Microsoft Excel, huh? Pretty great, right? No log in, universal access, direct manipulation, auto-calculations and pre-populated cells that are custom defined by the user, for the user. No wonder it’s the lifeblood of the business world, and yet the biggest problem for information management.
Recently, I joined the panel discussion at DIA’s “Regulatory Submissions, Information and Document Management Forum” which, for someone outside the regulatory industry, seemed like a daunting task. Thankfully, the biggest challenge I found facing regulatory is universal: there is little focus on what is meaningful to the users of information management systems and how this impacts adoption, compliance and reliance on unofficial workarounds. Panelist Steve Gens captured this nicely, stating that 83-86% of work is done in local systems rather than in approved global systems.
Whether it’s local systems or, as a colleague of mine more ominously put it, shadow systems, the point is this: no matter how much you spend on a shiny, new, universal information management system, it’s worth about $0 if it can’t beat the local workaround, which nine times out of ten is Excel.
The tricky thing about information management systems is that they are used by people with far-ranging responsibilities and experience levels whose system requirements and expectations are often not shared. So, the common approach of accommodating everyone in one shared view ultimately accommodates no one. With a system that meets no one’s needs, businesses practically force their employees to build their own customized solution (read: Excel spreadsheets) in order to do their jobs. With information now managed and stored locally in shadow systems, there is increased risk, redundant sources of truth, decreased accuracy and disgruntled employees who have to copy information from Excel to any number of systems. The result is information mismanagement.
“No matter how much you spend on a shiny, new, global, comprehensive information management system, it’s worth about $0 if it can’t beat the local workaround, which nine times out of ten is Excel.”
So how do you create a better information management solution? I’m not saying you have to out-Excel Excel, a near impossible task. Rather, in order to achieve adoption of your information management solution you have to out-value Excel, creating incentives to use the global system. Understand what your people need, and create (or customize) an information management solution that meets those needs. Role-based customized views, integrated document management, dashboard notifications, and task lists are just a few of the things that you can design into a system that Excel doesn’t handle. Adoption is easy as long as you actually talk to your users first and understand why they are using shadow systems before blindly implementing a solution. You can do it, we can help.