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Be a Detective, Have Fun, Meet People and Audit Your Information

Secret Spy Auditing Information

When implementing a new Enterprise Content Management or Electronic Document and Records Management system, be sure to completely understand the landscape of information you’re planning on transforming. Follow the paper-trail (electronic and physical,) listen to people, and take a lot of notes.

I find projects are most successful when a consultant begins with a comprehensive information audit. Regardless of the size of the organisation or scope of the project, sitting down with each person in a processes-chain, to work through their information and tasks is imperative. If the project team resists an audit, be prepared to argue your case.

Remember, the goal is to identify all the of the information assets, process knowledge (tacit and explicit) around the business function or activity being investigated. And that starts with identifying what individuals do and how they do it. Tacit and cultural knowledge are easily over-looked and most likely taken for granted. Through observation and conversation, this vital information will come to light, ensuring the success of your IM projects.

My approach looks something like this:

  • Advise people in advance, of what to expect during the audit.
  • Request people collate their information, in preparation for the audit.
  • Always sit down at a person’s desk or place of work.
  • Be sure to ask about the processes behind all the information you find.
  • Have them perform their tasks in front of you, running through samples from start to finish, if possible.
  • Pay as much attention to what people do as to what they say. This approach is the best way to spot tacit knowledge.
  • Scan the desk and be alert to files and folders on computers. Post-it notes and scribble-paper can contain vital information and clues. Even small discoveries can lead to significant integration or process change.
  • When something new has been discovered, find out where this information comes from. Ask who it was created by or where the master is maintained.
  • Find out if other people or processes use the same information to look for duplication and redundancy.

The above list is neither exhaustive nor universally applicable. Whilst the more questions the better, some creativity in the sleuthing is required!

A solid information audit will become the basis for building:

  • A File Plan.
  • A workflow plan for an automated BPM implementation.
  • A list of redundant documents and processes.
  • An inventory of all of your information assets.
  • The list of document types and meta-data for a new EDRM or ECM system.
  • A cost-benefits analysis for storing your electronic and physical information assets.
  • A gap analysis of your information retention and disposal policies.

Information Audits are not considered sexy but when carried out with a positive attitude, they can be informative and fun, especially when meeting and talking to staff you might not normally. In the long run, a solid information audit will lead to a rewarding and successful IM implementation.

I enjoy them. Do you? Share your thoughts below. I hope to hear from you!