End user adoption of Document Management

Chris Moon, CIO, Environment Protection Authority Victoria

Chris Moon, CIO, Environment Protection Authority Victoria

Whenever you implement a change to an established system or process there’s always an element of resistance to change. Amongst the many projects I have implemented, one thing that has surprised me is the level of resistance encountered when trying to roll out a Document Management platform. Below I’ve outlined a few things to consider that will hopefully make your implementation go that much smoother. 


Both Document Management & Records Management are important to an organization as they provide an efficient and effective way to capture knowledge and important records; if implemented correctly they can provide significant productivity benefits to staff and reduce support costs. These benefits can form the basis of a business case to justify the investment in an Electronic Document & Records Management System (EDRMS). But if at the end of the project your users are reluctant to accept the new system, you have a serious problem. 

The success of personal cloud storage products such as Dropbox and Google Drive show users are willing to use a document management system, but it must be easy to access, simple to use, and provide obvious benefits to the users. Often an EDRMS is built to serve the organisational requirements, with less consideration of user requirements. 

An EDRMS is made up of multiple elements, all of which must be aligned to deliver an experience your users will embrace. This is where we hit our first obstacle. 

"Both Document Management & Records Management are important to an organization as they provide an efficient and effective way to capture knowledge and important records"

In the personal cloud storage world, a user can log on from any browser on any device and access their files, they can download an app and sync all the files on their PC (or anyone else’s for that matter). This functionality which is key to the ease of use of the products, presents significant information security issues; what’s to stop a user downloading your company’s confidential plans to the family PC shared with their teenage children, or viewing files in a malware riddled internet café? Access to these documents and records needs to be planned for and suitable access and limitations put in place which balance corporate needs with user functionality. 

Once you’ve given your users access to the files, we reach the next challenge, structure, to meet your corporate needs for metadata, ease of access, legislative compliance. You’ll want to put in place a formal structure for your EDRMS, this will involve defined areas with limited control for your end-users. They may be able to create folders and files at certain levels, but it will be very different from the “My Documents” folder or Dropbox where they can create their own weird and wonderful folder structures. Getting users to accept the structure you develop maybe the hardest part of an EDRMS project. I have seen users in workshops with diametrically opposed opinions on how you should structure your EDRMS. Getting specialist assistance to develop a Business Classification Scheme (BCS) and thoroughly usability testing is key to successful adoption. There’s also value here in picking your key battles, whilst Contracts and other legal documents obviously need to be in a structured location, do you need the minutes of the meeting where the team lunch was discussed? 

Finally, the user interface is key. Whilst some users may be comfortable using a web interface or a client application to access your EDRMS, a lot won’t, giving users a range of ways to access the system, will help alleviate a pain point for your users and reduce your training needs. Your EDRMS should be accessible easily from both Windows Explorer, Microsoft Office and other key applications. If your user has a decade’s experience opening files directly in Excel, trying to teach them to use a 3rd party application is going to be a significant challenge, check that the EDRMS you are acquiring allows your users to access files how they want, rather than forcing them to change their ways to meet the software needs. 

If you consider these factors when looking to procure an EDRMS, hopefully your roll-out will go smoothly and you’ll have a platform your users will embrace.

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