent the currently accepted methodology in the company’s client organizations. Up-side: when the CoP discusses the research memo, the content transitions into knowledge and, more important, makes up an important store of the group’s shared knowledge. Downside: finding the time to make the decision as to when the research memo is to be discarded and – perhaps equally important – ensuring that CoP members are all in agreement as to the next step, the utilization of the decision, and the workflow implications of that collected and now=shared knowledge.
There is work being done in this area, but it is not immediately apparent. For more information, take a stroll through the sites for ARMA International or The Society of American Archivists to seek out how these knowledge workers are dealing with current-and-not-necessarily-legacy documentation. Another useful approach would be to contact professional colleagues in your industry, to identify how each practice area (law, finance, research, etc.) is dealing with the issue.
Finally, some investigation of the work of the Open Archives Initiative can provide considerable content that might lead to other resources. OAI content is highly specialized, but it can be used as a useful “door-opener” for conversations with colleagues in other companies and organizations who are seeking shared learning about dealing with content that is – to a large extent – temporary by design.