Advertisers know that the best way to sell a product is to persuade customers to imagine themselves enjoying that experience. Advertisements for sausages don’t list the meat content (and certainly not the fat content). Instead they conjure up the sound of sausages sizzling in the pan, the comfort of traditional cooking as everyone comes into the warm kitchen, out of the rain, safely home from school or work….
Selling an EDRMS
Selling an EDRMS implementation and changes to recordkeeping habits needs to sell the benefits and comforts of an EDRMS and good recordkeeping practices and not the EDRMS and recordkeeping practices themselves.
Successful EDRMS implementations where the roll out is to more than 1000 people are not cheap. This is particularly so if all the external and internal costs of creating and executing viable change management, communication and training strategies are taken into account. To be successful the implementation must have executive level sponsorship and support beyond the mere approval of a budget and a project plan. That means they have to truly believe that the EDRMS project will improve their ‘business’ in terms of productivity or risk.
However, to an executive team, an EDRMS implementation often represents something they know they ‘must do’ but find difficulty in expressing the reasons why beyond some generalisations about but not limited to:
- Reduced duplication of records
- Faster retrieval of information
- Improved information sharing
- Improved capture of email
- Greater security and access control
- Reduced risk of loss of records
- Compliance with key standards and regulations.
None of these reasons are of the type that executives regularly discuss and can easily evaluate. It is a generalisation, but executives tend to worry about positive and negative risks to:
- Financial performance
- Financial assets
- Physical assets
- People – customers and employees
Records managers wanting to get the support of executives therefore have two problems. Firstly, the executives tend not to use the language of recordkeeping and using that language whilst reinforcing the need to ‘do something’ does not make the project urgent or important when compared with other projects under discussion. Secondly, executives cannot express what benefits to the business they are seeking from an EDRMS other than the generality of improved recordkeeping.
Records managers and project managers of an EDRMS implementation have to become adept at questioning executives to help them realise the payoff for utilising EDRMS functionality on business processes.
Questioning should form a process that ensures that four classes of knowledge are ascertained.
The first series of questions to be answered are about the situation that the organisation finds itself in because of poor recordkeeping capability. These questions are about facts only. The answers to these questions may come from system reports, surveys and focus groups rather than only direct questioning of executives.
Questions may include but not be limited to:
- What is the goal of the implementation? (views on this may change as you complete your questioning and analysis)
- How is success to be measure? ROI? Risk reduction? Compliance? (views on this may change as you complete your questioning and analysis)
- How many users will the roll-out include?
- What level of experience do the users have in recordkeeping?
- What level of experience do the users have in using an EDRMS?
- What degree of information sharing is there between business units and how important is it?
- What level of security do we have over our records?
- What degree of information sharing is there with external parties and how important is it?
- What processes rely heavily on an approval process?
- For what processes is it important for us to ensure we have the latest version of a record?
- For what processes is it important to have good security over who can see a record?
- For what processes is it important that all drafts are deleted after the final version is approved?
- What is the cost of storing our hard copy records?
- What processes could benefit by using scanning of records rather than relying on hard copy?
- How many people are involved in storing and retrieving hardcopy records?
The second series of questions are more likely to be those which you may ask an executive. These questions are designed at understanding what problems there are that may be solved by implementing an EDRMS and good recordkeeping practices.
Questions may include but not be limited to:
- What issues do you notice because we do not know what version of a record is the current one?
- What issues do you notice because people can alter a record without knowing what they altered, who altered it and when they altered it?
- What issues are there for the organisation if after we finalise a record, the drafts are still available in shared drives, personal drives and as email attachments?
- What problems does it cause HR, procurement, accounts payable, accounts receivable and property if we cannot find all the documents related for example to a person’s personnel record, contract negotiations, services received, services rendered and building leases?
- What other business units have processes that would be negatively impacted if we cannot find all the records related to a specific set of actions for a particular process?
- What issues does it cause the business units which have lengthy approval/editing processes if we cannot track where in the process a document is?
