Big Wheel Keep on Rolling: Implementation Balance is the Key to IG and ECMS Success

Information Governance wheel

The big wheel keeps on turning


US-Based IT groups are enamored with technology. We love the ‘new, shiny object’ and spend enormous amounts of money on the latest and greatest. We believe that having the newest and best hardware and software provides with us a greater chance of success and competitive advantage. However, in our experience, it is almost exactly opposite for ECMS and IG efforts. We’ve generally found that the greater the spending on technology, the less chance the ECMS or IG project will be successful.

As both a rookie and highly experienced ECMS and IG consultant, I have been fortunate enough to have worked and lived abroad as an expat. Of my 20 years of doing ECMS and IG work, about 8 years was spent working for clients outside of the US. Most of that time was for clients within the Commonwealth countries, such as the UK, Canada, and Australia. A global perspective is the one thing that one obtains from living and working outside of the US. And I gained a great deal of perspective that has helped us drive successful ECMS and IG implementations for years. We’d like to share some of that perspective with you.

Our experience is that the Commonwealth countries’ ECMS and IG implementations are more holistic. They pay equal homage to and focus on technical and non-technical project phases and activities alike. And, importantly, IT and Business leadership understands that there are significant components of a successful ECMS or IG project that cannot be purchased by writing a check (of any amount…) to a software or hardware company. In fact, the most important part of any IG or ECMS project has little to do with the technology used! My overseas clients (and now friends, as well) spend far more time on project planning, organizational change management, content architecture, governance, communications and listening to the users than they ever did on software selections, designs or implementations. Far more…

One of our British clients, who is now a dear friend, once said to me:

You Yanks will spend 75% or more of your budget on technology and technical implementations and then you’ll wonder why only 5 people use that $5 million ECMS system! It’s all pretty obvious to us. The surprising thing is that you’ll keep doing that and expecting something different.

 Interesting Point. Quite true and actually a bit embarrassing.


This client was the Deputy CIO of a very large global company and she gave me a piece of advice that we use on almost every client. She said:

Every ECMS and IG project has to roll like a wheel. One spoke can’t be too much longer than the other spokes, otherwise the wheel won’t roll. At some point the analogy does break down, but Americans will have a ‘technology spoke’ that is far longer than all of the other important spokes of that project’s wheel, such as the organization change management, governance, business process and content spokes. And then you’ll wonder why the wheel doesn’t roll.

 You need to make the wheel roll or it’s just going to sit there and fall over.

We have used this model on at least 75 different ECMS projects over the years. And we have learned that a less technically advanced, successful project really is much, much better than a more technically advanced, unsuccessful one (I know that this is obvious, but, I’ve done both and I prefer the successful one as life is much more pleasant.) With a few exceptions, my client’s words are absolutely true.

The project wheel must roll and the spokes have to be proportionate. When we talk to a new client, we often use the wheel analogy and we share with them the ratios of what we believe to be an appropriate budget application for a successful ECMS or IG implementation.


We have generally found the following project funding allocations supportive of a successful ECMS or IG effort. Starting at 100%…:

  1. Technology (25%-30%)
    This includes all technical spends including HW/SW, designs, implementations, testing, and maintenance. Occasionally it might spike. Technology spending that is greater than 35% of the project budget, however, is disconcerting and is indicative of potential failure.
  1. Content Architecture (15%-20%)
    This includes a solid storage and navigational taxonomy and metadata architecture. Think this isn’t important? Ask a database admin or architect how many large databases he’s/she’s successfully built without a data model or ERD diagram. Zero. Content systems are no different.
  1. Content and Content Processes (20%)
    This includes content creation, migration, re-work, and tagging. An ECMS without good content isn’t valuable to anyone. Content is everything. We also define how the content is submitted, updated, archived and deleted along with the appropriate permission models as part of this component.
  1. Organizational Change Management (15%-20%)
    Sorry, you can’t write a check for this one! The users need to be involved and communicated to on almost Day One of the project. They need to be trained, supported and measured. Leadership needs to understand the project and be part of the solution. Roles need to be integrated, and so on. Enough said.
  1. Information Governance (10%)
    So how do we keep from having 350 SharePoint sites that all have different designs? How do we measure the users’ and authors’ success with the system and their compliance to it? How do we make sure that we aren’t breaking any content sharing laws in the EU or compliance / regulatory laws in the US? How do we make sure that people are following the retention schedule and how to do we enforce it? The answer to all of these is governance.
  1. Project/Program Management (5-10%)
    We all know this one and how important it is. Again, enough said.

When the spokes are proportionate the wheel rolls if these allocations are used. It’s balanced. And, most importantly, any size system that follows this model will generally be successful. I have seen ECMS projects that have 45%-85% or more of their budgets allocated to technology. Organizational change management and content? Afterthoughts, unfortunately. THESE PROJECTS WON’T MEET LEADERSHIP EXPECTATIONS. Every one and without exception. Client leads are fired; consultants are removed. It’s never pretty. And even worse, users and leaders are disenchanted with ECMS for a very long time.

Our friends’ Commonwealth ECMS project implementation allocation model was some of the best advice that I have ever received. The allocations aren’t perfect; perhaps 15% – 20% of ECMS and IG projects fall outside of the percentages noted above. However, the model works for the majority of the ECMS and IG projects we’ve led; hopefully, you’ll find them helpful.

Questions? Reach out and ask us.