Don’t Just Buy The Technology…

…Think About how the Technology will be Used

It’s all about planning the implementation

by Adam Wilkins, Director of Strategic Consulting


For almost 20 years now, I’ve been trying to help companies addicted to their shared drives. The need to create folders and fill them with “stuff” is incredibly  strong, and inevitably catches up with those that embraced it so lovingly. But the day always comes when it’s impossible to find what you need in the now, thousands of folders, or worse still, you discover that what you need has been accidentally deleted by someone! And the problem is not just yours. Julie at the desk across from you can’t find anything you file,  and the new intern needs a week to learn where to find anything at all. Then there is your operations team that  have found different versions of the same document, with no idea which is the latest?


meta data and tagging

When document management software (Enterprise Content Management, or ECM as it’s now called)  hit the market back in the early 90’s I thought it would be easy to get companies off the evils of shared drives. But alas, I was wrong.  As I visit companies today, shared drives still dominate. And for those that have attempted to implement technology, I’m dismayed at the lack of thought that goes into the implementation.


Many companies simply mimic the shared drives that they are attempting to replace.  Instead of a shared drive with countless folders, I too often see ECM configurations setup the same way.  Many of the same problems persist, just on a new platform.


If you are in the position of considering a new document repository of some sort, be it IBM, Microsoft or other, please do not move forward without considering how the documents are used.  Take that knowledge and define a simple set of metadata or tags that EVERY document should have. Well defined metadata tags provide for more versatile searching than folders alone.


Tags should always aid in retrieval and disposal of data. Don’t expand “just because you can”.


To minimize user confusion, frustration and ultimately subversion, keep tagging to no more than 8 elements (excluding system metadata/tags).  And finally, ask yourself “do I really need to use folders?”  most times the answer should be no.  Folders are the most inefficient way to find documents, and you should be able to find everything using your metadata tags. Reconsider what they are if you can’t use them this way. But use of folders is always a contentious question and one I should leave for another day.

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