Bigger is not necessarily better

I had a discussion the other day with a manager the other day who was trying to understand how to define a project and get it launched and as well mold something that had some reasonable chance at success.  It was one of those kinds of projects that could easily be argued as necessary to be done across the entire organization all at once rather than piecemeal. 

This was a project to restructure and rethink how information is created and used across the entire organization.  It touches everything and everyone.  After all it involves some very pervasive components, such as roles-based security and a document meta-model and taxonomy.   Roles based security describes access to documents based on the role you hold in the organization.  Individuals become a part of a “management” group or an “analyst” group, as an example of two groups.  The management group gives you access to certain files that the analyst role does not. 

The management role also brings with it certain responsibilities for managing and handling of that information.  Using the Taxonomy of files, a document may be composed of several chapters, each being a document on its own created by a different analyst.  The taxonomy identifies that the table of contents for a document be composed of certain sections each of which is a separate document on its own.  Pulling up the document or the act of “creating” it pulls those sections forward wherever they may be and presents it as a finished work.

You can see how the various aspects may be difficult to implement part way in an organization as there will be messy edges.  For example a document would be incomplete if various departments do not have documents tagged to be pulled forward.  Also, managers who should not have authority may because of how their authority is currently set up, say by person or by a private group.  The point is it may be ugly.  On the flip side defining the roles and document metadata across an entire organization can be very time consuming and costly. 

Defining too big a project may take you so long that the mechanisms you are building will become a project unto themselves rather than a means to an end.  The means is a structure for the information.  The end is the business being able to more easily create customer or partner facing documents.  Documents will be cleaner and more easily understood.  Information will be current and will not run the risk of being out of date or wrong version.  Access to the documents will be easier to manager and more secure. 

There are great benefits to the business for this exercise.  However you need to do it in smaller pieces, manage the ragged edges and prove a business value.  Your result will be current and demonstrable and more importantly the business will realize a benefit.  This in term will fuel the momentum to bring more of the organization into the fold.  Financially it is less of a risk as well.  Bigger is not necessarily better, especially all at once.  Sometimes bigger becomes better when it is an act of aggregating smaller pieces over a period of time.