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Win-lose ECM

July 29, 2010

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how to lead teams through win-lose situations, that is, those situations where the outcome won’t benefit everyone equally…and in fact may have negative outcomes for one or more stakeholders.  And I had an experience with a client recently that illustrated just how important navigating win-lose situations can be for an ECM program.

We were in the kick off meeting for an effort to build SharePoint templates for the enterprise based on typical end-user needs, the goal being to provide the SharePoint team a set of solutions packages they could rapidly provision to users with little or no configuration.

As the meeting went on and we began discussing our selection criteria for what end-users we would interview, someone asked, “Aren’t we going about this the wrong way? I mean, it seems like we’re just assuming we’ll use SharePoint for any end-user problems we find rather than looking at each problem individually, building the best solution we can, and then determining what tool–SharePoint or otherwise–will do the trick. How will we avoid the problem of everything looking like a nail when you have a hammer?”

This was a great point and 100% correct from a best practices perspective: we were going about this project in a far from perfect way and at every stage we would be in danger of slipping into worst (or at least bad) practices.

My response was that we had no other real choice in the matter. There was no money in the budget to buy a new tool, so we had to use what was in place: SharePoint. In this situation, the only two options the project team had were to let end-users keep doing what they were doing or move them to SharePoint.

Given that, the real choice was not between doing it right and doing it wrong, e.g., managing contracts with a best-in-class solution versus a home-grown SharePoint template, it was between doing it very wrong and doing it less wrong, e.g., managing contracts using shared drives, hard drives, and email versus a home-grown SharePoint template.

In the end, what’s going to provide more value to the organization, letting the contracts group plod along the way they are now, or giving them something somewhat better? Or put another way, what’s going to be less bad for the organization?

Now, I don’t yet know the answer to these questions for the contracts group. During the next few weeks, the project team will determine which of the likely end-user candidates will make the cut and be given SharePoint templates. But I know one thing with 100% certainty: for every end-user group the team selects, the resulting solution will be a win-lose proposition, but it will also be a vast improvement over where they are today, which is a lose-lose.

So when all is said and done, the team will have to accept the value of making incremental progress and leave “best practices or bust” for another day…not easy to do, but the only way sometimes to move forward.

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