Why are your staff still manually capturing and classifying electronic documents and emails?

by Frank 15. June 2017 06:00

For many years we have promoted the totally automatic paradigm for low cost, high productivity content management.

We haven’t just articulated this cost-effective approach, we have also invested in products to help our customers not just meet compliance targets but also become more efficient while doing so.

Specifically, we have invented and produced two products that totally automate the content management process for electronic documents and emails. These two products automate the capture, classification and work processes required for electronic documents and emails.

These two products sit on top of a super-fast, scalable and secure content management database with all the functionality required to manage your rich content. Find any eDoc in seconds, produce any report, audit every transaction.

These two products are GEM and RecCapture, innovations 10 years ago and leading the field today after being comprehensively updated and redeveloped over the years. The content management database is RecFind 6. All products in the RecFind 6 Product Suite are totally compatible with all the latest Microsoft software including Office 365, Windows 10, Windows Server 2016, MS SQL Server 2016 and SharePoint 2016.

Better still, these are low cost products available under a number of licensing options including installed onsite on your server, hosted, Perpetual License, Subscription License and Annual License.

If you would like further information, a demonstration, webinar, meeting, online presentation or quotation please contact us at your convenience at marketing@knowledgeonecorp.com

We look forward to being of service.

I am willing to bet that you are still not managing your emails effectively

by Frank 25. November 2012 06:00

According to various industry surveys, 65% to 75% of companies still have no systems in place to manage email records. Based on my own observations and dialog with Knowledgeone Corporation’s customers and prospects, I would say the percentage is far higher; say 85% or more. My guess is that the industry surveys inadvertently included a number of email ‘cleaning’ systems as email management systems; thereby skewing the figures.


Given that there is now a variety of proven email management systems (like Knowledgeone Corporation’s GEM) available for most email servers (e.g., Exchange, GroupWise and Notes) and given the enormous danger of unmanaged email it is, on the surface, difficult to explain the apparent reluctance of organizations to implement email management policies and systems.


My own experience leads me to believe that the following are the major reasons organizations do not take this critical step:

1. Lack of ownership and leadership

Email management transects all of the traditional vertical organizational boundaries. There may well be an IT person in charge of the email servers but there is rarely a senior management person in charge of email organization-wide. That is, no one person actually ‘owns’ the problem and no one person has the authority to implement an organization-wide solution.

2. Lack of an understanding of the problem and of the solution

Most of the people who are senior enough in an organization to be aware of this problem do not comprehend the complexities of the problem. They have dialogs with IT people who explain the issues in technical terms, not in business or risk-management terms. Email management should come under an organization’s risk management regime because that is where a great deal of risk lies.

3. Lack of desire to solve the problem plus active opposition to a solution

There are a large number of IT people and others in every organization who simply do not want their emails managed, analysed, scrutinized, indexed and saved. This fact is never going to change and must always be addressed at a senior level by the person responsible for risk management policies and practice. Uncooperative and/or recalcitrant employees should not be allowed to put an organization at risk no matter what their position in the management hierarchy.

4. Confusion over what is involved in complying with a plethora of laws and regulations

One hundred percent of what well-meaning bureaucrats and politicians have done to ‘solve’ what they see as email privacy issues has been badly thought out, badly drafted and counterproductive; simply ill-informed, knee-jerk reactions. As you can see, I am no fan of politicians and bureaucrats who pass knee-jerk laws without understanding or caring about the full implications.


As far as I am concerned the privacy issue is secondary to the fact that every employer has to right to determine how its resources are used. Every employer has the right to protect itself. Every employer has the right to tell its employees if private emails are allowed or not. Every employer has the right to tell its employees what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in an email.


Solving the so called privacy policy is dead easy; herewith is the McKenna solution.


Tell employees that:

1. Private emails are not allowed and all emails will be scrutinized for inappropriate content; or

2. Private emails are allowed (in moderation) but that all emails, including private emails, will be scrutinized for inappropriate content; or

3. Private emails are allowed (in moderation) but that they MUST be identified by the keyword “Private” (or a word or phrase of your choice) in the subject line. All emails without the keyword “Private” in the subject line will be scrutinized for inappropriate content.

