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Arguably one of the biggest challenges of rolling out a records management solution is the effort around managing the transition to the new solution. The literature around change management is vast. Advice includes addressing the human side, involving every part of the business, starting from the top, etc,etc.
But fundamentally the key message boils down to engagement of end-users. If they are not engaged, you can send as many carefully crafted communications as you like and even run several supporting training sessions, your rollout will still be destined to fail.
This is particularly true in records projects, where users have a choice of whether they actually use the solution or not.
History is littered with failed records projects where users have simply ignored or worked around the new system. Adoption rates can be appallingly low with less than 20% of business content appropriately captured and managed as records.
But there are ways to improve adoption and if not achieve the utopia of Zero-Touch Change Management, at least reduce the burden on you and your users.
Engaging users—easier said than done!
There is a lot of work to be done in managing the implementation of a new system at the best of times. Records projects can be particularly challenging. Much as it pains us as records professionals – most users don’t want to be records managers and see little value in the process of managing records.
But as we all know, records are important for the organization and for managing risk within our businesses.
‘What’s in it for me?’—thinking selfishly
I’ve bolded ‘for the organization’ deliberately as this sums up the fundamental problem that I see with most records projects. If you are relying on business users to ‘do the right thing’ because it benefits the organization, then you are likely to appeal to no more than a small minority.
Statements like ‘Records are the responsibility of everyone’ or ‘Records are important’ are merely slogans that fall on deaf ears. Everybody will pay lip service to being a ‘good corporate citizen’ but if it is a choice between doing the job for which you are paid and managing records, the day job will always have precedence. Fundamentally we are asking users to do something for which they see little personal return.
Realigning the messaging and the change around the user’s selfish interests is the key to success.
As part of the design phase of projects, one useful technique is to run short workshops with a representative cross section of users and focus on their selfish needs and concerns around content management, i.e. how do you work with content? What works well currently? What frustrates you? By drawing these themes out, you can address these in your communications plan and, more importantly in the actual design of the solution.
Rather than focusing on what is good for the organization, you are addressing selfish needs around finding and managing content. Records should be a by-product of this conversation rather than the centerpiece.
If business users can see a personal benefit to them in terms of efficiency, such as being able to get out of work on time, then they will use the system. If they do not, then they will look for ways to either circumvent the system or simply ignore it.
Embed records in a process that is valued
Practically, answering the ‘what’s in it for me’ question, means understanding and addressing the selfish needs and concerns of the end-user. Often projects, particularly compliance-based projects, focus on the benefits to an organization, with no connection to the practical day-to-day realities of the end-user. Effectively the message is – “You should do this because it is your duty or for the good of the organization.”
A much more powerful message would be – “do this and you will leave work on time”, or “you’ll find the information that you need to do your job more quickly”, or “this will let you focus on more interesting work”.
By appealing to the selfish needs of the individual at a mass level in terms of communications and how the training and broader change is presented, I’ve seen dramatic improvements in levels of usage and compliance.
Does your records solution allow you to appeal to end-users?
The key stumbling block is that traditional records systems don’t lend themselves to this maximizing of end-user benefit.
The way that traditional systems tend to work is based upon adding another ‘records’ step to the business process – “I do my job and then I file the record(s)”. Apart from being inefficient for the user, there is no real compelling benefit.
Users tend to vote with their feet. One customer I worked with had a traditional records system installed with a well thought through File Plan, well-structured disposal authorities and structures that supported the records processes extremely well. However, no one in the business wanted to use it. After a year of use they had about 20,000 records committed to the system. Meanwhile, a collaborative platform based on SharePoint had been established which after a year had 1.2M documents added to it. The reason – the SharePoint site had been designed to meet the needs of the business rather than the needs of records.
RecordPoint’s rules-based approach is very much aligned with the change management strategy I have outlined. By mapping the business view (in SharePoint) to the records view (in RecordPoint), we allow the user view to be totally focused on business benefit and designed to meet user needs. RecordPoint provides the separate record-centric view which the records team can use to manage records without compromising the end-user experience.
This is not to say that the strategy outlined above is not possible with other tools/software, but it can be difficult if the software is not adaptable or flexible enough to break out of a records-centric approach.
Less stick, more carrot
If not zero-touch change management, we can dramatically reduce the change management burden – lower training overhead, less focus on forcing users to use the system. In our experience, while there will always be a minority of users who will resist any change, if you make it easy and align it with their needs, the barriers to adoption start to fall away.
- Communicate and design change plans around your user’s selfish needs – if they see personal benefit then they will use the system.
- Train users on the benefits, not the system, so they understand ‘why it benefits them’ as well as ‘how to use it’
- Avoid records-centric designs or an expectation that users understand or care about records – they don’t!
- Use software that supports these goals and makes it easier
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