Well it finally arrived, a little late this year for us hearty souls in Wisconsin, but our first snow has fallen and covered the ground. It’s officially time to break out the shovels and snow blowers to clear the drives and sidewalks. The view from my window paints the perfect picture of the snow clinging to the rock walls and trees, just like you would see in a Terry Redlin picture.
It also reminded me that everything I did this Fall to prepare for the first snowfall has paid off. Servicing the furnace, putting away the patio furniture, winterizing the lawn mower, preparing the snow blower and more. Getting these things done allowed me to enjoy the new season without worrying about any remaining tasks from Fall.
It also reminds me of what it takes to prepare yourself for the deployment of a document management system. The more you prepare the better the final outcome. This means planning out all of the details. What is the goal for the system? What departments will be effected? Whom will the users be? What are the projects, and how should they be designed? What will the workflows look like and will they integrate with other software and processes?
It sounds like a lot of work, but if you break it down into small subsets it becomes easier to manage. First you must have an overall strategy for what you want to accomplish. Will it be replacing a manual Accounts Payable process with digital images and workflow? Or will it be replacing a paper-based personnel files application by scanning all of you existing files and day forward paper? Or maybe you want to organize all of the contracts in the office. Whatever the application(s) begin by documenting your overall strategy.
Next, document your current environment. We call this a current state analysis. There is no need to go crazy with this step, but that does not mean it is not important. Your present situation is the foundation from which your system will be built. Documenting this step uncovers many processes and issues that will be incorporated or improved upon with the new system.
After completing the current state set out to design and document the future state. Begin by assembling a group of users to have discussions on what they would like to see in a new system. Interview end users, managers and administrators as they all have different wants and needs. Create diagrams and models of the future state so that everyone can visualize and understand how it will work. Pay special attention to the fine details and “rules” within you company. This is a critical step. It has two primary purposes; first it becomes the blueprint or scope for what will be deployed, and second, it creates expectations among the users for how the final system will work.
Next, address infrastructure. If this is an in-house system what are the server and database requirements. What are the minimum specifications for work stations? What will you use for capturing your documents, both electronic and paper? If you intend to integrate with other applications in your organization, how will you accomplish this?
Large companies typically have employees or departments that help with these tasks. Most small to mid-sized organizations do not. They must rely on third party consultants to get the job done. No matter what your size, however, you cannot overlook these steps. Failure to do so will result in a system that will not accomplish your overall strategy, take longer to deploy than necessary, frustrate your workers and cost you more time and money than it should.
One final thought. This is for anyone who has ever built a house. The process of building a home is much like that of deploying a document management solution. First you dream about the ideal home for your family. Next you work with an architect or builder to design the home, determine the trim levels and create the blueprints. Using those blueprints, you can talk to builders to get bids. Finally, those plans become the working model for building your home. All of your expectations will be met if the plans are followed. It is the same way when developing a document management system. Plan it correctly and all of your expectations will be met.