Documents Out of Control?

Would you agree to undergo brain surgery from a dentist?  “Why not? They are a doctor, right?”  Unfortunately, we see Project Managers using this logic when it comes to planning a Document Management program.

Saying a dentist can perform brain surgery because he is a doctor is the same as saying, “We’ll have our Administrative Assistant/Project Coordinator handle the Document Management”.  This comparison is not meant to degrade the skills of dentist or administrative assistants, but it is statements like these which indicate that management may want to rethink their strategy to better understand what good looks like when it comes to effective Document Management.

The discipline of Document Management has evolved due in part to the growing complexity of projects and technology available to create efficiencies.  It is no wonder that law firms employ library science graduates to fill their ranks.  Like most technology advancements, Document Management Software (DMS) has moved far beyond the drag and drop file folder structures of yesterday.

There are numerous software applications available that have dynamic features and a myriad of benefits.  In addition to all the software options available, there are few if any training courses to use this software effectively with the Document Management processes.

To make matters more challenging, the end-users are still comfortable with what they have grown used to, drag-and-drop, thumb drives, and their own organic, convenient “systems” where valuable project files are treated as is if they were their own.  Unfortunately, old behaviors and group cultures are difficult to change.  The value proposition to the end user for learning new systems and new technology for Document Management processes is rarely effectively articulated, endorsed, or appropriately budgeted by management.

The lack of a solid Document Management strategy and policy also indicates that the project management team may not understand the value of Document Management and the increasing risks of not having an effective strategy.  With budgets tighter and timelines compressing, avoiding a more experienced and dedicated role to save money rarely turns out well.  Having the same person book flights AND file technical and legal project documents like contract correspondence and Requests For Information (RFIs) creates a conflict of priorities.  These are two different tasks, and we know that booking flights is easier and typically more urgent. Storing a technical document requires focus and training to be coded with the correct attributes so it can be easily located when needed.  Unfortunately, the low-budget tactic of not using a skilled technician to set-up and administer an increasingly complex environment will cost an organization more in hidden costs such as rework, litigation, team efficiency and effectiveness than any monies saved.

Join us as we dive deeper into the hidden costs of an ineffective Document Management System through another series of posts.  In many ways, the project Document Control story arc can be compared to the evolutions of procurement, quality, and risk management as critical disciplines.  What is the value of an effective procurement department?  What is the value of an effective document management program?  We will unpack some of these questions in future postings regarding the hidden costs.

The possibilities are endless.

Written by John F. Gravel