There are a number of ways you can overcome such barriers and if you are only going to remember one thing from this talk it should be this – COMMUNICATE. You simply can’t communicate enough, provided you do so strategically, with purpose and without jargon. Always think about your audience and put yourself in their shoes before you open your mouth.Communicating with the most senior people who are recognisably very busy can be daunting but you have to do it and you need to be assertive and persistent. Make sure you know what you are going to say. Develop a lift speech so that whenever you have 20 seconds or so of serendipitous one on one time with a senior manager you have a sales pitch ready. You might ask if they have heard of a new service and offer to drop by their desk to demo it to them or get their opinion about something you are doing or just show off a great achievement you made recently. Keep your lift speech up to date and maybe even have a few depending on the circumstances. Solicit and collect user feedback, testimonials and stories about your successes. Save notes and emails of thanks. Document good verbal feedback or encourage the person to put it in an email to you. Ask specific questions such as how the response your service gave impacted a project, did it help win a contract or client or a save a specific amount of money or how long would it have taken the requester to identify the information for himself. Use these stories in your lift speech and reports, on your publicity material and wherever else you can.
There are more formal communication tools you can use to plan and guide your ongoing communication and influence over people. I used a stakeholder management process when delivering a records management programme at Scottish Enterprise and found it very successful.It looks a bit complicated on paper but really is quite straightforward. Identify the key stakeholders of the archive and records centre: those who depend on your services in their work, those who might lobby for you, those who have the ear of the board, those who are friendly and those who have had good experiences of using your service. Don’t forget to includethose who don’t use you at all, those who have had unfortunate experiences of using your services, those who are hostile to you, those who consider you an unnecessary overhead etc. Your list might also include external people.Chart each person against two axis, one according to whether they have high or low influence over your department and the other according to whether they show high or low levels of support for what you do. Once you have them in groupings you can decide what key messages you need to give to each group. Those with low influence may be a low priority. Those with high influence but low support may need to be nudged along a bit and those with high support may need to be maintained lest you lose their support over time.Once you have the broad messages you can begin to develop further detail. You may timetable interactions to piggy back onto other opportunities in the organisation, or coincide with stages of a project, the launch of a new service or an acquisition that is of interest to that group etc. And finally allow enough time to draft specific and tailored messages and remember to talk the language of your stakeholder group.Add to your map - as the political climate in your organisation changes so will some of the stakeholders. Target individuals with specific messages and cultivate relationships. I was chatting to an archivist in Ayrshire recently who said that one of her Councillors happens to be very interested in a particular topic. Whenever she makes an acquisition of interest to him she phones him up personally to let him know.
Talking the language of senior management can often mean pound signs which can be hard to do in our services but there are ways of speaking the language of business. Laborious as it may be you need to count a great many things to evidence what you do. You may need to record transactional information such as numbers of items accessioned, borrowed, reviewed, conserved or processed. You may like to know the number of enquiries made or searches performed and the type of request or the department asking. You can use this data to show increases in transactions or requests made over time. Include statistics in monthly and annual reports to support your points and break down by department if appropriate. You can see who is really using the service and what services are most highly used although you should remember and acknowledge that simple statistics don’t actually show if you are cost effective or adding value by providing such services in the first place. An month on month increase in enquiries may not be such a good achievement if you are the IT helpdesk where you’d really rather they went down or if you have just introduced a new catalogue which should take the pressure off enquiries.Your statistics might include your inputs, the resources assigned to the archive such as the collection size, number of professional staff, annual budget etc., or a count of your throughputs, the processes and activities which turn resources into services such as the cost to review a file or the cost to digitise an item. Your outputs will indicate your direct products or how much the centre’s services are being used such as number of files received, or reviewed, the number of visitors to the reading room, number of boxes disposed of etc. These statistics alone do not demonstrate value but combining statistics to create performance measures is much more powerful.Performance measures are quantitative measures that relate activity to needs and services to demand. You could therefore measure:Spend on information per userRegistered users as a percentage of the populationAverage number of enquiries answered per user or per head of populationFailure rate per number of enquiriesThe key to using performance measures successfully is to resist the temptation to measure too much. Things that get measured get attention so make sure you choose measurements linked to your strategy and your organisation’s concerns.These measures are still only counts to indicate the volume of activity but say little about its “goodness” so you should also include the uses made by customers of your outputs and the degree of satisfaction felt with those outputs which can be gathered via a survey which I shall mention in a moment. This shows the impact of the service on the business. This can be difficult to assess and can be complicated by the fact that several activities might impact on the outcome making it difficult to assess the information centre’s role.I do often hear people say that it is impossible to measure what we do in this way but I think it is just a matter of practice. I think you can measure anything but sometimes may need to be innovative or use a proxy. So to measure how aware people are of your record keeping policy you might measure how many hits on it there are on the intranet for example.
