Are we Crazy?

by Frank 11. March 2012 06:00

I am luckier than most because I live on the edge of the city and only 1Km or so from my office. However, that 1Km is an Everest-like climb up hundreds of steps and not on when I am carrying all the gear (iPad, research papers, laptop, etc.) I religiously carry to and from work (yes, I own my own business and need to work when home).  So, I drive and it takes fifteen to twenty minutes depending upon how congested our city is and what time of day I leave for work (the earlier the better).

The traffic is awful because our road systems have been assiduously ignored by generation after generation of incompetent politicians and bureaucrats totally focussed on the now and not the future. They have hidden their incompetence under the great green banner (cars are evil and cause climate change) and generations of gullible voters have actually bought this crap. The end result is a grossly under-capitalised and under-maintained road system with few alternatives for the vast bulk of commuters because our public transport system was also underfunded by the same politicians and bureaucrats. They ignored our need for a better transport system and instead added tens of thousands of public servants to the payroll instead of investing in infrastructure. So, in the state where I live we have the worst of both worlds; a rubbish road system and a rubbish public transport system.

In the last fifteen years or so the ‘solution’ has been public-private partnerships and toll roads. In most cases, public roads have been narrowed and lanes taken away for 24 hour bus lanes and bicycle lanes to force long-suffering commuters into the expensive toll roads. Now these same toll roads are virtual parking lots with average speeds below 20 or 30 Km per hour; we are paying to sit in traffic jams. How clever of the politicians and bureaucrats to come up with this twist. “Let’s just not make them suffer, let’s make them pay to suffer!” Oh, and of course the tolls are cleverly ‘indexed’ so the cost continues to rise faster than inflation and at the same time the services levels continue to drop as average commute times rise.

The same idiots that under-invested in transport also closed railway lines and stations because the grossly-inefficient bureaucracy was unable to run them profitably. We now have thousands more trucks on the roads because the railroad system (the most efficient way to transport goods) has been emasculated by successive short-thinking governments.

Everyone says we don’t have an alternative because most of us have to earn a living and most jobs require us to be at the workplace. So, we continue to suffer and the transport system continues to deteriorate and the population continues to grow further exacerbating an already intolerable situation.

Is there a better alternative? Politically none of the existing major parties have the gumption, the imagination or the vision to solve the problem; they are all happy to make promises and then to sit fat and happy, snouts deeply into the public-funded trough enjoying the benefits of maintaining the status quo. I also don’t see any new political party with the vision required to make any difference. It is as if they all realize that it is far easier to make and break promises than to actually do something.

We are lost in a sea of mediocrity with no sight of land on the horizon and no life-saving breeze. It is no wonder that road-rage is a major problem or that that depression is a disease of epidemic proportions. Commuters are stressed to the hilt before they even get to work.

So if we can’t rely on our politicians to fix the problem what should we do? We can’t just resign because we all have responsibilities and bills and families and mortgages and car payments and school fees and the like. Making sure we are heavily indebted is part of the system because it ensure we continue to work and pay taxes.

Personal bankruptcy isn’t an option for most of us. We also can’t refuse to pay tolls and sales taxes on cars and gasoline on the basis that we aren’t getting what we paid for.  The government cleverly opts out of normal consumer protection laws that apply if we buy a commercially available product that isn’t fit for purpose. There is no protection for consumers against governments that lie and fail to deliver what they promise. I often wonder why that is; why do we have parliamentary privilege and why do we allow politicians to enjoy the benefits of office after they have lied to us?

The answer of course is that the public sector (government) has become the public master. The public sector no longer serves us; we serve the public sector. It is our job to pay enough in taxes (and tolls and levies and fees and charges and licence fees and stamp duty, etc., etc.) to keep them in the style to which they have become accustomed. Hell, I imagine they even get mad if we take time off or become unemployed because we are not contributing taxes and are threatening the good life our politicians and bureaucrats enjoy.

A fundamental part of this awful system is to re-direct monies from things like infrastructure spending into salaries and pensions and benefits for our huge public sector. And, on those few occasions when a large investment in infrastructure is required, the public sector borrows the money instead of allocating it from the tax income they already receive.  They are stealing from you today and borrowing against your grandchildren’s future. They are even borrowing to pay inflated pensions when the economy is in a downturn. I bet most of you would like some of that borrowed money in your pension fund.

I don’t have a guaranteed pension pegged at a high percentage of my final salary; do you? Yet most public servants and politicians have guaranteed pensions paid regardless of where the economy is. I bet that the rest of the workforce (the people who actually create the wealth) would love to have the same system in place instead of being at the mercy of the stock market and the avaricious superannuation funds (that all make money even when you don’t).

Why did we let this happen? Are we all crazy or masochists or just plain stupid? They talk about lambs to the slaughter; compared to us lambs are geniuses.

We also have present-day Europe to study and to see what awaits us in the near future. I read an article yesterday where the author called Europe the world’s greatest Ponzi scheme and he was brilliantly correct. Keep borrowing money to pay the outgoings until a time comes when you can’t borrow any more. We are emulating Europe and will follow them down the same road to ruin unless we all wake up and accept the fact that there should not be any free lunches for anyone, especially public servants and politicians.

However, how do you change a system when it is in the best interests of the people running the system to perpetuate the status quo? Who are you going to call, the Ghostbusters?

The system is broken in this country just as it is broken in Europe and the USA. You can’t run your household by borrowing more than you earn (not for long anyway) and you can’t run a state or a country like that either. The time will come when the Piper needs to be paid. We can all blame the hedge funds for taking advantage of a bad situation but they didn’t create the underlying problem; we did by continuing to support politicians who lied to us and promised us more than we could afford in order to stay in office. The root problem is greed and it always has been greed. Greed exacerbated by the gullibility and outright stupidity of us voters, all of us expecting a free lunch.

They say you get what you deserve and in our case that is absolutely true.

The only long term solution is for us is to start living within our means, as families, as local governments, as states and as a country. Sadly, I don’t see that happening any time soon so get used to the chaos and ever rising cost of living because there is no end in sight without a quantum change in our attitude as citizens of this great country.

Maybe I need to start a new political party, one committed to (a much) smaller government, a balanced budget, politicians and public servants on the same pension system as us workers and new rules that would enable us to force liars out of office? Problem is, where would I find all those honest politicians? Then again, it could be that they are all currently employees of private enterprise or business owners like me, similar-minded and absolutely fed up with the current system.

Something has to change and I fear that it is up to us ordinary, hard-working people to make it happen.  Are you ready for change? How would you make it happen? Do you care about your grandchildren’s future?

