Best ECM Practices: Form Over Function?

By Marc Solomon posted 09-20-2013 11:38


Form follows function. Except if you're talking about how most enterprises organize their knowledge assets.

From an information management perspective, form is location, document format, default metadata, inherited properties. Function is engagement levels, people, expertise, and dynamics of doing research in an instructured database -- the cross-dimensional power of verticals and horizontals. Will it be function or form for you? When your IT organization is charged with rolling out your organizations intranet, guess who wins?

I'm hedging that your date ranges are time stamps instead of delivery dates. I'm guessing that your doc types are defined as PDFs or DOCXs or HTMLs and not case studies or templates or pitch decks.

What would your ECM world look like if form followed function? Let's go back to a design that addresses business problems ahead of technology issues. The verticals are the value chains or industries or market segments of the organizations that reward us in one form or another. The horizontals are the functional units of the folks who execute those rewards. These can be business units, subsidiaries, operational departments, or specific teams charged with definable asks. Where verticals are driven by the flow of capital, horizontals are driven by the flow of process: roles and responsibilities, actions and outcomes.

The interstices of these two dimensions live in countless go-to-market strategies. It's a design that's launched a billion spreadsheets with a widely understood convention for what constitutes a row and what's a column. But in ECM interfaces? Not so much. The intranet turf wars of today are reflections of many things:

  • They may be the screen clutter resulting from a lack of information governance.
  • They may be the marketing group stepping in to pep rally the troops with slicker, smoother pixelations.
  • They may be the unresolved disputes of acquisitions past.

Regardless, these are not environment-friendly places for leveraging and producing work product.

A functional interface plots the cross-section between verticals and horizontals. What meets in the middle is not some rare essence but the recurring search habits and information-seeking priorities of the knowledge workers we serve. With apologies to Brandon Cruz we'll unpack this intersection of enterprise search traffic as NEATO:

Concept | (Content Source) -> Interface

N ext steps | (project management)     -> Workflow dashboard
E xperts | (people) -> Social media collaboration
A ccounts |(transactions) -> Financial management
T opics | (research) -> Glossaries + Wikis
O fferings | (process) -> Services + product portfolio

Bad acronym. Comprehensive assessment. It's not the whole story though. It's essential to factor in verticals and horizontals. But NEATO only explains the what inside your content supply. It's the why where the knowhow lives. That means architecting interfaces that aren't just listings of links into standalone repositories. That requires understanding the motives of your users. Essentially: where are they going with what you're giving them. In a word ... LSD (no apologies to Mr. Leary):

L earn -- Includes templates, frameworks, videos, publications, onboarding materials
S ell -- Includes proposals, qualifications, and discussions that grease your pipeline
D o -- Includes the diagnostics, planning, and delivery of your work product

So there you have it. Two forgettable names for two handy frameworks. Each one is complementary for building a KM system that's answerable to the experience of using it -- not just the specs for buying it.

#implementation #InformationGovernance #best-in-class #knowledgeplanning #deployment #informationarchitecture #SharePoint