It’s a really good question. When you have so many different departments involved in setting system requirements, how easy is it to make sure everyone comes out with the same understanding of what the system should actually do? All too often, team members from IT, legal, HR, finance, Records Management and others, come away with different expectations.

So, the even better question that the speaker at the ARMA International Conference explored was "What can we do to make sure we have the same expectations of what the project will deliver?"

Steve Goodfellow from Access Systems Consulting shared some lessons he has learned through multiple consulting engagements.

Implementing a CMS is Complex

Enterprise content management systems are broad in scope, and by nature, affect multiple parts of the organization. The implementations are complex, and different departments are likely to have contradictory goals. One good example? Collaborative work spaces. Business units are quick to adopt these tools in order to enhance the project team’s productivity. However, Legal/compliance and Records Management will want to make sure the appropriate controls are in place to ensure the records management requirements are implemented.

The speaker admitted there aren’t any silver bullets to magically make such issues disappear. But, there are lots of things a project team can do to increase the odds of a successful ECM implementation. Though simple in concept, they can establish a good foundation for a successful project team.

Tips for CMS Implementations

Tip #1

Clarify the meaning of terms being used in the project. Even with common everyday items, we all use different terms. Picture a bottle of a carbonated soft drink -- do you call it soda? Cola? Coke? Soft drink? Imagine how much more complicated it becomes when we are using terms such as archive. If you are a records manager or archivist, you are probably thinking of a storage location to keep records. If you are from IT, you are probably thinking of moving data to nearline or offline storage. Discuss the various meanings of retention, record, taxonomy so the goals of the ECM are clearly understood.

Tip #2

Understand the stakeholders in the project, what they want to achieve and what challenges they face. IT wants to provide a service, but is often faced with tools that are increasingly complex and difficult to keep “up to speed.” Department heads have organizational goals to meet. Legal has an increasingly complex array of regulations and litigation requirements and can’t always provide quick and easy answers.

Tip #3

Pay specific attention to change management throughout the project. Change is hard for everyone, especially when times are tough and nobody has enough time, resources, or staff. Sometimes the communication message boils down to “just do it.” But you can be more successful if you distribute accurate information throughout the project.

Even if you are busy working behind the scenes, people won’t know about it if you don’t tell them. They may think the project has been abandoned. Celebrate early wins and publicly recognize early adopters. Provide reasons to change, explain the new benefits and have the early adopters share the successes.

Tip #4

Align your project with other programs and initiatives. This demonstrates the importance of the project and helps to avoid mixed messages. Make sure others understand how your project helps the company to be more successful.

Tip #5

Utilize a network of coordinators to implement records management requirements. Goodfellow identified this as a key success factor in ECM implementations. Records coordinators can be good champions for the project and can help everyone understand their business operations better.

Tip #6

Find ways to recognize the efforts of early adopters. They are naturally motivated by recognition. So whether it’s a matter of crowning an “early adopter of the year” or handing out movie tickets or gift cards. Recognition matters.

Setting a common understanding between the different partners at the beginning of an ECM project is key. Once you have a common understanding, it will be easier to wrangle the issues of setting system requirements, developing project schedules, and dealing with the impact of the unexpected!

About the Author

Diane Carlisle, CRM is the Director, Professional Resources of ARMA International. She can be reached at diane.carlisle@armaintl.org.