Look Before You Leap at the “Easy” Solution

[Originally published on the TeraThink blog]

Artificial canyons created with index cards from a display at the Renwick Museum, DCA common refrain that I hear is the statement, “I need a new content management system.” I often nod in understanding because most organizations have challenges with their current systems. Understanding that you have a problem is a great first step in determining a solution. It is during the second step of the procurement process when organizations introduce problems.

Skipping the Why

Most organizations skip over the why phase. They may automatically define “the why” as their system is broken. This overlooks many possibilities. Was the software implemented correctly? Were people trained? Has the system been maintained? Are there processes in place to modify the system as the organization evolves?

Once when working with a university, I was evaluating their content management needs. They had already Alfresco deployed but their ECM (Enterprise Content Management) project was a failure. As a result, they were considering a new ECM system. It quickly became apparent that the existing system had simple been deployed with minimal training or integration into existing business processes. Any replacement system was likely to face the exact same problem.

That’s why it is important to take the time to assess what the actual problems are and why they exist. It isn’t an exercise that takes months. The core root of a problem becomes obvious after just a little digging around.

Take Time to Assess the Situation

Over the course of my career, half of the assessments I have performed occurred after a purchase. While it is an important first step in planning the rollout of a new system, performing an assessment first yields greater rewards.

It is rare for an existing system to be a complete failure. While it may not be meeting the information governance objectives of the organization, there may be pockets of productivity. Often it becomes clear that a small, non-vocal group, is using the system regularly. Happy users of a system are typically quiet and content. Jumping into a solution leaves those people in a difficult situation. Do you force them to move to a new system when they are already productive? Does IT now need to support two systems?

The Process

Here at TeraThink, we’ve refined the process to make sure that our success is repeatable and setup to succeed. Our process stresses the need to assess a situation and mapping out a plan for moving forward.

For most organizations, we can develop an assessment typically within in four weeks. Those weeks break down into 4 stages:

  1. Conduct initial discovery meetings
  2. Process information and conduct follow-up meetings and deliver initial conclusions
  3. Refine conclusions, complete additional follow-up, and develop solution roadmap
  4. Deliver Assessment Results including key findings, recommendations, suggested roadmap, and financial considerations

Depending on the size and complexity of the organization involved, we can expand or streamline the timeframe. Either way, the core methodology remains intact. The assessment provides enough information for an organization to plan and begin work immediately. The work can also begin months later when the necessary bandwidth to manage the effort is available. It is important to act before too long so that the information in the assessment does not change.

How are You Doing?

Have a content or information problem? Not sure where to start on your information governance initiative? Think you know what the problem is but having trouble defining the full scope or determining the appropriate next steps? Ready to deploy a new ECM system but not sure the correct first steps or if you are starting off by locking into a poor design? Then you probably need an assessment to help you plan for those next steps. Even if you are seeing returns from your current ECM investments, taking the time to evaluate your current situation can guide decisions over the next several years.

We can help you figure that out. I, and my colleagues here at TeraThink, have conducted assessments and implementations for decades. We are well versed in the challenges faced by a variety of organizations. When we finish, you will have a roadmap, in-hand, that you can use to plan your next steps, confident that you are investing in the right areas in the right order.

[Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on the blog of Dominion Consulting. On November 1, 2017, Dominion Consulting merged with TeraThink and are now operating jointly as TeraThink. All blog posts migrated from the Dominion Consulting website have been updated to refer to ourselves as TeraThink.]

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