Hello! Samantha McCollough from iDatix here and today I am joined by Steve Weissman, a consultant at the Holly Group and an information management professional.
Samantha McCollough: Thank you for joining me today Steve. To begin, can you please overview some of the topics that need to be addressed when discussing information management?
Steve Weissman: Sure. One of my favorite subjects, in fact!
For me, so many of these conversations start with the technology. We tend to chunk the world up into BPM and ECM and ERM and all kinds of other M’s, but for me, that’s sort of backwards because it really has to start with the business need.
Pretty much everything that I do and everything that we’ll talk about here I hope, I expect, will be looking to start with an understanding of what the business problem is that you’re trying to solve and then mapping the technology tools into that from there.
You’re really talking about business rooted decisions beyond even the problem set. First you have to determine what you want to do, and how you want to do it, even whether to do it. Investing in new information technology can be painful; can be costly in terms of time and dollars. Maybe it’s possible that you don’t want to do anything or do anything grand right now because you know that there’s something coming down the pipe in terms of a merger or acquisition or new investor or something, so you want to just bide your time.
Of course, there’s a cost to doing nothing, also. It’s sort of the devil that you know, but you’re not getting all the efficiencies that you might get if you just stand pat. So there are tradeoffs.
Do you want to buy something? Do you want to build it yourself if you’re a big shop and have lots of skills? Maybe you want to outsource it.
So there’s a big component of change management to be talked about as well that has very little directly to do with technology, but more to do with how people react to the technology.
How they embrace or don’t embrace the new ways that they’re going to have to work or the new interfaces they’re going to need to deal with.
Things like mobility.
The psychology now is such that many people want to use and are using their own personal technology for business purposes. And there are whole rafts of information, and decisions to be made and obtained, about how to manage that. Because if everybody’s using a different smartphone, you’ve got multiple devices, with multiple operating systems, how do you secure them? How do you not drive yourself nuts to make sure they have the latest and greatest software you need them to have?
It’s just like managing a fleet of PC’s, but worse. Because at least in the past, companies bought their own fleets of PCs. And most of them aren’t now buying smartphones for their people.
So, long winded answer, long winded way of saying there’s lots of issues to be talked about that we’re really best served starting in the business context, not the technology. That’s sort of why I’m here.
SM: So how do these issues impact business, what are the reasons that people turn to technology in the first place?
SW: The obvious reasons are efficiencies and cost reduction and all the happy adjectives that we hear so much about at the conferences and read in the trade press.
But again, for me there’s a big element in trying to guard against leaping in feet first without first looking into the water to see what rocks may be there.
Technology is really great, but like anything else, if you use it for the forces of good, you win. If you don’t, you lose. It’s a nod to the Avengers, which opened this past weekend, I guess, speaking of the forces of good.
What often gets lost in the rush to technology or in the hype surrounding technology is that automation for its own sake is rarely a good idea. You may have processes that work largely because you’re used to the way they work and all the little quirks and foibles associated with them.
If you were to automate that, all you’re doing is making those inefficiencies work faster.
And you may well find yourself with even bigger problems because you haven’t addressed the underlying causes of issues, of inefficiencies, of lag between the time one process ends and the next begins.
You may find the whole thing breaks down because now you’re pushing more and more information through that process faster than it can handle it.
So taking that conceptual step back to begin is just so important so you don’t end up automating the chaos, basically. You want to understand what’s broken before you fix it. And I can tell you- and will tell you over the weeks to come- stories of people who have really just done the opposite and really paid the price for it.
SM: Now that we have underlined the importance of the business aspect of information management, let’s go ahead and cover a bit of the technology: BPM, ECM, etc.
SW: You can buy BPM.
You can buy ECM and all the other M’s.
And I’m not saying that that’s a bad thing, but really they’re best considered business practices.
The practice of managing business processes. The practice of managing enterprise content. There are tools to be bought and deployed to facilitate those best practices, and to make them real.
And it’s so important to start with the nature of the business problem you’re trying to solve and figure out the best way for your company, in your industry, in your geography sometimes, because there are different laws around the world that have to be complied with.
What really is the best way for you and your organization to be working?
The little sing song here is what we’re really after is to try to help people work better and work better together.
Where you have to balance all these three major factors and figure out the practices that are best for you, and then go find the technology that may carry the same label, but find the technology or mixture of technologies that are really going to help you fulfill those best practices and have it come out the way you want it to come out.
SM: Now that you have enlightened us with all of this great information, how about you tell us all a bit about your background and how you came to be so experienced in information management and business?
SW: Oh, yeah. What’s the expression? Sometimes wrong, never in doubt.
No, I’ve been an industry analyst and a consultant in the information management spaces, depending where you want to count from, at least since 1990.
I did start young, that’s true, but it goes all the way back to the first electronic form that I saw. That was 1990, which is one reason I start the counter there.
|Because my first reaction to that was, "This is a front end to a database.”|
So, really early on, it seemed clear to me that all these different technologies that have since emerged separately and then come together, they exist because they’re trying to solve a particular business problem and enable particular business processes. And all of those processes run on the strength of their information.
Looking at it more holistically became one of my watch words right from the get go. I’ve worked in the industry and as a consultant and all those fun things like so many people in this kind of chair do, but that’s been what’s tied it all together. What it’s allowed me to do with my clients is not to have to redefine the world every time a new technology revolution comes along.
Because the interesting and sad truth is, our business processes are largely our businesses processes, and they haven’t changed that much going back even centuries. But the tools, of course, are dramatically different.
So understanding and staying true to the business problem allows you to view all the new cool stuff through the proper lens, which is, “What’s this going to do for me,” instead of looking at it going, “Oh, something shiny. Let’s chase it.”
So I speak. I write. I run training classes. I actually created the videos that are online through the AIIM International Association website for their new certification program. I mean, I’m all over this stuff.
Nothing makes me happier then to see people do this well and do this right. In a previous consulting life, I ran an awards program that ran for fully ten years, because it was just too cool not to take note of what people were doing.
So I’m thrilled to be able to talk to you today and to the listeners going forward and help them get as much value as they can out of their information and the systems that they’re putting in for that purpose.
SM: One last thing Steve, you have been emphasizing the importance of looking at your business needs first, and the technology second. Clearly, organizations need to be looking into their specific wants and needs prior to selecting any particular solution, yes?
SW: Well here’s the perspective check. We do that much when we buy refrigerators or microwave ovens, because you don’t go in the store and look at a microwave oven and buy it because it’s red or green.
But you’re there for some reason-because you need it to be a certain size, a certain power. With a fridge, do you want the in door water or not, and that’s a function of the process of quenching your family’s thirst.
It sounds really silly, but if you’re going to do it for a $500, $600, $800 refrigerator, why wouldn’t you do it for a multiple tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of information system. It just doesn’t make sense to me to do it any other way.
And so, when you look at it that way, it’s like, “Yeah.”
So that’s why I’m here. I want people to understand, “Yeah.”
SM: Thank you very much Steve, we clearly have a lot to cover! I am excited about sharing the secrets of these topics with our audience.
Coming up, I know you plan on covering “why doing nothing can cost you everything”, a topic I can’t wait to hear you discuss.
SW: Thank you!
Be sure to join us in the coming weeks as Steve Weissman covers topics such as “why doing nothing can cost you everything”, “Defining Processes; don’t just make an electronic version of the same bad process” and “how to get buy-in”.