The Elegance of Simplicity

it’s so essential to begin any project by taking the time to understand what a business is doing now...

The crush of technological advancement that we’ve all seen in our daily lives can make everything seem more complex than it needs to be. With that in mind, it should be no surprise that I am going to make this blog post simple.

In fact, “simplicity” is my work motto, too. While there are plenty of inspirational quotes about simplicity, one of my favorites comes from the late Steve Jobs, who said,

“Focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

When it comes to Enterprise Content Management (ECM), there can be a lot of questions. I’ve heard most of them.

“What system is best for our company?”

“In which departments will we be best served implementing such a solution?”

“Is there an easy way to train multiple staff members across multiple departments who are all working on different applications?”

These are all valid queries. The two most important ones to ask, though, are “What are you trying to achieve?” and “How do you do what you do?”

The thing about our fast-paced world is that we seldom take the time to slow down long enough to examine why or how we do something. Being fast isn’t always best. Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare?

Accounting for Perspective

ECM technology has been around for a good while. You might be surprised, though, at how few businesses are using it. The Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) conducts an ECM survey every two years. According to its 2015 survey, only 14 percent of companies are using company-wide ECMs, and 52 percent of those surveyed said they were “working on it.”

When a company decides to implement an ECM solution, it is trying to improve a work process. Whether that process is in accounts payable, content management, healthcare records, university records, or even law enforcement, there are elements in those arenas that make the processes unique to that area alone. No one understands those processes better than the people who live with them every day.

When we at FileSolve first engage a new customer, we tell them, “Look, we understand the potential of ECM solutions. We know a good bit about your industry. What we don’t know much about is your business; your processes.”  This is where “simplicity” plays a vital role. We ask those customers we meet with to break down their processes into the smallest details. What does it look like from their perspective? Since they are the ones who will be using the technology, that personal viewpoint is essential for progress.

Consider an example. Let’s say we have a pretty firm idea about something. Say, that 2 + 2 = 4. We know that from our education and from the many ways it’s been reinforced to us over the years. From our “perspective,” that equation is true. But what happens when we meet someone whose experience has shown them that 2 + 2 = 5? In their world, that equation is a demonstrable fact. Do we expend enormous amounts of time and effort arguing about whose equation (i.e., belief, reality, issue or system) is right and whose is wrong? What does that accomplish? Exactly nothing. No. To best help a customer improve their reality, we have to see that reality from their perspective.      

Minding the Gaps

Sometimes, we do things so automatically, they’re almost unconscious.

During a customer’s description of their workflow, they might say something like, “…and then I process the document.” In most cases, if we then follow up with, “Describe what you mean by that,” they are more than happy to do so. In some instances, the process of slowly laying out the details of those workflow processes can in and of itself be illuminating. There’s nothing like seeing the look of understanding – even before any process improvement has begun!

For instance, when a customer reaches a certain point in their process, they may have 10 different routes they can take to get from Point-A to Point-B. But THEY KNOW from experience that it’s number 3. What we do is ask them to explain why it’s number 3. Helping them understand where they’re jumping those “gaps” in the process helps them see it more clearly – and helps us then devise the way forward.

Breaking down a process into its simplest parts is the first step in understanding how it works… and how it might work better. It’s like buying a bookshelf from Sauder or Ikea and laying out all of the pieces before actually beginning.

As Steve Jobs so eloquently alluded to in his quote, when you make things simple, you better understand their true nature.

Technology Isn’t Always the Best Answer

I read an article not too long ago that talked about how, in 10 years or less, there could be thousands of driverless vehicles on the road. Heck, I get nervous driving next to those double-long tractor-trailers when they’re driven by pros! I’m not sure I’m ready for that sort of technology takeover.

The truth of the matter is that when it comes to implementing the right ECM solution, finding a way to automate 100 percent of a process isn’t always the best answer. Sometimes, it makes more sense – and saves more cents – to automate a process just enough so that it makes the jobs of humans in the process that much easier.

Every case is different. Again, that’s why it’s so essential to begin any project by taking the time to understand what a business is doing now. Ask yourself…

“How does our process work now?”

“Can I break it down to its simplest elements?”

“What is it, exactly, that we’d like to achieve?”

Diagramming a business’s workflow processes in detail paints a picture. It’s Realism 101. Think of it like those “You Are Here” maps in the mall. You need to know that you’re standing outside the pretzel shop before you can determine how you’re going to make your way to the Game Stop. Are you going to stop at the shoe place along the way? Do you need to?

A lot goes into making any capital expense decision. Implementing an ECM solution is no different. Keeping your goals ever in focus and breaking everything down to its smallest element will help you better understand where you are, where you want to go, and how best to get there.

Posted by: Kelly Green
This entry was posted in Electronic Document Management, Enterprise Content Management and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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