The challenge for records management vendors
Categorised under: Document & records management
I recently finished an “information management and records management” review in a small public-sector agency. One of the findings was that while they needed a records management system (RMS), they couldn’t proceed with the system they had due to its major usability problems.
This accords my experiences in other organisations: notably that there has been a 100% failure rate of rolling out records management systems (with some exceptions, such as legal firms). In my earlier article, I identified three critical success factors: the system, classification scheme and message.
Focusing on the system: records management systems are perfectly designed for their original users, specialist records managers. They are complex, powerful and efficient when used all day, every day.
The world, however, has changed. We now expect general staff throughout an organisation to be filing records, and they are frankly terrified by records management systems (and rightly so). I would argue that recordkeeping cannot succeed until the usability problems of RMS products are address.
So the challenge for RMS vendors: if they want to survive into the long-term, then recordkeeping projects need to succeed. While “compliance” is driving deployment at present, the fact that 100% of projects fail to gain adoption is going to impact upon the survival of the marketplace as a whole.
If I was a RMS vendor, I would be spending a lot of effort transforming my product to match the changing nature of RM usage within organisations.
This would include:
- Working closely with selected clients to develop standard personas that describe who will be using the RMS, their levels of experience, and the tasks they want to complete. This would undoubtedly identify that the major of users are RM “novices”, with little interest in recordkeeping legislation.
- Reviewing current products, through the lens of the personas, to identify potential issues and solutions.
- Usability testing products to refine the interfaces, and to generally simplify the design.
- Focusing on making products “invisible” by integrating them more cleanly into other business applications.
- Building up “best practice” approaches to RM that focus on cultural change and adoption by staff, instead of leaving these issues entirely in the hands of clients.
- Strongly supporting groups such as Standards Australia, who are endeavouring to review and refine classification schemes and other RM approaches.
- Devoting a greatly increased amount of revenue to R&D.
The RM products haven’t changed much for a long time now, but the world has. Now is the time for the RM vendors to kick-start a new round of design and innovation, otherwise the marketplace could easily slide back into oblivion when the current “compliance” hype subsides…
At the end of the day, vendors have to take some responsibility for the success (or failure) of organisations implementing RMS solutions. If projects keep failing (as they currently are), vendors should expect to eventually pay the price.