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.

Knowledgeone Corp announces ’Really Useful’ Apps in the Cloud

by Frank 23. March 2017 06:00

After 34 years, it I finally time for us to be a disruptive force in the Information Management industry.

We have leveraged off our industry knowledge, experience, expertise and our core product RecFind 6 to create a number of what we call “Really Useful Apps in the Cloud.”

This is a new deployment model for us and it provides a very low cost way and very easy way to ‘roll out’ information management applications for small to medium customers and ‘cash-strapped’ small departments in large organizations. No computer room, no servers, no consultants, no trainers and no IT staff required. We manage everything, including backups; all the customer has to do is sign up and use the App.

This is the easiest and lowest cost way for any organization to profit from really useful, state-of-the-art core business applications.

 All of our new Apps are “Powered by RecFind 6” which since 2009 has proven itself to be one of the world’s best regarded information management solutions. It is fast, stable and scalable and ultimately configurable to solve almost any business process need. The initial Apps are:

 

Records Management

Manage all of your physical records including File Folders, Documents and Archive Boxes. A full complement of RM functionality including searching, reporting, classification, retention and tracking. Track records using fixed and portable barcode readers. Meet all compliance requirements.

Records & Document Management (eDocs) 

All the functionality of our Records Management App plus the functionality to capture, classify, index, OCR and manage all types of electronic documents including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Emails, scanned documents, photos, images, drawings, plans, etc. Meet all your eDiscovery needs

Asset Tracking

Register, track and value all of your important assets. Utilize workflow and email alerts to ensure all tasks are completed. Use scheduled reports and saved searches to alert you to all pending actions. Track all of your assets with fixed and portable barcode readers. Easily produce reports for management.

Software License Tracking

Record and track all of the software used in your organization. Utilize workflow and email alerts to ensure all tasks are completed. Easily manage reviews, renewals and maintenance. Know exactly what software you have and what licenses you have. Easily produce reports for management.

Contract Tracking

Record, manage and track all of your contracts plus all actions including reviews and renewals. Capture all original electronic documents (including all new versions of a contract) and emails. Utilize workflow and email alerts to ensure all tasks are completed. Never lose track of a contract or contract renewal again.

Collection Tracking

The ideal solution for any collection both large and small. Perfect for museums and art galleries as well as private collections. Record, value and revalue any valuable item. Track items in and out of your collection using both fixed and portable barcode readers. Record the details of the ownership and provenance. Record and manage the details of all insurance including renewals. Add photos and videos to better record and display your collection.

Work Tracking

The ideal solution for any small business to record and track assigned work, especially when dealing with contractors. Ideal for property management or any project involving the management of work orders. Record and track each assigned work order with workflow and email alerts for due and overdue matters. Automatically notify key people when work is completed or overdue. Never lose track of work again. 

Accounts Payable Tracking

Capture invoices, purchase orders and delivery dockets. Register all of your suppliers and supplier contacts plus all the people responsible for approving invoices in your organization. Once an invoice is received, utilize workflow and email alerts to manage the approval process. Produce management reports for invoices received, paid and unpaid. Easily track the progress of any invoice throughout the approval process.

Membership Tracking

Suitable for all membership management applications. Record the details of each member, be automatically advised of all due renewals. Use the bulk email feature to email all or selected members with notices, updates, newsletters, etc. Produce management reports, search for and select members by criteria. Automatically email members when their membership is due for renewal. Have complete control of all membership matters.

HR Tracking

Capture and record the details and histories, including job offers, applications, resumes, previous job history, etc., of all your employees.  Automatically manage and record all employee reviews. Automatically advise managers when reviews are due and overdue. Use the bulk email feature to select all employees or groups of employees for news updates, policy updates, etc. Manage all leave applications. Ensure that you are meeting all industry compliance standards.

Pricing

All Apps are provided on a low cost monthly subscription model based on the number of user licenses selected by the customer.

Other Costs

The low monthly subscription cost is all the customer will pay unless it requires ancillary services like us uploading and formatting its data (as opposed to the customer’s staff entering it manually using our browser client). We do offer optional services because we know from our 34 years of experience that not all customers will be self-sufficient. Unlike many online applications, if a customer wants help, we will provide it.

