In part two of our series on replacing state legacy systems, Paul Gorman, a former CIO for two state agencies, is joined once again with Terri Jones who has previously directed IT efforts for a large housing  finance and community development agency and currently serves as an Enterprise Advisor at Hyland Software. Together, Paul and Terri continue the conversation of replacing legacy systems with a focus on legacy document management systems (DMS).  

Listen in as Paul and Terri discuss what governments can do when your “whizz-bang” amazing document system hasn’t aged well, including: 

  • Pain points that prompt replacement 
  • Reasons to replace a document legacy system 
  • Replacement roadmap 
  • The 5 stages of going paperless 

 


Check out this episode!
Read the Transcript

Paul Gorman:

Last time we sat down with Terri Jones, I had the opportunity to discuss replacing legacy agency systems, ERP legacy apps. If you haven’t already done so I would suggest taking a listen to episode number 55, “Don’t Be Pushed Off a Cliff by Legacy Systems”. Frankly, it’s a great conversation for government CEOs, non-government CEOs and anyone in the space who is considering replacing a legacy ERP system. In today’s episode, Terri and I are going to continue the conversation of replacing legacy systems, but with a focus on legacy document management systems, these are commonly known as DMS, which of course is short for document management system. 

 

Today, we’ll discuss the reasons why an organization might want to replace a document management system, the five stages of going paperless. Plus what to do if you find your organization on one of those steps, we’ll talk about a replacement roadmap you could use, including what traps to avoid and the mistakes or disasters that could happen to during replacement.

 

Without further ado, I’d like to welcome a previous government colleague Terri Jones, who is the Enterprise Advisor at Highland software. Welcome Terri.

 

Terri Jones:

Thanks for having me back Paul, after that long conversation about ERPs which was a really great conversation, a lot of fun to try to think through what are some good strategies. But this is a topic that is really near and dear to my heart, as you know.

Paul Gorman:

Yeah, mine too. When we discussed the legacy ERP system, so you started with the why? I think it’s a good place to start. Why would you replace a legacy document management system? What issues would prompt that decision?  

Terri Jones:

So definitely there was an acquisition. But a thing I see even more often, is that the document management system, when it was installed was like a whizzbang amazing thing, but it didn’t age well. And so, you start to see people using paper again, and they’re using paper and file folders and they’ve basically gone around the system and there’s some things in the document management system, but other things like we call it sneaky paper have taken over because the system hasn’t kept up. I think that another sort of part and parcel of a legacy kind of label on a document management system is it doesn’t solve the other problems.

 

So, we may have gotten rid of the paper, but our real challenges in government are around processes. Like having some sort of workflow automation suddenly becomes important and we know that’s true because we’ve talked about digital transformation over the years. Or it doesn’t work well for the user because there’s these other major data systems that we have to use in government.

 

Right. Whether it’s that ERP we talked about last time or a system that we have to interact with because of one of our funders as you and I know working in housing, we had some databases that were very tailored to that responsibility and delivering that program. And we still had the paper and there was no connection between our document management that sort of just creates images of what was one’s paper and that data system that really governs the day-to-day tasks of our workers.

 

And then there’s the last one, which I see a lot of that, that terrifies me, which is that we buy a system like one of those housing systems that you and I are, are so familiar with, and they have this little addition that can kind of handle documents. But they have the same problems as that legacy document management system might have.

 

And to that, we now add another information silo, another place where information is stored, and it looks kind of convenient because it’s right there. But in truth, that system was built to handle data, not to handle documents. It can’t handle the high-volume capture. It’s a static link, which will break if you have to change your storage locations.

 

And so, what looks convenient becomes eventually a performance problem, and it doesn’t answer those other questions that might be a part of our digital transformation discussion. Like how do we automate and how do we make our products go faster? So, you know, I, I think you and I talk a little bit about these stages. I would love you to go through the stages and then we can talk a little bit more about that.

