A couple of posts ago I promised that I would address demonstrating the value that a RIM program brings to an organization. This is it.
I've been in the RIM business for almost 20 years, and I've been through a number of layoffs. I've noticed that many organizations look at RIM as the equivalent of the school's art program - in the good times, everyone thinks it's fantastic and utterly indispensable, but as soon as budget cuts come it's the first program to go. Nothing has changed the fact that RIM programs must constantly demonstrate their value. We can lament all day long about how IT budgets are huge and how they always do better in layoffs, but it should be noted: they demonstrate their value. And they do so on a daily basis. The most successful art programs are those that demonstrate the tremendous value they bring to students and the community; the most successful records programs are those that demonstrate the value they bring to employees and the organization. I can't say I am a master at the "art" of demonstrating value (little pun intended there :), but I'll put in a pair of pennies nonetheless.
a) Address the whole spectrum of benefits. In order of increasing importance:
- The risks that are unaddressed if something isn't done
- Areas of non-compliance with internal policy, regulation, or legislation
- The time and/or money that the organization earns/saves as a result of your initiative - this is worth ten of any of the previous
- Time and/or money that the organization earns/saves, as attested to by a business group outside of RIM - this is worth a hundred of any of the previous
b) Choose your battles. The number of battles you can fight depends on your clout at the organization and how accommodating its culture is. I have created and implemented two major policies with an enterprise-wide impact, and I'm working on a third regarding email. I have at least a dozen more I would love to put into place (and I'm working on them). But it just won't happen, at least not all at once. To tie in my first point, yes, rules (and the consistency they bring) are important. But if I can't explain why the rule is beneficial to the enterprise, I won't get approval. Even if I get approval, if I can't demonstrate the value of the policy/project/proposal, compliance will be nonexistent.
c) When you've exhausted your resources and the answer to your request is still a firm no, accept it. However, follow up with a list of legitimate risks and potential outcomes created by not implementing your project or plan. Don't overblow the risks, which is an irresistible temptation; be realistic. If that's hard to put together, then you'll understand why you got a no. But if it's easy to demonstrate, you get a TON of street cred if one or more of the risks are realized. If possible, get sign-off on your list of risks from the person who gave the final no.
d) Focus on value to the organization, not the value to Information Management. In the text books, conferences, and webinars we've attended to over the years, we've learned what "must be." However, those authors and speakers don't know your organization as well as you do. Some issues are bigger than others where you work. Some pain points are more tender than others. Your organization's unique circumstances will drive your initiatives, and your training and knowledge in IM will drive how you develop the initiatives. It's not the other way around.
e) To extend the last point further - do you know your organization well? What are the core functions? What business groups drive those functions? What processes take in information, and what processes create information? What does that content and data go? The more you meet with business groups, the more you will understand the ebb and flow of information in the organization, and when you need to speak to issues, pain points, or solutions, you'll know what you're talking about. People will listen.
f) To extend that point further - internal relationships are key. How many Law people do you meet with on a regular basis? How widely distributed are those contacts across the IT branch? The answer to those questions should be "lots, and widely." Do you have a consistent contact in Risk, Privacy, Security? Or multiple contacts? How many business groups to you communicate with on a regular basis? Is it just with the person who boxes up records for offsite storage, or are you meeting with managers as well, to determine their pain points, bottlenecks, and information aspirations?
g) Please, please, please
say, out loud and with booming, unrestrained confidence, that your efforts to tackle electronic records management are more demonstrable than your efforts to address paper records. 95% - maybe 99% -- of all records are born digitally now. Yes, paper records absolutely have to be managed, but if your time and energy isn't starting to line up with the digital reality, no one will believe that your RIM program is doing anything of value, including me. Sorry.
If there are any stories to share on this topic, please do so! In the comments or via email is very appreciated. Thanks.
Wayne Hoff, CRM
ICRM Liaison, Calgary ARMA