Four ways to get people in the habit of using Content Manager (or any Content Management System)

The largest issue facing records and managers now and forever, is adoption.

It’s the one thing we don’t seem to be able to get away from, and before the miraculous paper to digital paper transition can take place effectively, it needs to happen, becuase I don’t ever see a lot of government work starting anywhere but a word processor.

I regularly ask agencies that I work with how they’ve improved adoption, like them, I think I’m always looking for a magic bullet. The most common answer is always education – what an officer’s obligations are, how they need to fulfil them, how the system works. The list of 4 below are others that have come out of conversations with the agencies I’ve spoken to:

  1. Process Integration via TRIM based actions.
  2. Workflow with Performance Reporting.
  3. Make Content Manager part of your performance management framework.
  4. Make it a compliance step enforced by another system

Process integration via TRIM based actions.

Simply, this means making parts of the process TRIM based actions. Many systems available for various processes can be triggered in TRIM and if most of a person’s job can be triggered in TRIM – they’ll come back there often. A simple example is the DA process in local government, three common tools – Pathway, Trapeze and Connect can be integrated to Content Manager, meaning that for people working in that process, Content Manager becomes the natural place to start and finish.

Workflow with Performance Reporting.

No real surprise that workflows get people using the system. What often gets missed though, is the inclusion of Performance Reporting. Workflow implemented without Performance Reporting is useful, but largely invisible to managers, and if all management reporting is a spreadsheet – it doesn’t matter how the work is getting done.

If Content Manager or a third party integrated workflow system is managing and reporting on how someone does their job, and that’s being fed automatically to management via a dashboard, they’ll go there frequently. It takes time and effort to set up, but once it’s done well, people will never go anywhere else and managers will get used to understanding what is going on with their process.

Make Content Manager part of your performance management framework. 

One agency I have worked with assesses employee performance based on what is in their CM system. Their policy is that if it’s not in there, it doesn’t exist, so when it comes time to assess performance, work product needs to be there. People who aren’t producing work don’t get promoted, so record keeping is a routine part of everyone’s job.

Make it a compliance step enforced by another system

Many workflow management systems aren’t integrated into Content Manager but can still be used to enforce Content Manager usage. Mandating the includsion of a link to the Content Manager document supporting the completion of a process or process stage can ensure that people are filing supporting documentation and that it’s findable from the process management system later.

Ultimately there’s no magic bullet.

There are lots of ways to move the needle – a little at a time. These methods have worked for other people

I’d love to hear what’s worked for you.

Least capture is the new security principle you need to work to.

We are in a world where privacy regulations are giving control back to people, and imposing significant penalties on organisations that don’t adequately secure personally identifiable information.

There are only really two possible things your organisation can focus on to navigate this new landscape.

The first is to spend more on securing your data than you ever have before. This is the easy route – because greater magnitude of harm means greater risk mitigation expenditure. The maths is simple, the board will get it.

The second way is to reduce data data capture to the bare minimum, and delete or anonymise what you’ve captured as soon as you can.

This isn’t easy, it requires your whole organisation to take a disciplined approach to data capture that recognises the new risks.

It requires questions like “why do we need that data to deliver our service, and for how long” to be asked and acted on as a matter of routine. If you’re doing really well, you’ll have a business case for every bit of data you capture that will also have a time value.

Innovative solutions will be required to gain the advantage of broad and long term data capture, without incurring the liability, and without becoming target.

The hardest part will be getting people to hit the delete button, because we’re used to hoarding, not minimalism. We’re convinced that data is the new oil, when it’s actually the new Plutonium, and needs to be handled like it.

There will be two types of organisations in the future – those who overspend on security, get nothing back on their investment and still get fined, and those who capture only what they have to, and innovate. The second way is better.

How to raise the quality of your corporate information, and make search easy.

Stop making copies.

Creation of original content is difficult and time-consuming.

Creation of a copy takes seconds.

When we went digital, copies got cheap. So we make more.

When you stop making copies search gets easier, and quality goes up.

If you want to raise your information quality, and make search easy, stop making copies.

The download report button is carcinogenic

How comfortable are you having a conversation that starts “the spreadsheet you emailed is going to cost us four million dollars”? Probably not very comfortable – but it’s where current data handling practices will lead us. Privacy laws are penalising loss of control of data – not actual harm to subjects of the data. This is why controlled handling needs to be an operational capability for any organisation handling personal data.

The CRM system is a great example of the problem – it generally has the crown jewels of personal data, and easy download capability. The standard response to “joe needs a list of customers for x” is to cut a spreadsheet full of personal information, and email it.

Then what?

