Big Bang = Big Risk in EDRMS

For over 10 years organisations have been rolling out EDRMS software across their businesses with the goal of achieving a full transition to digital recordkeeping.  For that same period of time Linked Training has been delivering EDRMS training to the records staff and end users of the software.  We’ve participated in, researched and monitored projects from 12 staff to over 10,000.  No one project has been the same, partially because no single organisation replicates another in enthusiasm of staff (generally low, but there are exceptions), records management maturity, skills of the records team, etc.

Our experience tells us EDRMS rollout projects can be classified into two camps; Big Bang and Slow Roll.

Big Bang projects are high risk, so when they are successful there is a lot of back slapping and promotion, which is deserved.  They attract attention and are spoken of at conferences and in papers.  At last records management looks glamourous.

Thus the perception has arisen among some in the industry that a Big Bang approach is the path to recordkeeping success, and gaining a big budget to deliver a Big Bang project is necessary to achieve digital transition.

But Big Bang is fraught with danger, and reflection on many projects tells a story of better outcomes from the Slow Roll approach.  Frequently the Tortoise beats the Hare.

Big Bang

A Big Bang rollout occurs when, at last, the records and information team within an organisation has succeeded in making a successful business case for all staff using the EDRMS.  Sometimes the success of the business case has been via the loss of integrity through poor records management; either as front page news or a large compensation claim.  Regardless of the driver, in a Big Bang rollout the executive have agreed to the rollout and set the clock ticking on the time to achieve it.  They have decided they want it, and they want it now!

That means a budget has been allocated, and a time limit in which to spend that budget. At first the time limit looks generous, until it quickly gets sucked up in writing and determining tenders, negotiating terms with the Legal unit, appointing committees and establishing the project team.  A year can pass by in this blur.

Next it’s configuration, with all the head spinning complexities that involves; change management, because surprisingly not all the Executive are enthusiastic and none of the staff are; and then training on the meagre budget left over.  In addition the team is under pressure to analyse and understand the business so the BCS is a perfect match.  Suddenly the records team has to be fully conversant with a huge host of processes. Additionally they need to become skilled digital recordkeepers themselves.

A huge number of these projects never reach Go Live.  They run out of their budget, or their budget allocation time, beforehand.   Of those projects what is left is a disillusioned Executive team and cynical staff, and a shattered records team.

Of the projects that reach Go Live, the majority discover the scope of their funded project is woefully inadequate, or the money has been allocated woefully.  There is rarely adequate allocation of resources, or an adequate process in place, to support staff to actually use the EDRMS.  Everyone has the system implemented and has been trained, but without the correct support to demonstrate and materialise the business benefit to the business units, they fail to grasp its usefulness as a business tool, and use is token at best.

Even if a project recognises the level of business integration required to achieve full digital transition, modern records team, are rarely equipped with the quantity or quality of business analysts to provide the level of support required.  Typically there will be anything from 8 to 20 distinct business teams going live within a three month period, each needing coercion, file planning, process analysis and group facilitation before they are independent users of the system.  Skill training is the easy part!

No wonder the level of stress rises (and stress leave).  Project managers leave, as do records staff. It’s a gruelling task and rare that the organisation thanks you for it.

Some Big Bang projects are successful, thankfully.  Success cases are typified by a generous budget, including adequate planning and spend for change, training and business analysis, experienced project management, absolute executive support and a large records team (either brought in for the project or internal).

Slow Roll

The Slow Roll project takes the “How do you eat an elephant?” approach.  One small section of the business at a time is brought on board to use the EDRMS and transition fully to digital recordkeeping.  The records team works closely with one or two small business teams.  This allows them focused time to get to know the people and the records they create.  Only when that team is competent (they can use the system and are using it appropriately for all the records in key processes) do they commence work with the next team.  There is no slippage in use from the preceding team because the EDRMS has been established as a valid business tool that is now integral and valuable to their work.

Sadly the majority of current Slow Roll projects are not as a result of a strategic plan.  They are accidental; mostly the result of “I’ve got no budget, so this is all I can do.”  These unplanned Slow Rollouts are still successful, and don’t have a negative impact on digital transition, but are extra slow rollouts.

Strategically planned Slow Roll projects are key to fully digital EDRMS adoption.  They still include many of the elements of a Big Bang with less formality.  They will be a recognised project or formally planned program of work within the records team as a minimum, but without the same pressure of tight deliverables as a formal project.  System configuration will still need to be undertaken and principles established for this, but it can be built in parallel to the rollout as organisation knowledge grows.

Change management and communication is still critical.  Slow Roll projects are vulnerable to criticism regarding speed, and can easily be swamped by demand when successful.  Both of these factors need to be managed to counteract any negativity that may build.  However because the records team has time to learn improved change and communication skill there is less reliance over time on external parties.  Training is also still essential, but if the team in progress is small the records team may have the capability to provide this.  More essential is ensuring a structured skill development model is in place and adhered to.

Continuous improvement is an essential project component, which a Slow Roll has time to employ but which frequently is a casualty or token gesture in a Big Bang.  Lessons will be learnt throughout the rollout, and this new knowledge can be applied to ease the transition for the next group.  Throughout the rollout the records team becomes more capable, good publicity precedes them, and each rollout becomes easier and faster to complete.

Linked Training’s experience is that in a Slow Roll the business truly does take ownership of their information, and utilises the EDRMS as an information management and knowledge sharing tool.  Business teams become capable of writing their recordkeeping business rules for their processes and continue to implement digital recordkeeping beyond the key processes which they were fully supported for.  True and complete EDRMS adoption is achieved, and in a faster time frame than with the Big Bang approach.

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