Why do document management implementations go wrong? Ever asked yourself as a CTO, CIO, CMO, C-Suite. As almost everyone would want to believe it or not, document management has come to stay. Either you adopt it now or you end up paying the huge cost of having to do a catch-up. From the big names to the small and unknown (SharePoint, Alfresco, Documentum, Filenet, Hyland, Laserfiche, OpenText, Pinpoint, Paperport, gDoc, etc), these solutions have come to stay.

My story goes…
A client hires a (wrong) vendor (padi padi or for kick backs) and says, “We want a like-to-like migration from paper document to electronic document management solution (EDMS) or enterprise content management (ECM).” The vendor says “Okay” and does it.
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I hear “like-for-like” I think I am not adding functionality, but just following the charade. It may just be taking advantage of new out-of-the-box features, available to make information governance and management easier. This is a no no.
The wrong vendor interprets “like-for-like” literally, and end up creating a mess from paper document into EDMS/ECM making the deployment a failure..

…the back-story goes like this …

  1. An organization decides to convert from paper to electronic document management solution (good start).
  2. They take the decision to implement any of the above listed EDMS or ECM (reasonable decision).
  3. The vendor deploys the solution and copies (not moved) some content from the network drives into DMS solution (making progress, except…)
  4. They did not …
    • Take a content inventory.
    • Develop a taxonomy or metadata model.
    • Account for other stakeholders that may need access to the content.
    • Provide context / role specific views to the users.
    • Put any rules around site provisioning and what to do with them when no longer needed.
    • Do ANY of the things needing to be done prior to implementing an ECM solution and migrating content, regardless of what the platform is. In short, they moved whatever was in those network folders right into the EDMS, effectively creating two messes instead of one.
  5. So the advocated solution starts to collapse under its own weight (because they miss the parts about capacity planning, scaling, and disposing of content).
  6. Nobody uses the solution even after millions of naira have been spent making the software a failure.


>>> and fast forward.
The right vendor should spend some days talking with stakeholders to figure out what’s needed and the end users of their expectations. Get into people’s heads about their thoughts, fears, and attitudes around how they view information management as an enabler for them to do their jobs.

  1. Define the Scope – The scope shouldn’t be limited to a specific group, bother anyone and everyone concerned from stakeholders to end users. Most vendors cut out this stage and talk mainly with IT staff. Although they own the business unit, the content applies to a business process that involves all and non-technical units in the organization.
  2. Fundamentals – By fundamentals I am referring to items such as file plans, retention & disposition schedules, archiving strategies, metadata model, user profiles (personas), security, etc.
  3. Content Migration – Content migration is not just simply forklifting content from one repository to another. There has to be some serious thought put into it. Decisions about what content goes, where does it go, what gets archived, day forward or legacy, all have to be asked and answered.
  4. Search – Absent of metadata and taxonomy makes search difficult and concise result a fantasy.
  5. Other considerations – Infrastructure planning or architecture, capacity planning, business continuity planning, backup/restore planning, storage management, integration, enterprise search, etc. There is a long list of things that should be done.

Any one of the above could cause the best EDMS or ECM implementation to be a spectacular failure. One small mistake can spell doom and this has nothing to do with technology selection. The mistake is even more critical when the wrong vendor is picked. It’s really that simple.

Regardless of what solutions you’re deploying, selecting the right partner is critical. Go back to square one and do the right things in the right order. Involve the right stakeholders in the discussions, stop the client from making quick decisions and get them to make correct decisions.
The point of my little story is that you need to do your homework before you choose a partner no matter what you need them for. The wrong partner can kill a project; the right partner will help you succeed.
At Tecres Technologies, we help organizations select the right partners and ideal solution.

Julius Macaulay is the Principal Consultant at Tecres Technologies ( providing ICT training and document management consultancy services for organizations. He holds a Masters degree in Information Technology with special interest in “the paperless office”.

Tecres Technologies