Every system the data touches after that makes a couple of uncontrolled copies – backups, replications, shares, edits. It’s like cancerous cells – a few here and there multiply to become a much larger problem. Under GDPR, it’s a 4% of revenue sized problem when the data is emailed to the wrong person.

The key to removing the problem is providing capability to handle data without downloading it. Simply, your employees need to be able to run their business process end-to-end without downloading and emailing a spreadsheet. If they can’t, you’ve got a carcinogenic problem within your organisation.

Trust theory.

Trust is the foundation of everything that we do.

When we cannot trust, we experience anxiety – and most people will make significant changes in their lives to get trust back. Simple examples include the impact on your daily life of being unable to trust the opening hours of a store, or changes you make to your route choice when you know one means of transport is not trustworthy. In economics, all specialization and trade depend on trust, and all risk management is fundamentally about how we can create trust in circumstances where we wouldn’t naturally find it.

Trust is ultimately about vulnerability. Vulnerability occurs when there is a potential for loss that is greater than the potential for gain. When we trust, we become vulnerable to whatever or whoever we have trusted. If we are not vulnerable, there is no need for trust.

The most useful definition of trust that I can find comes from the work of Aneil K Mishra who defines it as “one party’s willingness to be vulnerable to another party based on the belief that the latter party is 1) competent, 2) open 3) concerned, and 4) reliable.”

Competence

You have to be good at what you’re doing for people to trust you. This means that you need to demonstrate expertise – and is also one reason why people from professions that require significant learning (doctors, engineers etc.) have high trust scores – people trust that the significant learning ensures they are competent. An interesting side point to this though is that you can gain the perception of competence by association, surrounding yourself with competent people can give an aura of competence in areas where you may not have it – and obviously, advice from experts is always of value.

Openness

Openness is all about people understanding how you are thinking, and why you are doing what you are doing – and knowing that it has some level of truth about it. In tough situations, people are more likely to trust people who help them understand how they are thinking about the situation, and how they are thinking about making decisions about the situation. This helps people understand a likely path and gives them some understanding of what the future will look like.

Concern

Concern is the belief that the person you are trusting wants you to be successful in your endeavor, and that they do not want to take unfair advantage of you. Concern is a balancing problem – concern will always balance between the interests of yourself and whoever you represent and require performance from.

Reliability

Reliability, while last in the order, is contributed to by each of the previous factors and it is simply that people do what they say they are going to do. That’s not a difficult concept for anyone to master – but it does run deeper. Reliability doesn’t mean that you can’t change your mind – the perception of reliability is built up over time and can have many levels. The idea that you were unreliable on something that you said does not necessarily mean that you were unreliable on having real concern for someone, and acting in it – quite the opposite in some situations.

Conceptually, trust is simple. Why is it useful to understand Trust under this framework? Most truly disruptive organizational breakdowns, failures of brands and failures of people to find needed support are failures of trust. The research though is in this case, quite clear – demonstrate that you are competent, open, concerned for the outcome, and reliable – and people will trust you, your brand and your product.

* Aneil K Mishra’s paper “Organizational responses to Crisis: the role of mutual trust and top management teams” can be found here –  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/35508350_Organizational_responses_to_crisis_The_role_of_mutual_trust_and_top_management_teams

*Sam Crosby’s book “The Trust Deficit” is also a good read and covers much of this subject material in a political context – https://www.amazon.com.au/Trust-Deficit-Sam-Crosby-ebook/dp/B01DYDFNRO

The Checklist Manifesto – it’s worth your time.

I’ve had the checklist manifesto in my “to-read” list for about 5 years now. It’s a book I’ve had reccomended to me many times and, unsurprisingly, it’s a manifesto for the use of checklists. Atul Gawande who wrote it is a surgeon who has a history of process improvement projects. The checklist manifesto is his attempt to convince people that checklists, simple as they are, can massively improve the output quality and consistency of tasks that we repeat frequently. What is more surprising though, is that his research uncovers that even in areas where there are complex problems for which we can’t checklist – checklists can help significantly in resolving complex and unforeseen problems.

The thesis is simple. Checklists raise output quality and consistency. The reason they do this is simple – we dramatically overestimate our ability to routinely perform series of tasks. In scenarios where there is stress or complication, the rate at which we overestimate our ability (and screw things up) rises dramatically. Gawande examines three key scenarios – flight checklists, large scale construction projects and his own home – the operating theater to provide anecdotes and then evidence for how effective checklists are..

IN each scenario, he tackles simple, routine problems and also complicated and complex problems. What emerges is a surprisingly strong case for checklists as a tool to ensure consistency, and to change behavior, and also as a tool to aid resolution in complex and unforeseen circumstances.

