Whether you are ready to begin your next project or just starting the planning phase, remember to spend your resources wisely. Even with a sizeable staff, it’s impossible to come up with a list of “things we could do” and check all the boxes at once. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. This means you need to find a way to identify what the ultimate goal is, evaluate what resources are available, and then prioritize to meet that objective in a reasonable time frame.
Of all the phases of an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) or Document Management project (Sales, Design, Implementation, Testing, Go-live, etc.), you might wonder where exactly your focus and aforementioned resources should be directed.
While there is no arguing (or at least not much) that each phase of the project lifecycle is important in its own right, I can tell you from over 15 years of experience that regardless of project size or budget, the design and testing phase has to be a focal point. And for a more successful result, this focus needs to start from the top down.
Coming up with the right design for your solution involves a certain amount of discovery during the process, so it’s important to make sure that the right people are participating and providing input in the design sessions. This will ensure that everybody fully understands all of the ins and outs of each process. By creating a more user-centric design, you can better craft a new or replacement solution, resulting in a tailored application that is ultimately more widely embraced by your user base. It goes without saying a solution that’s accepted by users is one that they will use. A solution that isn’t easily applicable and doesn’t solve their daily challenges or address their pain points will be left on the shelf.
Once the design is ready, it’s time to start testing. Sometimes a product can look great on paper, but once implemented is found to be impractical or not match the way users actually work. Make sure you allocate sufficient time for testing by real users in real-world scenarios, not just by your IT/IS department in a gloomy basement (think poor old Milton in Office Space). Take their feedback to heart and go back and tweak the system design as needed. Then retest and repeat. Only when you know that the design functions as intended should you proceed to go live. It’s better to take a little extra care to get this right up front than to deploy something that will give you trouble down the road.
Fundamentally, system design is about improvement. This can apply to software or product management, processes, efficiency, or all of the above. It stands to reason that if you spend the time up front on the design and testing of your solution, you will ultimately end up with an application that is more scalable, more efficient, and allows your users to be more proficient in their day-to-day processes. But before you get there, it all starts with identifying your objective, assessing your resources, and then allocating enough of these to design and testing to make sure you’re going to get the most from your investment.