Doorknock Dinners

Though I find Gordon Elliott thoroughly irritating, I like the idea behind his show, Doorknock Dinners. The basic premise is taking what you already have and creating something that’s better than the sum of its parts. To a very great degree the same can be done when deploying information management solutions.

Far too many organizations don’t understand what they have in their cupboards. So off they go and procure some massively expensive ECM tools and then try and build out an Enterprise grade solution and fall flat on their faces. This is exacerbated, in many cases, by not having an understanding of what the end result is even supposed to look like and by not knowing what internal capabilities (skills & tools) they already possess.

I was having lunch yesterday with some guys that are in the early stages of a project to implement physical records management. They identified some issues related to manually loading records metadata into the tool they had recently acquired. The issues include:

  1. Users don’t like the UI of the new tool;
  2. Remote users sometimes get disconnected and don’t know which was the last successful transaction;
  3. Some remote users work on a different cycle.

The initial thinking on the part of management was to spend time and effort to build an application solely to allow users to input the metadata (in real-time) and be assured that what they entered actually got in. My lunch companions didn’t give me hard numbers, but my guess is that the estimates came out to around 4-6 weeks of full-time effort for a consultant to build this tool. In addition to building the custom tool, effort would be required every time there was a patch or upgrade to the tool they had recently purchased.

My question to them was simply “How are you capturing metadata today?” As it turns out they already have a db tool that they use to capture the metadata. The tool works and is accepted by the users. They have the skills in-house to modify and maintain the tool. The new RM tool has batch loading capabilities. Their current tool can output metadata batches which can be loaded into the new tool. The incremental effort to modify their current tool and test the batch loading would be less than one week with no external consulting required. Any updates/patches/upgrades to the tool they recently purchased would have zero impact.

My point is that it’s all well and good to go out and buy new tools and engage consultants. Before you do so, however, understand what your current capabilities are.

I Don’t Care

I don’t care about retention and disposition. I care about preserving stories for future generations. I care about making information accessible. I care about holding governments and corporations accountable. I care about making sound business decisions.

I don’t care about metadata. I care about letting people find the right information for their purposes. I care about being presented with information that is meaningful to me.

I don’t care about any buzz-phrase that includes the word engagement. I care about actually connecting with my customers, peers, co-workers, etc. in a way that is meaningful.

I don’t care about ECM. I care about solving business problems. I care about innovating to make my company better. I care about building a compelling portal and/or website. I care about getting my stuff done in the easiest, most efficient way possible. I care about meeting my legal, professional, and social obligations.

I don’t care about social-whatever. I care about finding people and information that can give me the answer.

I don’t care about what you call it, what you call yourselves, or any of your buzz words and acronyms. I care about what you can do to help me.

I was going to title this post “I Don’t Care Anymore”, but that would risk me being perceived as a Phil Collins fan. And, as far as I am concerned, he pretty much blew as a solo artist.

Big Data? Big Whoop.

Big Data? Big Whoop!

Over the past couple of days I’ve been seeing a number of posts and tweets about Biiiiig Dataaaaaaa (ring announcer voice in my head)! What is “Big Data”? Check out the definition in this executive summary; or as I and others like to say, “It’s as big as a piece of string is long”. I certainly understand the idea behind “Big Data”, but do we really need a new term for something that, let’s face it, isn’t new at all?

In a comment to this post I used the phrase “E2.0 meets BI”. To be more accurate I should have said “E2.0 fuels BI”. This whole “Big Data” thing is nothing more than reporting and analytics, but with more data than we had before. Those of us who have a stake in the BI domain have often wished for more raw data on which to base our decisions. Now that we have it, and are getting more of it every second, we’re freaking out and giving one or more major vendors in the space an opportunity to define something new. Two things, and only two things, have really changed:

  1. The available amount of raw data is way beyond what it was only a short time ago;
  2. The Cloud and SaaS jeopardize access to some of the raw data.

If you’ve got the resources (i.e.: $’s) dealing with #1 one is a matter of scaling. Dealing with #2 is tougher, especially if any of your data sources are not entirely under your control (Cloud, SaaS). The challenge, however, is not insurmountable:

  • Rationalize your requirements and identify what is absolutely critical to your business (i.e.: leave the “it’s just cool” stuff out or defer for later);
  • If you rely on hosted data sources negotiate appropriate access and up-time agreements;
  • Find out if your hosted providers can provide some of the ETL for you;
  • Trim your datasets where possible;
  • Identify your true timing requirements (real-time, near-real-time, periodic);
  • If you have retention / disposition policies on your data sources, enforce them; if not, define and enforce them.

The funny thing is, when I made my living in BI projects, 5 of the 6 points noted above where standard things we did. Maybe nothing really has changed all that much, other than my segue into RIM. Oh well.

Process Definition – A Little Help

Taking a pointer from Laurence Hart, I’ve decided to post something that people can (I hope) actually use in their projects.

Over the last few weeks there’s been lots of “material” about process management / definition / modeling that has caught my attention. So, I am going to do my little bit by simply putting out a couple items that have served me well over a number of years.

You can download the completely editable file here (Workflow Definition Template v1). All I ask is that if you’re going to bash or change it let me know so that I can make changes to the originals. If it’s of value to you, great. If not: A) I don’t care; or B) Be cool and let me know what improvements are needed.

This bit lays out the approach that I use when starting off workshops. It’s based on a JAD approach and assumes that we have the right stakeholders attending.

Process -> Workflow -> Activity Hierarchy

  • Process  –  a series of related workflows that produce value for an organization
  •      Typically involves multiple roles & multiple business units
  •      E.g.: Corporate Procurement
  • Workflow  –  a series of related tasks required to complete a portion of a process
  •      May involve multiple roles & multiple business units
  •      E.g.: Process Purchase Request
  • Activity  –  a single piece of work that must be completed in order to allow a workflow to progress
  •      Involves single role & single business unit
  •      E.g.: Initiate Purchase Request

What we Address

  • Identify task objectives
  • Identify inputs to the task
  • Identify task steps
  • Identify task outputs
  • Identify task Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s)
  • Identify task roles
  • Identify decision support requirements (What information is needed to make decisions about this task? What subsequent decisions will be made based on the results of this task? What authorizations are needed for decisions?)

The template hasn’t been updated in a while, but I do still use it as a starting point. Feel free to leverage it however you see fit, just let me know how you’ve changed it.

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