Why Document Management Solutions Fail

By Eric Parsons, CIO, Associated Asset Management

Eric P

People are why Document Management solutions fail.  People circumvent Document Management software and centralized processes because it is easier for them to manage documents in other ways.  The random incompleteness of your documents can be a tremendous liability to the organization both in term of lost productivity and legal exposure.

Typically organizations try to solve this by enforcing strict policies, policing activity and use of the system.  However, approaches like this are much more natural when dealing with an ERP or accounting packages as services won’t be delivered, customers won’t be billed and the deviation from the process becomes immediately apparent.  Often organizations don’t realize that they are missing documents until months or years later when a contract dispute requires a document to be produced that is not in the document management system.  Typically organizations are left hoping they can find the document somewhere in their email archives as an attachment at this point.  Even when organizations are reaching near 100% compliance by policing it tends to be effort intensive and fraughtwith negative interactions between IT and the offending user.

We took a different approach when we developed our Document Management solution.  We wanted to identify the functionality that users liked about other systems that could lead to them to circumventing our process and include it our design.

  • “I love DropBox, I can access my documents anywhere”.
  • “I like the Shared Drive because it is so fast and I’m used to it”
  • “I’m use to my records management solution”
  • “I have custom macro that parse documents”
  • “I like My Documents because it makes sense to me and I can find things fast”

We also took a lot of time to understand how, when and where users consumed documents that were in our current document management solution.

From this work we realized if we wanted to have the adoption we desired we needed to choose a solution that was:  Web based, mobile friendly, could directly integrate with capture devices (copiers, scanners, etc) and gave us the flexibility to control the end user interface.  The flexibility to control, tailor and design the end user experience end up being paramount in the success of the system.

Taking this approach and investing so much into the end user interface delayed our projected timeline, pushed us over budget and led to an incredible adoption and satisfaction rate with the end users.

We didn’t put all of our eggs in idea that it would be widely adopted.    We also built in robust reporting to track usage and expected usage.  The difference being we are now able to use those reports to deliver positive messages about our compliance rather than being the police offer about violations.

The extra money and time it took to deliver a consumer friendly solution was well spent.  It ultimately helped to flip a paradigm from a potentially contentious relationship into one of true partnership and a success story for our Document Management system.