2014-14-July-Obstacle-Course.jpgI get the opportunity to speak with hundreds of folks a year about managing information at organizations, and probably the most common requirement I hear is, information management needs to be easy and user friendly -- if users have to do anything more difficult than what they do now, it will fail.

It’s difficult to formulate a response to this request (or even keep a straight face). The idea that somehow you could go from managing corporate information horribly to managing it well and have it be perceived by end users as easy is pretty astounding.

Before all the UI/UX folks out there break out the pitchforks and torches, let me explain what I mean and why.

One of Four Pillars

To appreciate why information management can’t be easy, it’s important to fully understand the centrality of information management to an organization. No matter the size or industry, organizations only do four things: manage financial assets, manage physical assets, manage human assets and manage information assets. So when we talk about optimizing a firm’s information management people, process and technology, we’re talking about impacting one of the pillars of the organization, not some ancillary function or capability.

Can you imagine a large manufacturing organization in the midst of transforming its approach to supply chain management requiring that the transformation be perceived by end users as easy and user friendly? Or that an organization considering the adoption of an ERP system like SAP or Oracle would base their decision on what end users thought? Absolutely not, for two reasons:

  • The impact to operations will be too profound to expect that user experience could remain positive/net neutral -- at least in the near term
  • The expected benefits to the organization are great enough to merit imposing the change management burden on users and the wider organization

Would we really expect migrating off shared drives and onto an enterprise content management platform like SharePoint to be seamless, user friendly, or easy? Remember, you’re asking users who today essentially expend zero effort on document lifecycle hygiene (version control, check in check out, tagging, file naming conventions, etc.) to expend a level of effort greater (and often much greater) than zero tomorrow -- and that will never be perceived by users as easy and will therefore always require effective change management to be successful.

Don Draper Found HR Too Difficult

I often use the example of the evolution of HR in the last half of the twentieth century as an analogy for where information management needs to go.