Why is it so difficult for governments to implement an enterprise-wide EDRMS (Electronic Document/Records Management System)? Despite having the technology for years, few organizations have been able to deploy these systems to achieve true recordkeeping compliance.
There are three fundamental reasons for this lacklustre track record to date:
- Culture: Insufficient emphasis is placed on developing the underlying business culture needed to support the disruptive change instigated by EDRMS deployment.
- Governance proficiency: Once built and deployed, someone has to “drive” these systems. Complex EDRMS systems are difficult to truly master to the level needed for proper pre-implementation design, or for the sustained care and feeding they require once implemented.
- Measures: Vague descriptions of the benefits of good information management will not tell you if the system is complying with your recordkeeping requirements. Well-defined, measurable key performance indicators are essential to proving compliance, ongoing health and overall success of an EDRMS system.
EDRMS systems are absolutely essential to achieve recordkeeping compliance, but are extremely disruptive to users. They are a very different place to store documents. It takes more time and effort to store documents. Things are organized differently. There are new rules to follow. Documents are even deleted. No wonder most users resist this disruptive change.
And therein lies the principle challenge to successful implementation – user adoption.
In reality, these systems are easy to implement successfully, as long as sufficient resources are applied to the non-technology side of the implementation project. This means the people, the organization and the governance principles. The first level of change is the people (attitudes, roles) and policies (decisions, rules of conduct). Then business procedures can be altered to accommodate the changed rules and policies. Finally, the technology can be fitted to the new business procedures, which in turn reflect the underlying policies and rules.
The following six “must-do’s” will go a long way to help ensure user adoption and recordkeeping compliance is achieved:
1. Make the tough decisions. There are roughly 20 significant business decisions needed before the software is installed. These will drive software configuration and behaviour, and ultimately determine the nature of the end user experience. For example, will email and documents be automatically deleted? If so, which ones, when and how?
2. Change the RIM perception. Create a business environment that values Records and Information Management, which will ultimately increase users’ perceived value of RIM. This will in turn support the additional effort needed for user adoption.
3. Measure relentlessly. Measure the three EDRMS key performance indicators, and measure them often. React before they slip out of range. They are Qualification (which documents should be treated as records), Declaration (how many documents are being managed as records), and Classification Accuracy (what percentage of records are correctly classified).
4. Management engagement. Support is not enough. Senior management must be actively engaged from design through to permanent implementation. This ensures that the necessary organizational change will happen, and is a positive influence on user adoption.
5. Ensure governance proficiency. Someone has to see to it that the system is designed and built to meet compliance requirements. Once implemented, someone has to ensure ongoing compliance and continuously monitor system health. This is not an IT function – it is an information governance function. Ensure the person(s) responsible have the skills, know-how, and confidence they’ll need to take full responsibility for this system on a permanent basis.
6. Build an acceptable user experience. Some inevitable degree of end-user effort is required to achieve the needed level of participation; not everything can be automated away. This effort is mostly on the input side: getting documents into the system as well-defined records. The output side, retrieving documents, is a joy for most users; however, everyone needs to make a small investment of effort each time they put a document into the system. Build customized document ingestion methods and techniques that minimize this effort, while maintaining the overhead burden required for recordkeeping compliance.
As a general rule of thumb, these must-do’s should consume a minimum of two thirds of the effort and resources of any modern EDRMS system implementation. In doing so, the odds of a successful implementation, defined by user adoption, compliance with requirements, and proven performance against qualitative measures, is virtually assured.
Bruce Miller, president of RIMtech, is an author, educator, consultant and industry thought leader on electronic recordkeeping (www.rimtech.ca).