What is the future of Software applications in 2013 and beyond?

by Frank 5. March 2012 06:00

As we all know, the world of IT and applications is changing rapidly and most of us application software vendors are trying to second-guess where the market is heading. The two key questions are:

  1. How should we deliver applications? and
  2. What should we be developing?

If we read and believe the IT press, especially the IT industry blogs, we should all be convinced by now that every application needs to be delivered on a mobile device. However, I am not fully convinced because I am a long-term and avid user of mobile devices, smartphone and iPad, and my experience tells me that mobile devices still don’t have the capabilities I need to be able to run all the applications I use. I also struggle to understand how to make my applications totally usable on mobile devices, especially smartphones.

For example, my smartphone is invaluable for checking and responding to emails when on the move. It is small, light, convenient (it sits in my shirt pocket) and has a long battery life. It also ‘connects’ to the Internet from most locations and 3G/4G and Wi-Fi services provide acceptable performance for email monitoring. But, it isn’t suitable for reading big documents and it isn’t suitable for lengthy responses. It is also painful when accessing web pages; the processor is too slow, the screen is just way too small and the QWERTY keyboard too small and too awkward for anything other than simple responses.

The iPad 2 is a lot better mainly because it has a bigger screen and more usable keyboard but it is still far from perfect.  Whenever I have to do real work (like writing this blog or writing program specifications), I end up working on my powerful laptop or desktop.

Strangely though, when I look at my laptop and desktop and all those messy cables and connections they look like museum pieces next to my iPad 2. In my opinion, the industry is somewhere between the old paradigm and the new paradigm but we haven’t got there just yet. Today’s mobile devices are a good first attempt but they don’t yet have what it takes to replace the desktop and laptop for serious business users.

The choice for us really comes down to developing and delivering software applications in either native mobile app mode (e.g., iPad apps developed in Xcode) or web-client mode (i.e., ‘thin-client’ applications that run in a browser and are developed using tools like HTML5, JavaScript and Ajax).

The web-client model is the best for us because it provides platform independence and the lowest cost delivery model. That is, it enables your application for all types of mobile devices as well as traditional notebooks and desktops and it is delivered just by the end user typing in a URL. It also only requires a single set of source code rather than the multiple sets of source code required to support native mobile apps for devices like the Android phone, iPad and Blackberry. It is therefore the lowest cost to develop and maintain and the lowest cost to roll out and support.

Ironically, the web-client model is also very old technology and I am surprised that after all these years we don’t have anything better to replace it.

As to what we should be developing, well that is literally the (multi) million dollar question. Our traditional fare is Enterprise Content Management software (ECM) or more simply, Information Management software. The ECM bag includes a host of horizontal market applications like document management software, records management software, contract management software, knowledge management software, etc. Our product RecFind 6 provides all of the above capabilities.

So, given that we already have a pretty clever and flexible ‘multi-application’ solution what should we replace it with or, what should we add to it? More importantly, what do customers need and want and even more importantly, what are they prepared to pay for?

Our customers happily tell us all the time about the new and extended functionality they would like to see in our products but usually their assumption is that we will fund the changes and provide the extended functionality free as part of a future upgrade. Usually they are right because we continually add new and improved features to successive upgrades provided under the customer’s maintenance agreement. However, for software vendors wanting to provide additional value and grow revenues, the real question is “is there a totally new product the majority of customers would need and want and be happy to pay for? “

I spend a lot of time thinking about this question. “What can I design and build that will provide significant value to a customer?” So much value in fact that the customer will be more than happy to outlay the funds to buy it. You might say it is the Holy Grail of software development, often called the ‘Killer App’. It may come as a surprise to those outside of our industry but many software developers spend enormous amounts of time and money building products no one buys.

A great idea doesn’t necessarily translate to success in the market. Similarly, because a customer says it wants something it does not necessarily follow that it will be willing to pay for it. As a software developer you have to ask the question, “If I build it, will you buy it?” This sounds a bit like Kevin Costner and his field of dreams movie, “Build it and they will come”, but in our case that isn’t necessarily true.

I have lots of ideas and have written lots of specifications and have built lots of applications but that killer app still eludes me. It must be time again to go out and ask our customers, “What would you like us to build? What application or feature or functionality would make a real difference to the running of your business? What application functionality do you need most of all? What do you believe will add the most value to your business? What would you like us to build next?”

Customers always have great ideas and they are often able to think outside the square. Software developers like us are more often than not too close to the problem. Now let’s see what they tell me, maybe that killer app is just around the corner, just like that next big lottery win.

RecFind 6 versus SharePoint 2010 as a records management solution

by Frank 25. February 2012 06:00

I have written about this many times before (see links below) but our customers continue to ask for advice, usually when being ‘told’ by IT that they will have to use SharePoint as their records management solution.

http://www.knowledgeonecorp.com/news/pdfs/IntegratingWithSharePoint.pdf

http://www.knowledgeonecorp.com/news/pdfs/SharePoint%20-%20A%20Primer.pdf

In the past I have treated the subject softly and leaned over backwards to be kind to SharePoint, after all, who am I to argue with mighty Microsoft? Now however, I am just going to tell it how it is.

  • Out of the box RecFind 6 is an infinitely better and lower cost and faster to roll out records management solution than SharePoint 2010.
  • You can easily and quickly configure RecFind 6 to meet one hundred-percent of your records management requirements. No matter how much time and money you throw at SharePoint 2010 you will never be able to meet one hundred-percent of your records management requirements.
  • Whereas the initial licensing costs of SharePoint 2010 may appear to make it a better financial proposition than RecFind 6, once you start pouring in the money required to get SharePoint to do what RecFind 6 does out of the box the situation reverses very quickly. By the time you finish paying your SharePoint consultants (and you probably never will) you will end up paying at least ten times what you would have paid for RecFind 6.
  • Worse, whereas Knowledgeone Corporation does all the maintenance and adds all the new features to RecFind 6 as part of your annual maintenance (ASU),  with SharePoint you have to design, implement, test and fund all the maintenance and improvements to your SharePoint system. This means that the ongoing costs are also around ten times what it would cost to maintain an equivalent RecFind 6 system.

