Planning for EDRMS implementation (or any business system implementation, really, that needs to manage information as an asset) October 23, 2013
Our wonderful EDRMS implementers group met again recently and they are such an inspiring bunch of people, doing great and challenging things across NSW government to manage core government business information.
At our meeting this time we focussed on planning for system implementation. Our focus was on EDRMS implementation but really, the lessons learned are applicable to any system implementation.
Jacques Comarmond from Government Property NSW led our discussions and shared so many valuable lessons learned with the group. Many of the insights that follow come directly from Jacques’ presentation and the animated discussion that followed. Thank you Jacques, for being so willing to share all your insights and experiences with us!
Now this is a long post with lots of recommended steps (19!!!) and so it may make system implementation appear a little daunting. Remember however that system implementation is scalable. If you are deploying a tiny system in a small area, the work you would do on each of these steps would be minimal. If however you are doing a whole of organisation system deployment like Jacques, it must be acknowledged that this is a very complex, multi-faceted project that deserves at least 19 steps.
And here they are, and they do apply for all forms of business system implementation:
Step 1: Know your business
To successfully implement a system, first of all you need to know your organisation. What does it do, who does it deal with, who are the stakeholders? What business operations and processes will the system be required to support? What information is critical for the business, the staff and the stakeholders? What information is currently there? What information should be there but isn’t? What current processes are in place? What risks exist?
This initial assessment is critical and you will continually reference back to you as you progress with your system planning, development and implementation, so take your time and do this initial planning well and be very honest and realistic in your assessments.
Step 2: Get a sponsor
For your project to succeed you need a serious sponsor. Someone with power and influence and a genuine interest and enthusiasm for the work you are doing. Particularly for a whole of organisation EDRMS implementation, you will need significant organisational support and investment for the levels of cultural change required. A powerful sponsor or champion will help you to drive this degree of change.
Step 3: Identify constraints and assumptions
This step really involves fully understanding the environment you are operating in. Are there any technological considerations or limitations you need to consider in your planning? How do staff currently work – remotely, via mobile devices, using paper-based processes? What kind of appetite does your organisation have for change management? What are lessons learned from other similar projects? Can inhouse business, ICT or records and information management support be leveraged or might external expertise be required? What are strategies to minimise or effectively work within the different constraints you identify?
Step 4: Can we just use SharePoint or another existing business system?
Are there existing organisational platforms that can do what you want to do? Even if you already believe that these tools will not provide the governance or functionality you need, assessing and benchmarking them will give you good information to share with others in your organisation about what you believe your system will enable, existing risks that might be in place and justifications for why change is necessary.
Step 5: Develop a business case
This step requires you to think in broad, organisational terms. Management and the Chief Executive of your organisation are interested in return on investment (ROI). They want to see real and tangible and preferably financial benefits from the work you are doing. So what are ways you can calculate the ROI for your system? What genuine benefits will it bring to your organisation?
Step 6: Select a system
All the preliminary work you have done will help you to know exactly what you need a system to do, so use this work to help identify which specific system you need. Organise lots of vendor presentations and talk to vendors about your specific needs and scenarios. Try to get a really good understanding of how your needs can and will be met by the specific systems you are looking at.
Step 7: Once you have decided on your system, define exactly what it needs to achieve
Once you have your system, engage directly with relevant staff and users and define the real guts and functionality that your business needs, things like:
- what is the business objective of the system?
- what information governance requirements and frameworks need to be in place?
- what metadata, data structures and classification frameworks will best enable business flows and the creation and management of effective, useful information?
- how can necessary and routine information management processes such as regular authorised destruction and security management be best and most efficiently enabled?
- can multiple forms and formats of information be ingested into the system and linked together in a transaction?
- what reporting needs to be enabled?
- how will users interact with the system?
- what will make life easy for users and what user considerations will really facilitate business processes?
- what workflows and tracking can and should be enabled?
- what other business needs can the system meet?
- are there ways to repurpose and share information in the system? How should this be enabled?
- do any access controls need to be enabled? Can all users see and interact with all aspects of the system or do some users have privileged access and how then does this function?
- are any naming conventions or classifications or encoding schemes useful for standardisation, reporting, management and ease of use?
- what rights do users have in the system? Can all users implement all forms of functionality or will control over some processes be limited or centralised?
- do existing paper records or processes need to be integrated and how will this be achieved?
- do contractors or external service providers require access to the system at all and how can this be enabled?
- is additional technology, such as scanners or upgraded operating systems required to maximise the effectiveness of the system?
- how can the system operate as a single or definitive source of truth and business knowledge and continuity?
- is interaction or integration with other business systems required? How can this be enabled?
- is interaction with mobile devices required?
- how can the system be designed to support information continuity and sustainability? How can core, long term business information in the system be identified and supported through future business transitions?
- how can you document all your decisions, your configurations, your metadata, workflows and permissions?
- what data and information will need to be imported into your system and how will this process be managed, documented and verified?
Use all of these discussions to start building, configuring and populating your system.
Step 8: Get a few champions in key business areas
Now start showing your evolving system to a few key staff. You have put all this effort in, now you need to start demonstrating to the business the possible returns on investment.
By initially showing the system to a few potential power users and showing them how the system can integrate with and assist with their specific daily operations, you can start to develop an influential user base. Show these power users more functionality and capacity that you would otherwise. Particularly emphasise improved information accessibility functionality that the system enables because limitations on information accessibility and the difficulty in locating a ‘single source of truth’ can cause daily frustrations for many staff.
Step 9: Really, really understand your current state
Look now at your surrounding business environment. Is staff use of network and shared drives going to limit information flows in your new business system? How are related business systems storing and managing their information? Will your system provide a single source of truth and business information or will other environments need to change or be adapted to enable this?
