Developed by Steve Weissman – ‘Senior Sage’ / Insight Forums
Change is expensive.
When I need to get an invoice approved, I just put it in the right department’s mailbox at the front desk. They usually pick it up in a few days and sign it. We file it and then every few years pack up the old files and send them to off-site storage. Why spend money to automate something this simple?
Because it’s not really that simple. There are business rules and document policies embodied in this seemingly straightforward process, but they’re invisible and thus impossible to document, improve, replicate, teach, or defend if queried by a litigator or disgruntled shareholder seeking better governance.
Who’s authorized to grant the approvals? Up to how much money does that authority extend? Who decides when the old files get packed and moved off-site? What are the criteria for moving them, and how long do they stay there? Every one of these questions must have an answer – and if you take the time to pursue that answer, you may find that not changing your processes is far more expensive than doing so.
The story is told of a city attorney’s office that was so overloaded with work that it had to farm out 75% of its cases, and paid some $300 per hour for that outside help. Then it started scanning legal documents directly into its case management system, and it began working so much more efficiently that it could handle more of the work itself – at a cost of just $75 per hour. So while there was nothing wrong about the way the old process worked, the new one is a whole lot less expensive, and generates savings each and every time it is used.
Only a true Luddite could object to that!
This information management stuff is just too squishy.
Managing our financial assets is important to us, so we invested in a top-notch financial system. Managing our people is important, too, so we invested in HR systems. But information is just not as critical. And managing it seems so complicated.
Who says information isn’t as critical? Success is all about information – not only having it, but making sure it’s accurate, timely, and available to the people who need it to make good business decisions. If you think about it, it’s information that gives your financial assets their value, for without it, there’d be no up-to-date price lists to show to prospective customers, no order forms to capture new business, no signature pages to trigger the billing cycle, etc.
While all this may sound complicated, the fact is that information management today is more accessible than ever. Most of the core capabilities can be gotten off the shelf, and little user training is required because most of the interfaces are either Web-based or designed to work as such, and at this point anyone who uses a computer is fairly used to browsers and Google-style search boxes. “Squishy,” therefore, would seem to be in the eye of the beholder.
How to overcome them
The aforementioned excuses are frustrating for many reasons, not the least of which is
because document and content technology already has well established itself as a means to further your most critical business objectives. Those who offer them up individually or en masse really are only forestalling the inevitable, for sooner or later, someone in a position of authority is going to start asking “why aren’t we doing this?”
But then, you already know this, or you wouldn’t still be reading these words! So your
challenge is to turn these excuse-makers into fellow agents of change, whether they live above or below you in the organizational hierarchy, or are peers in other departments.
Identify the major points of pain
The trick to overcoming their objections is to identify what’s causing them the most operational pain, and then to explain how information management technology can alleviate that pain and make them managerial heroes at the same time. You can usually capture their attention by talking about one or more of the following issues:
* Cost reduction
* Efficiency improvement
* Compliance/risk mitigation
* Environmental stewardship
* Disaster recovery
* Decision support
* Get educated
Measure everything / measure anything
To make your argument maximally compelling, you must quantify the problems to the greatest degree possible, and drown your would-be allies in data. This means measuring everything about the documents that are central to their activities and interpreting the results in the context of their day-to-day lives. At the very least, you want to be sure to capture essential information like:
* How many documents there are
* How many types of documents there are
* How many pages they contain
* How many sides they are printed on
* How they get introduced into the organization
* Who handles them, for what purpose, in what order, and for how long
* Where they are stored, for what reasons, and for how long
If you can’t measure everything, then at least be sure to measure anything. The idea is to illuminate with the harsh light of reality that your current naysayers are spending a lot more time and money than they think dealing with either poor or non-existent document processes – and as they do, they’re exposing themselves to lots of avoidable risk (e.g., from natural disaster, lawsuits, even termination).
Find out how things actually work
Besides the document accounting, you also want to chart the way your organization actually works – not how people think it works! – as well as the technology infrastructure that supports you. In most cases, this is a Stage Two activity since it really can’t happen until enough of the right kind of fundamental buy-in (read: from top management) has been obtained. But whether it happens sooner or later, it must happen sooner or later, and eventually will follow three core lines of inquiry:
* Functional: examine your process flows, communications webs, and technology stack(s) for the organization as a whole and by department, current and desired
* Technical: inventory your current environment and list your system requirements, performance specs, and future considerations
* Administrative: record your expectations for rollout schedule, testing, training, documentation, support, and maintenance
But first: Get help!
By now it probably has become apparent that you can’t do all this by yourself. So the first thing you have to do is find yourself a friend, preferably one in a high place because a senior executive automatically commands attention when he or she wants to get something done. But don’t despair if you are unable to reach that far, for plenty of good work can be done at the grassroots level to start.
It may surprise you to know that many information management initiatives begin as populist movements, for it is the people who actually push the paper who feel the greatest operational pain and are most immediately invested in finding a cure. Whether you are one of these people or are in charge of a team of them, you have a familiarity with the issues that positions you perfectly to begin affecting change in your organization – whether or not it currently wants to change.
This won’t be easy, and it probably won’t be fast, but you can make it obvious for all to see that the Top 10 Excuses – plus the dozens more you will run into as you go – are nothing but weak justifications for leaving well enough alone. You know this is not an acceptable answer, and organizations like ours and like AIIM can help you make your case if you need us to. So don’t wait another minute: tune in, turn on, and get going!
About AIIM: AIIM (www.aiim.org) is the community that provides education, research, and best practices to help organizations find, control and optimize their information. For more than 60 years, AIIM has been the leading non-profit organization focused on helping users understand the challenges associated with managing documents, content, records and business processes. Today, AIIM is international in scope, independent and implementation-focused, acting as the intermediary between ECM (Enterprise Content Management) users, vendors, and the channel.
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