Tag Archives: agile

Information Management Context – Project Manager’s View

Implementation of information management projects is quite complex in ever changing business environments. The success or failure of such initiatives is often determined by ability of the project manager to see the big picture. Quite often such projects fail because the team concentrates on technology, neglecting other aspects of the environment. Technology is obviously important, but is merely part of the whole picture. Information management projects do not exist in isolation. There are many factors that need to be taken into account during planning, but also later closely monitored during the execution. The project manager needs to be alert to any changes in the environment and be ready to adopt. Rushing ahead with a project that do not addresses business need anymore, is going to lead to disaster.

What are the key elements of the environment that need to be addressed? The answer depends on the organization itself, but usually it could be grouped into following classes:

  • Business goals, principles and trade specific practices

Direction of the business, where it is going to be in 3 to 5 years, has direct impact on definition of business needs. The information management projects need to anticipate the change that is going to occur, and make sure that delivered business systems will support these needs, and there will be flexibility to adopt these systems easily when new requirements appear. For example, when implementing taxonomy, the project manager needs to make sure that it is scalable, so the organization will not have to spend fortune to redesign the system.  Buying trade specific classification from a third party, might save time, but each organization is different so this will require customization. Ability to satisfy business needs will also impact current and future end user satisfaction.

  • Organizational structure, roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders

Since every organization is different, it is not possible to use a single cookie-cutter approach. Identification of key players early in the project, and keeping them engaged during delivery is critical to success of the project. Making sure that stakeholders understand their accountabilities and responsibilities not only while the project is active, but also in the future when the delivered systems are operational, will help with establishing proper governance and change management.

  • Technology

Technology quite often introduces constraints to the project due to existing legacy systems, or decisions that were made already to standardize on specific products. However the project manager needs to anticipate change in the future in other systems generating data or consuming information. It is important that the project works closely with enterprise architects and monitor closely any other projects that are on the roadmap already. Quite often such projects introduce unexpected surprises, heavily impacting the project success. Even upgrades to existing systems might introduce need for change.

  • Corporate structure

Corporate structure changes quite frequently. Although information management systems should be independent from such structure by building taxonomy based primarily on business processes, often the corporate divisions have some independence in selection of tools and implementation of systems. Information management projects have often enterprise-wide effect, so making sure that all the involved groups are brought to the table, is extremely important. This is going to save lot of time and money in the future, when organization will try to leverage ability to mine information and knowledge.

  • Information Management practices

Depending on maturity of the organization, there might or might not be processes and practices in place already. The project manager must be aware of them before and during implementation. Also, delivery of new system has a rippling effect on overall ability to grow in such maturity, impacting governance and change management.


In summary, project managers implementing information management projects need to be acutely aware of the complexities of the whole environment, not only focusing narrowly on deliverables. Ultimately success of the project is not only measured by being on time, within budget and scope, but primarily by acceptance and usage after the project is delivered.

Information Management Trends

Recently, while doing some research, I found in my documents a reference to an old Gartner report on knowledge workers productivity and its relationship to search. This report was from 2002 and stated that knowledge workers spent between 30 to 40% of their time searching for information, and they were less than 50% successful in their efforts. According to Kathy Harris and Regina Casonato – employees got 50 to 70% of information from other people rather than from their search results.

This referred to both electronic and physical documents. Physical documents are usually better organized, electronic often become quickly an information dump. Since then, there were new tools adopted and ratio of electronic to paper documents increased. With wide adoption of tools like SharePoint, instant messages, wireless phone texting, Tweeter and so on, there was a dramatic increase in amount of information that is being created and transmitted. Are we better now with the information management that then? I don’t think so. Although the search capabilities increased, and we use more powerful processors, full content search is still not the answer. Are we capturing more contextual information to help with targeted search? The answer is mostly – no – after seeing multiple implementations of SharePoint. Implementation of SharePoint sites became often too easy, without proper thought put into development of information architecture and governance. Very soon such installations turn into an information junkyard.

So what was the cost of lost productivity then in 2002? Assuming that average fully loaded salary of knowledge worker was about $ 80,000 per year, 30% will come to about $ 24,000 – per worker. These costs are mind blowing, especially if we take into account the success rate of less than 50%. So this raises a question – could be used in ECM business cases to support financial benefits, without accountants rejecting them as purely soft benefits? I touched on this in my previous blog post, and Jason White suggested interesting concept of using Business Intelligence tools to identify these benefits. But how to do it before we have ECM tools in place?

This relates to today’s report from Gartner on top 10 tech trends for 2012. Here are few interesting highlights relevant to information management:

–          Average teenager sends over 4,762 text messages per month – I am sure that busy executives with their Blackberries send less than this but it still shows how quickly volume of information is increasing

–          Context aware computing, using information about end user’s or object’s environment to improve quality of interaction – metadata and information architecture come to mind immediately, and its importance will be constantly growing.

–          Internet of everything with pervasive computing linking information generating input points like cameras, sensors, microphones, image recognition and so on. This is not only about the information volume but also about the privacy.

–          Next generation analytics – improvement in processing power will shift the analytics from data centers to end user platforms, including mobile devices. It will empower the end users to do lot of analysis themselves.

So what this all shows? It seems that the problems from 10 years ago were still not resolved, and information management is still trying to catch-up with technology. The focus of information management will have to shift towards proactive development of agile taxonomies, automatic tools to capture and normalize metadata, facilitating targeted search, as well as making analytics tools simpler for end users. This hopefully will turn into increased knowledge worker’s productivity.

Chaos or Agile?

Recently I have had conversation with a project manager claiming that he was running project in an ‘agile’ way. The project is performing poorly with constantly missed deadlines, missed deliverables, and poor quality. This response came when I asked for project plan. Well – there is one but it doesn’t reflect what happened or what is currently going on with this project.

Although I am all for using Agile approach, especially in enterprise content management and records management projects, but Agile is not synonymous to Chaos. Obviously this project manager is using word ‘agile’ to create smoke screen and hide what is really going on behind the scenes, but I noticed that this is becoming a common trend among project managers nowadays. The problem is that ‘agile’ became a buzzword for organizations that are in quest of finding a magic solution to their chronic delivery problems. Agile will work, but only in mature organizations with mature teams, but it could make things worse in organizations that still lack of foundations of good delivery.

In the strong, prescribed methodologies it was easier to spot when things were going wrong, so it was easier to remediate. Obviously they went wrong from the very beginning, starting with development of rigid requirements that often did not address what the end client wanted. The requirements became substitute for communication with the end users, so end result was often not what the client was expecting, and the biggest enemy became word ‘the change request’.

Agile still needs to have a plan, however a plan that adopts to changing environment, business needs and dynamics within project team itself. There must be controls in place to identify when project is getting off track. These controls are different than in traditional world. This difference is related to different approach. In traditional world the problem was handed over from the business to technical team to deliver solution. The ‘agile’ way is not to have distinction between business and technology – it is only one team delivering solution, consisting of business and technical people. There is no more shifting of the accountabilities and responsibilities between the two. There is a team resolving business problem. This leads to shift in way how the projects are measured. The shift is from the project centric reliance on how the project is doing in terms of the triple constraints, to delivery of business value and tangible results and this is how the projects should be measured. The budget and time are still important and fundamental to the project, but the focus should be on delivery of business value.

This is the point where project management becomes more art than science – balancing act between rigid approach and the chaos on the other side. But Agile is not synonymous with Chaos.