Starting With a Clean (IM) Slate

March 30th, 2016

It’s not every day that you get the opportunity to start with a clean slate. I specialize in Information Management (IM) and the strong majority of my clients already have some “systems” in place: ECM systems, file shares with hierarchical folder structures, systems for managing physical records, portal solutions, cloud document management solutions, etc. etc. By the time I am asked to get involved, a client is usually in trouble or can see trouble on the horizon. (And by “trouble”, I mean all of the issues related to information chaos – low efficiency, wasted time, duplicated effort, lost documents, legal and regulatory risk, etc.) To quote the TV show Scandal, I am a fixer. I help my clients get their arms around their structured/unstructured content, develop a path forward, and start to make sense of the information chaos in order get on with what they actually want to do.

Lately I have been thinking about what life would be like if that wasn’t the case. What if I could help an organization start with a clean (IM) slate? What if I was there from the ground up to help them keep their content organized from the get-go? What would I do first? Would I lead with governance? Or technology? Would I recommend a big-bucket-and-enterprise-search-tool approach or a build-a-detailed-taxonomy-and-classify-everything approach? Would I try to find one vendor with a lot of tools, or engage with multiple vendors and their best of breed solutions? I find it fascinating to dream about all of the opportunities that I could explore in the fictitious clean slate world. I am very clear on my strategy for clients who already have some systems in place (even if only a file share), but what if I could start from ground zero? With an organization that doesn’t have any content yet? An organization that is just a twinkle in the founder’s eye?

With a clean slate, I would suggest having just enough control over information and how it is classified that something like an enterprise search tool could be effectively maximized, but not so much control that employees resist using it because they hate tagging everything to the nth degree. This means that there would need to be some formal governance around what content goes where and how it is organized, but not a strictly controlled environment.I would also make sure that the tools are suited for the work environment.I have seen a lot of organizations struggle with implementing a traditional ECM system where everything is locked behind a firewall and employees need/want to look at content on their phones/devices while they aren’t in the office. And, of course, I would consider security. I firmly stand behind the “open by design, closed by exception” principle and would push to make sure that is a principle.

What would you do with a clean slate?

Written by Tara Dragon, PMP, CIP