eRecords Conference 2013: Project Implementation, Best Practices, and Victory

erecordsslogo-300x261This is the sixth post in a multi-part recap of the 2013 e-Records Conference. Some presentation materials from the e-Records Conference are available on the e-Records 2013 website. Video of this presentation is available on the TSLAC YouTube Channel. Scroll to the bottom of this post to view the video.

By Erica Wilson, Government Information Analyst

Rick Griffith of Image API opened his presentation on project implementation with two quotes:

“If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.” – Catherine Aird

“The biggest lie is ‘It’s different this time.'” – Sir John Templeton

These are things that experienced project implementers know – plan well, learn from mistakes, and utilize best practices.  So let’s just start with: what is a best practice?  Typically, we consider a best practice a tested method that has consistently shown better outcomes and results than those achieved by other means.  However, to make a best practice work within a project, project managers need to make sure that everyone involved understands the project goals, knows the success criteria, and can identify the stakeholders. “Staff doesn’t care about the project plan,” said Griffith. “They want to know the goals.”

Torches? Pitchforks?  Maybe the stakeholders aren't happy...

Torches? Pitchforks? Maybe the stakeholders aren’t happy…

Griffith emphasized that one needs a vivid image for goals, and suggested using philosophical phrases, sports analogies, or any other metaphors that will define and clarify project goals. For example, Aristotle used the philosophy of telos to define success: a skilled archer must hit in a relatively small, well-defined area in order to be successful, but one does not have to hit the exact center of that target in order to be successful. This leads to Griffith’s next point: narrow down your goals to something specific, and then break that goal down into manageable objectives.

Finally, identify your stakeholders and make sure they have the information they need for the project. Success cannot be defined simply within an organization without taking the needs of the stakeholders into account. For example, Dr. Frankenstein was very successful within his own lab…but if we think of the terrorized villagers as stakeholders who didn’t understand what he was doing (and ultimately tore him down), that success becomes questionable.

Griffith also focused on the importance of making people involved in a project feel as though they are part of a noble cause.  Perhaps your job is to pull staples from documents to prepare them for scanning, but in the bigger picture, you are instrumental in making information available, perhaps like medical files to doctors or benefit applications to people in need.  No matter what part you play, you are vital to making the project work.  This means that it is important to have dedicated staff, especially for large-scale, ongoing projects.  These members will know the standards they need to follow, will know how to use the equipment to do the job, and will have knowledge on how to fix problems from previous experience.

Next, choose value over 100% automation.  “We can take a valuable process and automate it up to the 60-80% level at a modest cost,” said Griffith. Try to automate everything — i.e., go completely paperless — and the cost skyrockets without producing a commensurate level of added value.

Finally, celebrate your successes.  Reaching expectations that you’ve set is no small feat, and staff should be congratulated on accomplishing goals.  As well, declaring victory doesn’t have to wait until the end of a big project – victory comes in small milestones as well.  Every time an objective is met or a step is completed, you are closer to success.