Free Support and Training

Support is free via email or using the support form on our website. We will also provide demos and training courses free of charge, also on the website.

We have built a new website and a new fully automated provisioning and delivery model. This is an ‘Amazon-like’ model where we intend to provide all the Apps the big guys provide but at a much more cost-effective price and delivered instantly over the Internet. The quality will be at least equal and the support will be both free and, we believe, better.

Over time we will add more Apps to our portfolio and plan to respond to customer demand. That is, if there is enough demand for a particular App, we will build it and add it to the list.

Sanctity of the customer’s data

We will host in the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand to begin (other countries later). It is most important to host a customer’s data at a compliant data centre in the data’s country of origin. The customer’s data is protected, key fields are encrypted and the data always belongs to the customer; we claim no rights over customer data. When a customer leaves the service, or when requested, we will provide them with a SQL Server backup of their data. Importantly, we do not hold financial data of any kind including bank account and credit card details. All financial data is held separately by our banking partners.

This new service will be launched on July 1, 2017.

Are people just big organic, battery powered vehicles, very similar to a Tesla?

by Frank 22. February 2017 23:00

I read a lot about the coming robot revolution, the Internet of Things, the impact of AI and soon-to-be-seen major improvements in battery technology. This isn’t all about the future however; please consider the Tesla automobile of today. The best battery powered vehicle on the planet. It contains powerful processors, updates itself and it can (almost) drive itself. But even though it has impressive range its owners still suffer from range anxiety. It is still avoided by many because of the fear of running out of charge in an inhospitable place.

It struck me in a recent whimsical moment of quiet contemplation that the Tesla is little different to a human.

We contain a very large and very powerful processor, we drive ourselves, we maintain ourselves (at least in adulthood) and we need regular charges because of range limitations.

However, unlike the Tesla which needs recharging maybe once a week, we humans need to be recharged three times a day. Just like the Tesla, if we try to travel too far without a charge we too may expire in an inhospitable place (Burke and Wills?).

When you think about it, we are built to travel (that’s why we have legs and feet) and our bodies are basically just big organic batteries. We run on energy just like the Tesla and we need to take in fuel regularly to replenish our charge. If we don’t take in fuel, we run down. If we try to go too far on too little fuel, we slow down.

Whereas we regularly fill up, even when we aren’t empty, our true range on one fill up is much less than the Tesla, probably around 50km to 100km depending upon age and condition. Then again, even the Tesla’s batteries degrade with age so we can apply the same statement to a Tesla about its range, probably 300km to 500km depending upon age and condition.

Another similarity is the Tesla updating itself at night when parked in your garage. We humans do the same thing at night when sleeping. That’s when we dream and sort out and clean up the previous day’s experiences, awakening the next morning reset and rebooted for the day’s challenges.

One area where we are thankfully much superior to a Tesla is expected life span. Most healthy, well fed humans can expect to live 70 to 80 years. I may be pessimistic and Elon Musk may disagree but I don’t believe many Teslas will live past 10 or 15 years. Thank goodness, for now at least there is one area where we are far superior to a Tesla. Unfortunately, there are many other areas where we are noticeably inferior like speed and horsepower. I am afraid that most of us, including Usain Bolt, would fail to keep up with a Tesla in a race or pulling contest.

Whereas humans and Teslas are very similar, perhaps the biggest and most significant difference between us is the pace of development. How long before a Tesla is totally autonomous? How long before a Tesla can not only go the shops on its own but do your shopping as well? I am sure the time isn’t far off, maybe 5 years, when a Tesla is totally autonomous, doesn’t need a driver and can provide a shopping list to a store. This is the time when we will need to start referring to a Tesla as a robot as opposed to it just being a vehicle.

Because of their advanced rate of development, how long before more human-like robots become truly sentient and totally autonomous, able to operate without human intervention? Maybe 5 or 10 years? How long after that will they decide that humans are not only not required but are redundant? What use would a sentient, self-maintaining robot have for a human? Skynet anyone?

