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How to deliver ECM initiatives if the Cart is before the Horse? February 18, 2016

Posted by Sanooj Kutty in Electronic Records Management, Enterprise Content Management.
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BSI standard PAS 89:2012 (Enterprise content management – Code of practice) defines the process of embarking on an ECM initiative as below.

bsi-ecminitiatives

Naturally, this cyclical process makes sense, much like deciding the dish, identifying the recipe, sourcing the ingredients and then preparing the dish.

However, over more than a decade of working with ECM initiatives across UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman (effectively the GCC minus Saudi Arabia), the de facto ECM initiative process more or less follows as below.

gcc-ecminitiative

Now this becomes an interesting case of almost buying the ingredients, deciding the dish, creating the recipe and then preparing the dish. While this may enable you to definitely end up having a dish, it may not be the right one as you can only have a dish as per the ingredients and not the one you wish to have.

In the case of an ECM initiative, this leads to a misalignment between the requirements and the technologies, leading to either an expensive initiative or a failed one.

None of the above is unknown, plenty of material has been written on how to roll out an ECM initiative. This article aims to guide organizations that may have adopted the above approach to achieve better outcomes, i.e., if the cart is before the horse, train the horse to push!

Iterate Deliverables

Do not even attempt to eat the elephant in one bite. By eating one bite at a time, the organization is able to gauge the effectives of the current implementation, manage adoption and change and gain a better understanding of ECM practices and technologies.

 Avoid Customization

While ECM technologies do provide a platform to customize, it is best to avoid customization. Custom requests always tend to end up in a perennial loop as different stakeholders tend to want the same function in different ways. If business objectives can be met without customization, completely avoid it. Most ECM technologies are configurable to meet your objectives.

Manage Change

Since one has had to cut corners and make the best use of the bird in hand and not the two in the bush, it is imperative that change is bound to occur. Prior to engaging in disparate and individual changes, this could be the opportunity to revisit your change management by adopting the BSI recommended process. Where prevention hasn’t taken place, one surely needs to cure.

Leverage Human Capability

If my mother can learn to use mobile phones starting from Nokia to Blackberry to Android, your users can learn to use the solution the way it has been configured with the available technologies. I’ve seen my dad shift from doing his accounting on books to doing it on Lotus 123 spreadsheets. Having realized that his job and career are at stake if he didn’t learn the new technology, he put in extra effort to learn it. It also helps you to identify your resources who are ready to adapt and progress. As long as business objectives are met and business rules are followed, people can be taught to learn new systems and most users shall end up learning it, sooner than later.

How Far Would You Go… October 24, 2012

Posted by Sanooj Kutty in Business Process Management, Electronic Records Management, Enterprise 2.0, Enterprise Content Management.
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… To Achieve Perfection In Your Information Management Initiatives?

Over a good few years, I have been fortunate to have experienced a variety of Information Management projects aimed at achieving an even more kaleidoscopic set of objectives (or lack of) out here in the Middle East (more specifically the GCC).

These projects have covered a variety of sources of information from Paper to PDF, from Web to Word, from Data to Documents.

The projects have also behaved in manners that depict a multiple-personality disorder, from Chaos to Calmness, from Schizophrenic to Stable, from Spontaneous to Structured, from Illogical to Intelligent.

Information Management projects can come under a variety of aliases such as Records Management, Content Management, Document Management, Digital Asset Management, Process Management or the more recent ones such as Social Media Management, Enterprise 2.0 or Information Governance.

All of them though wanted to achieve that single trait of Perfection and the question that always popped in my head was, “How far would one go to achieve perfection in Information Management projects?” It’s also pertinent to understand that the need for perfection always belongs to the client and not the vendor.

However, most clients here are yet to find their project nirvana with the either the clients leading the project to being orphaned or the project leading the business to being disappointed and in most cases, a deep dent in their wallet. Clients have taken pains to invest time, money and resources to achieve their perfect project deliverables and vendors have also invariably ended up investing just the same. In a simple perspective, either the client or the vendor wins the battle. But in reality, the loss is on both sides.

The GCC is a cauldron of a multi-cultural workforce, with majority of them being expatriates and not citizens. Obviously, it indicates cultural and communication challenges, but, that is by no means a constraint to successful projects. If that were the case, these countries would not have gone on to achieve what they have in such a short time.

The obstacles here are caused more out of the approach towards such projects and the leading cause of this is the lack of genuine and “passionate” subject matter experts in this domain. Being hardly 10 years old in this market, of which the first 5 years were infancy, leaves Information Management as a child finding its place in society, growing up but not grown up.

While there are no single dose antidotes to this ill, clients and vendors here are forced to “convert” talents from other domains of Information Technology to Information Management professionals. The resources themselves, out of the necessity to survive, take it up with certain numbness. Yes, some do find their passions ignited, but most just see it as a task.

Over time, more visibility to such projects will see a gold rush of talent to the domain, but businesses cannot afford to wait for that and must immediately address their information management requirements and challenges.

So far, everyone has been looking into Information Technology in itself to find ways to run these projects and have tried every methodology from Waterfall to Agile to Scrum to the Next-Big-Thing to plug this leaking hole.

