Setting up taxonomies and workflows in a company to automate business processes, especially for the first time, can be arduous. But Christopher Wynder, Senior Consulting Analyst at Info-Tech Research Group, makes the task more palatable by talking about it using everyday concepts such as gardening. Wynder shared his insight at Laserfiche’s Empower 2015 Conference and while his whole presentation is well worth reading, here are the highlights:

To begin with, Wynder disagrees with the conventional wisdom that it is best to get buy-in from senior management when embarking on an enterprise content management (ECM) implementation. He calls that the “Popes and Presidents Problem.” “You will never get the CEO, CFO, and CxO in a room together at the same time,” he says. “They are too busy and are focused on bigger issues.”

Instead, IT should focus on the information use that it controls or, in a perfect world, a highly engaged business unit, Wynder says. Moreover, instead of boiling the ocean by trying to define a taxonomy for the entire company, select a particular pain point or use of risky procedures or information, and define a workflow for that. “Focus on the user tools that solve users’ frustration with their day-to-day activities,” he says. In addition, identify a single department with a high potential for success to prove the value of extending the ECM across the enterprise.

Think of IT as an information gardener and the user as the seed, says Wynder. “IT can’t control the user’s adoption so much as maximize the conditions for adoption to increase,” he says. IT’s role is to provide the soil, control the weeds, and nourish the environment: provide appropriate access, set limits on where seeds can grow, and provide the information that the seeds need, he says. “You cannot control the growth, but you can control the unwanted growth.”

To start, Wynder offers his GROW acronym:

  • Generate—How do users generate content?
  • Record—Where is the information from that content being recorded?
  • Organize—What is the point of the content?
  • When—Is the information source used again?

Next, instead of asking what the ECM system can do, or what the users want it to do, develop a “strawman” for key users. Within IT, describe a basic process that a user performs, and then give the model to the user to have them poke holes in it. It’s easier for people to find flaws in something that exists rather than defining it from scratch. “‘This is what I think you need. Why am I wrong?’” he asks. If IT is seen as forcing changes, or if the new process is too hard for people to use, they’ll revert to their previous “junk drawer” habit of throwing everything in the same place, he warns.

Wynder is as guilty of this as anyone, he confesses, noting that he has multiple copies of his work on his own computer, as well as copies in several public cloud services—just in case.

ECM success depends on IT’s ability to solve mundane problems. Users spend most of their time doing “barely repeatable processes,” which are similar to each other but have enough differences that they can’t be automated. IT needs to ask users what information they need for these processes, the sources of that information, what they do with it, and where it goes next. This is a “user journey” that describes the process. Then, look for ways to make that process easier.

For example, users are typically willing to work with no more than three levels of data, with up to eight items in each level. Giving users numerous long lists to choose from means they tend to give up and just pick something, Wynder says. It’s because of that logic that the “biggest state” ends up being Alabama. “Digital marketers often solicit information from site visitors who aren’t highly motivated to provide accurate information,” he says. “Hence they select the first option in the ‘State’ drop-down list: AL.”

Finally, instead of finishing the workflow and then thinking you’re done, be prepared to revisit the process periodically. In addition, look for points of commonality to expand the workflow to other users, other departments, and other processes. Much like Agile vs. Waterfall development, workflow development is an iterative process. “Content growth is organic and needs to be constantly re-evaluated for appropriate growth,” Wynder says.

In other words, in the same way as the approaching spring is causing us all to look at the pruning and other maintenance that needs to be done in our gardens, IT needs to be prepared to continue to cultivate workflow processes.

 

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