Saturday, 17 May 2014

Succession Planning

I visited two companies where filing systems came under scrutiny. 

One company was relatively old-fashioned. Even though they had a modern joined-up computer system, most of their data was held in the traditional manner. Copies of internal memos and letters sent out were printed and filed. Letters coming in were kept in the same file. 

This was a fine system in the past, but then along came e-mail.

All e-mails in and out are now printed and filed. As a result, the traditional file has become full to bursting, and not easy to handle. 

There are solutions to this: for example they could move to a paperless office.  


The other company I visited was strikingly different. Their modern offices shrieked State-of-the-Art to all callers. There I met staff in a curious situation. Some years ago their computer system had to be changed, so they bought another system and converted their data across. 

Very old documents are still held in the historic paper files but new letters received are scanned and filed electronically along with copies of letters out.  E-mails are held in another location. 

However the letters and e-mails are not held within the computer system, but separately. The information they contain is not being used to update the system. As a result it has become less and less used. Staff have set up their own spreadsheets and alternative systems, or just depend on people’s memories, or on information held by other departments. 

Thus if a manager asks a question it can take hours of hard labour digging through folders, paper files, e-mails and spreadsheets to produce an answer, with no guarantee that it is right. (Or that asking the question again will produce the same answer.) 

All in all, it appears that the first company has the better system, because they at least hold all their information together. 


The key issue I raised with the second company was one of Succession. I believe they are neglecting their duty of care to the stakeholders of the company, and to their own successors. 

Each of us in business has a responsibility to ensure that our successors have access to our knowledge. We have a moral obligation to make it available to them – possibly, as in the first company, by providing a bulging paper file! 

What has happened in the second company, probably because of a lack of support staff, is that people are too busy to do all of their job. The less urgent elements get neglected, and no consideration is given to making sure that appropriate information is made available for those who will take over the job in future. 

I left the people I met preparing a business case for obtaining resources to get their system up-to-date. 

Maybe their successors won’t be in such a bad way after all.

To have a system audit carried out, or to get advice on a paperless office, please contact me by clicking on "Contact" above.

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