When we kept everything on paper, organised people had these things called filing cabinets. They stored all of their documents in them in a structured way so that they could find them again.
Those people didn’t just toss their documents into the cabinet without thought.
But that is precisely what we do today with our computer’s file system. Can you imagine organising paper documents like you organise your files? You would be ashamed for people to see your desk.
Welcome to the 1960s
In large organisations it was usually somebody’s job to organise the stuff that went in to the cabinet. This person knew how things should be structured. They understood what was in the cabinet. They helped you find things again if you weren’t sure.
This person is the Librarian. This role is so important it even gets a capital letter. (You may have noticed that I’m no fan of title case.)
It might be you
If you’re reading this, you might be the Librarian.
If you’re a project manager on a project of any size, there’s almost certainly someone on the project who would relish this role. It’s someone like me, or you.
Find them and empower them.
It is the Librarian’s role to understand the layout of the Johnny.Decimal system that you create. They must be a part of the team that sets it up.
Their role is to understand the overall structure of the project and the documents that it generates.
They must monitor the system and proactively help people who aren’t following the rules.
If they see one of your engineers dumping their design documentation in a folder called
00 DESIGNS at the root of your structure, they should clean this up and help that person to do it correctly the next time.
There is no one-size-fits-all system. People will disagree on how things should be laid out. Is it
Documentation > Design or
Design > Documentation? Either might work.
The Librarian considers these disputes, discusses them with the teams involved, and if required is the final arbiter.
They must own the index including the tool in which it is hosted, and all of the data that it contains.
As I’ve said, this system isn’t ‘free’ from a time perspective. It requires an investment of time, which you will recoup many times over.
The Librarian is this investment.
I estimate that a medium-sized IT transformation project — with a budget in the order of $10m — should assign funding to the Librarian for one day a week; more at the start, ramping down as the project matures.
Larger projects scale linearly.
“Isn’t this the PMO’s job?”
But do they do it?
If they do, great. You can probably stop reading.
If they don’t, either get them on board and use them to implement this for you, or do it yourself.
But stop thinking it’s just going to happen.