Applying a Dcoument Strategy Model24 Feb, 2003 By: Kevin Craine imageSource
Applying a Dcoument Strategy Model
Once you decide to
implement a document strategy, it is easy to become paralyzed by the complexity
of the decision. The evolving role of documents, the complications of
technology, and the politics of corporate culture and change all conspire to
make your task seem overwhelming. The vista of your document strategy can seem
boundless. Navigating with a balance of strategic vision and tactical common
sense is not easy without a clear map to provide direction. This can result in
Blank Page Syndrome - a crippling affliction for a strategy architect - where
the blank page looms gravely, ideas retreat to the farthest corner of
inspiration and the expectations of management become seemingly unobtainable.
Faced with the
enormity of designing a document strategy, it is tempting to look to hardware,
software or the Internet for a shrink-wrapped solution. This approach is bound
to fall short, however. Technology is only part of the equation and its purchase
and deployment must be guided with an understanding of the role documents play
in your organization and the needs of the people who use them.
Even if you
recognize the importance of a document strategy, the question remains: How do I
go about developing one? The answer to this question is not universal because
different organizations will require different document strategies. What is
needed most is a process to guide the development of your strategy so that it is
meaningful, practical and ensures worthwhile and lasting results.
the Process Comprehensive, yet manageable. The process of designing a document
strategy must be comprehensive enough to ensure that something important is not
overlooked. It must also be manageable enough to avoid the risk of a project so
large and slow that nothing ever gets done. At one end of the spectrum, a
"just do it" approach runs the risk that inadequate planning will lead
to wasted effort. At the other end of the range, an overly broad approach can
invite "scope creep" and result in a project where objectives become
moving targets and decisions come slowly (if at all). Strike a balance between
the two by focusing efforts on those areas that are the most important and the
most likely to bring about worthwhile improvement. Consider the
"80/20" rule: it is likely that 80 percent of improvements can be
found by concentrating on 20 percent of the overall scope.
Linked to company
goals. Ultimately, the real test of your document strategy will be its effect on
the performance of your company. Does your strategy decrease operating costs and
increase opportunities for revenue? Does it increase customer satisfaction? Does
it serve executive vision? For your document strategy to appear on the corporate
"radar screen" and gain support it must bring about benefit and
improvement in those areas that are of fundamental importance to your firm.
measurements. Measuring and demonstrating improvement is critical for the
ongoing success of your document strategy. The adage you can improve only that
which you can measure holds true. Measurements help answer three essential
questions: Where are you now? Where do you want to go? How will you know you
have arrived? Once your plan has been put into place, measurements help
demonstrate, in a quantifiable way, the results of your improvement efforts.
culture. One very influential factor that is often avoided or overlooked is the
influence of corporate culture on the design and outcome of a document strategy.
Internal politics, lack of support and resistance to change are all difficult
and elusive factors that can quickly kill your document strategy. The questions
are: How do you sell your document strategy? How will people react to the
changes you propose? Will the culture of your organization help your efforts or
hinder your progress? The design of your strategy must account for the cultural
tides of your organization and look for ways to swim with the current rather
than against the flow.
implementation and evaluates results. The most well-conceived strategies are of
little value if they are not executed effectively. To develop a vision is not
enough. For your document strategy to be of practical value it must facilitate
specific actions to achieve specific goals. Once those actions are put into
place, evaluation and re-measurement are vital because the success of your
strategy is known only if it can be demonstrated.
Strategy Model With these basic characteristics in mind, consider the Document
Strategy Model as one approach to the design of a document strategy. This model
is a useful guide and has five elements as a framework. See Figure A
The DS Model is not
intended to be linear. The overlapping circles of the model demonstrate that the
steps will often overlap. You might find that you don't need to follow every
step in detail or there are times when you must retrace your steps back to
square one. The framework can and should be adapted to suit your particular
situation, organization or requirement. The DS Model helps to provide focus,
avoid pitfalls and save valuable time and energy.
The process starts with a Baseline Assessment that asks: Where are you, and
where do you need to go? The assessment helps you "get located" by
establishing a baseline about the purpose and direction of your organization,
the needs, pressures and constraints it must satisfy and manage, and the hard
numbers that measure its success. You will ask questions like:
-What needs must be satisfied?