One downside of focusing on performance measures is that you can lose sight of the bigger picture and always push process improvements. But doing more things faster or cheaper isn’t necessarily what it is about. You need to show you are doing the right things. You can communicate both value and performance by using a balanced scorecard which lets you see if improvements in one area have been at the expense of another and enables you to represent several perspective simultaneously. You can consider quite disparate elements such as becoming more customer focused, shortening response times, improving collection quality, emphasising teamwork and developing new services all together. The balanced scorecard is based on the understanding that no single measure can assess all critical areas of the service. The traditional scorecard is based on answering four questions and formulating targets in each of these areas. You should have a maximum of three to five measures in each and design measures for each broad strategy you have chosen for your archive or records centre.The first question is ‘How do customers see the archive’ (the customer perspective). Customers tend to be concerned with time, quality, performance and service and cost.The internal perspective asks ‘At what must the archive excel’ - Managers tend to focus on critical internal operations enabling them to meet customer needs such as the time and cost of processing new acquisitions or the cost and quality of digitisation.Whether the archive can continue to improve and create value is the question posed by the innovation and learning perspective which looks at the archive’s ability to grow, learn, develop and introduce new services and will focus on the introduction of new services, the technological infrastructure and the skills of archive staff.And the final question is ‘How does the archive look to stakeholders’ (the financial perspective) which will vary according to your sector: in government and not-for-profits profitability is often not relevant but in all sectors the aim is to demonstrate you make effective use of the funding provided.When I have used a balanced scorecard I have usually incorporated a fifth dimension to include the archive’s physical collection, access to electronic databases and resources obtained from elsewhere and in my experience this is more successful in government and not-for-profit organisations.Using a balanced scorecard and its multidimensional metrics based on your strategies will change the focus on performance away from what you have done to what you seek to become.
When measuring performance it can be useful to set a baseline against which you measure yourself. This can be done by acquiring a baseline from other organisations or another department in your own your organisation to compare for example your customer service rating. You can also establish a baseline before you implement a change in order to measure it again after the change and see the difference. When we began our records programme at the Scottish Parliament we surveyed all departments and asked questions about how they performed against key record keeping activities. After phase one of the programme where we updated the policy, trained champions and promoted good practice, we ran the survey again. Comparing the results to the first survey enabled us the demonstrate the significant shift towards better practice tat we delivered.
Even if not being used as a baseline surveys are a useful way of finding out how satisfied your customers are with your service and staff and even your location and premises or whatever you choose to ask about. A survey is easily administered in house and can be pre-printed and distributed in paper form with space for responses or sent out via email or delivered online using free survey tools such as Survey Monkey which also do basic analysis of responses. Successful surveys are quick to answer and don’t exceed more than 4 pages of A4 at the very most. You need to explain what you are doing and give an indication of response time to encourage people to complete it. Make the questions clear and avoid jargon. Closed questions are best where the answer is multiple choice or asks for a response to be rated on a scale. I prefer not to give people the option to sit on the fence so offer a scale of even numbers such as one to four for example. Open ended questions usually get skipped by respondents but you can include space for comments at the end. Anonymity might encourage more honest responses. Always test the survey against a few people for clarity. Structured questions make it easier to transfer the responses to something like Excel to tabulate and analyse the results. It is good practice to publish the results in summary form and what they mean and what the records centre is doing in response.
Information is now recognised as a key corporate resource, the lifeblood of the organisation, and yet archives and records centres are still being downsized and closed. CEOs do see information as valuable but continually perceive our information centres as not. We may have changed our job titles and developed a whole host of new competencies but sometimes our roles remain heavily focused on resourcing and managing a physical collection. The information that adds value to an organisation is not the collection per se so we need to let go of our traditional baseline and become part of the real workings of our organisation – what people do , how they work and what they need to do their jobs better. We need to be organisationally aligned and customer focused. We need to think organisation rather than archive and see the big picture, to be busy with only the things that add value, if the customer doesn’t perceive value there is none so stop doing whatever it is. Possibly most of all we need to listen to what our customers want and be active members of the organisation. None of the techniques in isolation will secure your long lasting future. You should use a combination or choose the most appropriate one for the situation. And of course they cannot take the place of having a solid marketing and communications plan, a clear understanding of your organisation’s goals and departmental objectives which are strongly aligned to these goals and a consistently excellent service well informed by customer insight. Finally you can measure and illustrate as much as you like but it is a hollow activity unless effective communication with decision makers is taking place.
Advocacy on the inside: demonstrating the value of your service ARA ICA Sep 2011.ppt
Advocacy on the Inside
Demonstrating the Value of Your Service
ARA and ICA Conference, Edinburgh 2011