As mentioned in a previous blog in regards to email integration, we just finished a prototype/proof of concept initiative for a manufacturing client looking at content management and specifically Alfresco for the first time. This initiative reminded me of common mistakes made during this phase I have seen when planning any content management system (Alfresco or Documentum). In this blog, I thought I would highlight how we avoid falling into these pitfalls.
“If you build it, they will come”, while catchy, isn’t always true
The key for any content management initiative is to involve the knowledge worker in the process. Users play a key role in determining the success or failure of any content management initiative. Generally speaking, knowledge workers do not have to use the system. They have access to email, LAN drives, SharePoint and many other ad hoc tools they will choose to use to work on content. Engaging them in the process will help mitigate the risk that they will not use the system you are building.
Think “Outside of the Box” but don’t get stuck in the “Out of the Box” rut
It is not uncommon for IT to take the reins of a content management initiative and assume they know the best solution and “consult” the business late in the process. They often coin their system with phrases like “Pure Out-of-the-Box”, “You must change your process to fit the tool”, “We are outsourcing development”. Rather than take this hardnosed approach, the business and IT should collaboratively think outside of the box and determine how the tool can work for them not the other way around. Most successful implementations are derived from early prototyping to define meaningful system configurations, add-ons or smart customizations. IT alone cannot drive this process.
Too many cooks in the kitchen can be a recipe for failure
We’ve stressed the importance of IT and business working together; however, it is also important you select the correct representatives from IT and business to participate. A common mistake is to involve too many people early in the process and try to design a system with this large group. This approach often slows the process down for many reasons: unable to reach consensus, group think, focus on atypical situations and personal agendas to name a few. A more successful team has a focused membership of experts (IT and business) that represent the organization from a broader perspective rather than just their area. Once this group has determined a direction, the proposed solution can be taken to a larger body of people for review.
Lose the arrogance and gain humility
From our perspective, the business and IT have a love-hate relationship. Clearly, one can’t exist without the other; however, it is hard for either side to completely trust one another. Just like building trust in any relationship, arrogance will not get you very far. IT should avoid throwing out aggressive sayings to the user community when trying to build their trust. The quickest way to build trust with the user community is to demonstrate that you are listening to their issues, and for many clients, providing justification in spending their money. Don’t assume you understand their process but rather pay attention and adjust the approach based on what you hear. This can be done through iterative development which will builds trust in not only the system but those required to use it.
Users make the best salespeople
We’ve found if you engage the user community correctly through the planning and design process, you have a greater chance of success when you roll out the system. Key users can act as cheerleaders of the system; however, this enthusiasm must be sincere. By establishing user ownership early in the process, users will feel they were an integral role in implementing the system and advocate its use better than any training manual or memo.