5. Confusing and misleading claims by companies marketing email management systems

It is a complex problem (have you ever tried to set up a multi-server email system in a large organization?) often poorly understood and poorly explained by the sales person. Add to this the fact that the sales person is usually speaking to the IT person (who lives in a different universe) who then has to ‘translate’ what he thinks the sales person said to senior management. Too often, the harried sales person, under intense pressure from the IT interrogator, will simply say “Yes” without really understanding the question or its implications.


My best advice to senior management is that if they don’t fully understand, keep asking questions until they do or, seek assistance from an independent authority. It is just plain dumb and dangerous to sign something off you don’t really understand.

6. Multiple and conflicting objectives

Is your objective to simply be aware of everything that is in your email store or is it to also meet a plethora of complex and competing regulations and certification standards?


Have you inadvertently set the goal post too high? Have you made the problem many times more complex than it should be? Has it become a “Wish List” instead of a requirement? Is the selection of a suitable product always held up by someone demanding that it has to also do something else? Has your horse now morphed into a camel?


My best advice? Why don’t you try ‘Getting wet slowly’ and review your needs again when the basic but critical email management problem is solved?


In the end it is about ownership, understanding and will. If just one senior person with the necessary authority understands the problem and commits to a solution then it will happen. The solutions are out there; they are just waiting for a committed purchaser with a clear and simple view of what needs to be achieved.


You must be aware of what is in your email store and you must be alerted to infringements before they grow into expensive problems. You can’t do this without an email management system in place.


Are you also confused by the term Enterprise Content Management?

by Frank 16. September 2012 06:00

I may be wrong but I think it was AIIM that first coined the phrase Enterprise Content Management to describe both our industry and our application solutions.

Whereas the term isn’t as nebulous as Knowledge Management it is nevertheless about as useful when trying to understand what organizations in this space actually do. At its simplest level it is a collective term for a number of related business applications like records management, document management, imaging, workflow, business process management, email management and archiving, digital asset management, web site content management, etc.

To simple people like me the more appropriate term or label would be Information Management but as I have already covered this in a previous Blog I won’t beleaguer the point in this one.

When trying to define what enterprise content management actually means or stands for we can discard the words ‘enterprise’ and ‘management’ as superfluous to our needs and just concentrate on the key word ‘content’. That is, we are talking about systems that in some way create and manage content.

So, what exactly is meant by the term ‘content’?

In the early days of content management discussions we classified content into two broad categories, structured and unstructured. Basically, structured content had named sections or labels and unstructured content did not. Generalising even further we can say that an email is an example of structured content because it has commonly named, standardised and accessible sections or labels like ‘Sender’, ‘Recipient’, ‘Subject’ etc., that we can interrogate and rely on to carry a particular class or type of information. The same general approach would regard a Word document as unstructured because the content of a Word document does not have commonly named and standardised sections or labels. Basically a Word document is an irregular collection of characters that you have to parse and examine to determine content.

Like Newtonian physics, the above generalisations do not apply to everything and can be argued until the cows come home. In truth, every document has an accessible structure of some kind. For example, a Word document has an author, a size, a date written, etc. It is just that it is far easier to find out who the recipient of an email was than the recipient of a Word document. This is because there is a common and standard ‘Tag’ that tells us who the recipient is of an email and there is no such common and standard tag for a Word document.

In our business we call ‘information about information’ (e.g., the recipient and date fields on an email) Metadata. If an object has recognizable Metadata then it is far easier to process than an object without recognizable Metadata. We may then say that adding Metadata to an object is the same as adding structure.

Adding structure is what we do when we create a Word document using a template or when we add tags to a Word document. We are normalizing the standard information we require in our business processes so the objects we deal with have the structure we require to easily and accurately identify and process them.

This is of course one of the long-standing problems in our industry, we spend far too much time and money trying to parse and interpret unstructured objects when we should be going back to the coal face and adding structure when the object is first created. This is of course relatively easy to do if we are creating the objects (e.g., a Word document) but not easy to achieve if we are receiving documents from foreign sources like our customers, our suppliers or the government. Unless you are the eight-hundred pound gorilla (like Walmart) it is very difficult to force your partners to add the structure you require to make processing as fast and as easy and as accurate as possible.