It is important to note that this is just not my opinion. As an example, please refer to the advice given to state government agencies by NSW State Records:

http://futureproof.records.nsw.gov.au/initial-advice-on-implementing-recordkeeping-requirements-in-sharepoint-2010/

Allow me to summarize:

  • SharePoint 2010 is a good collaboration & intranet solution but will not apply good records management functionality out of the box.
  • It will take a significant investment of time, money and strategy to build an effective EDRMS with SharePoint 2010.
  • While licence costs for SharePoint may be relatively inexpensive, the complexity and cost of designing, developing, implementing and maintaining a SharePoint 2010 EDRMS is considerable and needs to be factored into the decision to implement EDRMS functionality with SharePoint.
  • SharePoint 2010 is not compliant to records management standards including with reference to:
    • Difficulties in capturing email;
    • Lack of native security classification and access control; plus
    • An inability to manage hybrid records (i.e. both electronic & hard copy records).
  • As SharePoint generally operates as a series of team sites, the complexity & costs of design, development, implementation and on-going maintenance should reflect the fact that each team site will need to be specifically implemented to meet the particular recordkeeping requirements of each business area.
  • Without proper design & implementation a SharePoint EDRMS implementation will become another sprawling, uncontrolled network or shared drive environment, with content existing everywhere. SharePoint’s native structure is much like a website, where it is possible to implement as many specific sites for different teams and projects or business areas as your organisation requires. Without strong records management frameworks, recordkeeping can quickly scale out of control in this kind of environment.

If your main interest is physical records management then don’t even begin to consider SharePoint because it simply cannot do it.

If your main interest is email management then SharePoint also does not have the required functionality.

However, RecFind 6:

  1. Delivers all of the EDRMS functionality a customer will every need out of the box.
  2. Is fully compliant to all known records management standards (e.g. has achieved full compliance with all of the latest VERS standards).
  3. Has comprehensive out of the box capabilities to manage hybrid records (electronic and / & hard copy records).
  4. Has the administration application called the DRM that allows the customer to customize RecFind 6 and change almost anything including the data model and any business process, easily & quickly, without source code changes, whilst remaining on the standard product.
  5. Has a SharePoint 2010 integration module so that a customer can take advantage of the good collaboration & intranet capabilities of SharePoint and the best-in-class EDRMS functionality of RecFind 6 within the one integrated environment.

So there we have it, no more Mr nice guy. As a records management solution RecFind 6 blows SharePoint out of the water. It costs less, is easier and faster to roll out and has infinitely more RM functionality in the standard product than you will ever be able to develop in SharePoint.

Now I feel much better.

I have a solution for Greece

by Frank 23. February 2012 17:24

It is simple, it is brilliant and it came to me this morning as I tried to find any breakfast news channel showing real news instead of endless rehashes and boring talking-head analysis of the embarrassing and grubby Gillard-Rudd squabble. We do a trade.

Greece is in financial trouble and has millions of people out of work with little or no prospect of employment. Australia has a need for workers and a long and proud history of successfully integrating Greek immigrants. Australia also has a large Greek community, especially in Melbourne, well able and willing to support and advise new Greek immigrants.

Greeks may well have a reputation for not working hard in Europe but not so in Australia. Greeks in Australia have always been well regarded as hard-working, industrious and strongly family oriented people; exactly the kind of people Australia needs to grow and prosper. The history of Greek migrants in Australia is a history of hard work, home ownership and pride. In our experience, Greeks look after their families and their homes and take pride in being employed and productive. We need more Greeks.

Julia and Kevin on the other hand we don’t need and don’t want and neither has added anything to our economy other than new taxes and expensive stuff-ups (ceiling bats, school revolution, etc.).  So the equation is simple, add Greeks and take away Julia and Kevin for a growing and healthy Australian economy. It is so simple and logical and such a self-evident solution to our current woes that I don’t know why Tony Abbott hasn’t yet proposed it. I am sure our new Greek citizens will vote for Tony as long as he reduces their taxes (and mine).

Here is the deal. We make an offer to Greece for Australia to take one-million Greek immigrants. The offer includes us funding the travel and relocation costs. We are already doing this for the illegal boat people so it shouldn’t be a problem doing it for legal immigrants. In return, Greece takes Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. It gives them Greek citizenship and a seat in parliament so they can continue doing what they do best. The dysfunctional Greek parliament should be an ideal environment for Julia and Kevin to practice their trade. The Greek economy is already so screwed up it is not like Kevin and Julia can do much harm. Greeks already mistrust and dislike their parliamentarians so Kevin and Julia will fit right in.

The value proposition? Kevin and Julia leaving Australia will have an enormous and positive impact on the Australian economy. Kevin and Julia arriving in Greece will make little difference to an economy already in its death throes. One-million Greek immigrants will have an enormously positive impact on the Australian economy. One-million less Greek citizens and unemployed people to support will have an enormously positive impact on the Greek economy; significantly reducing the debt burden and almost certainly solving the unemployment problem. The Greek and Australian economies will both grow and everyone will be better off.

The downside? The Canberra press gallery will have little to write about and news programs will have to spend more money on gathering real news. Other than this, it is all good news.

Does anyone have the contact details of the Greek ambassador in Canberra?

Are you making the most of your application software?

by Frank 19. February 2012 13:05

I have been in the application software industry for most of my professional life. I started in bureaus designing and programming bespoke applications for a variety of clients then moved to mainframes and online and real time application software development and then to my own software company in 1984. I have worked with thousands of customers and hundreds of applications and I have never seen any customer use anything like one hundred-percent of an application’s functionality.

Whenever I visit my customers there is a common dialog that goes along the lines of, “It would be great if RecFind could do …….” To which my reply always is, “Actually it can, would you like me to show you?”

Yes, before you ask, we do provide detailed help screens and manuals and both classroom and online training. We also have a plethora of helpful information on our website including white papers, a Knowledgebase & FAQs, News, helpful hints, product descriptions, etc., etc.

We also employ inside sales people who talk regularly to our customers and we communicate via newsletters and emails and, of course, this blog.

There is no shortage of information on what our products can do. There is however, still a big gap between what our products can do and what our customers understand about the capabilities of our products. From my experience, the knowledge gap is common across all products and software vendors because no one has yet come up with a mechanism to continually train and remind the customer’s personnel about a product’s complete functionality and entire range of capabilities.

Nor, do I suspect, would the average customer’s end user be too happy about being bombarded with unsolicited information of this kind. The fact is people only have time to work on a need-to-know basis. They only want to know enough to get the job done and this is entirely understandable.

Customers have multiple application products to work with and unlimited work to complete in a limited time frame. Typical end users do not have the time to become expert in any one application product and nor do they have the time to explore all of its capabilities or even to keep completely up to date with an application product as its moves from release to release.

This is a common dilemma for all application software providers. The best they can hope for is a single ‘champion’ within each customer that does his/her best to keep up to date and informed.

