It’s a wrap: e-document covers make for easy reading

Old-fashioned ways still prevail when it comes to e-documents. Document management systems make accessing such information much easier, says specialist Sarah Heal

When implementing a document management system there are a couple of things that organisations often miss, says Sarah Heal, director of Christchurch-based business and IT consultancy Information Leadership Consulting.

“One [of the most important things] is the wrapper you put around an electronic document records management system (EDRMS) implementation,” she says. “What we think make [EDRMS implementations] succeed is when you are putting a whole range of change initiatives around them, from communication through to auditing”.

Another major factor in making an implementation successful is to build compliance mechanisms into the implementation, says Heal — to take “people down a compliance path”.

In addition, if organisations have done a storyboarding exercise — that is, put everything they want out of the implementation into a flowchart diagram — the chance of making the implementation successful increases, she says.

“We are pulling software systems in, but what we are asking people to do is to actually make a significant change in their behaviour, to change the way they view information,” Heal says.

Rather than being focused on one piece of information, and one folder to put it in, users should focus on one piece of information and the many different ways it can be used and accessed, she says.

“It comes down to asking yourself: what are the different information views that your business is going to need?”

“And that is quite a significant behaviour change to people when at the moment [the majority] use Windows folders.”

She gives an example of a letter to a customer.

“I might just put it in my ‘customer letter file’, but other people might want to look at all the letters for that particular customer, or they might want to look at all the complaints we have had for poor service in Hawke’s Bay, [for example].”

She warns that when implementations go wrong, organisations may not know for three or four years.

“[At the] start of an implementation the systems are pretty clean and people are not having problems finding things. [But] by the time there are a million documents in there, [and] if the information infrastructure isn’t set up correctly, we have just got a different mess to the one we used to have,” she says.

Heal stresses that the post-implementation phase is as important as the implementation itself. Organisations often spend the whole budget on buying and implementing a system and forget about the rest, she says.

“Where the value often comes is in leveraging the system for things like producing reports or publishing information to the web. The post-implementation [phase] is less about the software and more about how the business uses the new tool.”

The most common requirements from clients include more efficient information sharing, compliance management, and streamlining their business processes and making them more effective, she says.

“My sense is that lots of the systems [on the market] now are very capable and they have got truckloads of functionality in them. The challenge comes in working out how they should be configured to deliver what you need,” she says.

Heal says organisations are becoming aware of the risks of buying and deploying a document management system.

“Five years ago people would just pop out and buy something and pull it in. Now the market has seen that the quality of those implementations is really very variable.”

Clients today are looking for a provider to sit alongside them and to mitigate against the risks for them.

“Another thing that clients are looking at now, more so than ever, is someone who can help translate what they need from a business sense into what that might look like in a technology sense.”

She says that it is almost like an intermediary role, between the client and the vendor, to help make technology meet business requirements and some of these are very specific.

Heal has co-written a book on the subject, Flapping to Flying: Transforming IT into Information Leadership.

Information Leadership Consulting has been in business for two years and has six staff. One of its specialties is document management.

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