Recently, I had the burning need to find a certain document that was buried somewhere within the expansive paper archives of our building in Foster City. The Chief Engineer had been looking for weeks, to no avail. I decided that I should be able to go up to "The Library" and easily uncover what I needed, as if the Chief wasn't looking hard enough. Spoiler alert: I was wrong.
There was a mountain of disparate and disconnected documents, cabinets and binders full of paper, no true organization, various forms of media between paper, blueprints, sepias, plans, and digital documents. It was a true "needle in a stack of needles" moment for me.
Needless to say, I never found the document I was looking for. I gave up after about 45 minutes of pulling dusty plans off the top of shelves. The whole experience brought me back to my days at BarkerBlue in a few ways: 1. I had visited this actual room while with BarkerBlue, and 2. I went there in order to try and convince the Owners at that time to pony up and scan all those rusting documents. That call was also fruitless; poetically causing the frustration I was dealing with recently in trying to find this particular document.
I remember being frustrated at the time that the Owner did not see what a problem this outdated archive actually was. How the inability to find documentation quickly (if at all) was a real business cost and risk to their operations. I knew what a resource a scanned, tagged, and searchable archive of 30 years worth of documents could do for them, but they couldn't see it.
Fast forward 7 years, and I am now in the Owner position, wishing I had called that Salesperson 7 years ago to get to work scanning my archive. This particular document, if not found, quite literally could have an implication of thousands of dollars. Not to mention, I spent almost an hour looking for this thing, which has its own monetary impact to my projects and actual salary.
Having a new perspective on this, I think I figured out the reason why my sales pitch fell on deaf ears that day. As the Owner, looking at this monumental pile of stuff, the notion came to me that I had no idea where I would even start. Deciding what was important, what was a duplicate that I wouldn't want to pay for, what was irrelevant.....a seemingly impossible task.
It's a terrible excuse, but that's the realization I had. I would probably turn my sales-self down just because I could not fathom starting the process.
What would I tell myself of 7 years ago, knowing what I know now? The Owner-me recognizes the problem, and understands the real life impact of lost documentation. The Owner-me can probably justify the costs of the service. I think the Sales-me should have done everything possible just to scan a few sets of drawings to start that snowball.
We actually did this in real life at BarkerBlue, successfully, with two pretty big tech companies in Silicon Valley. We won those battles by showing them how we were already storing their current construction documents, and that it would be so easy to grow their archive by adding the old stuff. We had momentum going into it, which mad the decision to add to the archive that much easier.
Staring at that pile of disjointed information was overwhelming. Frustrating. It seemed impossible to tame, but it would have been better if we had just taken a single step 7 years ago.