All organisations face challenges managing their enterprise information. How they address them varies. Some assess their situation and decide the best way to address the challenge is to set-up a project to deliver a solution. However, even for organisations who are delivering successful projects there is a track record littered with stories of cost overruns, technical failures, late delivery, cancelled projects and a host of other problems. In other words, the statistics seem to show that the odds are stacked against organisations trying to successfully deliver a project. So how can you improve your chances of success?
There are 5 core factors that we believe are central to the successful delivery of any Electronic Document and Records Management (EDRM) project.
1. Clear business goals
It’s vitally important at the outset that the business needs and rationale surrounding the project are clear and understood. Projects must have solid business reasons for being undertaken and must support the overall strategy of the organisation. Time invested in developing a sound business case and securing top-management buy-in will reap benefits further down the line and an executive level sponsor greatly increases the chance of success.
At this stage it is also tremendously worthwhile to undertake benefits planning to help ensure that the project actually delivers business-impacting benefits – simply delivering an EDRMS is not a benefit. What does success look like for your organisation? It’s not simply about ROI and cost savings.
2. A records management strategy
Ensure you have a clear records management strategy underpinning your proposed EDRMS project. Specifically addressing how documents and records are managed within your organisation, consider and develop a business classification scheme and fileplan, metadata schema, information architecture, scanning requirements and fully develop retention and disposal schemes. Remember that a records management strategy is not a silo-ed focus; almost undoubtedly the legal and compliance teams will need to be involved in the sign off process.
3. User buy-in
Any EDRM project is essentially a business change project with technology enabling and supporting this change. A large component involves people and it is therefore critical to success that all users are ‘on-board’, are supportive of the change and will actually use the system. Users must view the solution helping them do their jobs more efficiently without adding additional administrative or process-related burden.
The technology you choose for your EDRM solution is an important driver for success as it will be the enabling foundation that will support many other aspects of your overall project. Take time to identify and procure the most appropriate technical solution and to fully configure it to your environment to meet technical and business needs. Test it rigorously (including User Acceptance Testing UAT or Pilot) and ensure that it fits with your existing IT architecture and strategy.
5. Project planning and control
Good project management is essentially about planning and controlling the work – developing and monitoring plans, managing stakeholder expectations, risk management, configuration management, change-control and sign-off of products. It’s worth ensuring that you have a project manager who is sufficiently capable to manage the project and has adequate time to spend on it; three hours per week from a junior person is unlikely to suffice. Consider carefully who the project manager will be. If you appoint an IT person as project manager then the project runs the risk of being seen within the business as an IT technical project – and it is not. Often, a more successful approach is to appoint a businessperson to lead the project and have the larger project team comprising representatives from different parts of the business, from the IT team and also from the end-user groups.
Successful delivery of EDRMS projects requires all of these five areas to be addressed. They are an intricately linked ‘house of cards’ – failure to address one or more, will result in problems or even project failure.
Failing to address business issues means that there will have been little or no consideration of the benefits to the organisation. Do the business benefits of the project and solution outweigh the costs? Do you have sufficient management support to get the necessary budget? If not, your project will stall and possibly be cancelled.
Failure to address user issues will result in resistance to the solution and poor adoption. How many systems have you seen implemented that subsequently don’t get adoption enterprise-wide due to poor usage? Failing to address records management issues will simply result in the status quo being perpetuated. Given that the organisation has already recognised that the current situation needs improvement, this is a critical area. The classification scheme and fileplan are important areas to be addresses as they directly affect take-up and a balance must be achieved between organisational requirements and usability.
Failing to address technical issues will result in the solution simply not working or not being sustainable. Does the technical solution integrate with your current systems? Has it been properly tested? Without rigorous resting, problems and issues can slip through into live environments and result in a myriad of internal and external outcomes.
Failing to apply sufficient project planning and control measures will result in work being un-coordinated or missed out. This can cause delays, increased costs, poor quality outcomes or uncontrolled scope changes.
To conclude, EDRM projects require discipline and adoption of a methodical approach. The business world is not static or simple; effectively managing change is difficult and requires many areas to be addressed. The work must be controlled and expectations managed. Addressing these five core areas means that you are much more likely to achieve the results that you need and your project will be successful.