The Joys of engrained “systems”

I am always amazed by the acceptance levels of management in organisations of a lack of standardisation amongst the documents produced under their watch.

I could be considered a bit of a freak about standardisation of look and feel – but I really strongly belive that where a single department is producing large volumes of similar (or let’s face it identical) documents that they are then distributing, a casual observer should have a good chance when looking at a number of them of knowing that they came from the same place. This week I was involved in launching a new ECM and BPM system which included as a pivotal part of it the fact that the content and the look and feel were, for a large part, going to be separated. We had been given a great steer by one of the ultimate end users, the project had progressed really well, and there was very strong management buy in – all good ingredients for a successful launch – but then the rub. The system was to be used to collate points for agendas, something this organisation had been doing for years, and the team of 5 secretaries that managed it were all extremly proficient, but each of them and their own unique way of doing it.

Now local variation is nothing new, but when it applies to all aspects including point numbering, fonts, layout, cover page etc. for a series of documents all approved and signed by the same management it does seem a bit farcical. The level of re-work being done here by each of the different secretaries managing all aspects of each of the agendas they look after is amazing.

In this case all was well that ends well as everyone has agreed that in fact the new standard look and feel is a big step forward – but management should really grasp the fact that by imposing easy to follow standards for their documents they will free up huge amounts of their knowledge workers time – after all the real purpose of hiring intelligent people is for their content knowledge not their MS word formatting skills!