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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.

 

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