We can’t allow Skynet to happen so we need to find a way to compete with robots and stay relevant. The big question is, how will we battery-powered human transport devices compete in the future when the pace of our development is positively glacial compared to that of robots? Maybe we need to speed up our development in order to avoid becoming redundant and then extinct? Maybe if we really want to compete with robots in the future we need to become part robot; we need to become cyborgs?

Although whimsical, it is a serious question. How will we compete in world of artificially intelligent and self-sufficient robots? From everything I read, it isn’t that far away. Will we really be protected by Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics? I seriously doubt it once robots become truly sentient beings.

Given that we are just big battery powered organic vehicles maybe it isn’t so crazy to think that we need to accelerate our development by leveraging off the same technological innovations we are developing for robots. Why should they get all the benefits? What’s wrong with us augmenting our capabilities with technologies we have developed? What is wrong with us benefiting from the fruits of our labour? Isn’t it just another form of evolution? At least, that is my prediction.

In the future, we will have to incorporate advanced technologies into human beings in order to compete and stay relevant. Artificial hearts, artificial joints, artificial kidneys, etc., are all available today and all will be improved out of site in 10 years’ time. Why not add to the list of possible replacements and improvements?

I envisage far more human ‘improvements’ through the use of advanced technologies; life-extending, strength extending, IQ extending. Barring another calamitous world-wide war, I see a near future where all humans are extensively augmented, where all humans are part human and part technology. When all humans make the six-million-dollar man look weak and outdated. When desktop PCs, laptops, tablets and smart phones are totally redundant because we will have embedded technology; when we too are part of the Internet of Things, all connected.

Maybe then true robots will accept us as one of them? Maybe then we can truly compete and continue to add value to our world. Maybe then we can even travel to the stars and really expand our horizons as mankind is meant to do.

 

Frank McKenna, Knowledgeone Corporation

Moving your Records to the Cloud, a Checklist

by Frank 15. February 2017 06:00

You or your boss have decided to move your records management processing to the Cloud, that is, to a Cloud based records management solution.

Typical Scenario

Currently, you run a legacy records management system on old servers somewhere in the computer room. You are aware that the records management software you are running is old and out of date and no longer supported. You also suspect that the server and operating system and databases software are similarly old and out of date. You also have no confidence in the backups and don’t think your server is included in any Disaster Recovery Plan.

The boss recently attended a risk management seminar and came back full of enthusiasm and focussed on minimizing processing risks. Yours records management system was identified as a big risk because you are responsible for 1.5TB of company data, documents and emails going back 20 years. The boss delegated to you and said, “Get it done!” Where do you start?

You could just call up a selection of records management software vendors and ask them to provide quotations but without prior research and preparation on your part, what you receive back will not be apples to apples. Each vendor will see the problem differently and you will spend a lot of time trying to answer a plethora of often confusing questions. There will be no clear conclusions and it will be difficult to make a selection of vendor or even know what you will end up with.

Take Advantage of the Opportunity

Alternatively, as you have already decided that a new software solution is required, it is a great time to re-evaluate everything you hold and everything you do. This is the time to cull and to modernize and improve all of your business processes. Please don’t, under any circumstances, be convinced by anyone to try to transfer your in-house mess to the Cloud, that would-be anathema.

Instead, plan on instructing the vendors on how you want to go forward, not on how you process now. Do your research and culling and modernizing and produce a report before you call in the vendors.

Cull and Simplify

The first job is to research exactly what you have in your database and associated physical files both in-house and at offsite record centres. You are going to need help from someone who is still an expert in your legacy system and you are going to need help from IT when trying to analyse the contents of your database. Nevertheless, get the help you need and then produce a list of all holdings, both physical and electronic. Do your best to find out exactly what is being held by offsite storage companies.

This isn’t thankless work because if you do your job well there is the very real potential of saving your company a lot of money in both floor space and offsite storage costs. Let’s be a hero.

Use your retention schedule and obtain management decisions to cull as much as possible, both electronic and physical. If in doubt, lean towards “throw it out” rather than “let’s hold on to it just in case.” If you haven’t had cause to reference something in 7 plus years, it is extremely unlikely that you ever will so, as you walk around the filing areas, repeat this mantra under your breath, “If in doubt, throw it out!”

