Maish Nichani  heads an enterprise user experience company in Singapore called PebbleRoad, specializing in intranets, websites and apps. He works with the team to design sustainable solutions. “In an enterprise setting, this becomes a challenge because of the varying grades of personalities, politics, processes and systems,” he says. “I seem to enjoy this stuff!” He is the author of “10 Document Management Principles.”

What led you to write the “10 Document Management Principles” article?

I came across few clients who wanted to overhaul their document management systems or get completely new ones because they felt their current systems were not serving staff needs — staff still worked on their laptops, shared files via emails and archived their work on shared folders. However, the research findings showed that it was not completely the fault of the systems. Yes, the systems had usability issues, but a large part of the problem was that staff had little knowledge on using these systems properly.

For example, one person downloaded and deleted files on a shared space simply because he wanted to make some changes and did not want his colleagues accessing the files while he was making the changes. His system had the check-in, check-out feature! Just that he did not know such a thing existed.

So I thought if I wrote an article on common document management principles, it might help highlight the problems and change things for the better! This was the motivation for writing the article.

What advice would you give those implementing document management solutions?

A document management solution requires a few essential ingredients to work well. For starters, there needs to be some structure, some consistency around which documents are managed. Yes, we are talking about taxonomy and metadata here. But I’m also arguing that we should be considering the structure and consistency at the content level and not just at the classification level.

For example, if all patent applications are documented in a particular way, then why not expose the structure as metadata on a template? When content is chunked in this way, it makes it more accessible in search or discovery modes. (See Google Patent Search and how they expose the image in search results).

Once we have structure and consistency, then we have to teach staff how to use the system to reap the promised benefits. The knowledge gap cannot be underestimated. It seems obvious, but I’m surprised at the number of companies that don’t offer regular training in this regard!

Lastly, document management systems need constant attention. Things need to be tweaked and tuned on a regular basis. If you’re using an external vendor to manage the system, then you have to ensure that the vendor does not disappear after the implementation. Hence, you might want to take a hard look at your vendor management practices.

Where do you see document management systems heading in a few years’ time?

I can list quite a few things but I like to focus on one eventuality: mobile. The enterprise mobile movement has already begun. More people will be working on mobile phones and tablets in the future. Document management systems must not just be accessible on mobile devices but also offer significant “new value” to the users. The latter part is the difficult one. It is going to take deep insights and a willingness to innovate to get this right. But if the big players don't get it right, the startups will eventually do! So users are the winners either way!

Other resources from Pebble Road:

Manager’s guidebook on intranet redesign projects
Organizing digital information for others
 


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