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Drive records compliance through exceptional user experiences

Did you know that it’s possible to design a door so badly that you need instructions? It’s true; Habanero has done it. Check out the picture of Calgary office entrance. It looks great – clean, professional, and hopefully welcoming.

Upon closer inspection, we have a problem. As you can see, we have a vertical door handle on the outside of the door. Any door handle instinctively suggests that you pull! to open the door, but then we also have a sign that says push..

In processing these competing cues, instinct wins over intellect. You walk up to the door, yank on the handle and then the door doesn’t budge. You’ve strained your arm, you’ve strained your shoulder and you’ve slopped some of that finely-balanced-on-your-notebook cup of coffee on your notebook and the floor. Only then do you stop to consider the push sign and have another go. We’ve managed to create a terrible experience for anyone entering our office!

Our Calgary office door

If it’s possible to design a door so badly that you’re confusing your users, do you think it’s possible to design a records management solution in such a way that you’re confusing your users?

There’s really one simple lesson here: consideration of the experience of the user is paramount. It’s surprising that we designed an office, a door and an entrance way to that office without REALLY considering the experience of the end-user. Each component individually made sense, but  together, we built an experience that is sub-par.

What can we learn from this and apply to enterprise content management?

We have identified three ideas that will support you in developing great experiences for your users. The rest of this article describes these ideas, all of which draw a little bit on the example above.

  • Enduring empathy for your users
  • Leverage other projects
  • Seek out a win-win scenario

We consider all involved parties to be the user, that is, the end-user who’s creating content, accessing or declaring records, the records manager user who’s working auditing, reporting on and making lifecycle decisions for records, and even the organizational leaders who want visibility into and reports on compliance.

Enduring empathy for your users

As motherhood and apple pie as this sounds, this best describes the approach to delivering exceptional experiences to your end users. There are a collection of tools and techniques that you can use to identify and map the current-day experiences of your users. The key here is, as per our office door example, you need to consider the experience holistically; granular examination of the environment doesn’t work.

Once you understand those experiences, you can start to discover the high-points and the low-points, the areas of tension and the underlying reasons for those points of tension. This thinking is actually known as experience design. You can read more about experience design in Kurtis Beard’s excellent insight about employee onboarding.

In considering the experience of your users, we would urge that you consider the experience of yourself and your records management team in operating and/or supporting your completed records management solution. Will it, holistically speaking, be an exceptional experience for you? Will you be required to cajole, chase or even reprimand end users? If so, we would suggest that that will not be an exceptional experience for you or your team.

These perspectives reinforce the original point; develop an experience that is exceptional for your users and supports their job.

Leverage other projects

My brilliant colleague Natalie Veldhoen expressed that one ideal scenario for records managers would be where they are simply “collecting records” that have been previously uploaded by the end users. With some technical know-how, like Collabware’s automated declaration capabilities, it’s possible to do just that. The automated declaration is based on the location and/or the type of the content uploaded.

The challenge here lies in where we find the content in the first place. In most enterprise organizations, there’s no shortage of initiatives that are trying to control the tidal wave of content. Often we work with our clients in connecting these types of solutions to a robust records management solution that “collects” the records behind the scenes. These initiatives might be anything from a CRM project to a business process workflow project, a collaboration project or even an external website project.

One great example is a solution we developed that is focused on policies and procedures. The solution allows the policies to be created, edited, approved and then published to all of the employees in a way that is simple to navigate.

The solution is oriented around the experience of the end users in order to ensure that they can find the policies or procedures that they need in order to perform their work safely and correctly. This solution is not a records management solution per se, but because it contains the version of all of the policies and procedures, there’s a great opportunity to capture (and subsequently control access and versions) the policies and procedures as records.

In this way, the records management team is able to leverage a solution focused on delivering a great experience to its users and collect records in the background.

Seek out a win-win scenario

It’s easy to believe that addressing the experience of our end users’ impacts our ability to deliver on our records management agenda. Put another way, we could believe that applying our scarce resources of budget, time or energy to our end users reduces the budget, time or energy we can apply to our own agenda.

Don’t succumb to this false dichotomy; the two outcomes are far from mutually exclusive. Presenting a great experience to users will drive much better records management outcomes. Improved records management outcomes will improve the experience of the users because, at a minimum, they will be able to locate what they seek.


In wrapping up this insight post, there’s one scenario that is very useful to consider.

The scenario is one where the success of this particular business relies (at least in part) on its users’ tagging the content that they upload. This business has no sway over its users’ actions; no comebacks or performance bonuses. Its model requires users to upload and tag content in their own time, with no training, no support, and no recognition for doing the uploading or tagging. And yet, this is exactly what many of the users do readily every single week.

Which business is this? Facebook.

Daily, millions of Facebook’s one billion users choose to upload and tag their photos. They tag their friends and their location, and they add-in a few words about the photo. These are the exact actions that we seek from the users of our records management solutions. What accounts for the success Facebook has versus the challenge we as record managers face in requesting the same of our users?


Whether you applaud or mock the motivation that is driving users to upload, tag and share their photos, it’s hard to argue that whatever is motivating the users, it’s very effective. Fortunately, we can consider this further without discourse around WHAT might be the motivating factor here!

We could dismiss this level of motivation as an unfeasible option for the users of our records management solutions; after all, how could we conceivably get our users to be motivated to tag their content in OUR records management solution? We likely can’t. That’s not how this type of motivation works.

But, by aligning that solution towards or around the work that your users are trying to perform then you’re getting closer to their motivation. If we’re able to support them in accomplishing their goals, their work and their tasks, then we’ve got a fighting chance.

Interested in learning more about driving compliance through better user experiences?
Download our ECM roadmap template