No Fools in Florida

clip_image002Early next April, April 1-3 to be specific, I’ll be attending the AIIM Conference in Florida. I’ll be speaking at that conference, and even though it falls in between two great SharePoint conferences, I think the AIIM Conference has the more important message. SharePoint is the tool; AIIM is all about using the tool (any tool) correctly – for the right purpose – on the right material – for the right reasons. The title of my presentation is “From Hoarders to Pickers and Pawn Stars” and here is a glimpse (reblogged from my AIIM blog) of what I will be talking about.

OK. I admit it. My session title is a cheesy attempt to cash in on the popularity of a few History Channel shows. In my defense, I do feel the title speaks to both the problem with enterprise content management (ECM) today and the solution. Simply put, we aren’t managing content; we are hoarding stuff.

Stuff we think might have value, stuff we think we have to keep, and stuff we simply lost track of so long ago that we no longer know what it is. I have stuff like this in my inbox; you may have some of this stuff too. If you don’t, you don’t have to look very hard to find it. Maybe it’s in a shared drive; maybe it’s on your C: drive; maybe it’s still in a file cabinet; and maybe it’s already made its way into SharePoint.

There is a difference between the hoarder mentality and the picker mentality – and this can affect your organization. Hoarders keep stuff. Pickers ignore junk and seek out that which has value. If you watch the shows, you realize that hoarders don’t want to be pickers, they just want to keep stuff – ALL the stuff. For the most part in business, we aren’t dealing with the kind of hoarder whose stuff is about to bury them. We’re dealing with the people that the pickers find; the people with large warehouses, multiple outbuildings, or a fleet of abandoned school buses and RVs dotting their property. Hoarding doesn’t hurt them; it only hurts the generations that will inherit that stuff. That’s us, that’s business hoarding. We pile document after document, spreadsheet after spreadsheet and PowerPoint presentations from everywhere into all the virtual outbuildings our network has to offer – and they never fill up!

To combat the hoarders, some of us have to become pickers and some of us have to become family. As pickers, we have to ask questions like: “Where did you get this?” “How much do you think this is worth?” But, as family, we have to ask the really hard questions: “Why on Earth would anyone want this?” “What do you expect me (or my coworkers) to do with this?” Not to mention: “Don’t we have 10 or 20 of these? Do we really need this one too?”

As for becoming Pawn Stars, that’s the tricky part. One difference between Pickers and Pawn Stars is that Pawn Stars know how to repurpose stuff by turning it into more valuable stuff. They know that with the right amount of work, something interesting can become something truly remarkable. That’s the real goal. We have to find that content that has value and we have to make the right investment to amplify that value and bring it to the surface.

Let me give you a short example: We have an engineering department that performs loss control inspections of the facilities we insure. We keep those inspection reports, all of them, forever. We have them on paper, on microfilm, on microfiche, in Word Perfect files, Word files and PDFs. Up until a couple of years ago, nobody could access those reports without a guide and a Sherpa. Today, we have several years’ worth of those reports in SharePoint, easily accessible by facility, by insurerd, by engineer. Recently, we added a workflow so engineers, who are researching older reports, can quickly add them to SharePoint and expand the library of “managed” reports. We still have to work on throwing away the other media, but I’m happy that we are extracting value from the pile.

I’ll see you in Orlando.

2 thoughts on “No Fools in Florida

  1. Excellent topic!

    Every consulting company I have worked for over the years has kidded itself by believing that it’s got strong picker and pawn star capabilities when in fact they are just a bunch of hoarders.

    Taking the time that pickers do to identify valuable content and pawn stars do to rework finished, delivered content (slides, code, templates, training material, you name it) into some thing more valuable (“best” practice documentation, generalized tools and methods, marketing materials) happens too rarely and usually when someone is on the bench briefly.

    I used to argue that picker and pawn star activity (I never called it that, but I probably will now!) should be considered part of the utilization rate in review metrics. If done well, it’s got at least the value of the original creation because without it the organization can’t evolve to become more capable and effective.

    M.

    • Thanks Marc. I had never thought of this in terms of consulting. You’re right though, when I was working as a consultant, we kept everything and the normal method of operation was to simply plop it onto a new client’s desk without bothering to improve it. Any time that was used to select, revise, rework and improve content was charged to “practice development” at one firm and the more blatant but honest “other non-chargeable” at the other. Neither was a good place to have very many of your hours booked.

      Internally today it’s a battle to overcome the notion that “as long as I save this, I have it in case we ever need it” as the reason for document storage and the reason to not invest time into document management. I am trying to persuade people that there is value in that content and that we have the tools to extract it and that it’s worth the investment.

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