 

 

 

 

Paul Gorman:

Of course. You know, in my, in my past life, I came up with the idea that organizations go through five stages on their road to going paperless. I did a presentation on it, which talked about the number of times that the CIO had to buy a different document management strategy.

 

So, but in stage one, as you mentioned, you’re typically trying to empty the file cabinets and you’re just scanning documents to a shared directory, literally to empty the file cabinet. So that it empties the file cabinet just fine, but you wind up with a, like a directory tree structure, almost that it is very hard to navigate very hard to find what you’re looking for.

 

And you don’t have any metadata on those documents when you just a better in a shared directory, you have the name of the file, literally, that’s it. So, finding the document again can be a whole lot more challenging. Even more challenging I would assert than leaving it in paper form in a file cabinet.

 

So, what winds up happening from that stage after you’ve managed to mess up your shared directories with this content, you, you go with the linking the document to a database or system record. And as you mentioned that works great right up until the time that somebody changes a directory

 

Paul Gorman:

structure, or a system directory structure has to change. And then every single one of those links breaks and you’re left with something that looks a lot like that shared directory structure and no way to connect those documents, that to the records that they were related to. Of course, the other invariable thing that happens in that case is you have documents linked to a record, and you’re looking for all the documents about a particular topic.

 

It’s almost impossible to use that kind of a structure to solve that question. I think about the, the typical transaction and an accounts payable system, let’s say you link the, the, the supporting documents to an invoice process to the transaction itself. And then some wise guy says, “can you get me all the documents for this vendor or for these kinds of purchases or for this project?”

 

And you’re left with, not really, not very easily, it’s going to be about a week or two. It’s not an easy thing to solve.

 

The third stage, you know, integrating the, the systems to a document management system, when you get that basic document management system in place, you’re trying to do integrations.

 

If the system that you’ve purchased as a low-end type system is perfect for storing documents or retrieving documents, but it’s probably not designed to integrate. And you wind up with a lot of custom code and every time any one of your systems changes that code breaks, it has to be rewritten. It’s a perpetual cycle for the IT team to rewrite stuff.

 

Then we used a document workflow route to try to figure out how to make these simple document management systems do complex tricks that sometimes you wind up with a separate workflow tool. Then, then the document management system and that that’s a classic case of creating yet another silo in your, in your environment.

 

And finally, you’re you’ve, you’ve gone through all this. Let’s say you solved every one of these things. You’re on your fourth document management system. And somebody says we’d like to implement case management. And this is the classic mistake I see is that somebody brings a case management system in that is separate from the document management.

 

And all you’ve done is create a case management silo. So, after going through all that effort, you know, probably three different document management systems, truth be told. If you, if you don’t bypass those mistakes, your case management system just undoes everything that you just did. Frankly, if, if one of our listeners identifies their organization in one of these stages, what would your advice be to the IT team at that organization Terri?

 

Terri Jones:

Yeah, I, I think my, my first piece of advice is to understand that you’re going to end up investing in something else. As you’ve said, as you’ve gone through those stages and highlighted some of the shortcomings, which an organization we’ll get to. And it’s, it’s one of those situations where the more successful you are with the kind of change management aspect of introducing this paperless paradigm in government, the faster you’re going to think, you’re going to experience and bump up against a bunch of those limitations.

 

So, you know, my, my advice is to just keep moving forward. And for sure, to go and look at what the analysts say, you know, Gartner puts out this excellent content services magic quadrant report, which looks at a bunch of these types of issues and then rates and ranks the vendors. And the solutions that they have so that you can get sort of an independent and high-level understanding of the capabilities so that you can jump through all these stages, or I should say kind of jump through all these stages, or I should say kind of jump over them to get the complete platform.

 

And my other piece of advice, I think is we used to look out on the floor of our land of cubes in government and we would see a common paradigm for where our information that was in documents were kept, and that was file cabinets. And there would be rows of file cabinets. And we knew if we could find it, that that piece of paper was in there.

