We are often engaged by our clients to help them develop a strategy for managing their information.
It should go without saying that understanding the information requirements means understanding the business.
Being a consultant does not mean having a cursory conversation and then magically producing a boilerplate strategy out of your back pocket.
Being a good consultant means…well, it means consulting, and then applying your knowledge in the unique context of the organisation you’re working with.
Understanding this context means spending time talking to people, not only those at the top with the ‘vision’ but also spending time with those on the ‘frontline’ who deal with the day to day and who make the organisation tick. These are often the ones who suffer the most from poor information management, wasting time looking for the information they need, redoing work or relying on out of date or inaccurate information.
Gaining this overview right across the business – understanding how it works and the constituent entities that make up the domain (to go all information architecture speak) gives valuable insight and often gives us a better view of the enterprise than those within it.
Only by doing this can you then understand the business, how information management can help and what the strategy should be.
An invaluable by-product of the time spent talking to people is that you have started one of the crucial aspects of the strategy implementation before it is even written – change management. Talking to people means that you have already started engagement and staff will be more willing to accept change and act on it if they feel their concerns and issues have been listened to and are being addressed.
It really is good to talk.
Managing your information, and implementing a system to do it, is a complex task with many knots that need to be unravelled and it takes time to get it right.
All too often the focus of a project implementing such a solution is on getting it done rather than doing it right. Too much effort is spent moving the projects through various gateways rather than spending time on actually thinking through what needs to be done.
Information management systems such as SharePoint too often founder and ultimately fail to deliver the desired benefits because of this. Typically a system is rolled out successfully (i.e. on time) but it quickly degrades and information chaos ensues leaving users frustrated, information difficult to find and impossible to manage. In all likelihood you’ll end up with another project to put it right in a couple of years.
This situation can been avoided.
Proper thought must be given to understanding where you are and what you information landscape looks like. How can you build a system to manage your information if you don’t know what you’re intending to manage?
You must develop an information strategy so you know what you want to achieve and how you are going to go about it.
You must take time to design an information architecture that meets the needs of your users. This is vital to enable you to organise, describe and link information and the key to the efficient and effective use and management of your information.
And don’t forget about putting in place governance – without support, oversight and nurturing your nice new system will quickly end up a chaotic mess.
Remember that rolling out a system that meets a deadline doesn’t mean that you have a successful solution.
Think, plan, design – don’t just ‘do’.