One of the most difficult projects I’ve ever worked on was transitioning to a new document storage and collaboration system. And I’ve been lucky enough to do it 3 times. The reasons for the change range from technology becoming outdated to simply a shift in power (and opinion on the best technology). System change number 4 is looming on the horizon so I decided to think through the previous implementations and come up with my own set of best practices.
1. Determine the goals/objectives:
Gather together a task force that has representation across business units. This is critical to ensure that there is buy-in and ownership. The system is just a shell unless the business units are prepared to put in the content and employees are prepared to use it. Get one person from each business unit to dedicate at least 50% of their time to participate on the task force or committee and play the role of liaison with their department to make sure their needs are represented. Think House of Representatives, only make sure that this one is effective.
2. Get executive validation/approval:
Reviewing the goals with executive management is essential to make the purchase, but also to keep things on track during the long planning implementation process.
3. Beware of “one size fits all”:
Unless you are a single-product company, it is unlikely that one approach to document storage and collaboration will work for all. Be prepared to compromise. It is possible that your company may need to utilize multiple systems. In that case, work to find integration points or build a top level portal so that the information does not end up siloed.
4. Plan governance before implementation:
And I’m not just talking about provisioning, but rather answering questions like:
- Who is going to collect and report on the system data?
- How are system changes going to be decided/agreed upon?
- Who is going to keep the system clean and retire or update outdated content?
5. Beware of the tag:
Most systems utilize tagging of some sort to facilitate searches and document organization. This can easily become the most time-intensive portion of the project. If you give people all the tags they want, you end up with an over-architected system. On the other hand, if you go too light on tags to start, this can add more work later as all of the existing content will need to be retagged. There is a happy medium so be strong and work through it. And if your business units can’t agree on a tagging system, then refer back to #3!
6. Do ‘Spring Cleaning’:
Take the time to clean up your existing system before anyone decides to perform a bulk import. There are times this might be easier to manage in the new system, but be sure to dedicate the resources to comb through the data and retire anything that shouldn’t be in the new system. Think of it as you would when moving to a new office. You don’t pack more boxes than you need. Instead, you get a large recycle bin and purge. It’s refreshing and necessary.
7. Provide regular reporting to executives:
Once the planning and implementation process begins, those executives that agreed with your goals need to see the progress that is being made. This is a big ticket item and they need to know that it is on track. If they don’t hear from you for months, they’ll forget about it and won’t be there to support you when issues arise (which they will).
8. Promote the system:
That’s right, get internal marketing folks involved because you need this system to be adopted and used in order to keep those executives that signed the PO happy. So don’t hesitate to put in the extra effort to internally advertise the benefits and encourage the transition.
9. Make training simple:
This is no small task. While many systems today seem intuitive to tech savvy folks like yourself, for an end user it is like changing from Windows to Mac OS. Put together short videos (<3 min) that focus on how the end user will perform a task in the new system. And don’t forget to consider who is going to keep the training videos current as inevitable system changes are made over time.
10. Seek continuous improvement:
After reading the above 9 best practices, you’ve probably realized that a document storage and collaboration system requires dedicated headcount to govern the system. This headcount also needs to be analyzing the usage data, consulting with the business unit liaisons and finding ways to make it better. Remember, the value of a document storage and collaboration system is employee productivity. That’s hard to achieve if no one is using it.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has waded through similar changes. What are your tips and best practices for document storage and collaboration implementations? With the rise of “social business” is that changing the approach?