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“Key Documents” Can Help Open the Door to a Company-Wide Document Strategy

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Whether you’re in the trenches of IT, at the level of CIO, or somewhere in between, you’ve no doubt heard about the importance of an organization having a document strategy.

Maybe your company already has a document strategy in place or is working toward having one. That’s great! But if you work for one of those 75% of organizations that don’t have a document strategy, read on.

Developing and following a document strategy isn’t as simple as implementing the “best” content management system out there. In fact, crafting a document strategy first requires one to dive deep, deep, deep into your company’s innards to discover the documents, technology, and people that make up your organization. (Yes, it’s ironic. You’ll be gathering information about your company’s information.) And that’s just the initial baseline assessment.

How to Not Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

As you can see, constructing the framework of your company’s document strategy is a huge undertaking, one that doesn’t quite fit into this blog post. But, by identifying your company’s “key documents” and then streamlining the process of creating, producing, and archiving them, you’ll achieve these things:

  • You’ll hit a home run right off the bat, giving you and your team confidence.
  • You’ll impress the decision makers who have the power to make or break your efforts.
  • You’ll have the knowledge to repeat the process for your company’s other, less crucial documents.

Get Help from the Pareto Principle (Or, the 80-20 Rule)

To get in the mindset for identifying key documents, consider the 80-20 rule, also known as the “law of the vital few.” Twentieth century American businessman and quality control expert Joseph Juran stumbled across the readings of Vilfredo Pareto and developed Pareto’s initial 80-20 concept. Pareto himself was a pretty well-rounded 19th century engineer (and sociologist and economist and political scientist and philosopher). The gist of the Pareto Principle is that most problems (the 80%) are a result of a few causes (the 20%).

Now I’m going to throw a few percentages at you, which I pulled from Kevin Craine’s book, Designing a Document Strategy:

  • Working with documents is responsible for 45% of labor costs.
  • Working with documents takes up to 60% of an employee’s time.
  • Document cost is eventually going to reach about 15% of an organization’s corporate revenue.

Understanding this along with the 80-20 rule, you can see how identifying and streamlining key documents can result in big rewards for your company.

Sieve Your Company’s Documents Through These Finely Meshed Questions

Whether documents feature heavily or hardly at all in your business, it’s probably fair to say that only a few of them are crucial. If at first it seems difficult to narrow down the key documents to just a handful, ask yourself these questions:

Which documents does your company need for crucial business functions?

Which documents have the greatest influence on the success of your organization?

Which documents help to achieve your company’s vision and goals?

Still need to narrow down the field? Apply an even finer mesh to your document list with these questions:

Which documents offer the best likelihood for success?

Which documents need improvement the most – or are the most troublesome? (Does a certain squeaky wheel come to mind?)

Which documents have the potential to provide the biggest return for your effort?

Of course, even with a short list of key documents in hand, there is still more work to be done. Keep in mind that documents are just a part of the overall “what, how, and who” of document strategy. When you understand all three elements – documents (what), technology (how), and people (why) – you can navigate a successful path toward a complete document strategy. But don’t try to go it alone! For further reading, I highly recommend Designing a Document Strategy by Kevin Craine.

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