ERDMS Implementation Lessons from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy*

1. Don't Panic!

Don't let perfection be the enemy of starting to implement an electronic records and document management system. Many projects do not get off the ground, despite the fact that they are driven by a real need, because some people think that the whole system needs to be perfected before deployment. This is simply not true. The key here is to start small, such as the department with acutely felt pain points, and grow the usage by other departments in time. In other words, forgo the idea of perfecting of the organization-wide implementation. You can work to perfect the system the system over time — especially if you have purchased a test server and a production server.

2. Always carry a towel.

In this case the towel will be those champions of the document management software who can provide training and support (lots of support) to the new adopters of the system. Like a towel, they provide the soft, warm assistance to those to those users who need the comfort. One of the reasons of unsuccessful implementations is poor user adoption — even though the outcome of said implementation would greatly improve employee's jobs quickly. Users need that support in place in order for the project to be a success. Actual towels, not the supportive champion kind, can also be waved in ERDMS emergencies as a distress signal.

3. Improbable does not mean impossible.

Because sometimes things that seem impossible at first does not mean that success is not achievable. If you are struggling with an implementation, make sure that all stakeholders, including top level executives, are buying into the plan. Without the support of managers and executives, success will be difficult. Policy changes are needed in order for upper management to support and provide consequences to those who are attempting to circumvent the system. Even if the chance of success seems it is at infinitesimally small odds, know that hurdles can be overcome with good top-down support.

4. Just when you think life can’t possibly get any worse it suddenly does.

Be prepared to accept the fact that implementing a document management system is just the beginning of a long commitment of training, support, product upgrades, and IT involvement as well as the funds to support all of this. Marvin would plunge into a fit of depression at the thought but as long as you are prepared, the pain should be lessened. Good planning and management is key.

5. There are few things in the universe worse than bad poetry.

More than likely you will not be storing bad Vogon poetry in your repository. However you will be storing all kinds of various document types. Take an inventory of all of your document and record assets. Have key subject matter experts familiar with the documents identify these. While some may be completely obvious, you may uncover some unknown gems, like Vogon poetry for example.

6. Two heads aren’t necessarily better than one.

Perhaps this is the case for Zaphod Beeblebrox but in terms of implementing a document management system, the more buy-in the better. Make sure you identify and communicate the benefits such as improving workflow processes, enhancing content quality, maintaining consistency, and provisioning for regulatory requirements. Don't forget to mention the added benefit of being able to find stuff in a timely manner! Communicate the coming changes via company notices, emails, blog posts, wiki pages, or throw a party. At the party, serve something that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. And donuts.

7. The ultimate answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything ERDMS is...

FileHold Document and Records Management Software of course! And not 42 as previously thought. Little white mice (who, unbeknownst to the human race, are the most intelligent species on the planet Earth) said so.


*Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a novel by Douglas Adams.