Image by: Zoonar RF, ©2016 Getty Images

I have been involved with the document, records, data, and workflow management industry for over 20 years. I have attended many AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management) conferences, dating back to 1998, and ARMA conferences, dating back to 1999, but this was my first DOCUMENT Strategy Forum conference.

This conference was different. There was a higher percentage of practitioners and customer end users versus vendors and solution providers in attendance. Also, due to the size and the variety of breakout sessions, the feeling is very intimate and offers the opportunity for in-depth discussions and great knowledge sharing.

The theme for the conference was “Tomorrow’s Digital Business Transformation & Agility,” and the Day One Keynote, presented by Maria Boos, “Digital Transformation Along the Customer Journey: How to Transform and Operationalize Your Customer Experience,” provided an excellent backdrop for attendees to think about the significance of the customer experience when we are talking about digital transformation. Too often, the focus is entirely on the technology, with little thought and consideration for the customer. Her presentation resonated with me based on her premise that brands that commit to simplicity—and deliver it—win. I think we, who have the curse of knowledge of all things information management, often speak in code and do not focus enough on how we can simplify information management concepts and the language we use for our internal customers to win.

Some other key takeaways from this Opening Keynote were:
  • Start with customer needs and preferences (no, really): We need to make sure any program or information management strategy starts with the customer (internal or external) in mind before we dive into the technology. I’ve seen the latter happen too often where we ask our customers to conform to the technology chosen.
I thought the following action steps Maria shared were great advice and something everyone attending her Keynote should embrace when understanding customer needs:

  1. 1. Define meaningful customer segments. Let’s think about this—if we are talking about information management, who are the customers? Internal customer segments, such as finance, has very different needs/requirements from legal.

  1. 2. Outline their user stories. This is more than just a list of requirements. We need to understand their usage patterns and preferred way to interact with a solution.

  1. 3. Determine their specific needs and wants at each step of the user story.

  1. 4. Identify their preferred channels. Is it mobile, desktop, phone, or in-person? This is becoming more and more important when we look at the shifting demographic of our customer base.
  • Map where you’re going, not where you are: Too often, we focus on where the organization is today rather than where it should go. I did a presentation on this very topic at LegalTech 2010 called, “Don’t Build Your eDiscovery Program on a Digital Landfill,” where I made the case for starting with a greenfield (where we need to go) and migrating from the "Digital Landfill" (where we are).
  • Make technology the enabler of the experience: As I mentioned earlier, we often focus on the technology and forget to think about what business outcomes the technology will enable. The focus needs to be on how the technology will enable these business outcomes.
Wrapping up, Maria focused on personalization and shared some great examples of companies that are providing a personalized experience for their customers when consuming information and interacting with them.

Next, Joe Shepley from Doculabs presented the Spotlight Keynote, “The Brave New World: Transformation of the Enterprise Content Management/Information Management Marketplace.” His presentation stimulated some lively discussion, which, in itself, was equally as valuable as the content and ideas that Joe shared. One of the biggest discussions revolved around the shift of the information/records management function over to information security. This is significant and can be beneficial for several reasons.

First, cyber security is one of the top strategic priorities for most organizations. It has the attention of the chief executive officer, the C-suite, chief general counsel, and the board of directors. Second, because of this attention and the strategic nature of having sound information security, it is receiving funding to improve defenses and reduce the risk profile of the organization.

A robust information management program that focuses on understanding what information the organization has and where it is stored, along with a proactive remediation program to reduce redundant, obsolete, and trivial (ROT) content, can go a long way to reducing the risk profile of the organization. Many times, content with personally identifiable information (PII) and customer data is retained too long and lurks unknown in repositories across the organization. This alone can represent a huge risk when, not if, there is a breach of some kind that could access a repository where PII or customer data is stored, with the organization unaware of what was stored in that repository.

By embracing and advocating for information and records management as a foundational element of an overarching information security program, the chief information security officer can significantly reduce the risk profile of the organization and help the general counsel in controlling e-discovery costs by reducing ROT and having an accurate picture of the content and where it is located within the organization. This can also help with compliance with data privacy regulations, especially if the company has a presence in the European Union or other countries besides the United States. Bottom line, it is good to follow the money.

Finally, Joe discussed the importance of change management as a crucial part of a successful enterprise content management/information management program. For those who read my article last month for DOCUMENT Strategy, "What Does Culture Have to Do With Information Management?" you know how important I think the people side of change is to a successful program. Joe’s discussion was a great prelude to one of the best afternoon sessions of the first day.

Jessica Harman presented “Managing Organizational Change for Success,” which highlighted her experiences leading the records management program at Phillips 66. This session was packed with great advice from someone who has succeeded at how to communicate change in different ways:
  • By articulating the right message
  • Using a top-down and bottom-up approach
  • Identifying the right delivery method for communicating the change
She did a great job sharing some of her successful strategies for selling the needed change within the organization. She provided some great examples of how to sell the change using a top down and bottom-up approach, which included some examples of helping executives gain a vested interest by finding out what they want and then speaking their language. She also talked about finding out what drives the end users and helping them engage to increase user adoption.

I think the biggest takeaway for me from this session was her suggestion that you need to create a roadmap to guide behaviors and decision-making. Information and records management programs can seem daunting and overwhelming. Developing a roadmap helps everyone involved see the journey and where the organization is on that journey. It also offers clarity about the roles different groups play on the roadmap.

Finally, Jessica’s recommendation of over-communication through multiple, redundant channels was a perfect link back to the Opening Keynote, when Maria Boos talked about identifying your customer’s preferred communication channels (mobile, desktop, phone, or in-person). Not everyone processes information the same way. Some process information visually, kinesthetically, or aurally. So, when communicating change, you need to make sure you provide the same information in different ways to make sure you are communicating in their preferred processing style.

Overall, the DOCUMENT Strategy Forum conference was a great experience for me. I consider an event like this valuable if I come away with two or three new ideas from the sessions and interactions. For me, this was an overwhelming value since I left with no less than six to eight new ideas and new ways of thinking about these topics. I will be back next year!

I had the privilege of participating on a panel entitled “Big Data: Real-World Challenges, Insight and Business Value.” There were great questions and discussions, but we ran out of time. Big Data is such a broad and wide-ranging topic. Next month, I look forward to sharing some of my additional thoughts on Big Data from the panel that we did not get to discuss during the session.

Russell Stalters is the founder of Clear Path Solutions Inc., author of and is a recognized information and data management expert. Previously, he was the director of information and data management and chief architect for BP’s Gulf Coast Restoration Organization. Follow him on Twitter @russellstalters.

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