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Designing a Solid Document Strategy: Five Traits + Five Steps

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Design_a_solid_document_strategy.gifIn case you haven’t been fervently following these blog posts on document strategy, let me refresh your memory. In Part 1, I discussed the 80-20 rule and how applying it to just a few of your company’s most important documents can cause a ripple of positive changes in your organization. Following that, Part 2 explained what a document strategy is and why it’s urgent for your company to develop “information agility.”

Now here we are at Part 3. 

In case you haven’t been fervently following these blog posts on document strategy, let me refresh your memory. In Part 1, I discussed the 80-20 rule and how applying it to just a few of your company’s most important documents can cause a ripple of positive changes in your organization. Following that, Part 2 explained what a document strategy is and why it’s urgent for your company to develop “information agility.”

Now here we are at Part 3. I’ll provide an overview of how one goes about developing a document strategy. (Once again, I’ll rely heavily on Kevin Craine’s book, Designing a Document Strategy.) Although there are merits to the “just do it” approach, when it comes to creating a document strategy, you really shouldn’t follow this approach. Such impulsivity might lead right back to “just do it again.” Instead, Craine suggests an overall process for developing a document strategy. The strategy itself consists of FIVE traits and contains FIVE overall steps.

The Five Traits of a Solid Document Strategy

When you begin working on a document strategy, consider these traits:

#1. Comprehensive, yet manageable—Strike a balance between making sure what’s important is not overlooked in the document strategy and its slow, sure death due to project scope creep.

#2. United with your company’s goals—To register on the corporate radar screen, the document strategy has to benefit or improve the areas that are important to your organization.

#3. Demonstrated measurements—You should be able to quantifiably measure both your current situation and the results of your efforts toward improvement.

#4. Address corporate culture—To avoid a different kind of slow, sure death of the document strategy, you need to be prepared for these buzz kills: resistance to change, office politics, and lack of support.

#5. Ability to implement and evaluate results—Your insight and planning will come to nothing if you’re unable to follow through. The document strategy must stimulate certain actions, and the results of those actions must be measurable.

With these traits in mind, let’s review the steps involved in designing a document strategy. Think of these steps as both a guide and a framework. Keep in mind that creating a document strategy isn’t a linear process from Point A to Point Z. You might need to place more time and emphasis in one area more than another. You might also find that some steps overlap or that you need to retrace your steps.

Step 1. Baseline Assessment: Figure Out Where You Area and Where You Need to Go

Establishing a baseline means that you’ll need to define for your organization:

  • Its objective and focus
  • Its requirements, demands, and limitations
  • The hard numbers that measure its success

A baseline assessment also looks at your company’s most urgent problems and the most likely areas for improvement. You’ll ask questions such as, What are our most important objectives? and What initiatives are already underway to achieve them?

Although you may think this type of information is rather obvious to others at your company, Craine suggests this isn’t necessarily so. You can easily find this out by quizzing your co-workers along these lines. What you may hear from them might surprise you!

Step 2. Documents, Technology, and People: What It’s All About

If you’re feeling at all lost about how to design a document strategy, take a deep breath and remember: documents, technology, people. Craine explains, “Documents are the subject of your strategy, technology is how you produce them, and the people are why they exist.”

In Step 1, you’re more concerned with your overall business objectives and goals and measuring them. Here in Step 2, you’re getting together a list of target documents, looking at how they’re produced, and understanding the needs of the people who use them.

Step 3. Problems and Solutions: Compare How Things Are with the Way They Should Be

In this step, you’ll narrow your focus even more, looking for problems in your current document processes. How do you find problems? Besides the squeaky wheels in your company, you’ll need to look at how the processes perform and see if they meet the needs of your organization. You may be looking at many problems, but don’t panic because you’ll also be looking at how to choose from among the many solutions.

Step 4. Selling Strategy and Managing Change: Getting the Support of Co-Workers and Management

This is the most worrisome part of proposing any sort of change at one’s place of business. Craine observes that people often have emotional reactions to change, and you’ll need to be prepared for that. One way to get ready is by learning to speak the language of the people you need to convince. What will help bolster your nerve is preparing a cold-blooded financial analysis as well as a formal proposal with your ideas and solutions.

Step 5. Project Planning and Implementation: Map It Out and Get Everyone on the Same Page

This is where all of your work up to this point – the assessment, analysis, and planning – comes together. The project plan you develop will guide your work yet be clearly understandable by everyone else involved. You’ll decide how to implement the strategy and what roles others will play. You’ll define what you must “deliver” in order to be successful as well as how you’ll assess and demonstrate that success. And of course, one should never underestimate the risks. Look for ways to diminish them.

Coming Up Next…

In the next several blog posts, I’ll discuss each of these steps in more detail so you’ll have a better idea how to apply them to your company.

Resources:

  • http://documentmedia.com/article-2278-executing-the-document-strategy-framework.html
  • Developing a Document Strategy, by Kevin Craine

 

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Related Reading

Pt 1 “Key Documents” Can Help Open the Door to a Company-Wide Strategy
Pt 2 One Way to Measure Your Company’s Success: How Well Does It Manage Documents?

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