There have been attempts in the past to come up with common ‘standards’ that would have regulated document structure but none have been successful. The last one was when XML was the bright new kid on the block and the XML industry rushed headlong into defining XML standards for every conceivable industry to facilitate common structures and to make data transfer between different organizations as easy and as standard as possible. The various XML standardisation projects sucked up millions or even billions of dollars but did not produce the desired results; we are still spending billions of dollars each year parsing unstructured documents trying to determine content.

So, back to the original question, what exactly is Enterprise Content Management? The simple answer is that it is the business or process of extracting useful information from objects such as emails and PDFs and Word documents and then using that information in a business process. It is all about the process of capturing Metadata and content in the most accurate and expeditious manner possible so we can automate business processes as much as possible.

If done properly, it makes your job more pleasant and saves your organization money and it makes your customers and suppliers happier. As such it sounds a lot like motherhood (who is going to argue against it?) but it certainly isn’t like manna from heaven. There is always a cost and it is usually significant. As always, you reap what you sow and effort and cost produces rewards.

Is content management something you should consider? The answer is definitely yes with one proviso; please make sure that the benefits are greater than the cost.


Is Information Management now back in focus?

by Frank 12. August 2012 06:00

When we were all learning about what used to be called Data Processing we also learned about the hierarchy or transformation of information. That is, “data to information to knowledge to wisdom.”

Unfortunately, as information management is part of what we call the Information Technology industry (IT) we as a group are never satisfied with simple self-explanatory terms. Because of this age-old flaw we continue to invent and hype new terms like Knowledge Management and Enterprise Content Management most of which are so vague and ill-defined as to be virtually meaningless but nevertheless, provide great scope for marketing hype and consultants’ income.

Because of the ongoing creation of new terminology and the accompanying acronyms we have managed to confuse almost everyone. Personally I have always favoured the term ‘information management’ because it tells it like it is and it needs little further explanation. In the parlance of the common man it is an “old un, but a good un.”

The thing I most disliked about the muddy knowledge management term was the claim that computers and software could produce knowledge. That may well come in the age of cyborgs and true artificial intelligence but I haven’t seen it yet. At best, computers and software produce information which human beings can convert to knowledge via a unique human cognitive process.

I am fortunate in that I have been designing and programming information management solutions for a very long time so I have witnessed first-hand the enormous improvements in technology and tools that have occurred over time. Basically this means I am able to design and build an infinitely better information management solution today that I could have twenty-nine years ago when I started this business.  For example, the current product RecFind 6 is a much better, more flexible, more feature rich and more scalable product than the previous K1 product and it in turn was an infinitely better product than the previous one called RecFind 5.

One of the main factors in them being better products than their predecessors is that each time we started afresh with the latest technology; we didn’t build on the old product, we discarded it completely and started anew. As a general rule of thumb I believe that software developers need to do this around a five year cycle. Going past the five year life cycle inevitably means you end up compromising the design because of the need to support old technology. You are carrying ‘baggage’ and it is synonymous with trying to run the marathon with a hundred pound (45 Kg) backpack.

I recently re-read an old 1995 white paper I wrote on the future of information management software which I titled “Document Management, Records Management, Image Management Workflow Management...What? – The I.D.E.A”. I realised after reading this old paper that it is only now that I am getting close to achieving my lofty ambitions as espoused in the early paper. It is only now that I have access to the technology required to achieve my design ambitions. In fact I now believe that despite its 1995 heritage this is a paper every aspiring information management solution creator should reference because we are all still trying to achieve the ideal ‘It Does Everything Application’ (but remember that it was my I.D.E.A. first).

Of course, if you are involved in software development then you realise that your job is never done. There are always new features to add and there are always new releases of products like Windows and SQL server to test and certify against and there are always new releases of development tools like Visual Studio and HTML5 to learn and start using.

You also realise that software development is probably the dumbest business in the world to be part of with the exception of drug development, the only other business I can think of which has a longer timeframe between beginning R&D and earning a dollar. We typically spend millions of dollars and two to three years to bring a brand new product to market. Luckily, we still have the existing product to sell and fund the R&D. Start-ups however, don’t have this option and must rely on mortgaging the house or generous friends and relatives or venture capital companies to fund the initial development cycle.