The third series of questions are designed to delve deeper into the problems caused by not using an EDRMS and or having poor recordkeeping processes to get at the implications of the problem. By the time we get the implications we should be getting to the language executives understand and can easily deal with.
Questions follow on from the ‘problem’ questions and may include but not be limited to:
- What would it mean to the business if draft copies of some processes surrounding the creation of policy or decisions related to customers or investment decisions were discovered in a freedom of information search?
- What is the implication to our workers’ compensation self-insurance status if we cannot find the relevant records for the audit? How much time could we save if we could relate all the records so that when we found one, we found them all?
- What happens when lengthy approval processes get stuck along the way because someone is away or very busy? Are there any approval processes where this might be of serious detriment to the organisation and if so what is the level and type of detriment we are talking about?
- What happens when we are managing large contracts and we cannot be sure we have the latest version of contracts, specifications or other documents we sue to control the execution of the contract?
We may need to investigate particular processes further to get the true implications of using shared folders and poor recordkeeping practices by talking not only to executives but to the people who actually do the work. It is normal for executives to have a sense of importance and the general implications for a particular process but the people who execute the process day in day out are more likely to know the detailed implications and flow on effects for other processes.
The fourth and last series of questions are designed to get the person being questioned to think about what the true benefits of an EDRMS and good recordkeeping practices are beyond the generalities they may have started with. They follow the sequence of questions already asked. They may include questions like but not be limited to:
- What benefits are there to our reputation in being able to ensure that all drafts are deleted when records are finalised?
- What are the benefits to the organisation in retaining our workers’ compensation self-insurance status?
- What is the benefit of being able to track where an approval process is and who needs to promulgate it any given day?
- What incidents in the past in managing contracts could have been prevented if we were able to find the latest versions of all records relating to a contract? What costs would have been saved? Could the incident have been worse than it was?
- What would be the benefits to the organisation if all of our records related to personnel were secure and were the latest versions and we had an audit trail of who looked at or edited the record?
- What does it mean for accounts payable if we can find all the records to do with each purchase with one search and can search on vendor, invoice number, purchase order number, date ordered, date paid, authorised signatory, contract number or any other metadata we think appropriate.
One of the key outcomes of this series of questioning and the prior questioning is to get the implications and benefits in the terms of the executive.
You may need to complete some analysis at this point including risk and financial analysis, to quantify not only the benefits of using an EDRMS and good recordkeeping practices but also the return on investment in an EDRMS and training and change programs that go with its implementation. If return on investment is not the favoured measure some simple questioning of your executive during situational questioning will have found that out too.
Putting it all together
It may take several weeks to ask all of these types of questions and to follow a questioning string to go from understanding the general situation to uncovering some problems with current recordkeeping practices to determining the implications of those problems to finally determining the benefits of solving those problems. It is also clear that the questions should be asked of different people. This is a question model for the organisation, not an individual, per se.
There are a few rules for following this process. Although the process is somewhat iterative, ask situation questions first. Don’t ask problem questions until you have clearly understood the situation. By the time you are asking implication type questions there should be little in the way of situation questions left to ask. Leave benefits questions to the absolute last.
You should now have information you use to create a compelling presentation to your executives, some of which they have contributed to. The presentation may follow the form:
- What is our current situation with regard to keeping of records; who, what, where, when, how and even why?
- What problems do we experience with our current level of recordkeeping, what are they, who gets impacted and what behaviours and or situation do we have to change to fix the problem?
- What are the implications for the organisation if the problems are not fixed? The implications will those that are important to the executive and their people, not us
- What are the benefits of fixing the problems we have with recordkeeping? These benefits will be expressed in the mindset of the executive and their people not ours. The measures we use will also be those the executive favours rather those we think are important.
At the end of this process both you and your executive will understand more about why you are doing this, what is required and what the benefits being sought after are. You will also be talking about business improvement through better recordkeeping instead of just better recordkeeping. You will be selling the sizzle instead of the sausage.