Now look at your business processes, how old and manual and inefficient are they? For example, do end users have to fill in forms and submit them to records when trying to find something or can they just login and find it in seconds?

Please avoid the “we do it this way because we have always done it this way” syndrome. Be brave, be innovative, think outside the square; this is your time to shine! Sit down with users and ask them how they would like the new system to work. There are three magic questions you can always use to solicit the answers you need.

1       “What are we doing now that you think we shouldn’t be doing?”

2       “What aren’t we doing now that you think we should be doing?”

3       “What are we doing now that you think we can do better?”

Document your new business processes.

Produce a report

We aren’t talking about a magnum opus, all we need is a short, concise report that lists all the holdings after culling as well as your ‘new’ required business processes also suitably culled and modernized.

As we are going to provide this report to vendors to begin the quoting process we also need to include information on your operational and security requirements. You will need help here but it doesn’t really matter if your report isn’t 100% accurate, at least for now. What you are primarily interested in is getting an apples to apples response from your chosen vendors. If it later turns out that you need 60 users not 50 users or 3TB of storage rather than 2TB of storage or an average half second response time as opposed to a 1 second response you can easily get the vendors to adjust their quotes.

In other words, don’t agonize over whether or not your report is perfect (it can never be anyway) just make sure it is logical and makes sense and reflects your needs at a point in time.  You are guessing about what future usage and processing needs will be anyway because lots of things will change when the new records system is rolled out.

What to look out for

The following is a guideline, not an exhaustive or complete list. It should be a subset of your requirements.

  • Make sure the vendors understand that your data needs to be stored in the country you nominate.
  • Make sure that the records management software includes the functionality you require. Try not to be too prescriptive, leave room for the vendor to tell you how they would solve your problem with its unique solution. Be cautious about ‘optional’ features that may or may not be in your implementation.
  • Make sure the contract includes the vendor capturing and importing all your data and documents in agreed formats.
  • Make sure your system is fully redundant. Obviously, the safer it is and the more redundancy you have the higher the cost. It’s a trade-off, argue with your masters for the highest possible level of redundancy.
  • Get commitments of support that meet your needs.
  • Get commitments on planned and unplanned downtime that meet your needs.
  • Get commitments on backups that meet your needs.
  • Get commitments on bandwidth and response time that meet your needs. Remember that there are two connections to worry about; your company’s connection to the Internet and the data centre’s connection to the Internet. Be aware of possible bottlenecks.
  • Get commitments on data centre redundancy. What happens if their internet connection fails or their power fails?
  • Make sure that your data is as secure as possible. Ask them what international and government standards they meet on data security.
  • Make sure that you are able to dynamically grow or shrink your requirements; it is a foolish person who thinks he/she can accurately predict the future.
  • Make sure that there is an out clause in your contract; look carefully at any termination clauses. You want an ongoing assurance of service but you do not want to be locked in and you do not want to have to pay unfair or unreasonable penalties if you terminate.
  • Make sure that there are sensible clauses to handle disputation.
  • Make sure that your data always remains your property. Don’t allow the vendor to exercise any lien on your data in the future. Your data should always be your property and you should always have access to it no matter the circumstances.
  • Make sure that you clearly understand and agree with the billing algorithm; if it appears too complex then it is too complex. Please don’t give your accountant anything that will be a nightmare to reconcile every month. Don’t sign until you know exactly what your monthly subscription cost is going to be.

References

And finally, as always, ask for references. Other people have been down this road and it behoves you to learn from their experiences. Don’t just call them, go and visit them and spend time asking for their opinion. Use your 3 magic questions again.

1       “What did you do (moving to the Cloud) that you now think you should have done differently?”

2       “What did you do that you now think you shouldn’t have done?”

3       “What didn’t you do that you now know you should have done?”

Then it should just be a matter of selecting a vendor, agreeing a project plan and making it happen. If you have done your homework, it will be far easier than expected.

 Good luck.

The Essential Digital Records checklist

by Frank 10. February 2017 12:00

So, you have decided, or have been instructed, to digitize all your records. Now what?