The end result of the above reality is that no customer ever manages to get maximum value from its application software. No organization ever gets a full return on its investment. There will always be many things the application software could be configured to handle that would improve productivity, solve burning problems and reduce costs but the knowledge gap prevents this happening.

The only solution I can think of is for the customer to pay the vendor to provide a resident onsite application expert who continually looks for application niches where the software can add value. However, the two flaws in this approach are:

  1. Where does the customer find the money?; and
  2. Where does the vendor find the people?

Apart from these two minor flaws, it is the perfect solution except for the fact that the application expert would also need to also be an expert in the customer’s business. You have to understand the customer’s business processes before you can determine whether a particular application software product could be a solution. This means that our application consultant needs to be pretty clever and very experienced with bags of initiative and there aren’t a lot of these people around; which brings me back to flaw number 2.

Archimedes was supposed to have said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.”

I say, “Give me enough smart people and I could automate the world.”

In both cases, we are missing the essential ingredient.

The difficulties don’t mean that we give up, au contraire; they force us to work harder at a solution. The vendor and the customer need to work together to find new ways for the vendor’s product to add value to the customer’s business. This is a mutually beneficial partnership.

Our product RecFind 6 was specifically designed and engineered to be able to handle multiple tasks simultaneously. It was designed from the outset to be a multi-application solution and to enable the customer to use the one piece of application software to solve multiple business problems. To be able to leverage off a single investment and use the one product for multiple business application needs.

We provide the high level tools free of charge with RecFind 6 so the customer can configure multiple solutions (e.g., records management, help desk, asset management, contract management, document management, email management, customer relationship management or CRM) using a single copy of RecFind 6. The tools also allow the customer to ‘partition’ the various applications so each group of users thinks it has its own solution.

However, despite the unique capabilities of RecFind 6, we still have the problem of knowing enough about our customers to be able to propose additional uses for our product. Maybe if all of our customers had their head office in North Sydney our task would be easier but I doubt it. As it is, we have customers all over the world in all time zones and in some very remote locations.

The Internet and Citrix tools like GoToAssist, GoToMeeting and GoToTraining largely solve the distance problems and do so in the most economical way without airfares, expenses and hotel charges. We use these tools extensively and our customers love the convenience and low cost of the solutions we are able to provide thanks to our friends at Citrix. But, there is still no substitute for being onsite and in face to face dialog to best understand a customer’s business processes and needs. It is a case of the old way is still the best way.

Our challenge in these austere times is to convince our customers of the value of our proposition. That is, that an investment in an onsite investigation of needs will always provide bottom line and productivity benefits; that it will more than pay for itself in the short term.

It is early days yet for our model but many of my customers are already using RecFind 6 to solve multiple application software problems. It is always a battle for both of us to find the time and resources for the investigation but it always pays off.

We are continually looking for new ways to simplify and systemise the processes required to determine where we can add value. We don’t have a perfect solution yet but we keep trying because the value proposition is undeniable; do more with less. Buy a single product instead of having to buy ten products. Learn how to use a single product instead of having to learn how to use ten different products. Deal with a single vendor instead of having to deal with ten different vendors. No integration required instead of having to integrate ten different products.

We know we have the right paradigm, now we just need to reach our audience.

Will you upgrade to Windows 8?

by Frank 12. February 2012 13:09

This is the question that keeps Microsoft executives awake at night and gnawing at their fingernails.

Will home users, corporates and government agencies rush in to upgrade their desktops to Windows 8? I for one don’t think so and this is why I don’t think so.

The Vista debacle is still fresh in every CIO’s mind and I have not spoken to anyone who is planning to upgrade to Windows 8 in 2012 or even 2013. Most of my customers are still using XP and planning to upgrade to Windows 7.

Microsoft released Vista two years before it was ready and in doing so it inflicted a huge cost and productivity burden on its customers. Those same customers have long memories.

This isn’t a debate about whether Metro is a ‘good’ UI or whether or not Windows 8 should have a start button or whether or not the ARM version should have/will have the option of switching to the classical UI. That particular debate is for the techies and bloggers, not business owners and executives. For serious people this is a debate about value, cost and risk avoidance.

  • What is the value proposition of Windows 8? What are the compelling reasons for upgrading to Windows 8? What are the benefits of Windows 8? What effect will Windows 8 have on the bottom line? How will the CIO compose a cohesive business case to convince the board to allocate scarce funds to a Windows 8 rollout?
  • What will it cost to purchase Windows 8? What will it cost to upgrade all desktops to Windows 8? What will the cost be of lost productivity as your users grapple with the changes and differences? What will it cost to retrain your users?
  • Will the initial Windows 8 experience be a repeat of the Vista experience? What is the risk of this happening? What is the risk of some of your current devices not working with Windows 8? What is the risk of some of your current applications not working with Windows 8? What is the risk that you will have to upgrade or replace some of your PCs? What is the risk that your will have to roll back to Windows 7 from Windows 8 as many customers had to roll back from Vista to XP?

Value Proposition

As a business owner I don’t believe Windows 8 has a compelling value proposition. I don’t see any reason to upgrade from Windows 7. Windows 7 works fine and I will follow the old but wise maxim, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

Cost

In my business, if I add up all the potential costs including manpower and retraining and lost productivity I come up with a minimum of $1,000 per desktop to upgrade to Windows 8 and that doesn’t include any hardware upgrades that may be required. And this cost assumes that Windows 8 is not a Vista and that all my current devices and application programs (like accounting, CRM and payroll) continue to work fine. The absolute worst case would be $2,000 a desktop if my assumptions are incorrect.

Risk

There is no reason to accept any risk. I will be recommending to my customers that they stick with Windows 7 and wait at least two or three years until Windows 8 has gobbled up a couple of service packs and proven itself.

Maybe Microsoft hasn’t noticed but most of the world is still in recession and every one of my customers, private and government alike, is still trying to cut costs and do more with less. I don’t know where Microsoft thinks the money is coming from to fund a Windows 8 upgrade.

From my perspective as a long-term Microsoft .NET application software developer I have decided not to redevelop my Windows applications for Windows 8 because of the huge amount of retraining, effort and money required to do so. I have been on the Microsoft treadmill for 28 years and have dutifully upgraded, redesigned and redeveloped my applications for each new release of Windows over that time. This time I do not believe the effort and cost is either justified or required. Instead, I am concentrating on converting all my application client functionality to both web clients (to run in a browser) and mobile clients (supporting smartphones and tablets). There will be some inevitable tweaking to do for Windows 8 but for the most part my new RecFind 6 clients won’t care if the user is running Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8, Linux, Apple OS, iOS or Android.

