Transformational Change Challenging Information Technology Teams

Dave Hudson, CIO, Veritiv Corporation [NYSE: VRTV]
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The information technology (IT) organization has evolved in two major ways over the past 20 years. 1) The technology field has become more complex and with an increasing number of interactions among corporate systems and processes; and 2) implementation of IT strategy has evolved from transactional to transformational, which requires broad-based collaboration for success. These two developments are seen in the way implementation of document management systems (DMS) has transformed. Ten to 15 years ago, the process consisted of a repository and configuration for handling metadata. Today, a corporate DMS encompasses many more data types, workflows, processes, data exchanges between internal and external systems, and is impacted by regulation more than ever.

In the past, CIOs have often asked the question, “How are we going to implement our information technology solutions?” Nowadays, the question has become, “How do we manage all the change to implement our information technology solutions?” One way to tackle this issue is to look for solutions across several dimensions. Ideally, the process should be viewed as a transformational task that will require change management and collaboration across the organization. A common set of dimensions will be: 

• How does this affect our people?
• How does this affect how we view ourselves and the data across our enterprise?
• How will this affect how we view our customers and what we can do for them?
• How will this affect our existing technology? How is it integrated? What does it touch?
• How does it affect our processes, policies and procedures?
• How will this affect how our customers view us and how we interact with them?

  If the CIO can build a strong team that collaborates across the organization; they can deliver on their promise of providing value 

As with any change, the people aspect is the most important and the most challenging, but often, the most commonly overlooked. Having an effective training plan is just one part of the overall picture. CIOs need to dig deeper to understand how people and the entire organization will adopt the change and what can be done to monitor that the change is happening. The company’s Human Resources team can be a great partner for effective implementation. The project leader will also want to know how to communicate the change that is happening. Are people afraid the new technology is replacing them? Do they know what the real benefit is to them and to the company? If people don’t accept the change, the CIO will never be able to replace or improve upon the legacy systems and processes, and as a consequence the company may never realize the full potential of a new system.

Once the people aspects are understood, it’s important for the CIO to know how any new system alters the company’s view of itself and its data. Simply put—the CIO needs to understand what new capabilities there will be and how the company will handle that capability. Will there suddenly be better visibility into actions and activities within your organization? A great partner to help CIOs understand this aspect of a new system impact is the company’s Operations group.

Next up are the customers. In today’s world, employees now have more information at their fingertips when a customer calls. The CIO should be asking several questions in regards to the DMS bearing on customers. Is there a better understanding of how customers will want to use this data? Does the system provide you with new insights? Both the Sales and the Customer Service organizations will be invaluable allies in helping CIOs tackle this dimension.

Technology is still at the core of major changes in the IT world, and it is more complex today than ever before. Truly understanding all of the interactions a new system will have with existing corporate systems is critical. As CIO, all of the same questions you asked about the new system will need to be asked about the other systems impacted. While implementing a DMS the CIO will want to know how external systems will feed data into the current system and what external systems will consume the data. Security, timeliness, and most importantly, cleanliness are key issues. The CIO must be the source of truth and held accountable to maintaining the system and its data. The collaboration among the CIO’s own team is critical—everyone from security to business analysts must be engaged and involved in the process.

Understanding processes, policies, and procedures may sound very similar; however, each is uniquely different and need a set of questions answered. From a processes perspective, it is all about the end user. This is where workflow must be analyzed and how the information in a DMS is used truly understood. This will also impact company policies—what is the retention policy for your document management system? The CIO will want to involve the company’s Legal team and others in-house functions managing record retention early on in the change process. Their guidance can have a huge impact on how the DMS is implemented and its requirements. The procedures around a DMS will define how the system is maintained and what happens after go-live. The CIO needs to know who is accountable at each step of the process, and more importantly, ensure resources are available to make sure the system is sustainable.

Customers were mentioned in an earlier perspective, but it was the CIO’s view of them. Consideration needs to be given to how customers will view the company’s new DMS capabilities. Will customers want to integrate with the new system? Will they want new services, reports or information? All of these questions can lead to great value for the organization, but they can also create chaos if the CIO and the information technology team are not ready to handle what customers are asking for.

DMS have evolved significantly over the past 20 years and so have corporations and the technology around them. Implementing new systems can provide great value or can create a tremendous amount of confusion and pain. If the CIO can build a strong team that collaborates across the organization; they can deliver on their promise of providing value. The technology has become the easy part—it is the transformational change that will challenge information technology teams, yet bring them significant success if managed properly.

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