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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.

 

Why I drifted away and then got pulled back to AIIM? February 7, 2012

Posted by Sanooj Kutty in Business Process Management, Capture, Electronic Records Management, Enterprise 2.0, Enterprise Content Management.
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While the credit to my foray into unstructured information management; namely DMS and ERM must go to my erstwhile mentor, Mr. P Vidyasagar, I would credit my knowledge mostly to AIIM. Ever since I stepped into the world of AIIM, my knowledge in the world of ECM, ERM and BPM have only been on the increase.

However, pretty soon, after the initial thirst, I realized AIIM was more technology-oriented. With me being more into Information MANAGEMENT than information management SYSTEMS, I found myself drifting away from AIIM. If it wasn’t for my continued interactions with Bryant, I may have even left AIIM.

Then suddenly, AIIM announces a survey for a new information management certification and before I could say Rip Van Winkle, they launched the Certified Information Professional program. One glance at it and I was at once, both excited and nervous. This is what I wanted to be, yet, this is where I was not. A mirror that left me glad for reflecting my aspirations while honestly letting me know there was some journey to go.

However, the real importance of this renewed AIIM struck me when I came across Cheryl McKinnon’s blog post, “New Challenges for 2012: Putting People First” and I saw this picture:

And my expectations from AIIM were all satisfied in one look. From the early days, I have tried to stay technology and vendor agnostic right through my career. The flip side of this is that I don’t understand codes any more. I don’t pay attention to Application Servers, Content Servers, Web Servers, etc. SDLC or Scrum doesn’t matter to me. But, when you want to plan, search, capture, store, process, dispose information, my antennae go up.

I am your quintessential information manager, I repeat.

I am not your information management technologist, I emphasize.

So, what I want to offer my customers is this in their information management, exactly what they want:

And what does the AIIM CIP cover:

Yes, there are gaps I need to fill and yes; information management is not a one-man show. However, for now I am confident AIIM and its CIP is a path that can take me where I want to go.

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