 

But what we accepted was that everybody uses the file cabinets. So. In that example, the way I think about picking your content services platform is to accept that everything that is content and even some of the newer versions, like video and audio drawing site plans as built plans, all of that needs to go into a single place. And accept that as a governance principle for how you’re going to move forward. Then you use sources like Gartner’s magic quadrant to understand who you should invest in for that kind of platform. And then, and you said some other very important things, when you look at those reports and you look at those platforms, you will know who has the best integration tools.

 

So, we don’t end up with your stage three problems you were speaking of, you would know. Who has the best workflow engine? So, we don’t have the stage four piece. And you would also know that one of the most interesting aspects of content services now versus when you and I were first looking at document management systems is that they have a case management solution tool built into them.

 

So, you can jump over all of the shortcomings of your five stages by looking at a content services platform that offers those things. And that has a track record of updating and enhancing them over time, because you may not be to the stage where you want to see an integrated case management solution that has embedded in it a common repository and a workflow engine. You may not be there yet, but you’ll get there someday. The more successful you are in that paperless paradigm, or you’ve got digital transformation ideas, you’re going to get to those capabilities. And the important piece of the advice is to know that you’re going to get there and to invest in a platform that’s going to support you, even if you’re not exactly sure what your roadmap is or what your timetable is for getting there. That way you’re investing ahead of your deployments and you’re still gonna have those tools to use. And really importantly, the expertise that you’re building around that particular content services platform isn’t lost when you have to, not, when you have to, when you move to more automation projects, when you, you move to a case management approach to a solution.

 

So, I think those are, those are interesting pieces of advice to consider. Just accept that, that’s where you’re going to go someday and buy ahead, you know, know that you’ve got those tools to get over those five stages you talked about Paul.

 

Paul Gorman:

That’s good advice. That’s very good advice. We could probably end the conversation here, but let’s say for the sake of argument that we’re an organization we’ve made the decision we’re going to, we’re going to make, we’re going to replace our legacy document management. What would you recommend to that organization for a replacement roadmap?

Terri Jones:

I knew you were going to ask me this question and I think it’s going to be, it’s going to be a little bit less of a roadmap and more, more of an approach. But it, it might be a roadmap too. One of the smartest things I learned in my time at Hyland was this kind of idea about agility and, you know, Hyland, like many software companies has scrums and they, and they do that sort of stuff. And I think one of the most interesting things you could do for your roadmap is to figure out the sequence of projects that does two things for your organization. First of all, that it builds value and demonstrates and really an escapable way that this is the right course for your organization to be on. And then the second thing is that the projects you choose are part of a change management approach that allows the end users to come along and to see that value, not just in terms of what your organization needs to deliver, but also in terms of what it’s going to mean for the work on their desk. And why this solution is going to make a difference for them. So, I say those are kind of approaches because I think certainly when I started my career in IT, I wasn’t thinking of the phrase change management, but we know instinctively, and we’ve talked about it in some of your stages that and users won’t use something if they don’t see the value. And it’s hard to change anyway, because we always have to change and do the work and, and be trained on a new system. And you certainly can get resistance in that. So, as you think of your roadmap and I, I truly we’ll get to that in a, in a minute.

 

Think about how you’re going to select your projects so that you have a foundation of support to build on as you, as you go through that. And I think one of the things that we say to people is you need to consider a small pilot that demonstrates to everybody the capabilities of a document management system.

 

And in my world, I did that by automating the vacation request. So, everyone had to touch something that was an electronic form and an automation process and learn about it in something that they had to do, they really wanted to take vacation time. So again, that’s another approach thing, and I’m also not touching the core programmatic delivery of my agency. I’m touching

something that’s a process that is very well understood by everyone. And that’s important, and

also is an approach because you want to bring people’s understanding of what you can ask from a content services platform. Up to a certain level before we tackle the more complex projects that revolve around our program and service delivery that have compliance responsibilities, which we can support with automation and, and tools that are in a content services platform. But they’re harder to think about. And so when we talk about a roadmap, I also like to talk about an approach that helps to teach people in practical hands-on ways why they want to use content services, why it’s going to make a difference for an agency or a county or a city.