I actually can’t think of any good reason to redevelop for Windows 8 and have to believe that there will be lots of developers like me that will go the web client and mobile client route instead of spending scarce R&D funds and important developer time just to comply with Microsoft’s latest idea of how desktop applications should look and work. I already have enough trouble keeping up with the rapid changes in Android thank you.

It is every software developer’s dream to have just a single set of source code and to support multiple platforms with the same source. Unfortunately, this has never been possible but I still have to manage costs by minimizing the number of code variations I have to support. The advantage of a web client is that it is largely compatible with most operating systems and browsers and I can build and maintain my web client with a single set of source code albeit with a number of “ifs” to cater for variations in browsers and operating systems. I need separate source code for Both Android and iOS for my ‘native mode’ mobile apps so I end up supporting three development environments, browser, Android and iOS. This is fine because my customers are demanding web clients and mobile clients so I know that my investment in these three environments will pay off. No customer has yet asked for a Windows 8 compatible/certified RecFind 6 client but it is early times yet.

My applications (all based on RecFind 6) are in the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) sector and are designed for the records management, document management, document imaging and business process management sectors. As such we could best describe RecFind 6 as an information management solution and luckily for us this is an ideal application for the three environments we now support, browsers (web clients), Android and iOS (mobile clients).

My customers are also happy to use my products in these three environments so I have absolutely no compelling reason to redesign and rewrite RecFind 6 for Windows 8. My browser clients will run under Windows XP, 7 and 8 so there is absolutely no need for me to build a ‘native’ Windows 8 RecFind 6 client. Hopefully, my current Windows 7 RecFind 6 client will run with only minor tweaks under the Windows 8 ‘classical’ desktop so that my clients that still want to run my ‘fat’ client can still do so. However, there will be no need to do so because my RecFind 6 web client will be faster and easier to install and maintain.

What if a majority of software developers think like me and Microsoft ends up with a new desktop platform and very few ‘native’ applications, especially designed and written for Windows 8? Customers buy Windows to run applications, to do work. If Windows 8 doesn’t have the applications they need they will not bother with it.

Microsoft has thousands of very, very clever people and a marketing budget I can only dream of so we should never write them off. They proved they can get it very wrong with Vista and they have also proved they can get it very right with Windows 7. Fingers crossed that they again get it very right with Windows 8. But, they are taking a very, very big chance and with most of the western world still in recession they have not chosen an exactly auspicious time to launch Windows 8.

To reiterate, and for all the reasons espoused above, I do not see Windows 8 being the success Microsoft is hoping for.

Outsourcing will destroy the west

by Frank 5. February 2012 13:01

Many years ago when I was living in the USA I watched in amazement as US car companies in Detroit outsourced car production to Mexico and Canada and laid off thousands of workers. My mind struggled with the logic because surely laid-off workers wouldn’t be able to afford new cars even if they were made cheaper in Mexico?

The trend continued and accelerated over the years and each time I read about more outsourcing and layoffs I wondered, “How do they expect laid-off workers to be able to buy their goods?” “What is the point of reducing costs if at the same time you also reduce the size of your market?”

Have you been to Detroit lately? Have you seen first-hand what outsourcing can do to a city and communities?

The why is easy to answer; senior executives wanted lower costs to make the Wall Street analysts happy and to then earn them much bigger bonuses. Hedge funds and M&A companies wanted lower costs to make doing deals easier and more profitable. A small number of very greedy and avaricious people at the top were more than happy to destroy livelihoods, towns, states and even countries just to get even richer than they already were. This is an example of greed on a scale we have never seen previously. Lives are being destroyed by people with more money that they can ever spend savagely and uncaringly destroying others to become even more obscenely wealthy.

We all know that no developing nation can transition to a developed nation without a large, growing and healthy middle class. Why then are western ‘developed’ nations now destroying the middle class? In the USA the obscenely rich are becoming richer, the middle class is shrinking and the poor class is growing. Is this how we want to continue? Is this a recipe for success for a country or just an incredibly selfish recipe for success for a tiny minority? Why are we letting it happen?

I almost choked when I recently read Apple’s explanation of why it now manufactures everything in China using Foxconn. Basically, they said it wasn’t because of lower costs (rubbish!); it was because the expertise and supply chains were no longer in the USA. Doesn’t Apple realize that the expertise and supply chains are now longer in the USA because USA companies outsourced their IP and laid off the expertise in the USA? Apple originally outsourced because of lower costs and eventually this outsourcing destroyed the ability of the USA to compete. It is a case of cause and effect; the outsourcing came first and this in turn destroyed America’s ability to compete. Now we have a situation where Apple’s competitors are unable to match its manufacturing costs and the only solution for them is to also outsource to Chinese companies like Foxconn thus further eroding the US’s ability to compete. If this trend continues the USA will soon lose the ability to build electronic devices.

Because of outsourcing western countries have lost not only jobs but key skills and manufacturing capabilities that they will never get back. Smarmy western politicians blithely talk about re-training programs to solve the unemployment problem but what is the point of re-training people if there aren’t any jobs? How long before these same idiotic politicians mandate children staying longer in school and making college education compulsory just to make the unemployment figures look better? Worse still, we are borrowing vast sums of money from the same countries we have outsourced to to fund unemployment benefits and retraining programs. How stupid is that? Let’s exacerbate the problem by becoming impossibly indebted to the countries that have already stolen all our jobs and destroyed our economies? Is it just me or are other people struggling to understand the big picture? Why are we letting it happen?

Did you know that Australia no longer produces tyres? We closed the last local tyre producer last year and we now we rely 100% on imports. Surely tyre production is a strategic industry that we can’t afford to lose? More importantly, once that factory is closed and the equipment sold off or scrapped we can’t simply restart this industry. The workers too have gone along with their many years of irreplaceable skills and experience. Production facilities and expertise irreversibly lost. This same thing is happening in all areas of our economy, we are losing the ability to make things and we are losing our self-reliance. We are becoming more and more vulnerable each year and more and more indebted each year. Why are we letting it happen?

In the last 30 years we have seen the largest transfer of wealth and IP the world has ever seen. Western nations have transferred their wealth and their IP to developing nations and become massively indebted in the process. Where is the up side for the vast majority of citizens in western nations? We are we letting a tiny minority of the super-rich destroy our economies and steal our future? Why are we letting it happen?

My main fear is that the outsourcing trend has gone on so long that it is now irreversible; that the problem can’t be fixed. I don’t just worry about my retirement; I worry about the future of my children and grandchildren. What kind of world have we left for them?