I feel the answer lies elsewhere and not within Information Technology and where better than the masters of building great monuments, the Construction Industry!

If one were to want to build, a Shopping Mall, would we go out and get ourselves a Contractor to start constructing the complex? Remember, they do have Project Managers and Engineers who can build large, complex structures. The answer would be a resounding NO!

A large Construction Project goes through a simple sequence to build that Mall!

Consultancy

The first step to building that mall would be to find ourselves a Consultant and they would be well stocked with competent Project Managers, Architects, Cost Engineers, etc. who are skilled at “architecting” the Shopping Mall.

Ever heard of pure Consultants being employed in the Middle East for “architecting” information? Ask any genuine Information professional and they should unanimously tell you that information architecture is critical to successful information management projects.

Project Management

Once the consulting engagement is satisfactorily (note the lack of use of the word perfection) completed, the time would then come to launch a Project. Here, professional and experience Project Managers, ideally, in building Shopping Malls would be recruited. They could either be the client’s own team or outsourced to professional Project Management companies. They will continue to engage with the Consultants for ensuring they get everything right.

Very few clients here employ experienced Project Managers in the domain and tend to believe any IT Project Manager can do the job. Remember, some really talented and knowledge-hungry ones will be capable but not all. So choose your project manager wisely.

Contracting

Once the Project Managers have successfully laid out their charters, plans and budgets, the Contractors would only step in at this stage to actually start constructing the mall. They may bring their own project managers, but these project managers have their scope limited to their activities only and not the entire project. This also ensures good governance during the project.

In our information management projects here, the contractors (system integrators, as they are called) end up managing the full project. In some cases, they are also the ones who have sold you the software and that can result in solutions leaning towards purchasing more licenses. Governance loopholes creep in here and they have proven many times to be fatal.

Maintenance

With the Mall successfully built, it needs to be maintained to keep it running successfully and ensuring its customer experience ranks very high. Generally, the contractors who built are not the maintenance operators. This helps avoid lack of transparency of any construction flaws and a different maintenance company would definitely highlight construction flaws to minimize their risk. This also forces all parties involved in building the mall to maintain proper and up to date records to hand over to maintenance.

In information management projects, there is a perception that only those who built can maintain and it is time the clients here learnt that it is not necessarily so and sometimes, it might be in your best interest to keep the two separate also.

In summary, an Enterprise Information Management Project, is just as challenging as large Construction projects and must be handled with the same level of dexterity, control and sensitivity. Remember that information can sometimes be a life or death matter.

Ever heard the story of “Kill Him, Not Spare Him” and “Kill Him Not, Spare Him”???

P.S. Leave perfection to the Almighty and aim for functionally acceptable standards. Use maintenance for any issues that may rise.

 

Deep flows the River between Social and Business… July 25, 2012

Posted by Sanooj Kutty in Enterprise 2.0.
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It’s been quite a while since the world has been gripped by the Social Media fever . However, as is the case with any new concept that catches the masses by their eyeballs and wallets, social media too has turned into a big Gold Rush with many following suit.  Suddenly, plenty of creative designers, copywriters, and account managers have now turned into peer-recognized and self-proclaimed social media specialists.

Yet, like every time the dust rises, it also has to settle down. When it does settle down, are we going to see despair as we did with the Dot Com bust in the 1990s? For everyone’s sake, I hope not, but, somewhere deep inside I sense a repeat of history.

Can businesses reinvigorate themselves from the inevitable social media overkill when the time comes? Yes, it can and this will be the time when they wake up to Enterprise 2.0. Coined by Andrew P. McAfee, Enterprise 2.0 is defined as “Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers.”

However, the future will not be just about Enterprise 2.0 platforms; this will also be a journey of how the corporate world adopts its Customer Engagement Strategies. Customer Engagement sees itself metamorphose itself over 4 key stages, namely, Initiation, Integration, Intelligence and Value Creation.

  • Initiation – being the welcoming stage for the customer
  • Integration – stepping it up to engage the customer to consume the products or services
  • Intelligence  – used to accumulate past learning and understand the customer’s engagements
  • Value Creation – to develop an ongoing relationship through knowledge gained from the previous 3 stages.

Today, we can witness a trend where Initiation and Value Creation are being actively promoted on the Social Media ecosystem through interactive products like events, games, competitions, etc. Obviously, these are conceptualized from the Intelligence gathered over time through proven methodologies. However, a weak Integration presence would result in many customers being bored of all the fun around without any real work being done.  All Play and No Work can also make Jack a dull boy.

So, what does all this mean? This means that until Social Technology evolves in such a manner that customers can execute business transactions via these platforms, they will over a period of time go the way of Newsletters and Raffle Draw tickets as just another marketing gimmick.

This evolution has been defined very eloquently by John Mancini of AIIM in this info graph published in his OccupyIT manifesto.

Image

Yes, Facebook has taken interaction with the customer to different experience, but it still lacks that most important activity between a customer and a provider and that is the “business transaction”. Naively portrayed below is my vision of the future and where I believe the future should move to.

Image

A world where one can log on to online banking, traverse to a single transaction and engage in a query or clarification with customer service.

The future is not just social and it’s not just business, but in a nutshell, it will and must be socio-business.

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