 

So that, so that’s that part. Okay. So, let’s talk a little bit about roadmap. I would say practical terms that you need to sync your use of document management to budget and program cycles, and there’s a lot of reasons for that. So, you know, and in my time, Paul, we started training end users, well ahead of a start of the fiscal year and we went live with an accounting workflow that became paperless. And so, your roadmap should be timed to allow people to get training before they touch it, but not too far in advance because they will forget, but also be mindful of your fiscal year. We often deal with the backlog and maybe that those file cabinets are things that we really want to get rid of, but it’s not always very valuable for your agency to get rid of that paper.

 

Sometimes it is, if you’re paying money for offsite storage, if you’re retrieving things by courier, if it’s, you know, hidden somewhere and you’ve got to send someone to get it, whatever that is. But day forward, you make the choice to implement the system. Because you don’t want to keep digging a deeper hole in terms of the paper that you might have to capture an ingest in that system.

 

So, you, you want to do some timing and look at that. My roadmap says pick some simple forms that are expensive. We had triple carbon forms still in state government when I started my project. Pick some forms, replace them and do some simple. Couple of step review and approve routing workflows to teach everybody about that and do that pretty quick, because one of the challenges that we see is that people think of it as only a digital file cabinet and they get stuck there.

 

And then we never realized the value or the vision that we had when we. Purchase something like the content services platform with all of these other pieces. So definitely a couple of simple workflows call them pilots, get people used to how automation can deliver value. And then the really important thing is to take a look at your data systems and look for some of the teams that have the most paper to handle and integrate to their data systems, as quick as you can on a fiscal year on kind of a day forward going

paperless kind of approach. Because when you do that, you’re kind of showing all of the key capabilities that will deliver value. Pretty, pretty, quickly to government and especially when you do integration to a data system, if you’ve picked the right content services platform, you’re doing that in a low code, no custom code, no code environment, which means it can get set up quickly and it’s sustainable.

 

 

But it can do something like all I have to learn or all I have to teach staff is to double click and a list of the documents related to that project or that person, or that tenant will be retrieved from that content services platform and like magic people will see on their desk “ah, this is why we want to have digital content”.

 

This is why we want to have digital content, because it’s going to put that right next to the data record that I’m consulting. And if you can go a little further in your integration strategy and make sure that email is integrated because we’re getting so much of our documentation now electronically, if we can pull it from our email box right into our content services platform, we’ve just shown a bunch of value all at once to the end-users that we need to win over and also to leadership who are going to be asking like, you know, why did we spend this money? And what are we getting?” So, I think what I’m saying as a roadmap is to be sure that you don’t just start and say, okay, we’re going to do scan store and retrieve because almost nobody is going to see the value of that eventually.

 

And you’re going to end up in those stages that you just spoke about. Go straight to workflow pilots for something small and understandable like vacation requests and get it integrated to the most important data systems that you’re using so that you can reduce the training burden and people can really see the connection between data systems and digital documents, and it will make life at their desk a lot easier. I hope that helps.

 

 

Paul Gorman:

That’s good advice. I’ve always heard the quick winner, but I mean, you got very specific in terms of why it is certain wins were, would be necessary. I mean, when I think about doing replacements of systems, there’s always things to look for traps spot steaks, potential disasters, lurking there that could affect the replacement project.

 

Thank you for the great discussion today Terri. I’m certain our listeners are going to appreciate your input. To our listeners, if you’d like to learn more about ImageSoft, please visit our website www.imagesoftinc.com. And I strongly recommend you visit our new state agency webpages at www.imagesoftinc.com/government/stateagencies.

 

This concludes the podcast for today. Thank you all for listening, and I hope everyone has a great day.