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Document Management Confessions from an IT Professional

When Best is not the Best

Years ago, when I started in the IT department for a Fortune 500 car manufacturing company, I learned valuable lessons that have served me well.  If it wasn’t for Rob, my manager, I would never have implemented a single successful system.

Instead, over the years I moved from implementing very diverse systems to specializing in deploying document management solutions.  The reason I chose electronic document management, also known as enterprise content management, as my career choice was that it solved a huge number of diverse problems.  For me, this was both interesting and satisfying.  In the end, it all comes down to creating solutions that organize information and make it easy for the end users to accomplish their tasks.

Below is what I learned to ensure success with any document management implementation:

  1. Never forget the original ROI, or the reason for the project
  2. Make sure to include end users in the vendor selection process
  3. Always include end users in the design and implementation
  4. Never, ever, ever let IT drive the project

That last one may surprise you.  Organizations often get bogged down in technical details to the detriment of the poor and forgotten end user.  What starts out as a project to help the end user become more effective, efficient, happy or productive (pick any adjective) can quickly turn into a long and painful IT project.  When this happens, and no matter how technically elegant the outcome is, the document management system is doomed to fail.

Before Rob took me under his wing, I would look for the “best” technical solution.  And the problem with this is that in how I defined “best”.  Best might mean new technology, it might mean one that worked with our existing technology or it might mean one that I found interesting.  Unfortunately, “best” should have meant what solution would work “best” for the end user.

Here’s how to avoid a failed project:IT Driven Project

Don't let this guy drive your project!

Let me start by pointing out that not all IT driven projects fail.  There are IT professionals who live by the first three rules above.  They understand that their position is a support role that helps the organization to achieve its goals.  Unfortunately, these IT professionals are the exception, rather than the rule.

If you are an end user who needs to implement a document management solution to solve a specific problem such as improving your accounts payable process, managing HR documents, streamlining contract processing, or any of the hundreds of other possible issues, here’s how to know if you are doomed to fail.

  1. Has your IT department issued an RFP? If you read it and it focuses on technical specifications, you are doomed to fail.
  2. If your IT department issued an RFP and you get responses that are all over the map, you are doomed to fail.
  3. If your IT department looks for a solution, but does not include your group in the process, you are doomed to fail.
  4. If the first thing you hear from your IT group is about IT standards, free or open source, you need to either find a new IT group or a new job because you will grow old waiting for your solution.

So regardless of which side of the project you are on, IT or end user, here’s how you can ensure that you add your new document management implementation into the “success” column.  It’s all about communication.  The more each side understands both the problem and the potential solutions, the more likely you are to come to a positive result.  I learned this from Rob too.

At heart I’m still the IT guy.  I enjoy Star Wars, watch The Big Bang Theory and would love to go to Comic-Con.  And yes, I still love technology and gadgets.

If you are at the stage where you are thinking about how electronic document management can help solve some of your problems, let us know.  With decades of experience we can help make sure that you are successful too.

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Topics: Technology

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