Information Management Challenges in Enterprises

Recently I attended the Institute for Information Management session on Fremantle Ports‘ journey  with information management.

As a part of the session there was an extended discussion on why champions of information management struggle so much in getting buy in from people working in the business to apply good information management practice.

One of the biggest blockers is that some of the  traditional champions of these types of systems still talk about  electronic documents and records management systems. With the invention of DVDs and CDs, the term “record” is as old fashioned as is the notion of a company librarian.

The internet has somewhat liberated us  from the drudge of finding relevant information, however so many people could  find that some simple help on search would be far more practical  assistance.

The common enemy for information managers is the shared drive, and the reasons shared drives are attractive to business users are obvious:

  • fast
  • visual
  • easy to understand
  • drag and drop
  • easy to create from other similar structures used at previous employers
  • cheap, no software cost
  • no change management or training required

However there are plenty of downsides, and the problems manifest more greatly the larger the organisation

  • cannot find information  created and saved by other team members
  • ediscovery  legal issues
  • security  as to who can access which documents
  • version  management through many documents called final or versioned simply by date without regard to contents
  • no ability to easily discover relevant information created by others

Whilst many people that are working in the industry consider they are making headway, the reality is that they only make significant change when the two challenges faced here are brought together.

In the former instance the advantage of a shared drive structure is most felt by the individual. In the latter case, the benefit of using an enterprise content management platform primarily benefits the business as a whole. Clearly then, the technology needs to get out of the way and get back to being a really helpful tool for people creating documents and  using information today.

It is also important to recognise that there are different kinds of information management needs. Individuals often make their own choice of when something is valuable enough that it needs to be versioned and kept, or when it is still very much in a creation stage and not ready to be considered final. The challenge exists in circumstances where many projects start as ideas and stop soon after. It often only becomes apparent what should be kept after the project is complete, and in many cases people are under job and time pressure without the time to go back and appropriately document all that was covered.

I’m a big fan of some of the social business tools that exist, particularly around projects. These tools are of most advantage when you have participants in the project are remotely located and aware of ideas and information is shared in the project. Basecamp is a classic example of one of these tools and there are a range of others such as Jive, Socialtext, Confluence, Cubetree and many others.

If you are interested in a series of tools that I use in running my business that are cloud-based please see June edition of Emergination in Action.

Is the iphone driving mobile content?

The Smell of Good Business on iphoneFeedburner post from The Smell of Good Business on iphone

The ipod has really changed the way we use music – we’ve got 3 in our household (4 if you count my original 40 gig hard drive version that died). But the potential for the iphone to change the way we get and consume web based information is vast.

So, you’ve gotta get mobile. Thankfully, it is easier than you might think thanks to MoFuse.com

As I blog on WordPress, less than 2 minutes later I have m.justindavies.com.au as well as http://justindavies.mofuse.mobi and an iphone specific URL at http://justindavies.mofuse.mobi/iphone

As a tip, if you create your own address off your domain as I have done (m.justindavies.com.au), remember to add the cname record at your domain so it will work.

Importantly with any web presence, you have got to track it – and this is where mofuse excels providing great stats tracking. I suspect we will see lots of growth in iphone related traffic. For more on the topics of tracking users, please see my Feedburner post.

So, comments please. Where do you think the growth in online traffic for the iphone will come from? And how will it drive the way we use mobile phones in the future?

Huge people challenges and opportunities

In the last few days and in various meetings I have had, it has clearly reinforced the challenge of getting people on the bus with software and information management initiatives.

Nowhere is this more difficult than in the growing beasts that are international companies. No longer does the mantra apply “think global, act local” explicitly in relation to software and systems, as organisations seek to refine the best of the knowledge they have into common ways of doing things.

