An Extra Set of Brains

By Marc Solomon posted 05-09-2011 22:06



One of the slamdunkiest decisions I've made as an ECM manager is to hire summer interns. I trade on the attraction of my adopted industry (management consulting) to enlist the help of grateful and mostly gifted foreign nationals in the U.S. for the first time. Their eagerness to join forces increases with the distance of their natural birthplace from the manic gyrations of the global marketplace. Case-in-point: the same internship opening posted with a local masters of library science program fizzled out without a single inquiry.
This year's intern crop comes at an especially critical and opportune time. We're in the midst of moving from MOSS to SharePoint 2010. In a densely layered metadata environment the transfer is less a migration than a transplant. We've developed a tool that moves us from a site to a search-based architecture. Why? Because when you move tens of thousands of documents the notion that our users need to commit their location to memory is a nonstarter.
Our To Do List
How can this be? Let me tell you how I know. If your MOSS environment is anything like ours, it's become overrun with renegade sites and phantom file dumps. That's why the new system factors in the casual disregard of end-users for metadata by designing a workflow that recognizes project details and stamps them into the documents delivered on those engagements.
In the same spirit we're configuring out-of-the-box Content Organizer to take the guesswork out of WGW ("what goes where". As I wrote earlier in the Setting the Terms post, we're making extensive use of term sets to backfill missing details, eleviate tagging anxiety, and warm consultants to the idea of search architecture. Put another way, that facets and filters are more sensible than file folders and fixed storage locations for finding and maintaining their leverage-worthy stuff.
None of this means we'll be flying high on autopilot any launch soon. We'll still need manual overrides even after these new SharePoint contraptions are crash tested and moving under their own steam. That's because the most important details will slide off the IP capture radar -- not because the process can't be automated but due to the mediocrity of the source data. The sobering news is that sound taxonomic principles carry more sway in SEO campaigns designed to net online shoppers than in the financial reporting systems of professional service firms.
Another nice-to-have that tops our to-do pile is to extract the lessons learned sections of our case study library. I say this based on our success with indexing unstructured term sets as bullets from slide presentations using Coveo 6.X. This means keyword-enabled recall of specific project objectives and outcomes. The details (or case tables) are exportable from the search interface. This eliminates the mindless fuss that comes with reformating past successes into new proposals.
Opportunity for Hire
So what happens when these custom fixes are really common sense approaches, built to scale? That extra set of brains are yours? If you want the results to speak for themselves you need a front man. Introducing the mile-a-minute idea generator-turned-pitchman for a largely undeveloped underside of the IT establishment. Add a dash of A.D.D., a virtual main office, and a buyer's market for packaging and staffing taxonomic talents on ECM projects. There's your staging.  
But what's it like to fight elective wars with colleagues of choice? Is that plum ECM assignment dangling in your wheelhouse worthy of an extra lunge? Or do we check our swings and wait for a better pitch to hit? It helps to know that the opportunity is as wavering as the sputtering attention span of the deal-maker.
I sensed last week that the pitch count was running high. I emailed operations to confirm the status of an unpaid invoice and a pending project proposal from April. The immediate response? (A) Ask the CEO where your check is; and (B) we'd be likelier to close this deal if you dropped your hourly. Can't say I was happy with either response but gotta give them points for consistency!
So what's the bottom-line here -- not for ECM brokers but consultants for hire and those unpaid interns hankering to make some impact? There's much more to be done than the resources now at hand for getting it done. Looking busy is not a challenge in this newly emerging era of far-flung ECM deployments, migrations, and full-scale integrations. It's convincing the resource keepers that keeping the ECM crew busy is key to a more productive enterprise all around.

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