QUESTION: What are the top tangible goals of a document strategy? What are the major obstacles to avoid along this journey?

JOHN KNOTTS, @johnrknotts

Tangible goals: The book Designing a Document Strategy does a good job at highlighting the return on investment in developing and implementing a sound document strategy. These values are still proving out today.

Return on investment found by moving from physical to electronic is always a low-hanging fruit. Risk avoidance and being able to respond to compliance and regulatory requirements reduce financial impacts down the road from fines and potential loss. Good retention policies and management can significantly reduce storage costs.

Do an inventory—an honest inventory—of all the software systems that you use across your company to manage your documents, from creation to destruction. If that number doesn't climb into the hundreds, you're probably a small organization. Think of the redundancy costs associated with those systems. What about the document experience your customers see? Commingling of personal information, lack of a consistent look and feel and antiquated design are just a few that can negatively affect your brand.

Major obstacles: Let's start with how you define what a document is—try coming to a common definition in your organization. Then understand all the different organizations within your enterprise that in some way manages the document, from creation to destruction. Run a very basic facilitated discussion and see which of those organizations think they are Responsible, Accountable, Consulted or Informed (RACI). The results will demonstrate the silos that you need to overcome.

Of course, having a document strategy means nothing without some type of accountable governance to ensure it is followed/adhered to—do you have that?

Lastly, I'll suspect that today there isn't an end-to-end budget to document management. Building a strategy without a budget to support it makes pushing that rock uphill even harder.

JOE SHEPLEY, @joeshepley

The main goal of a document strategy is to ensure that the organization is managing documents so as to best support overall business goals, such as increasing market share, divesting holdings, growing by acquisition, speeding product development, increasing customer satisfaction, etc.

The biggest obstacle to avoid is forgetting that a document strategy is a means to an end, not an end in itself. A document strategy that doesn’t get executed is a failure, no matter how sophisticated, intelligent or “best practices” it is. And the end of a document strategy is not managing documents well because no one gets paid to manage documents well; they get paid to do the work of the company, i.e., the value chain activities that make the firm money. So in the end, you need to ensure that your document strategy is 100% aligned to the organization’s goals for improving its value chain and that, if the strategy is executed, will contribute significantly to these goals.

John Knotts is a results-oriented business professional working out of the San Antonio, TX area. He leads strategic transformations and has extensive experience in strategy, change, process, communication and many other areas.

Joe Shepley brings more than 12 years of operational and technology experience to his consulting engagements at Doculabs. He also currently serves as the conference chair for the DOCUMENT Strategy Forum.

Remember to check back every Monday and Wednesday, as we feature a new answer to your questions each week. This is a special Q&A in partnership with the DOCUMENT Strategy Forum. For more information on how to build the document strategy or on attending the DOCUMENT Strategy Forum, email or call 866-378-4991.

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