One of the most important barriers to building and executing an enterprise-wide document strategy is how you define the word “document.” Last summer, we published a piece by John Knotts in which he asserts, "A document is a container of information. The most important thing is that a document is both physical and electronic.” This is probably one of the clearest definitions I have yet to hear, but the persistent belief that a document is only a document when it’s on a piece of paper inhibits any progress we will make in a holistic strategy for document management.

This was clearly demonstrated at our recent annual conference, the DOCUMENT Strategy Forum, when the question of, “What is a document?” inspired a passionate debate on both sides. Attendees acknowledged that a document was “old school” and predisposed others to believe that we were talking about paper. This position is why your document strategy faces many challenges inside your organization. Your executive leadership and various stakeholders in the enterprise are, unfortunately, in the same boat, and there are many other “shiny” proposals that are just more exciting—one of them being customer experience.

Convergence is here
However, the convergence occurring in our industry, brought upon by customer demand and digital disruption, is changing how we view the “document” and the strategies we need to be agile in our responsiveness to our customers, partners and fellow stakeholders. Forrester defines business agility as “the quality that allows an enterprise to embrace market and operational changes as a matter of routine.” Craig Le Clair, Forrester vice president and principal analyst, underlines two important factors to be agile in the face of change: awareness and execution. If you want to survive in this “Age of the Customer,” you must recognize this convergence, and you must be able to execute quickly from the bottom-up.

The reality is that this convergence is challenging the siloed structure of our organizations. From lines of business, to strategy ownership to unified access to content, the walls of the enterprise are being torn down, and many don’t like what they see. The foundation of an effective document strategy must first begin by defining what the “document” is and the subsequent “customer” of the document. These two elements will characterize how you communicate the strategy throughout the organization. Too many times, the strategy is only customer-facing, when our internal customers are becoming more and more vital to the execution of true business agility.

Finding value of your document strategy
I talk a lot about finding value when selling your strategy and will continue to do so. A common story I heard at our Forum this year was surprises found in the outsourcing assessment. Often, an executive was determined to outsource a function to save money only to find that it was more cost-effective to retain the function in-house. Often, assessments of current state are sorely lacking, making the roadmap to your future state almost impossible to measure. Now, apply this problem to an enterprise-wide document strategy, and you can see why so many stumble.

It is vital to understand where you are currently and what your future state will look like. We know that those organizations who are truly mature in their strategies understand both. Defining value to your document strategy must be tied to your organizational vision. All stakeholders must not only understand and know your vision but believe in it to such a degree that every action taken by them to serve the organization comes from this belief. This is what maturity looks like. If you constantly align your document strategy to this vision, you will prove value to the organization.

In our recent working group at the DOCUMENT Strategy Forum tackling this very strategy, an attendee said, “It’s a living, breathing thing. We’re constantly revisiting our strategy, asking ourselves: Is this still where we want to be? What’s changed? How do you move it? Is it right or wrong?” We love this statement, because it’s very true. Do not abandon your document strategy. True agility requires consistent revisions and realignment. How else will you respond quickly to changing market demands?

I’ve presented a very high-level view of executing a document strategy here. It is, of course, a highly complex initiative for any company to undertake—which is why so many of our readers and attendees of our Forum come to us for help. There is no easy answer, but we believe the road for organizations today is to work together as a peer group. We’ve been waiting a long time for others to lead us, but this year, we tasked some of the brightest and innovative minds at the DOCUMENT Strategy Forum to build a best practices framework for building a document strategy.

What makes this framework different?
We understand that true success lies within the experiences of your peers. They are all at different stages of maturity, but collectively, they are producing the first-ever matrix for executing your strategy. Backed by our publication’s 22-plus years of editorial integrity, we believe this is only the first step in delivering effective strategies to serve customer experiences, promote business agility and create innovative competitive differentiators. Look for the DOCUMENT Strategy Forum’s Best Practices Framework for Executing the Document Strategy later in June 2015.

Allison Lloyd serves as the editor of DOCUMENT Strategy Media. She delivers thought leadership on strategic and plan-based solutions for managing the entire document, communication and information process. Contact her at or follow her on Twitter @DOCUMENTmedia.

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