With EDRMS implementations, there are many tools now that can perform powerful searches across shared drives or network environments and identify the core records in these environments that should be migrated to the EDRMS and identify which other records are duplicates and can therefore be duplicated. Deploying tools like these can help you to get control over share drive environments, populate your EDRMS with important business information and then potentially progress to a shut down of network environments and use of a collaborative EDRMS-based workspace instead.
How will change be accepted in your organisation? Will some business areas need more support than others? Are you likely to encounter resistance in some areas? Is a big bang or a slower, phased implementation likely to lead to a more successful system implementation?
Understanding your current state also encompasses understanding technological infrastructures. Will more servers be required to support your new system? Is greater bandwidth or more infrastructure required for regional access?
What future-state should potentially all your systems and information flows be working towards in both the short and medium terms? How can the work you are doing be leveraged to continue to improve business and information many years down the track?
In addition, all business areas have some kind of information related issue that needs resolving, an issue that touches or annoys or inconveniences staff. This issue can be big or small but if you can find it and resolve it, you will greatly increase the user acceptability of your system.
Step 10: Respect that change needs to be managed really, really well
Now your development and assessment work is initially done, all your hopes and dreams now hinge on user uptake and use of the system so it is critical that your transition to your new system is handled very, very well.
Step 11: Develop an implementation checklist
Based on everything you have researched and identified, put together an initial checklist to guide you on the next implementation phases of your project.
What do you need to do, have in place, communicate and monitor in order to translate all your hard work and collaboration into a useable and useful business implementation? This however will be an evolving checklist so always be prepared to refine and update it in response to staff and business needs.
Step 12: Get an implementation project team together and then plan, communicate and train
You and your project team, which should involve your sponsor and relevant stakeholders including ICT, should now develop a project plan to guide your system implementation. Update this project plan regularly. It is an active document that may need to shift and change as your implementation environment shifts and changes around you.
You and your team should also develop a communication plan for all relevant staff to inform them about what exactly is going on and how it will impact on and benefit their operations.
You must also consider specific training needs. Will different types and levels of training be needed by system administrators, by ICT technical support staff, by super users, by regular business users? Staff members like executive assistants could potentially be power users of your system and provide the connection to ensure high level documentation and decision making is captured into your system. Can specific training for potential power users like these be developed? Are other specific training programs needed by particular business units?
Make sure you incorporate your training and communication strategies into your project plan.
Step 13: Develop lots and lots of user advice
To support your training strategy, develop all the user advice you can. Consider things like:
- what kinds of user guides will be most useful?
- do online training guides and resources need to be supported with small hard copy desk guides and reminders of key functionality?
- what types of step by step screenshots of specific actions will best support different staff?
- can different workflows, processes and information management requirements be developed for different business areas to deliver them very helpful and specific system guidance?
- what cheat sheets and summary advice will be of most use to different business areas?
- will certain areas need a lot more practical guidance than others?
- are there certain universal workflows like ministerials that all areas will benefit from understanding?
Those who have been through large scale EDRMS implementations estimate that 60% of the project’s ultimate success is determined directly by people management so make sure you factor relationship building and user support into every aspect of your implementation.
Step 14: Set up a training database
A sandpit or training environment can be an excellent space for users to test a new system without fear of damaging or destroying anything.
This space can also enable you to test the functionality you might have deployed, from access controls, to destruction rules etc.
It can also help you to test and assess user interfaces and have discussions around use and user acceptability, conversations which can ultimately really help to improve the use and business value of your system.
Step 15: Do any last minute modifications and undertake any necessary data migration
Now is your last chance to make your system as good as it can be and the information within it as well managed and robust as you can.
Remember however, that the user experience will often come down to configuration. You may need to compromise on some of your system objectives in order to achieve the optimal user experience.
Step 16: Ensure that technical support is available when you need it
Ensure ICT staff understand the system and can assist with any technical issues that arise or, alternatively, make sure that processes are in place to enable you to access external technical support when you need it.
Step 17: Set your system free and relax!
Implement your system and sit back and relax!
Actually, a physical presence in business areas where the new system is being rolled out, at the time of roll out can make a huge difference to your project success. Just walking around, being on the ground, answering questions and providing advice as users actually encounter new issues can immediately resolve many issues and rapidly increase user acceptance.
Step 18: Then realise of course that it is actually never over
User training actually goes on forever. It will be an iterative and often repeated process but this kind of ongoing support can often be necessary to have a high functioning and broadly accepted business system.
This ongoing training does not need to be massive. Support just needs to be patient, prepared for hand holding and a lot of repetition.
Soon also people will start to realise that they can use your system in new and cool ways. They will start to understand how it can interact with other areas of their operations and how they can leverage it and its information in new and interesting ways. These revelations and subsequent conversations can potentially lead you to useful system refinements, extensions and integrations that can further improve business operations.
Step 19: Plan for the end at the beginning
Finally, we all know that technology does not last forever. Your glorious new system will one day become a legacy system and the information it contains will need to be managed through this transition.
So start to plan for this now. What information within the system is core and will need to be managed into the future? What metadata is integral to the ongoing use, understanding and accountability of this information? What information about your beautiful system will be important to sustain and keep as accountability and context for your business information that will need to outlive the system? For instance, for high risk business processes, should you keep records of your workflows, user permissions, audit trails etc? Recordkeeping about your system, as much as recordkeeping for the information within your system can be really critical, so consider what your specific needs are.
And those are the lessons learned!
Please do contribute any additional insights you have on these issues and thanks again to the wonderful EDRMS implementers group, in particular Jacques and also Susan Jay from Fire and Rescue NSW, Matthew Platt from the Office of Environment and Heritage and Renee Briggs from the Sydney Catchment Authority for always so willingly sharing their knowledge on this issue.