By Edan Puritt
This is the third article in a series looking at the Information Maturity Model; this level considers the introduction of tools. [1. People (Users); 2. Rules; 3. Tools; 4. Service; 5. Process] I‘ve never been sure which truism is more true. Life is all about timing, or life is all about perspective. Is it WHEN that matters, or WHERE? The questions are central to this third level of growth on the Information Management (IM) Maturity Model – TOOLS. For as much as we may wish to go from origin to destination, it cannot happen without the journey in between. Last summer, my son and I rode our motorcycles on a trip that circumnavigated the United States. We did not drive a car, or a camper trailer, or bicycles, or take buses, or planes. And while there was nothing unique about our origin or our destination, everything we learned, everything that was relevant, was about the journey in between.
Tools should enhance effectiveness and efficiency
In the office, the tools available to assist us in completing our work more efficiently and effectively are constantly evolving. Technology drives change almost as fast as necessity. And there are all sorts of tools. Some quite sophisticated, and others, not so much. So, here in this third phase of the IM maturity evolution where we are talking about introducing tools, it is explicitly an introduction for those organizations that don’t already have tools. The when and the where of that journey remain critically important to the analysis.
When do we know the time is now?
So, When? How do we know the WHEN is now? Remember that age and maturity are not the same thing, and when I refer to maturity, I don’t mean it in a pejorative way that less maturity equals immaturity. Regardless of age, these organizations entering this third phase of maturity have been able to make do so far with what they had. They have been okay that some of the behaviour in the organization is inconsistent. Each employee in the same business process brings a unique perspective to the task, even if that means the same job gets done differently by different people, or in different circumstances. Even with such individual flavours, this is all still happening under WHEN, namely when business processes are usually simple, can be completed in just a few steps, and can usually be achieved by the same person.
How do we determine where on the timeline of technology?
Beyond when tools should be introduced, it’s critical to look at the organization and assess WHERE it is on the journey with technology? For those of us who are not sure about the difference between walking and running, I submit to you that the difference is tripping. Now imagine tripping while carrying a full tray of food in a restaurant as you approach a table of hungry children. It’s loud, public, and carries both immediate and long term consequences. The reach for WHERE on the technology journey should never be further ahead than can be easily achieved. At this stage, the tools only need to be adequate–just enough to get the job done, no more. Your Information Management Architect will help make the selection one that can be leveraged for greater results later. While the architect provides options, you need to remember this is the time and place to be investing in people. Why? Simply put, this stage succeeds, or fails, based on the ease with which the people adopt the change. Tools just sit there until someone picks one up to do something with it.
Change Management approach will determine success
Focus EVERYTHING on increasing absorptive capacity. Prepare a solid change management approach. Training, communications, sharing, listening, etc. all need to be at the top of your priority list. And keep it there, keep doing them again. The tools are only going to give people common places to store documents, common places to store information, common ways to do things, common names. The business used to run great because good people were each doing their best to make things happen to the best of their abilities. The Tools stage of IM maturity is only needed because the organization has started to suffer from the inconsistencies of human behavior. Since a set of adequate common tools will go a long way to reducing inconsistencies, the real driver for success at this third stage will be the recognition that cultural change is happening. Tools don’t change culture. People change culture. DO YOUR BEST to DO IT THIS WAY; introducing new tools is a huge change. Lastly, take it in stages. Forget about the answers, the very questions you will know to ask AFTER your first introduction of tools will be different than later on. Assume you will learn, so try not to go too far too soon.