I own and run a software company that produces what we call enterprise content management software, a broad term that includes applications like records management, document management, CRM, imaging, contract management, etc. At least once a week I receive some kind of proposal from mainly Indian firms to outsource my development and support functions. I tell them not as long as I own the company.

We do everything in house because that way we produce a far better quality of product and an infinitely higher quality of support. Outsourced development doesn’t work and neither does outsourced support. In my business, outsourcing does not product better quality, it produces rubbish. Outsourcing is never done to improve the product or services or to improve the client interface. It is only ever done by naïve and greedy senior executives to fatten their pay packets at the expense of their employees and long-suffering customers.

Why do you let it happen? Why do you support companies that outsource key functions and lay off Australian workers? Do you enjoy making support calls to Indian and Filipino call centres? Please think about your responsibilities and the future of your children and grandchildren. It may well be too late but I for one will be doing everything in my power to support Australian companies that don’t outsource and to remove my support from Australian companies that do outsource Australian jobs. We need to start taking action or we will not have a future.

Why are you letting it happen?

The magic number 3, a solution to every problem

by Frank 29. January 2012 13:00

I was recently speaking to a very senior public servant trying to understand the government’s purchasing policy as we had been locked out of a couple of bids. He explained that it was because they already had 3 ECM providers and that was all they needed regardless of any other factor or consideration. He said he always did things in threes so he had 3 automobile suppliers, 3 computer suppliers, 3 soap suppliers, etc.  He said he believed that as long as you have 3 options you can meet any demand or contingency.

At the time I thought this was pretty stupid; how can you possibly meet any demand with just 3 alternatives? Then the more I thought about it the more I realized that 3 is in fact the magic number.

The number 3 can be used to measure anything and to control and predict anything. Goldilocks rated porridge using the magic number; too cold, too hot and just right. She rated beds the same way; too hard, too soft and just right. Good sales people always give you 3 options and then recommend one, e.g., too complicated for your needs, too simplistic for your needs, just right, the one I recommend. People are either too fat, to thin or just right. A meal is too big, too small or just right and so on and so on ad nauseam.

You could easily get through life with 3 pairs of shoes (well maybe women couldn’t), 3 jackets, 3 pairs of pants, 3 ties, etc. We are supposed to eat 3 meals a days so food is already under the spell of the magic number.

Three is the basis for a whole new philosophy, the ‘Power of Three’. The Catholic Church is already under the spell with the Holy Trinity and most governments in the world have 3 tiers with a President a Lower House and an Upper House. We also know by experience that 3 wheel  bikes, trikes and scooters are far more a stable than their 2 wheel counterparts and that a 3 way bet is the safest bet of all. Just about anything we can think about is better in multiples of 3.

I now realise that my aforementioned public servant is actually a philosopher and a prophet and far wiser than I had initially thought. What he should really do next is start a religion based on the magical properties of the number 3. I for one would certainly line up in the rain to join (hell, I would even crawl over barbed wire in the snow to join). We should call the new religion the ‘Power Of Three’ or POT for short as in pot the smoking substance or stemmed to ‘potty’ as in of unsound mind or the plastic contrivance toddlers use until they can graduate to the toilet proper. POT would attract people from all walks of life and of all persuasions because of its universal nature. That is, the number 3 controls all of our lives.

The priests of our new religion will be able to confidently predict anything and will be renowned for their unnerving accuracy.  The stock market will rise, fall or maintain the status quo. A cricket match will be either won, lost or drawn. A horse race will always have horses in the first, second and third positions. A patient’s condition will improve, worsen or not change. A new born child will grow up to be tall, short or of average height. That same child will be fat, thin or of average weight and at school will be academically above average, below average or average.

There is no better way to look at the world than through the number 3. We can manage our lives and responsibilities using this magic number. In fact, I see no reason to teach children to count beyond the number 3 because everything we need to do and have to do in life can be governed by the number 3. If we got rid of all numbers above 3 then we could have our kids out of school years earlier and into the workforce where we really need them. We could solve the unemployment problem with a resurgence of old-fashioned jobs like chimney sweeps and pit pony boys for the coal mines. We could drastically reduce the size of government by only allowing 3 political parties and 3 seats for each party. There would only be 3 government departments and they would only be allowed 3 employees each.

Once we have implemented our 3 policy we could sell off Parliament House in Canberra and lease out hundreds of government buildings because the government wouldn’t need them anymore. We could drastically cut costs in the same parliament by only allowing 3 phone calls a day and 3 choices at the canteen and by not allowing any politician to live greater than 3 kilometres from his office or be chauffeured more than 3 kilometres a day. Additionally politicians and bureaucrats would only be allowed 3 flights a year and no politician or bureaucrat would be allowed to stay in office longer than 3 years (then they would have to get a real job and suffer like the rest of us).

Of course if politicians and bureaucrats knew they had to get a real job in 3 years they wouldn’t pass the stupid legislation they now do. At the moment they can pass all kinds of draconian laws and taxes because they are not affected by them; they are protected with job security, guaranteed pensions and the like. If they knew they would shortly have to live and work in the real world they would be much more circumspect about the laws they promoted.

The Power Of Three (POT) is starting to sound like a truly wonderful idea. For example, there would only be 3 governments in Australia, not the 8 we currently have and tens of thousands less politicians and public servants to draft silly legislation and screw up our lives. We would pay 3 percent tax instead of 45 percent and we would only have to fill in a tax return every 3 years.

With all the ex-public servants and politicians now in the workforce we will have to get used to job sharing so we will all have 3 months’ vacation a year to make room for our new recruits.

The number three will become the guiding economic principle for Australia. We will only trade with 3 countries, we will only allow 3 manufacturers in any sector so 3 car manufacturers, 3 ice cream manufacturers, 3 fast food restaurant chains, 3 road makers, 3 accountancy firms, 3 law firms (that will be basis for a few lawyer jokes), 3 banks, 3 brokerage houses, 3 coal mines, 3 iron ore mines, 3 bread makers, 3 butchers, 3 types of ice cream, 3 types of cheese, etc.

No one will complain about a lack of choice because as my senior public servant said “With 3 suppliers you can meet any demand or contingency.” Little did he know that my initial disappointment would soon turn into inspiration and the stimulus to create a new world religion, the Power Of Three.

I am now working on my next publication, “The thoughts of Chairman Frank on the Power Of Three.”  When that is finished I will begin working on the first testament of my new bible and it will start with “In the beginning, Frank spoke to the great God public servant and was given the magic number…”

I can’t wait for the TV show when  I can proudly stand on stage in a shimmering silver suit, wig and makeup and implore you to send money so I can air-condition my dog’s kennel (I had better make that 3 dog’s kennels). The possibilities are endless, long live the Power Of Three.

