Is Document Management Right for 5 Year Olds?

IKEA Bed Made of Boxesby Paul Mervin, MD of Cognite

Recently I went into IKEA, purchased a bed and a chest of drawers – and was told confidently by the assistant that it couldn’t be easier to put together. Indeed, they said that “a 5 year old could do it.”

Well several hours later, feeling very frustrated and annoyed, I was left wondering exactly who and where is that 5 year old that could put this together!

It started making me think: isn’t that the same with some of the DM tools out there? Everybody says that they are so easy to use… but when push comes to shove, are they actually also all built for the same mythical 5 year old that flat-pack furniture is seemingly designed for?

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m NOT one of those Neanderthals who believes that we should go back to the days of ink pots and quill pens! (Don’t you remember those days, when teachers could still cane pupils, and talking back to teachers just didn’t happen… Ah, that’s for another post!)

For me, a good DM system means that I can put a document somewhere which I can easily retrieve – and also let all the other people who want it, find it just as easily. It means reducing reliance on paper, streamlining business processes and making information available in a meaningful and timely fashion.

But when I look at the tools that are out there right now, I come across terminology like “compliance and regulatory needs,” “governance requirements,” “structured and unstructured data” and now we are even hearing about “mobile document management”!

What is going to be the next high-falutin’ expression that we need to contend with? Perhaps it’ll be “non-conformance of expressive deletions”? Or NOPEC (NO Project Email Communications)?

When it comes to document management, in order to differentiate between the products out there we have to come up with ways that make it sound incredibly sophisticated – and at the same time, just so difficult to understand and use?

This quite often means that we end up with DM systems that can do everything but make a cup of tea. Or even, assemble a bit of Swedish furniture?

We have gone for increased sophistication in terms of tools – yet we sometimes forget what the purpose of the tools were originally for. In my mind, the key with DM systems is making sure we get what it MUST do and what we would LIKE IT to do right.

That’s enough. Everything else is really for that mythical prodigy child out there.

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5 thoughts on “Is Document Management Right for 5 Year Olds?

  1. I agree and feel too often the procurement of a DM solution is placed under the remit of IT, who while having very strong technical knowledge, they are also detached from the everyday workings of the business.

    The people that are ultimately going to be using the system require the solution to be easy to use. It should enhance their way of working, not make it more challenging. Whether they be in Finance, HR, Operations etc, a good DM system should first of all be simple to use, intuitive, and improve their productivity, while letting them get on with their day jobs.

    A successful solution should be built by the users. But perhaps not 5 year olds.

  2. This is great Paul. Keeping it simple is what the technology market place – and sometimes certain manufacturers of Swedish furniture find hard! Having more functionality is not necessarily better – sometimes worse, if it means less design and thought has been put into the tasks your enterprise app MUST do for you; keeping it simple and focusing in on those must be the way forward.

  3. Simplicity is undervalued and underused, in DM and many other technology sectors. I think people feel the need to ‘add value’ which means dressing things up in jargon and acronyms to make them seem more complex than they actually are. A good DM system should manage documents and do it well – anything on top of that is a bonus.

  4. Very good article. Yes, we need more simplicity in life. Look at Facebook, Google, Amazon and many others… technically superb and no manual necessary at all. In our own blog we try to visualize certain topics or rather myths surrounding technology and explain how it works. This is our way to deal with the older-than-5-years-old 😉

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