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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.

 

The Chaos of ECM-BPM Strategies March 9, 2012

Posted by Sanooj Kutty in Business Process Management, Enterprise Content Management.
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Setting your ECM or BPM implementation strategy can appear to be pretty straightforward. After all, you either want to manage your content or manage your process. To achieve that, get some experts, get a good tool(s), and launch a project and presto!

If only life in this world were that easy. Not experienced enough to be authentic in my judgment of how it happens around the world (although it may be the same story everywhere), I’ll keep myself to my corner of the world in context.

Five cornerstones determine the success or failure of ECM/BPM projects.

Yet are strategies revolving around these cornerstones in the right manner? Many a time, I feel we usually end up barking up the wrong tree and put the wrong cornerstone at the center of our strategies.

Let’s start from the obvious cornerstones.

Technology

It is quite normal to introduce technology to settle the chaos only to find itself contributing to the ensuing chaos. Expect perhaps with cases of revolution like the one Apple did with “touch”, in most cases technology follows business but can find itself at the wrong end of the stick. Bear in mind Technology can help you do many things, but not all the things. Again, you need to ask yourself, do you need your technology to do some things, specific things, many things or everything?

People

Ah! Here comes the quintessential trouble maker, people or in other words your business users and technical staff. Either they are too many or do too little. It’s time we set this right. Through ECM/BPM implementations we can resolve this issue. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. It’s not uncommon for people to be the target. It’s not fully unjustified either; the right implementation of ECM/BPM solutions can help you manage your people factor… to a limit.

Process

This time, it’s the process that’s wrong and we need to change our processes so that people can do their jobs better and management can make the right decisions. It’s imperative to be very careful here because it’s not always that you need to change your as-is process. Many a time, organizations naturally go back to old processes after changing it. Look around and you’ll find your process is fine, your troubles may lie elsewhere. Implementing a process on your BPMS could also be your as-is and does not necessarily have to be your to-be.

Management

When all the above fails, it’s obvious that your management style is questioned and you look at changing them. Are you sure change is always good? Change may be permanent but not all change is good. Be it democratic, autocratic or situational, your management style as it is could also be the right one for your business.

Content

We’re not talking here of the management of content, but, instead the focus is on the content itself. Very few implementation strategies here focus on the content itself. Having the right content is as important as having the content right. Too much information floating around the organization ecosystem can be as damaging as too little information and can add to the chaos.

ECM/BPM systems are here to stay. Although, time has yet to make a judgment in what manner and form will they stabilize, in an increasingly digital world, their importance is beyond doubt. Using them to benefit your business depends on identifying what needs to be put at the center to resolve.

Is it your technology, process, people, management or content? Magic mirrors don’t provide you these answers but honest introspection can help.

Note: Although ECM and BPM are used due to their popularity, the same applies for any of the others such as ERM, ACM, etc in this blog.

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