Is it Mainframe time again?

by Frank 22. January 2012 13:04

We have all suffered and suffered from network issues and outages and failing servers. One reason is the unparalleled complexity of Microsoft server-based networks and the other is the very low availability of really talented, knowledgeable and capable server and network specialists. The core problem is complexity; if the environment wasn’t so incredibly difficult to setup and debug we wouldn’t require so many really clever people.

Even large enterprises, presumably with all the resources they need, are not immune. We have all seen and suffered from major outages at banks and airlines in 2011. If the big guys with all the money and resources can’t keep their networks up and running what chance do the rest of us have?

If it seems too complex it is too complex.

The level of complexity now bedevilling most of us has slowly crept into our business and home systems since the early days of networks and servers starting around 1980. Whereas there were some weird and hard to configure networks in the early days the offerings thinned out as the market made up its mind about standards and we were eventually left with mainly Microsoft-driven networks from about  1990 onwards. These same Microsoft Windows driven networks have gotten a little more complex year on year until they are now almost unmanageable by ‘ordinary’ IT personnel.

As always the industry counters by proposing more and more training and certification. In other words, let’s not solve the complexity problem let’s instead address the symptoms of complexity by throwing more money and time at it. All the while the problem is getting worse and there are fewer and fewer people who really understand it. We don’t have a skills shortage; we have an overly complex environment to manage.

There is another serious problem and that is security. The Internet has exposed more evil and people of ill purpose that ever existed in Sodom and Gomorrah. These evil people are able to penetrate our networks because the networks are too complex. Windows is too complex, way more complex than it needs to be. Every time we plug a hole we open two more because of the complexity of Windows. Battling evil is a never ending task and a losing battle because we cannot win using the current tools we have. In my opinion, there is no way we can ever make our current IT environments, and even our home computers, really secure and immune from attack.

If you want evidence that what I say is correct just look at the massive security industry that has built up around Windows. There are multiple billion dollar companies like Symantec that only exist because Windows is insecure and will always be insecure. IT security is a multi-billion dollars industry because Windows is rubbish.

I liken Windows to the tax system. The tax system has been played with and modified thousands of times over many, many years until it is now so complex that no one understands it and you need to go to court to get a judgement. The advice of a trained tax accountant isn’t enough to ensure compliance. Even the tax office can’t rely on its own advice and nor can you. The current tax legislation is not fixable; we need to start afresh and produce something new and simple replacing tens of thousands of pages with 50 or 60 pages. The tax system and Windows suffer from the same problem, the more you try to fix it the more complex it becomes and the more fragile it becomes.  To use the common vernacular, “there are holes in the tax system and Windows you can drive a truck through.”

If it was up to me I would replace our current tax system with a simple flat tax system (say 17% on gross income) and do away with tens of thousands of pages of tax legislation, deductions, exemptions and rulings. It would take five minutes to do your tax return and it would not require a tax accountant and thousands of dollars in fees. (Of course this won’t happen because tens of thousands of accountants and public servants rely on the tax system being complex otherwise there would be no need for their services.)

I would like to do the same thing with Windows. It too can’t be fixed and it needs to be replaced with something far, far simpler. My educated guess is that the crooks and the Windows security industry won’t like this proposal either; both have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. We are in the ridiculous situation the opposing parties both benefit from the system not being fixed. Is it only me that thinks this is crazy? How did we let it happen?

When I go home at night I don’t switch on my Windows PC anymore; I just turn on my iPad. It is quicker, easier to use, infinitely more secure and it provides access to all of the information I require. I do have to switch on my Windows PC at least once a month to download all the updates and use up large chunks of my broadband GB allowance. This process also wastes many hours of my time for no discernible benefit other than to ‘protect’ me against the latest round of attacks from the army of crooks on the Internet.

Multiply the time I spend keeping my PC up-to-date to avoid the crooks by the hundreds of millions of Windows users around the world and you have the largest single productivity black hole the world has ever seen (and the largest chunk of unpaid work). Now add all the time government agencies and corporations spend keeping Windows up to date and battling the crooks and you have enough wasted time to probably double the world’s GDP output. Again, is it just me that thinks this is a stupidly ridiculous situation and a massive waste of manpower?

I have over twenty years’ experience programming, supporting and managing mainframes so I have a little knowledge of this genre of computers. Most people think mainframes are dead but I assure you they aren’t. There are still mainframes out there and they are still doing what they have always done, quietly, efficiently and securely processing huge numbers of transactions and rarely failing. The following Wikipedia link provides a good introduction to modern mainframe computers:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mainframe_computer

I think we need to reconsider the path we have taken with both network servers (and clusters) and home PCs. We need to move away from Windows before it starts consuming 25 hours out of every 24.

Microsoft isn’t going to fix Windows, it is going to ‘improve it’ with even more features and functions and complexity, just as it has done year after year. Microsoft is not listening to its consumers. We want less complexity and greater ease of use that’s why we all rushed out and bought iPads, millions and millions of them.

We need servers like mainframes, built to do a specific job and brilliant in doing that specific job. Similarly, we need something a hundred times simpler and less complex and easier to use than Windows for our PCs. It is time for a fundamental and seismic change in how we access and process information. We have followed the Microsoft pied piper for way too long and it is time to wake up and follow a different leader and move to a different model.

Long live the mainframe and the iPad, they could be our salvation.

Estimating the cost of your next imaging job

by Frank 15. January 2012 13:00

This article is designed to be used as a guideline by the records manager or business owner when considering having paper records digitized; that is, scanned to create digital images of the original paperwork. It includes most of the things you need to think about and allow for and it should help you when formulating budgets and negotiating with vendors.

Overview

The safest approach is an end-to-end one where the vendor handles everything and takes responsibility for the final product. That is, starting with the paper documents and doing all the preparation work involved to make your paper ‘scannable’, capturing all contextual Metadata and the attachment/linking of same to the scanned images. It should also include the design and configuration of the best way to index and organize the images (and Metadata) in the final product (e.g., your electronic document and records management system – EDRMS). There is little point in digitizing a mass of paper if the results are not easily and conveniently searchable using your preferred terminology or Taxonomy.

For peace of mind you really want the vendor to handle everything required including the importing of all scanned images and Metadata into your EDRMS so you end up with a working and ready-to-use solution.