Whatever the source of funding, from my experience it takes a brave man or woman to enter into a process where the first few years are all cost and no revenue. You have to believe in your vision, your dream and you have to be prepared for hard times and compromises and failed partnerships. Software development is not for the faint hearted.

When I wrote that white paper on the I.D.E.A. (the It Does Every Thing Application or, my ‘idea’ or vision at that time) I really thought that I was going to build it in the next few years, I didn’t think it would take another fifteen years. Of course, I am now working on the next release of RecFind so it is actually more than fifteen years.

Happily, I now market RecFind 6 as an information management solution because information management is definitely back in vogue. Hopefully, everyone understands what it means. If they don’t, I guess that I will just have to write more white papers and Blogs.

Are you really managing your emails?

by Frank 5. August 2012 06:00

It was a long time ago that we all realized that emails were about eighty-percent plus of business correspondence and little has changed today. Hopefully, we also realised that most of us weren’t managing emails and that this left a potentially lethal compliance and legal hole to plug.

I wrote some white papers on the need to manage emails back in 2004 and 2005 (“The need to manage emails” and “Six reasons why organizations don’t manage emails effectively”) and when I review them today they are just as relevant as they were eight years ago. That is to say, despite the plethora of email management tools now available most organizations I deal with still do not manage their emails effectively or completely.

As an recent example  we had an inquiry from the records manager at a US law firm who said she needed an email management solution but it had to be a ‘manual’ one where each worker would decide if and when and how to capture and save important emails into the records management system.  She went on to state emphatically that under no circumstances would she consider any kind of automatic email management solution.

This is the most common request we get. Luckily, we have several ways to capture and manage emails including a ‘manual’ one as requested as well as a fully automatic one called GEM that analyses all incoming and outgoing emails according to business rules and then automatically captures and classifies them within our electronic records and document management system RecFind 6.

We have to provide multiple options because that is what the market demands but it is common sense that any manual system cannot be a complete solution. That is, if you leave it up to the discretion of the operator to decide which emails to capture and how to capture them then you will inevitably have an incomplete and inconsistent solution.  Worse still, you will have no safeguards against fraudulent or dishonest behaviour.

Human beings are, by definition, ‘human’ and not perfect. We are by nature inconsistent in our behaviour on a day to day basis. We also forget things and sometimes make mistakes. We are not robots or cyborgs and consistent, perfect behaviour all controlled by Asimov’s three laws of robotics is a long, long way off for most of us.

This means dear reader that we cannot be trusted to always analyse, capture and classify emails in a one-hundred percent consistent manner. Our excuse is that we are in fact, just human.

The problem is exacerbated when we have hundreds or even thousands of inconsistent humans (your staff) all being relied upon to behave in an entirely uniform and consistent manner. It is in fact ludicrous to expect entirely uniform and consistent behaviour from your staff and it is bad practice and just plain foolish to roll out an email management system based on this false premise. It will never meet expectations. It will never plug all the compliance and legal holes and you will remain exposed no matter how much money you throw at the problem (e.g., training, training and re-training).

The only complete solution is one based on a fully-automatic model whereby all incoming and outgoing emails are analysed according to a set of business rules tailored to your specific needs. This is the only way to ensure that nothing gets missed. It is the only way to ensure that you are in fact plugging all the compliance and legal holes and removing exposure.

The fully automatic option is also the most cost-effective by a huge margin.

The manual approach requires each and every staff member to spend (waste?) valuable time every single day trying to decide which emails to capture and then actually going through the process time and time again. It also requires some form of a licence per employee or per desktop. This licence has a cost and it also has to be maintained, again at a cost.

The automatic approach doesn’t require the employee to do anything. It also doesn’t require a licence per employee or desktop because the software runs in the background talking directly to your email server. It is what we call a low cost, low impact and asynchronous solution.

The automatic model increases productivity and lowers costs. It therefore provides a complete and entirely consistent email management solution and at a significantly lower cost than any ‘manual’ model. So, why is it so hard to convince records managers to go with the fully automatic solution? This is the million dollar question though in some large organizations, it is a multi-million dollar question.

My response is that you should not be leaving this decision up to the records manager. Emails are the business of all parts of any organization; they don’t just ‘belong’ to the records management department. Emails are an important part of most business processes particularly those involving clients and suppliers and regulators. That is, the most sensitive parts of your business. The duty to manage emails transects all vertical boundaries within any organization. The need is there in accounts and marketing and engineering and in support and in every department.