-What pressures and constraints must be managed?
-What are the most important measures of your performance?
-What are your most important objectives?
-What are the initiatives underway to achieve those goals?
-What is your core business - your reason for being?
-How does your organization envision success?
questions may seem simple, the answers are not always obvious. If you have any
doubt, try the following experiment with the next five co-workers you meet. Ask
each person to give a one-sentence answer to each of the questions above. Once
you have gathered all their answers you will likely find significant
disagreement in the responses.
Assessment also explores the most pressing problems that challenge your company
and the most advantageous opportunities for improvement.
Technology and People One way to keep your document strategy manageable is to
view it through three basic frames of reference: documents, technology and
people. At the most fundamental level, this is what a document strategy is all
about. Documents are the subject of your strategy, technology is how you produce
them, and people are why they exist.
-Which documents are most vital to the success of your organization?
-What technology is used to create them?
-Who are the people who use and care about these documents?
You will chart a
meaningful course for your strategy by compiling a list of target documents,
assessing how those documents are produced, and understanding the needs of the
people who use and care about them.
Solutions In order to be successful, your document strategy must provide
solutions to the problems in your current processes. It is impossible to
determine appropriate solutions until you understand and define the problems
that exist. You will do this by comparing how things are with the way they
should be. You will examine how your current processes perform and determine
whether or not they perform in ways that meet the needs of your organization.
Once you have defined the problems that exist and determined their root cause(s),
you will identify and select the best solutions to solve those problems and
improve your processes. -How does your document process really perform? -How
should the process perform in order to meet your needs and requirements? -What
problems prevent your document process from performing adequately, and why do
they exist? -How will you solve the problems you discover and make improvements
to your process? -What is the best solution among the many that may be
Strategy and Managing Change Next, the DS Model explores the critical need to
sell your strategy and manage change. Your efforts are not likely to be
successful if you do not enlist the support of decision-makers and co-workers.
Selling your strategy requires a solid business case as well as the ability to
"speak the language" of the people you aim to convince. You will do
this by constructing a financial analysis and a formal proposal for your ideas
and solutions. You will also examine ways to enlist the support of co-workers
Change and corporate
culture significantly influence your document strategy. To better manage change
you will explore the roles people play in a successful change initiative. You
will also consider the natural and emotional reactions that people have during
times of change. In addition, you will examine the cultural characteristics of
your organization and how they will influence your efforts. 8 How can you
"sell" your document strategy to those who must approve and sponsor
it? 8 How will you get the support of your co-workers? 8 How will people react
to change? 8 What is the prevailing culture of your organization? 8 How will
certain cultural characteristics influence the success of your strategy?
Project Planning and
Implementation Project planning and implementation is where all of your
assessment, analysis and planning must come together. You must develop a project
plan that will be clearly understood by everyone involved and guide your efforts
to a successful implementation. You must challenge your assumptions, test your
solutions and demonstrate your success.
Some of the
questions you will answer are:
- How will you implement your strategy?
-Who must do what…how…and when?
- What are the objectives you seek?
-What must you "deliver" in order to be successful?
- What are the risks associated with your plans, and how will you mitigate those
- How will you assess and demonstrate your success?
The need to
implement a document strategy is a topic that is often talked about. The fact
remains, however, that designing a document strategy is a complicated and
indistinct undertaking. The notion of creating a document strategy is made more
mysterious because until now there has been no clear road map to guide the
design of an effective plan. The inevitable lament is: "I know a document
strategy is important, but how do I actually develop one?" "Designing
a Document Strategy" is a book that provides a method and process to
Craine is the author of Designing a Document Strategy. He is currently the
manager of Document Services for Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon and
Regence BlueShield in Washington. He is also the editor of Document Processing
Technology magazine. Mr. Craine received his BA in organizational communications
and his MBA in the Management of Science and Technology. He is respected speaker
and instructor, and an authority on document strategies, process improvement and
business communication technology. To contact Kevin or to order the book, visit www.document-strategy.com.