The cost is always an issue and no one in my experience ever really means it when they say, “We have to have this at any cost.” There will always be pressure from someone (usually the resident bean counter) for you to take on some of the workload yourself to help lower the costs. I caution against this because it absolves the vendor of some of the responsibility for the final product and additionally, I have to assume that you and your staff are already busy in your usual day jobs and that taking on extra work isn’t always possible.

The usual processes involved are:

Data inspection

The vendor will want to analyze the data to be scanned and determine what preparation is required. The vendor will double check your estimated volumes and make recommendations based on the characteristics and properties of the data to be scanned. Most vendors (that is all reputable vendors) will be reluctant to provide you with a fixed price quotation until after the data inspection is completed. An example, based on local government Development Applications, of the things what will be discovered in a data inspection follows:

  • There is a need to back-capture Development Applications (DA);
  • That each DA is stored in a file folder;
  • That there are 8,000 DA file folders, each containing on average 130 sheets of letter paper – totalling 1,040,000 sheets of paper;
  • That each DA file folder contains seven different document types;
  • That the images are required to be indexed via the file folder number & document type (i.e. each file folder has to be scanned and indexed into 7 multi-page images – one for each document type);
  • That most pages are single sided but some are duplex (double-sided); and
  • That documents are generally not stapled (approximately 11% are stapled) and don’t require repair (5% do require repair).

Data Preparation

This normally involves removing pages from a cardboard file folder, removing staples, smoothing paper, orienting paper, etc. The objective should be to organize the pages into documents and batches to facilitate faster scanning using automatic document feed scanners. The most important component of any scanning quote is the time estimate (duration) and data preparation time is a key component of this.

Data preparation costs are sometimes called ‘handling’ costs. You want a fixed cost quote from the vendor for handling costs, that is, the vendor takes the responsibility and risk, not you. The responsible vendor will do random sampling during the data inspection step to better understand the handling costs involved in your job.

Scanning

This is where all paper is captured as TIFF images and multi-page documents are captured as multi-page TIFF images. At this stage the vendor may offer to optionally convert all or some of the TIFF images to text via an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) process. Note that this is usually an option; do not assume your digitized pages will be searchable because TIFF images are not full-text searchable. There is an additional step required for images to be full-text searchable.

If full text indexing is a requirement then make sure it is specified in your requirements document and included in the vendor’s quote. Note that if you do mandate full text indexing that the final format of the digitized image won’t be TIFF, it will probably be PDF or even better, PDF/A (an internationally recognized standard).

The time to scan each sheet paper depends upon a few key factors like the quality of the original source document, whether it is single or double sided and its condition, i.e., wrinkled, folded, torn, stapled, etc. Expect a much higher cost when the quality of the source documents is poor.

OCRing the scanned images to create full-text searchable electronic documents

Whether or not this line item appears in your quote really depends on how the vendor handles it. Note that it does lengthen the time taken to process any page, in some cases easily doubling it or worse.

However, it is also usually an automated ‘background’, asynchronous process that consumes computer time and not much person time. It may double the time required to complete your job but it should not double the costs.

Verification – Scanning

This is where the vendor applies quality assurance processes to ensure that all pages have been properly scanned. This means the vendor should be able to confirm that all pages have been scanned at the agreed quality standard. Some form of quality control is mandatory in any scanning job and you need to ensure that you have specified quality control in your specification and that it is included as part of the vendor’s quote.

Capture

This is where the vendor imports the digitized images into your EDRMS and creates all the links and Metadata necessary for efficient and appropriate searching. As mentioned previously, there is no point in having a huge database of scanned images if it is not searchable in a manner appropriate to each organization’s business processes.

Verification – Capture

This is where the vendor sanity checks the capture process and confirms that all pages have been scanned and captured/exported into your EDRMS as per specification. If you begin with 100,000 paper pages then you should end up 100,000 scanned, indexed and readable images of pages in your EDRMS; this sounds simple but it often is not so. Please think about the metrics required to ensure this level of quality control; you can’t afford to lose information.

Final inspection and sign-Off

This is where you inspect the final product and approve the job for payment. Please make sure that inspection and sign-off acceptance steps are part of the requirement specification. When doing so, ask the vendor to provide signed copies of its verification paperwork and also have your staff do random sampling to confirm that nothing has gone awry. This is IT so things will go wrong.

Costs, specify quote format

To ensure you are comparing apples to apples you need to detail how you want the costs expressed in your requirements document. For example, what will be the travel, expenses or transport costs? I would always suggest that you give the vendor a standard cost schedule to complete with its response to ensure uniformity.

You can either specify the breakdown of costs (see example below) or just ask for a fixed price per scanned page. Please don’t ask for a fixed price per document (I have seen this many times) because the vendor will then have to assume an average number of pages per document and this will lead to significant variations in the quotes. Obviously a ‘document ‘ can be from 1 to several hundred pages so it is not a standard unit of measurement.

Even when asking for a quote per ‘page’ you need to specify whether your ‘page’ is single or double-sided because a double-side page takes at least twice as long to scan as a single-sided page.

Please also be aware of the issues of handling blank pages; you do not want to be charged for scanning blank pages. Most modern multi-feed scanners have a feature to ignore blank pages. This is especially important if your pages are a mix of single and double-sided.

Contents of the quote

If you ask for a detailed breakdown, the vendor should detail all of the professional services and costs required including solution design, project setup, paper handling, scanning, capture, transport costs (if the job is being done offsite), etc.

If you ask for a simple fixed price per page the vendor will bundle all costs into a single figure such as a flat cost per page, e.g., 12 cents. If this is the case you need to ensure that there are no exclusions, that is, no possible additional costs not included in the quote.

The following is a sample generic quote listing all components of the quote. In real life you are unlikely to get all of these lines items unless you specifically ask for them.

Data Inspection

$150 per hour for 4 hours = $600

Data Preparation

$40 per hour for 120 hours = $4,800

Scanning

$40 per hour for 200 hours = $8,000

Capture

$150 per hour for 4 hours = $600

Verification

$150 per hour for 20 hours = $3,000

Delivery and Installation

$150 per hour for 4 hours = $600

Standard costs per page scanned

If you specify a single fixed price per scanned page the quote will look like the following:

“Standard simplex, 200 dpi black and white, OCR creating TIFF/PDF = $0.13 per image”

Other Considerations

The main consideration is whether the work will be done on your premises or at the vendor’s site. In most cases, because of the volumes of paper involved and the danger of lost data if data is shipped back and forth, it is preferable to do the actual scanning at your premises. However, when this is not possible, the vendor will provide an alternative site but additional costs may apply (e.g., transport costs, office rental, etc.).

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