The decision on how to manage emails should be taken by the CEO or at the very least, the CIO with full cognizance of the risks to the enterprise of not managing emails in a one-hundred percent consistent and complete manner.

In the end email management isn’t in fact about email management, it is about risk management. If you don’t understand that and if you don’t make the necessary decisions at the top of your organization you are bound to suffer the consequences in the future.

Are you going to wait for the first law suit or punitive fine before taking action?

Managing Emails, how hard can it be?

by Frank 22. April 2012 00:22

We produce a content management system called RecFind 6 that includes several ways to capture, classify and save emails. Like most ECM vendors, we offer a number of alternatives so as to be better able to meet the unique requirements of a variety of clients.

We offer the ‘manual’ version whereby we embed our email client into packages like Outlook and the end user can just click on our RecFind 6 Button from the Outlook toolbar to capture and classify any email.

We also offer a fully automated email management system called GEM that is rule-driven and that automatically analyses, captures and classifies all incoming and outgoing emails.

At the simplest level, an end user can just utilize the standard RecFind 6 client and click on the ‘Add Attachment’ button to capture a saved email from the local file store.

Most of our customers use the RecFind 6 Button because they prefer to have end users decide which emails to capture and because the Button is embedded into Microsoft Office, Adobe Professional, Notes and GroupWise. A much smaller percentage of our customers use GEM even though it is a much better, more complete and less labour intensive solution because there are still many people that just don’t want email to be automatically captured.

This last point is of great interest to me because I find it hard to understand why customers would choose the ‘manual’ RecFind 6 Button, small, smart and fast though it is, over the fully automated and complete solution offered by GEM, especially when GEM is a much lower cost solution for mid-size to large enterprises.

A few years ago in 2005 the Records Management Association of Australia asked me to write a paper on this topic, that is, why don’t organizations make a good job of capturing emails when there is plenty of software out there that can do the job?  I came up with six reasons why organizations don’t manage emails effectively and after re-reading that paper today, they are still valid.

In my experience, the most common protagonists are the records manager and the IT manager.  I don’t think I have ever spoke to a senior executive or application owner who didn’t think GEM was a good idea but I have only ever spoken to a tiny number of records managers who would even contemplate the idea of fully automatic email management. Most IT managers just don’t want all their emails captured.

This is despite the fact that because GEM is rule-driven any competent administrator could write rules to include or exclude any emails they want included or excluded.

Another road block is that old red herring personal emails. In ninety-percent upwards of cases where my customer has decided against GEM this is given as the ‘real’ reason. It is of course rubbish because there are many ways to handle personal emails including an effective email policy and writing GEM rules to enforce that policy. This 2004 paper explains why we need to manage emails and also talks about an effective email policy.

The absolute worst way to mismanage emails is to mandate that end users must select and print them out for the records staff to file in cardboard file folders. This method is entirely appropriate to 1900 except for the fact that we actually didn’t have emails in 1990. It is entirely inappropriate and just plain ineffective, wasteful and stupid in 2012 but, tens of thousands of records managers all around the world still mandate this as the preferred approach.

Is it because they don’t understand the technology or is it because they stubbornly refuse to even consider the technology?

It can’t be budget because the cost of expensive staff having to be part-time records managers is monumental. You would be hard pressed to find a more expensive and less effective solution. So why are we still doing it?

Back to the title of this paper, “How hard can it be?”

The answer is that it is not hard at all and that every ECM vendor has at least one flexible and configurable solution for email management. More so, these solutions have been around for at least the last ten years. So why are we still doing it the hard, ineffective, incomplete and expensive way?

The answer is that it is to do with people and attitudes; with a reluctance to embrace change and a reluctance to embrace a challenge that just might force managers to learn a lot in a short time and extend their capabilities and workload for the period necessary to implement a new generation solution. I guess it comes down to fear and a head in the sand attitude.

I once had a senior records manager tell me he wasn’t going to install any new systems because he was retiring in five years and didn’t want the worry and stress. Is this really why you aren’t managing your emails effectively and completely? Isn’t it time you asked the question of your records and IT managers?

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