Making Friends with your EDRMS Enemy

Information management digital transition projects ruffle the feathers of people across the organisation.  There is general unease at the mere thought of using the required EDRMS software across the staff population.  And then there is always a small group of people who become Challengers.

Challengers become major obstruction points to forward movement in the project and can quickly degenerate into becoming the Enemy of EDRMS!  Weekly and daily battles with Challengers consume valuable project team time, and frequently lead to high levels of stress.  It’s common for groups involved in a digital transition project to be describing major battle scenes!

How does the EDRMS Project Team make friends with, or better still prevent the existence of “the enemy”?

Late Adopters vs. Challengers

William Bridges Transition Model[i] identifies three change zones which people will transition through during the introduction of a new model of working and thinking (e.g. EDRMS Digital Transition):

  1. Ending, Losing, Letting Go – the zone most people will start in, of having to give up and not wanting to give up, current practice.
  2. Neutral – the zone where people have accepted they will have to make the change, have the tools in place to do so and may have commenced using them, but have not fully committed to the change as yet.
  3. The New Beginning – where people have come to terms with the required change and are working positively to make it a success for themselves.

Early EDRMS Adopters will embrace your digital transition project from the outset and move rapidly to The New Beginning zone.  They will enthusiastically, if not easily, see the benefits and commence embedding them in their practices.  This group lead use of an EDRMS by supporting other users and creating work flows that drive other people to use the EDRMS.

People entering the Neutral zone will be accelerated through it by support and leadership from those in the New Beginning zone, and the information management Project Team.

Those who are difficult to move from the Ending, Losing, Letting Go zone are the Late Adopters; the people who are slow to let go of their established practices.  A combination of change management, technology solutions and structured training and support is used to minimise this group from the outset.  The appropriate combination will reduce the challenges these people face and enable them to transition faster through the zones.  The root causes of late adoption will include fear of failure, lack of understanding of objectives and outcomes (attitudinal issues), lack of knowledge and skill and/or no perceived personal benefits.

To increase the rate of uptake of digital recordkeeping, and reduce the time people are in the late adopter zone, it is necessary to treat the root causes.

Challengers are NOT Late Adopters.  In general Late Adopters don’t care about EDRMS projects.  They may grumble; it may be an inconvenience and they will resist participation as long as possible.  Their resistance will be passive in the main; and they will work to avoid the radar of the Project Team.  But with the appropriate change management program in place and appropriate time frames, these people will transition without a legacy of negative emotions.

The real Challengers are in the New Beginning zone.  They are people who are interested in the transition and the impact it will have on them; and they want to have a say in their future.  They become a Challenger when their objectives do not meet with those being imposed by the project, and thus they be locked in time consuming, stressful battles.

Understanding Battles

Most people like to believe their point of view is based on logic, and based on that logic there is a right way and a wrong way of operating.  Black and white.  Examples of black and white logic that I’ve seen applied in EDRMS information management include:

  • A File/Folder can only contain either physical documents or digital documents, not both
  • A Revision is a record and therefore cannot be deleted from the EDRMS by users
  • Access controls are set by default on creation of a record and must not be changed.

Experience has proven to me that information management is an art, not a science.  There are no black and white solutions.  There are many shades of grey about the appropriate configuration and use of the EDRMS, and each organisation needs to set principle of use based on their environment, and their objectives.

Challengers are the people who see the shades of grey.  They will be senior people or entire groups.  They may be Legal, Procurement, HR, IT, Finance or any other group that has their own preferences and objectives and the system provided to them does not appear to meet their needs or offer any benefit.

The crux of the problem in managing Challengers is EMOTION!  Logically both parties should discuss possible solutions and move forward with the best possible, whatever the shade of grey.  But whilst the EDRMS is impassive, the human being involved in making decisions are limited by emotions.   Both the Project team and the Challengers will be obstructed in decision making by:

  • Commitments made to other people either in time or process which they may have to change/dishonour and may reflect poorly on themselves
  • Personal emotional reaction when people feel their needs and concerns are not being adequately heard or addressed
  • Past emotional baggage which may have nought to do with this project.

Whatever the cause of the emotions, and wherever they are derived from, emotion will block the logic of either party, or individuals within those parties. Once the emotion escalates returning to harmonious relationships is difficult.

Managing Challengers

Preventing the escalation of a challenge is paramount in an EDRMS project. Acknowledging there will be Challengers from the outset of a project is critical.  The following are 5 keys to reducing Challenger conflict.

1.      Stakeholder analysis

Know exactly the position of each stakeholder group in regard to their own information management challenges.  Do this without attempting to sell your solution.  Ask questions and listen to answers.

2.      Stakeholder management

Determine tactics, frequently informally, and allocate the appropriate people to work with stakeholders at different stages of the project.  In particular with Challengers this may not be someone within the Project Team.

3.      Empower people to have intelligent conversations

Early in the project educate stakeholders on principles and functionality of information management and EDRMS to the level that will enable them to ask informed questions.  Most Challengers are intelligent people, but who are inadequately informed.

4.      Develop multiple options

Challengers may need to work through different scenarios, all of which will work, to determine how they can best use the system.

5.      Be objective about your own communication and facilitation skills

If a situation escalates question re the best person to continue to manage it?  Or do you require support to continue to be objective. Seek support for managing the situation, not, as is easy to do, support for being ‘right’.


[i] Bridges, W. Managing Transitions, 2003

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