Measurement Matters - And the Important Measures May Not be What You Think

By Greg Clark posted 05-03-2010 11:34


For this week's blog post I was going to provide my perspective on the recently completed AIIM show but there are already so many excellent summaries out there I'm not sure what more I could add.  I thought Barclay Blair's observations were particularly astute, especially as it related to Google's perspective on ECM.  Mike Alsup provided a solid list of nine observations (just to go one better than John Mancini I assume),  Russ Stalters highlighted the big push by Microsoft to promote SharePoint to the ECM community and also commented on the evolution of cloud-based ECM offerings.  Finally, the Big Men on Content gave their considered opinions on the impact and evolution of CMIS.  Once you've read through these articles it will feel like you were there.

My big "aha" moment at AIIM came in the speakers’ ready room.  I got to talking with fellow Canadian Lewis Eisen about how to truly measure success when implementing information management.  We discussed whether traditional measures of success like the number of documents loaded to the system, number of users, number of searches, etc. are really all that valuable. The short answer for both of us was a resounding no.  These measures are peripheral at best, sort of like saying "It always rains when I go to Philadelphia for the AIIM conference, therefore I make it rain in Philadelphia" (the first half is true but I’m optimistic there is not a causal relationship between the two). 

So what metrics and measures are valuable? The answer to that question is another question; what is the mission for your organization?  The main point of my AIIM presentation this year ("What Success Looks Like - The Anatomy of a Successful ECM Implementation") was that there is nothing inherently valuable about an ECM implementation (at this point you're wondering why I'm blogging about ECM...bear with me, there's a point here).

There is little doubt most organizations are dealing serious information overload problems and these problems are impacting their ability to succeed, but setting out simply to fix an information management problem without considering the broader objectives of your organization is a recipe for failure.  Many (or perhaps most) ECM projects started out as IT-driven initiatives.   Measuring the success of a project by the amount of content loaded to the system in the first year, or counting the number of users who have been trained, or even counting the number of new versions added by users will not tell you whether the system is a success or not. 

To truly measure success you first must establish key performance indicators(KPIs) for ECM. While that hardly ranks as the most earth-shattering bit of news you are likely to hear this week, it is amazing how often this basic principle is missed when implementing ECM.  KPIs must measure outcomes that are important to the bottom line of your entire organization, not just your IT department.

For example, if you are a sales-focused organization you should develop metrics within your ECM program that measure the impact on sales.  The impact on the sales cycle from implementing good information management practices within the sales group is a good KPI (note: the amount of time it takes to find current sales collateral is not a valid measure; the amount of time it takes to convert prospects into clients is).   This is obviously not a simple task and requires very close alignment with leadership in this part of the organization, and that's really the point.  If your ECM team is close enough to identify and measure KPIs within a business unit, your ability to design information architectures and work practices that support business objectives will increase exponentially.

The last and possibly most critical point is that you need to be committed to continually monitoring, reporting and evolving your KPIs. This continual improvement review should be formalized to be at least an annual process or perhaps even more often if you have met your objectives and need to set new targets (or equally important if you have not met your objectives).

I am certainly interested in hearing about your experiences creating and measuring KPIs for ECM so please feel free to share your comments below.

Cross-posted to the C3 Associates ECM Blog.

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