The bottom line is that we are inadequate repeaters of routine tasks, people routinely skip steps for one of two reasons – either they just forget through distraction or inattention, or they don’t know about, or don’t believe in the efficacy of a step – so they skip it. In each of these cases, checklists function as a kind of spot audit – telling people that they didn’t perform a step, and ensuring that they do. In many cases, check steps were important and (just like in the toyota production system) authority was granted for usually unauthorised people to stop a process if it wasn’t performed as written. What followed in each case was a dramatic improvement in performance – in one case, more than a thousand fewer deaths a year.

Routine tasks aside, complex tasks were also found to benefit. In routine simple and complicated tasks, the series of steps required to be carried out were documented in order so that they could be directly followed. In complex tasks however, this wasn’t possible because what was required to be done was typically an emergent phenomenon like an accident or disaster and needed to be analysed and dealt with on the fly. While task based checklists were not capable of operating in this environment, what was shown to produce results were checklists mandating communication among team members – simple things, like formal introductions prior to surgery so that people knew each other’s names, and discussions about what they were about to do. A side point was also made that delegation of responsibility away from the centre is of extreme importance in effective crisis response.

The book contains excellent tips on how to make checklists work. It boils down to

• Keep the checklist short, precise, and practical.

• Don’t over-describe – provide reminders of only the most critical steps.

• The point of invocation of the checklist needs to be clear for it to be useful.

• Keep the checklist between 5 and 9 items.

• Formatting and readability matter.

• Checklists come in two distinct types – do-confirm and read-do. One is about an audit of what you carried out, the other provides steps to follow – which you do in order and tick off.

Checklists are the simplest way to protect yourself and others, from you and the systematic mistakes you make by believing that you’re systematic when you’re not. They’re also the simplest way to get an advantage without being smarter or first, you can be more thorough – EVERY time. The anecdotes that end the book state that despite the gigantic and obvious advantage, they are not regularly taken up, people are looking for the sophisticated – because it almost couldn’t be that simple. Unfortunately for them, as the weight of evidence in the book proves, it is – so who’s going to take them up?

Saving time effort and money in the DA Process by moving correspondence digital – overview and case.

Paper approval process are expensive. Digitising them results in many hard and soft cost savings. The DA process is a prime example of where great work has been done to accept and process applications digitally, but there are still expensive gaps. The majority of councils use Pathway or a similar solution to capture and manage the application, and a product like Trapeze to work on and ultimately stamp the plans for release back to the applicant. Releasing the approved plans back the applicant though is typically still done on paper, as is significant correspondence across the lifecycle of an application and the subsequent project. This release is a significant driver of cost and lost time.

Printing, packaging and sending Development Applications consumes immense amounts of staff time and has both hard and soft costs. Hard costs in the form of delivery and printing costs, and soft costs in both the time taken to complete these routine, low value postage activities, and the time lost to other activities that often fall within the delegations of the same officers.

Hard costs can be tens of thousands for paper approvals and correspondence. Standard letters are a minimum of $1 per sent document and in the case of full development applications that include approved plans, this can be as high as $5 and in some cases must be sent to multiple parties. In the case of one moderately sized council, direct costs saved from postage of around 1200 development approvals were around $18,000. This cost does not include the cost to maintain printers and the costs of printing supplies.

Soft costs can be significant and can add up to many FTEs across processes. A time and motion study at one of our customers indicated that printing and sending a full development application consumed an average of 45 minutes per application. With 1200 full development applications per year, the council was expending around 900 hours of staff time or around 1/2 an FTE just to send approved DAs. For an appropriately qualified staff member, this time could be used to complete 150 – 200 building related incident inspections, significantly expanding the response capacity of the council without incurring cost.

Applicants and owners have also reported significant increases in satisfaction. Posting to an address is often problematic as well as slow and expensive. In one case, a rejection posted to an applicant was not discovered for 3 months – delaying the application and the subsequent development project. Application processes that deliver routine correspondence via email and large content or statutorily required correspondence via post often suffer from this problem. Moving to a full digital engagement, while not appropriate in every situation, can significantly increase the speed of completion and the satisfaction of applicants.

Key Benefits –

  • Confirmed delivery of determinations reduced from a week to under an hour.
  • Significant savings in printing costs – $18,000 for one council across around 1200 applications.
  • Significant savings in staff time – equivalent to 1/2 an FTE for one customer.
  • Significant increase in responsiveness to building incidents.
  • Improved satisfaction of applicants and owners.
  • All content interactions captured in the local authority system of record where supported.

Typically used in Conjunction with –

  • Information Management System – HPE TRIM/RM/CM, Objective ECM, SharePoint based systems.
  • Infor Pathway.
  • Objective Trapeze

What is it used for?

  • Delivery of stamped plans post approval.
  • Secure and private collaboration among the assessment team, contractors and with the applicant and their agents on complex approvals.