So, there are some barriers to break down:

  1. Not invented here. Obvious enough problem… but confounded further with Point 2.
  2. The system we use was invented here, in fact, I invented it…. compounded further with…
  3. I like the way our company did things before the takeover…. compounded further with…
  4. Those guys are in another part of the world, and they think differently to us (these types of cultural differences are very real)

For more reading, see my post on people, process and technology.

People, process and technology – enter Enterprise 2.0

I’ve got to say I have an interesting concern – but a sense of delight at the possibilities – about the speed and capacity of change of Enterprise 2.0. Let me explain…

In the world of application development, there is a serious and mounting argument from the rapid development / iterative prototyping camp versus the waterfall (requirements, design, build, test, deploy, support) purists. When it comes to applications that affect corporations – that is, across the enterprise – I am a firm believer in the latter.

Iterative development is great when there are only a few people involved – or a small point solution that only affects a few people. When you start getting more people involved, the challenges go up.

The challenges include:

  • People – commitment to using a new process and a new underpinning system – and a common way of doing so
  • Process – is the process we are using common to all? Do we all do our own thing?)
  • Technology – solid analysis of the problems and a clear view of how to resolve them with technology

Now with Web 2.0 / Enterprise 2.0, the beauty is that these applications are breaking new ground in making the process neatly tied up in the applications and making it really simple for people to follow the process without having to think too much about it – or having to refer to training manuals or help guides. However, the ease of picking one up, configuring them differently according to different needs – but at the same time missing the opportunity to apply them consistently is the challenge.

The takeaway points to consider:

  • If you are going to go for a Web 2.0 application, do document your processes and make sure people apply it consistently within the organisation
  • Software developers can learn from the myriad of Web 2.0 projects smart ways of developing inviting interfaces and very simple and fast sign up and use approaches
  • The next raft of successful enterprise scale applications from the Web 2.0 environment will make a dent on traditional software only when sold, implemented and supported like enterprise software

All comments welcome!

Portal Smortal – Sharepoint, Websphere, Oracle – what are we trying to achieve here?

When someone suggests they want a portal the very first question to ask is, “what does a portal mean to you”.

Portal, like CRM – and many other terms in IT – tend to be all encompassing words designed to solve a complex raft of problems.

“We can’t get to our information easily” “I spent ages trying to find a document that I know is here somewhere and gave up” “We have heaps of copies of the same document” “I want a dashboard or traffic light to let me know when problems have emerged so I can immediate action” “I am sick of signing in to lots of different systems”

There is actually a fair bit of complexity in this – but the answer seems to be Portal (or intranet / new enterprise content management system – take your pick).

Same with CRM:

“I can’t get a single view of our customers” “..no one understands who is doing what with whom” “I was trying to cross sell and they already told us they can’t buy it” “The client told me that they were already dealing with another of our divisions and our company should already have a heap of information on them already”

Again, complex issues – people, process and technology at play again.

So what do we do? Start with the business problems to be solved, then resolve the process issues – and then the technology solution becomes much more simple – and effective.

Service – I’m not getting any – the dangers of implementing CRM software without understanding the need first

I was speaking with a friend today who was feeling pretty frustrated. You see, he had purchased a CRM software product for his business, but it wasn’t doing what he wanted. The vendor had considered that he had done his part – sell the product, install it on site, provide the user documentation, all thumbs up….

What the client actually needed was:

1. Assistance to clearly understand how to implement CRM as a strategy

2. Get the people on the bus committed to the approach

3. Define the new processes, and define these into an agreed requirements document

4. The vendor to configure the application to meet the defined requirements

5. The vendor to train the users and the administrator in exactly how to make CRM technology deliver on the CRM strategy

6. The vendor to come back and check / realign things after staff have been using it for awhile

My recommendation to you – if you have a complex business environment, or quite a number of people using the platform, be very, very wary of buying any software that runs across your business without buying implementation services (not just technical ones, but solid business analysis). See my post on people, process and technology for more on getting software implementation right.

