January 10, 2017

Why is Change Management Important when Implementing an Electronic Records Management (ERM) Solution?

9 minute read

Change is inevitable when an organization deploys new technology and based on my experience, the management of that change is often the reason for failure to adopt the new technology.  By nature, most people don't like to change, and change is often threatening, especially to employees that have been in their roles for a long time.

Change Management is critical to implementing an Electronic Records Management (ERM) Solution because failure means the organization is at risk for lack of compliance.

Change Management and Project Management are typically both required to enable change.  But why is Project Management at the forefront, and there is little focus on Change Management?  Most organizations realize that Project Management is essential to a successful project.  We all know what a Project Manager is, and most of us are even familiar with the PMP certification for Project Managers.  But how many projects have you been involved with that had a Change Manager?

The PMBOK Guide, Fifth Edition defines Project Management as:

Project Management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.

Project Management is accomplished through the appropriate application and integration of the project management process groups of initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing.

The PMBOK Guide does not define Change Management, although it does identify the need for integrated change control within the project, but that is more about controlling the scope of the project than managing change.

One definition of Change Management, provided by Prosci, is:

Change management is the process, tools and techniques to manage the people side of change to achieve the required business outcome.¹

Project Management has gained relevance in the last decade.  CIO magazine reports that by 2020, there will be 700,000 new Project Management jobs in the US.  It could be that the concept of Change Management is just lagging behind Project Management.  Or many organizations view Change Management as part of Project Management.

In either case, both of these disciplines are essential to any project but why is Change Management critical to an ERM project?

Project Management will ensure the project is completed on time, on budget and within scope, but Change Management will focus on the people and help them transition and adopt the technology, the ERM solution. 

There are many areas of change that may be required when implementing an ERM solution.  This article identifies four areas and then outlines three critical factors for successful Change Management.

Here are four areas of change that may need additional attention when implementing an ERM solution. 

  1. Paper to Electronic - If the existing records are in paper format, the change that needs to be embraced goes far past just implementing an ERM Solution.  Aside from the technology, transitioning from paper to digital records is an endeavor in itself.  If you are old enough, do you remember making the transition from reading technical manuals in book format to electronic format?  It wasn't an easy change.  When it comes to records, the Records Managers may feel a sense of security when they can physically put their hands on a record or the ability to be the guardian of who else can touch that physical record.

    The change required in this situation is more than just adopting the ERM solution.  The users need to adapt to dealing with records in digital format.
  2. Trusting the Technology - Based on what I know about Records Managers, trusting the technology is a key hurdle to overcome.  Records Managers take their jobs very seriously, and they are not going to embrace a solution that manages their records if they don't trust it.  Therefore, education and culture are critical, more on these topics later.

    If the IT department selected the ERM solution without input from the Records Managers, there might be resentment and thus a reluctance to adopting the new ERM solution.
  3. Disposition of Electronic Records - Approving digital records for disposition is a different process than approving paper records for disposition.  When a Records Manager is approving paper records for disposition, they are physically handling the records, which may give them a higher comfort level with the process.  When approving digital records, the Records Manager may feel uneasy because they aren't physically handling the records.

    In addition, an organization may develop a sense of comfort in keeping their digital records because they aren’t physically taking up space, so the cost of retaining them isn't as apparent.  This can result in the reluctance to actually dispose of the digital records.

    The reality is that the exact opposite is true.  If you ERM Solution is setup properly, disposition should be a much easier process than in the paper world and a more accurate process.
  4. Adhering to a Taxonomy - With the deployment of a ERM Solution, a new or different Taxonomy may have been implemented.  Training may be necessary to help the users understand the Taxonomy.  Adherence to the Taxonomy is critical, assuming the Retention Rules are tied to components of the Taxonomy.

    If the ERM Solution includes the management of File Shares and a Taxonomy is being enforced for the File Shares, users will need time to adapt.  This is typically a huge transition in how the File Share is used and will require education and patience as the user community adjusts to the new process.  It is critical to have their buy-in; otherwise many users will find other creative ways to store their files to avoid the Taxonomy, which can put the organization at risk.

We know that change is inevitable, but how can Change Management help?  Here are three critical factors that are centered around the people and how to help them transition and adopt the ERM Solution.

  1. Sponsorship - If you are familiar with Project Management you know that sponsorship is an important part of the PM process, but it is often overlooked.  When it comes to making changes within an organization, sponsorship and commitment from the top is essential.  There are two aspects to sponsorship that are important.
    1. Sponsorship From Management - If management is embracing the change and their actions are reinforcing the change, then the users are more likely to adopt the changes.  It is important that this is reflected from the top of the organization down.  If only your immediate management is committed to the change, this is not sending the right message.
    2. Sponsor - Do you have a sponsor/champion?  The sponsor is the person that is accountable for enabling the success of the project.  The sponsor promotes the project and is the spokesperson to higher levels of management.   The sponsor is the change agent for the project.  They must cast a clear vision to the users and lead them on the path to adopting the ERM Solution.

As with Information Governance, unless you have support from all levels of management, the ERM initiative may not be taken seriously.  It will be an uphill battle for a Records Manager to convince the rest of the organization the importance of the project.

  1. Education - Training is typically a part of every project, but it is often viewed as a task in the project plan with a specific start and end date.  The key is that education is much broader than training and education needs to be an ongoing task.  Your users are probably not going to be on-boarded in one training session.  Their education needs to go beyond the initial training class.  The real learning starts to take place once they are back on the job and using the technology in real life situations. 

    The Records Managers need to take ownership of the solution.  They need to understand how it works, how they can make changes and how can they get the information they require from the solution.  They need to know how their current Retention Schedule is represented in the ERM Solution.  All this will require time and continuing education.  Make sure your education plan is not short sighted.
  2. Culture - Every organization has a different culture, and to some extent, the culture will define how the change will be received, accepted and hopefully eventually embraced.  When deploying an ERM Solution, the role of the Records Manager is critical, not only are they the ones that hold the essential knowledge around the retention schedule, they take the management and disposition of records very seriously.  It is critical that the Sponsor of the project understands the depth of knowledge held by the Records Manager, and that a reluctance to change may be because they do not trust or understand the technology that will be managing their records.

When you are embarking on your journey to deploy an ERM Solution, and you are thinking about Project Management, don't forget about Change Management.  Remember that Sponsorship, Education, and Culture are three factors that can positively affect your ability to institute change along with your ERM Solution.

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