The chief executive officer (CEO) and the chief counsel walk into your office (you know, the office where your RIM certifications and all the accolades from AIIM and ARMA are hanging on the walls). They tell you that litigation costs are out of control, information management practices are constantly showing up in audit findings, and the acquisition of the firm’s biggest competitor is in full swing and will be finalized by the end of the month. They want to know what you’re going to do about it, and they want to know now.
Before drafting your resignation letter, take a deep breath and remember that all those hours studying and learning information management concepts, trudging through exam preparation and earning all of those continuing education credits have prepared you for this task. As a wise person once said, you eat an 800lb stack of paper, CDs, DVDs, USB storage media, hard drives and electrons one bite at a time.
[Note: Are you a Service Company or VAR in the Document Management Space? If so, have you made your plans to attend the Document Management Service Providers Executive Forum November 4-6 in Nashville? Make your plans NOW; seats are limited.]
Establishing an information management program is not an overnight task. A successful information management program requires that the daily work habits of every person in your organization change. A successful program requires a thoughtful, comprehensive strategy. A strategy is your guide to get from where you are to where you want to be. Developing the strategy involves assessing your current situation and developing a shared vision for where you want to be. Armed with those two pieces of information, you are ready to build the roadmap—your implementation plan. Duff & Phelps has helped numerous companies and government agencies develop and implement information management strategies. Our experience has taught us many things: how to pack for three days in a rollaboard, where to find a great cup of coffee in any city in the world, and the factors that go into a successful information management strategy.
One way to divvy up the problem of creating an information management strategy is to address three distinct components, common to any program: people, process and technology. A successful information management strategy must address all of these areas. Within each component, there are several critical factors—Duff & Phelps’ eight factors for creating a successful information management strategy. Look at each factor separately, but remember: they all interact with each other. This interplay must also be considered. Addressing only one aspect of the program (e.g., technology) is not a full solution.
8 Factors to Consider In Creating an Information Management Strategy--#1
1 -- People – Is your Firm ready for Information Management?
To avoid building a program that cannot be implemented, determine the current state of information management practices at your organization and assess the ability of the organization to address shortfalls. Ask questions, such as the following:
• Have reductions in work force hampered our ability to modify work habits and/or impacted morale to the point where people are unwilling or unable to take on more work?
• Will there be ongoing budgetary support for people/process/technology changes required for the records information management (RIM) program?
• How is information management handled at the desktop today and what would it take to exert more control over it?
The answers to these questions will shape your implementation plan for the RIM program.
2 -- People – Who will be Responsible for Managing your Information?
Creating an information management program within your organization may start with your one-person crusade to save the firm from ruinous litigation, government sanctions or devastating data breaches, but successful RIM programs require sound governance from a dedicated team that represents your whole organization. Building a strong governance structure can be accomplished in three steps:
• Develop guiding principles for your organization that form the basis upon which you build the information management program
• Translate these guiding principles into your information management program.
• Proactively address the evolving information management needs of your organization
Your simple (but not easy) task, if you choose to accept it, is to assemble an information management governance team that incorporates senior members of the organization, representing (at a minimum) information technology, legal, RIM and the core business lines of your organization. Once you’ve organized the team, draft and ratify a charter for the group that includes the three activities mentioned above. Once the charter is approved, develop the list of guiding principles that address your organization’s needs.
Guiding principles can range from statements, such as “We will manage proactively the entire information lifecycle” to “We will utilize sound information management principles to minimize litigation costs.” Whatever principles are appropriate for your organization drive the development of policies and procedures within your organization’s information management program, so they must work for everyone. Bring together key, interested executives and leaders from your governance team and work through these questions together. These visioning sessions are eye-opening; you learn more about your own organization than you can imagine. And the executives start to come together around solving their collective information management problems, instead of trying to implement their own, stove-piped solutions because they think they are the only one facing a particular challenge. This visioning works for you in a number of ways. First, other people see the problem and share the responsibility for solving it. Second, they become your champions when you need people to make some changes—and when you’re looking for money and resources to implement your program. Third, you have expanded your personal network and influence in the organization—never a bad thing.
3 -- People – How will you tell People about this Change?
Just about everyone accepts that proactive communication is essential to the acceptance and adoption of new processes and new technology. A successful information management program requires that you maintain an ongoing (some might say never-ending) cycle of talking, advertising, building momentum, training, gathering feedback, and, most important, adjusting your program to meet evolving needs. To address the need for change management (and maintain your sanity), enlist the help of other key people within your organization.
• Establish relationships with recruiting, marketing, training, communications, public relations and any other departments within your organization that can assist you in preparing your organization for information management.
• Develop a plan for rolling out new processes and new technology with your core group of change management staff, capitalizing on their experience with what works in your organization’s culture.
Bear in mind that information management discipline normally requires more work in the creation/use stages of the information lifecycle, but this makes the searching/re-use/storage/disposition stages easier and more productive.
4 -- Process – What will People do with their Information?
