lego Indiana Jones
Unlike action movies, digital workplaces don't come equipped with screenwriters, roadmaps or MacGuffins PHOTO: Rob Young

Every adventure movie has a MacGuffin: that seldom explained item everyone is chasing that drives the plot forward. Often it is a mythical item that has been lost to time. The Indiana Jones movies are full of them, from the Arc of the Covenant to the ultimate MacGuffin, the Holy Grail.

In the world of information management, we have our own MacGuffin: the digital workplace. 

We hear about organizations that have achieved them, but we face challenges when trying to get there ourselves. This is because digital workplaces look different for every organization and the starting points are never the same. 

To get from where you are now to that fully digital workplace, you need what Indiana Jones always finds: a map.

The Digital Workplace Doesn't Come With a Map

For Indiana Jones, the chase always started when a key item is discovered and the starting point is identified. For the Arc of the Covenant, it was the Staff of Ra and the map room. For the Holy Grail, it was his father’s Grail book and the knight’s crypt in Venice.

Businesses don’t have the luxury of having script writers feeding us answers and moving things along at a brisk pace. Maps are not going to drop out of the sky nor will we stumble across the perfect artifact to point the way. On the other hand, everything we need to know is right in front of us.

Our starting points can be found in our own organizations. The path forward is not hidden in a jungle or eroded away by desert sands. Among our coworkers are experts who can guide us in the right direction. All we need to do is pay attention, ask the right questions and heed what we are told.

Start With the Business Need

The most common point of contention is, “Do we start in IT or with the business?” 

Start with the business. I discussed this in some detail during a recent CMSWire webinar. While hearing IT’s perspective on how systems are used is useful, talking to the people delivering on the organization’s mission is key to understanding what information is used and where it lives.

This involves meeting with every business unit. Not just the managers, but the people doing the day-to-day work. Ask how their workday progresses. How are they measured? What value does their team bring to the larger organization? What tools do they use? How do they interact with the rest of the organization?

This can be a challenge if people feel you are looking to eliminate positions. Convince them your goal is to make their lives easier and their efforts more effective. While it may be a hard sell with some people, if you take the time to listen first, you can speak to their needs effectively.

The next step is the hard one: making sense of it all. Bringing these perspectives into one narrative of how the business works takes working closely with the business and IT. Follow-up discussions are inevitable, as later conversations will reveal questions to ask the initial groups you spoke with. Reconciling what people believe happens with what actually happens is often a challenge.

What This Looks Like in Real Life

How does this look in practice? Here's an example from a former client.

The CIO felt positive all of the organization's key documents were in a single repository. After talking with the business, we discovered the system only stored finalized versions of a few, select content types — the rest lived in the cloud, email and on desktops. Employees felt IT’s system was too cumbersome to effectively collaborate with clients and partners.

Using this discovery, and those gleaned from other key groups, we mapped the current state of information in the organization. It was a larger and more complicated map than any one team previously knew existed. We used this map to create a proposed roadmap, to get them from where they were to where they wanted to go. 

No Magic Required

The road forward may be perilous and reaching agreement on the proper path is often perilous. Even so, any organization can take this approach. Transforming into a purely digital organization can produce significant rewards. It can free staff from repetitive tasks and allow them to innovate and improve relationships with clients and partners.

Never underestimate the value you can gained from automating overhead tasks and freeing people to work more with other people.

Don’t wait for a map to land in your lap. Create it yourself. Identify where you are and how map out how you can improve the flow of information, eliminating timely manual processes.

Be the author and the hero of the story.