What the NFL Knows about ECM

The title is a little misleading, but while I was reading an article in the NY Times about the $100 million worth of technology improvements that have been made at the New Meadowlands Stadium, I very quickly saw a link to SharePoint and ECM. You’re right, this is not a story I would share at the bar during a game. But If you read the article, and if you are as much of a geek as I am, you might also understand my next question – am I the NFL or am I the home entertainment industry?

The stadium and team owners are investing a ton of money to give the people in the stands an experience they cannot get at home. They are combating the appeal of high-definition television, instant replays and the comfort of home. They are also trying to minimize the drawbacks to being in the stadium by providing Smartphone apps to help you find the shortest concession line and your lost child. In my little battle, I am trying to convince people that electronic documents are better than paper documents. There is a quote in the article that caught my attention:

I just want the ambience, to watch the players and feel the crowd. I would much rather have the feel of the game brought into the home, not the other way round

I have had someone tell me that they just feel better holding a document, flipping through its pages and how they can’t get that feeling with the document displayed on a monitor. I’ve tried pointing out that they are flipping through the pages in search of something they can find in a heartbeat in the electronic version, but my logic falls on deaf ears. Again, I have to ask, do I try to bring the feel of the documents into the electronic versions or do I just up the ante so far that the high-def version of that document makes the real document look like just so much paper. Honestly, I have only ever tried the latter approach. The investment I have made has been aimed at making that document available when you aren’t proximate to the file cabinet, or when the person who understands the file system isn’t around. SharePoint allows me to quickly locate the document I want, regardless of where I happen to be. That was the mission, and it was pretty easy to accomplish. All I have to do; I thought, is to populate the libraries with more and more documents.

I have never really thought about improving the viewing experience of electronic documents. I wonder what would happen if I placed a Kindle next to the filing cabinets that hold our policies. Instead of rifling through drawer after drawer, or finding the person who knows how to find the policies, you could browse a PDF. I would want to use a Kindle since I can get one now for $139 and I wouldn’t have to chain it to the cabinet but maybe that is not a good idea. Amazon’s website still labels the ability to view PDF as “experimental” and points out that some PDF documents may not format correctly. Plus, I think I would have to load the documents on the Kindle – ugh, another copy… Maybe, this is a chance for me to get that iPad, you know, for developing and testing this concept.

If you are a geek like me, you might be picturing Wesley Crusher reading his homework assignment on the way to the Enterprise Briefing Room. I wonder if that scenario would ever play out at work? We already have at least one person showing up at meetings with an iPad. What if that person could easily find any document we had, on that iPad, during that meeting? By storing our documents into electronic form and putting them in SharePoint, we have made it possible to access documents anytime from any place. Maybe the real key to success is making that access enjoyable.