Practicing sound information management requires discipline, and discipline is more easily achieved when a well-defined process governs a particular work activity. Sound, easy-to-follow processes that govern your organization’s information throughout the information lifecycle, from creation through use and storage to final disposition, are a key component of your program. These processes must address specific information management requirements such as how information is created, where it is stored, how it is disseminated, who can view it and where it goes when it’s no longer needed. Designing these processes requires rigor and ingenuity to balance the needs of your firm’s staff with the requirements of your information management program.
5 -- Process – What about the Way you’ve always done Things?
To facilitate the adoption of processes specific to information management, it is best to embed information management into existing business processes wherever possible. This approach minimizes impact and maximizes value. If the RIM requirements can be met without any active change by the user, that is ideal. For instance, you may be able to redirect document saves to a central server instead of to a personal network drive behind the scenes. Or you could add a storage step to an existing workflow within a business application that is triggered by the final approval. Otherwise, design a new process to enhance the speed of the business process or enhance the ability to find/re-use information for future work, and ask the end users what they think will work for them. Working with managers and staff within the lines of business to balance their needs with the needs of the information management program gives them a stake in what happens and increases their acceptance and understanding, while ensuring your information management needs are met. Hint: this also helps move your change management activities along as a bonus!
6 -- Technology – Do you need an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Solution?
Your information management program is going to rely on technology to enable your organization to comply with your policies and execute your information management processes. The right application of technology can provide your program with a great degree of control over your organization’s information while having a minimal impact on daily activities of your staff. The content management market sector is rich with vendors that provide solutions to most, if not all, information management issues. The key to ensuring that your implementation is successful is to identify the requirements for your content management solution in terms of supporting your information management program. Vendor solutions may have some pre-packaged workflows that fit your organization, but the principles, policies and procedures that form your information management program should be the primary driver of your vendor selection process. Once you select a vendor (or vendors), incorporate your governance board and select end users into the planning, execution and monitoring of your implementation. Throughout the implementation, analyze all your decisions in light of how the decision supports your information management program as well as the business processes across your organization.
7 -- Technology – Your users love Collaboration Tools – What do you do with those?
Controlling the creation phase of the information lifecycle is one of the most complicated information management issues you face. Striking a balance between controlling information and allowing your staff to be creative and innovative requires imagination and collaboration. With the emergence of tools that allow for collaborative content creation, your information management program may benefit from a thoughtful implementation of collaboration tools like SharePoint, eRooms, NetConnect, Google Waves, etc. By integrating a tool that can address information management concepts such as version control, centralized storage, and retention at the same time as supporting collaboration, these tools can enable control of content on the front-end of the information lifecycle.
Again, the focus of your vendor selection and implementation is on supporting your information management program. Many collaboration tools can be configured by non-IT personnel and be available for use in minutes or hours. This can lead to chaos. Avoid implementing a tool without a governance structure and well-defined processes for content creation and management. Once a tool is implemented, your users will use it. Establishing control after content has already been generated and stored in the collaboration tool is extremely challenging. Taking away a tool they have come to love and rely on is not a way to win friends and influence people. Your program’s chances of success increase if you think about collaboration up front.
8 -- Technology – What about your Enterprise Systems and Business Applications?
The business applications (e.g., ERP, Human Resources Information System, Accounting, etc.) within your enterprise support your business processes and enable your organization to run efficiently. Often, these applications are repositories of your corporation’s information assets. Whether stored as content in a transactional system or as rows of data in a database table, the information stored in your business applications is a key component of your institutional knowledge and intellectual capital. These systems also contain records which must be managed in accordance with your policies in the same way as documents or other media.
Review and analyze your business applications to determine how they can support your information management program. Chances are that information stored in your business applications represents an untapped competitive advantage, a poor audit result waiting to happen, or both. Develop an enterprise information map indicating where your information assets reside. Develop a plan to protect and capitalize upon your information assets as part of your information management program. Remain vigilant with your information assets by putting into place governance processes that identify when information assets move to new systems or new locations inside or outside of the firewall.
Now you’ve thought about all the factors that go into your information management strategy. You’ve worked with key executives across your organization to develop a vision, build a roadmap and convince people to come along for the ride. You’re ready to start implementing. Take it slow: divide your roadmap into phases and tackle each piece as a project. Clearly identify milestones and celebrate each one you achieve. Soon, your information management strategy will start to be a program, and your information will be protected and working for you, just the way it should be.
The CEO and chief counsel stop in. They come by pretty often these days to talk about the ECM system you’ve put in place, discuss the next round of communications, decide who’s writing the next newsletter article and check on the current litigation holds. They also tell you that the firm received a large settlement in a recent litigation because you, your team and the firm were prepared for ediscovery, had all your ducks in a row, and were able to produce everything that was needed on demand. The other side caved. Great job! So put away that resignation letter, but update your resume to include all this good work. You never know what might be around the corner.
Maura Dunn is a director in the Chicago office of Duff & Phelps and is part of the Legal Management Consulting service line. She has extensive experience in all aspects of records management (RM) program assessment and development. Among many other engagements, Maura’s experience includes leading selection and implementation of a document generation tool as part of globalization effort for a top-five mortgage bank, for which she recommended new organizational structure, including roles, responsibilities and job descriptions; policies, processes and procedures; and content management approach, tools and methods. She has also led comprehensive RM policy and procedures assessment and development for multiple government organizations.