They’re not gone yet, but by the middle of 2013, our network shared folders become read-only. That was the message delivered a few days ago to a group representing every functioning department that hasn’t already moved their content onto SharePoint. Tough love? No, reality. Let me be clear about my motives, I am not advocating SharePoint, I’m advocating the value of information. Shared network folders have been considered to be among the best things I ever suggested since I first mapped a directory on our NetWare server to K: in 1988. However, not only are they less capable than SharePoint, shared folders have become dysfunctional. They are hard to navigate unless particularly well organized (most are not). Also, because searching and sorting are done on the client, they are pathetically slow for remote workers. So I find myself having to put an end to the era I started 25 years ago.
Sometimes, in order to move forward, you have to make it impossible to move backward or even to stay in the same place. I didn’t invent this concept, I read about others doing it, and I held it in reserve hoping that education and cooperation would suffice. They won’t. I realize that something I wrote about a long time ago, something I learned as an undergraduate in chemistry (of all things) is at work – activation energy. Chemical reactions have an activation energy which if not established, will not proceed. Information management has the same requirement. As long as people have the ability to keep tossing stuff onto the K: drive, they will continue to do just that. The incentives and promises of easy access, findability, sharing, remote and / or mobile connections will only inspire a limited few people to embrace ECM. For the people who create more content than they consume, manage the content others create, or primarily consume the content stored in their own silo, ECM offers little benefit. For them, ECM is “the stuff I have to do to make someone else’s job easier” and oftentimes, the “someone else” is a future employee. Once again, I find myself facing the unenviable task of changing behavior.
I wrote about that task very early on this blog, and I mentioned that my boss had advised me that changing behavior wasn’t like driving a speedboat; it was more like driving an aircraft carrier. He told me to get comfortable with only being able to turn one or two degrees at a time. That was great advice, but when it comes to changing the way people work with content, sometimes I feel like I’m driving Africa, like I am moving at the speed of the tectonic plates. The problem that I face is that if I don’t start making 2-3° changes soon and 5-7° changes in the not too distant future, some of the ships in my carrier task group are going to run aground. Still, there are two important nuances contained in the opening sentence above. One is the fact that we are targeting mid-year. The second fact is that we are not eliminating the K: drive.
Mid-year is an important target both for my team and the people we support. From my team’s point of view, we know that if it doesn’t happen by the end of June, it won’t happen. We will be delayed by vacations and then we will roll into the 4th quarter “busy season” and it will be year-end and 2014 and then we will be starting over. For the people in those operating departments, mid-year means that they have 4-5 months to figure out what they are going to do. During that time, we can help them define the sites and libraries that they need, establish basic metadata and get the process underway.
Making the K: drive read-only has numerous benefits. Nothing will be lost, nothing has to be moved right now and we don’t have to solve every problem before the end of June. Before the end of June, we have to have a place for all the stuff we are likely to create in July and August. We have to have a plan for moving the most important files from the K: drive into SharePoint, and we have to convince people that some of the files on the K: drive are garbage. That’s why we aren’t simply moving the entire contents of K: into SharePoint! Read-only means if they need a file, they can get it, but if they need to edit it, they have to figure out where it belongs and they have to set the basic metadata. If nothing else, everything we create after 6/30/2013 will be easier to work with. That sounds like a workable plan that offers enough benefit for now. Stay tuned, I’ll report on our progress.