SAAS CRM software products have been changing the landscape. There are plenty to choose from and I’ve looked at quite a number of CRM Software options including Sugar CRM and Salesforce. For my business I use and recommend Capsule CRM and have implemented it for many of my clients. In some cases for smaller companies and consultants, they have used the product for 12 months or longer without hitting a purchase threshold. It is low cost, from $12 per user per month.

What I like about Capsule CRM is that it is lightweight – it has what you need and no more. Integration with Google Apps is a winner as well, allowing me to get more done and churn through email from Gmail.

 

Capsule CRM
Capsule CRM

 

Talk to me in numbers – applying metrics to business success

If you have ever found peformance issues and the reasons being given seemingly incredibly complicated, then perhaps distilling the essence back to the number only may be the answer you are looking for.

For example, let’s say sales performance is down. A person can provide any number of reasons, incredibly well argued, as to why their sales performance is off. Or why they missed their last deal. And if they are any sort of sales person, they should be able to be pretty persuasive in their argument as they probably have been constructing in their minds for some time!

So how do you reshape the nexus of this? Well, get back to the numbers and the causal factors of success.

Step 1: Fishbone the profit and loss statement to look at where the revenue comes from

Step 2: Drill into the customers spend to determine which customers, what product lines, and which sales when.

Step 3: Determine the causal steps ie activity, necessary to get the success you need. For example, to sell $10 million of a service, you may need to have generated a sales pipeline of $30 million if you close 1 in 3.

Step 4: Determine the metrics that make sense around the steps to get to the target. For example, to get to $30million pipeline, you may need to have qualified $60 million of opportunities. If each deal is $10 million, it is 6 deals. You then track activity to create deals – number of presentations, meetings, sales calls, product demonstrations, roadshows and events.

Step 5: Turn the above into simple numbers next to boxes and track that against performance. This will in turn drive activity that leads to success and also may provide some focus to improve success rates on each successive step.

Used correctly, the above approach can move to an empirical analysis of activity that reinforces the right behaviours, and also how you can help along the way, and quickly ends long and unfruitful discussions.

If you have had a good experience – or a not so good experience – in applying metrics to your business, please leave a comment, I’d appreciate your feedback.

People, process, technology – still the 3 keys to successful application development projects

If you have found yourself in a situation where the process seems to change, accountabilities are uncertain and deadlines are missing, then perhaps you have a people, process and technology problem. Getting all 3 aligned is absolutely essential to ensuring a change process will work.

And they have to be resolved in that order.

1. People – what are the key issues: who owns the process, who is involved, what are their roles, are they committed to improving it and working together and importantly are they prepared to do the work to fix the problem

2. Process – a process can be defined as starting with a trigger event that creates a chain of actions that results in something being prepared for a customer of that process. Starting at high level and identifying the key big steps is important to see the process from end to end. Then moving into more detail to capture the various layers involved and various exceptions. Focussing on the high frequency (Pareto principle) transactions can have significant benefit to standardising the process. But also remember that it can be the non-standard transactions where service is slipping most or the potential for significant failure in the process may exist.

3. Technology – Now that people are aligned, and the process developed and clarified, technology can be applied to ensure consistently in application of the process and to provide the thin guiding rails to keep the process on track – to make it easier to follow the process than not do so.

Of course there is much more to getting a technology project right – but get the above 3 sorted out and you will be a long way down the path to project success.

Got any experiences or tips you’d like to share? I am keen to hear from you, so please add a comment….

 

The Two Most Important Tools in Change Management

In a meeting today I was talking with a client who has a particularly dry sense of humour, and a great philosophical perspective on ensuring successful delivery of projects. We were talking about change management.

His simple and insightful comment was this:

“You have two tools you can use for change management – they are a carrot and a stick. You can dress it up any way you like, call it anything you like, and do as many Powerpoint presentations as you like – but at the end of the day, every change management process is about a combination of a carrot and a stick”.

I’ve got to agree…..