Beyond compliance: The business value behind document management

Instead of trying to make compliance a priority, we need to find a way to help people get their jobs done and in turn, meet the compliance needs of the organization.


While compliance is often cited as the driver for a document or records management program, you need more than that to make it a success. You can have a system but if no one uses it or they use it incorrectly then its value is not realized. People need systems that work for them and help them do their jobs better. The value to the business needs to go beyond compliance.

Organizations tend to be reactive

Many document management or records management initiatives are usually driven by a breach in compliance. Maybe an audit identified some gaps in business processes. Or a health and safety or environmental incident highlighted where your response was slow or incomplete. Or perhaps legal proceedings or information requests are putting pressure on your team.

You are asked to respond quickly, and might even receive a reasonable budget infusion to take care of the issue. The problem with a compliance first approach is that it rarely leads to long-term success.

Is this how you feel?

Again, and again we hear messages like these from the organizations we work with.

"We have the best records management system and our organization is still a mess."

"We have trained until we can't train anymore."

"I don't know if we can make it any clearer for people – we have clearly defined what a record is and how it needs to be managed."

"People make a habit of filing their records once or twice a year but who knows if we are getting the right stuff."

"This used to work because with paper files people ran out of space and were happy to ship their old stuff off for archiving, now there is no incentive."

Let’s solve the right problems

Instead of trying to make compliance a priority, we need to find a way to help people get their jobs done and in turn meet the compliance needs of the organization.

Start by recognizing people’s priorities

Everyone within a business has a core set of responsibilities. For your accounting team, it’s likely paying people, getting paid, and keeping records of those transactions. For someone in recruitment, maybe it’s finding the best people to fill the vacancies in the organization. For sales, it’s being out in the market, making connections, and driving new business.

We know people are busy and so the unfortunate outcome is that managing and filing records is simply a to-do at the end of a very long list of primary responsibilities — an important to-do but still not anyone's priority.

Instead of thinking about the value the compliance brings, let's shift our thinking to the value we can help create to support our peers’ jobs, and in turn to drive organizational compliance.

The greatest challenge to information governance success – lack of confidence

Systems don't get used if people do not have the confidence that they will be able to find the information they need, when they need it.

  • People can’t find what  they are looking for. In the 2014 IDC Report, The Knowledge Quotient, it was reported that knowledge workers spend 16% of their working time looking for information, and they only find what they need 56% of the time.
  • There is too much data. The 2017 ARMA / Cohasset’s benchmarking survey states that 80% of records and information technology professionals identified this (rapidly increasing volumes of data) as the greatest obstacle to information governance success.

Lack of confidence is the reason most people fail to use document management systems, and instead rely on local copies, personal cloud based tools or even hard copies.

Two ways to create value beyond business compliance

Processes and procedures, as well as tools and technology, play a key role in building an engaged and productive workforce.

1) Improve the searching and finding experience

The priority should be solutions that streamline and optimize the way people find, access, and collaborate on information.

Systems need to support configurable and optimized search experiences to be able to manage the volumes of data. And this findability needs to be supported with user-centric taxonomy and folksonomy structures that are agile enough to keep up with changes in the organization.

2) Give people systems and processes that work for them

The best way to get people using systems is to design the system, and processes associated with it, in a way that works for them. We can do that by:

·      Looking for ways to integrate information management systems and align the metadata between them so they can effectively talk with each other.

  • Asking IT, “hey, can we make this better?”
  • Considering 3rd party add-ons that can help smooth out the path or even customizations that can significantly help the overall experience.

We need to begin evaluating more fully how a bad experience with processes and technology affects our workplace. AON Hewitt’s annual employee engagement survey – Trends in Global Employee Engagement has a section that specifically calls out the contribution that “enabling infrastructure” has on engaged employees

Use compliance to start the conversation

Compliance might be the start of your conversation but it should not be the end of it.

At Habanero, we pride ourselves in understanding what makes an engaged workforce and being able to harness the power of that engagement. An engaged workforce is more productive, more likely to be invested in the work they do, and more likely to stay with organizations longer. This business value cannot be underestimated and must be specifically called out for a records or information management agenda to get the traction it needs.

If you want a successful records or document management program, you need to ground it in business value that speaks to everyone, and shouts “Good document management solutions = Good business!

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