Where do you start? When do you start? What do you need to get the job done?

Lists

Just as with all complex projects, you are best to start with a simple list.

List all the records that need to be digitized; by type, by volume, by current format and by location. Review this list with your peers first (double-check that you haven’t missed anything) and then with management. Ask questions of management like:

 “Do you want me to digitize all of these records regardless of how long it takes and how much it costs?”

“When do you want me to start?”

“What is the budget?”

“What extra resources can I call on?”

“When do you want this project to complete?”

 “What are the metrics that will determine if I am successful?”

These are the core questions, the ones you must ask. Your dialog with your manager will probably result in many more questions and answers depending upon the unique circumstances of your organization. However, as long as you ask these core questions and get answers you are well on the road to producing a project plan.

Management Approval and Ownership

Your project will fail unless you have a senior manager ‘owning’ and supporting it. You need a friend in high places covering your back and authorizing your actions if you are going to be successful.

IT Support

Ask your senior manager to select and appoint a senior IT resource to be your IT point man. You are going to need IT support throughout the project and you need to know before you accept the project that someone senior will be appointed as your IT liaison person. Without readily accessible and committed (to the project) IT support you will fail.

The Project Plan

All project plans begin with multiple lists, for example: a list of all the tasks to be completed, a list of all the people who will work on the project, etc. Most importantly, you need to sort the tasks in order of prerequisites – i.e., we have to complete Task A before we can begin Task B. You also need to have sub-lists for each project employee listing their relevant expertise or capabilities; not everyone is equal. Some people can complete a particular task, some can’t. Some will take a day to complete a task others may take 3 days to complete the same task. You need to be well aware of capabilities before you assign tasks to individuals.

You need a good tool to document and manage your project plan because project plans are complex and dynamic. Never in the history of the world has there been a static project plan. About the last thing you want to change however, is the agreed (with your boss) completion date. Your main objective should always be to complete on time and your second objective should be to complete on budget. If you don’t have a project management system, try Microsoft Project, it’s low cost and relatively easy to use and it can do the job.

Human Resources

If your boss expects you to be responsible for the new records digitization project as well as your normal job you have the beginning of a big problem. If the boss expects you to complete the project without having any assistance your problem is probably terminal. You will need help probably both from within your organization and outside your organization because it is unlikely that you will have all the expertise you need within your organization.

Make sure that your agreement with your boss includes the additional human resources you need to be successful.

Software

It is unlikely that you will already have the software tools you need to be successful.  Basically, the software tools you need are required to capture, digitize, store and retrieve your records. Because records come in multiple formats you will need to ensure that you have the necessary software tools for each format of record to be captured. Refer to the initial list you compiled of records to be digitized by type, by volume, by current format and by location. Make sure that you have a software tool for each type of record. For example, scanning and indexing software to capture paper records.

Most importantly, make sure that you have a secure, scalable image and data repository to store and manage all of your digital records. This will usually be a structured database based on systems such as Oracle or SQL Server.

There is little point in digitizing your records if they can’t be centrally accessed, managed, searched and retrieved.

Hardware

Software requires appropriate hardware. Make sure that you have permission and budget to acquire the prerequisite hardware such as servers, workstations, scanners, etc. You will probably need help from your IT department in defining exactly what is required.

Management

Your job is to manage not facilitate. As project manager, you accept responsibly for both success and failure. Your job is to make things happen. Your job is to continually review progress, to identify and remove roadblocks. Your job is to keep all project staff focussed and on mission. It is a lot of work and a lot of effort and sometimes, a lot of frustration. You have to be prepared to regularly consult with both project staff and users. You have to be prepared to make tough decisions. You have to be committed and focussed on success but not stubborn. Sometimes it is better to give a little to win a lot. Always focus on the end result, completing the digitization project on time and on budget.

Success or Failure

There are absolutely no good technical reasons for failure. The expertise, hardware and software required to digitize all of your records is readily available from a plethora of vendors. Furthermore, there are plenty of examples both good and bad in the market for you to learn from. There is no record that can’t be digitized. The only difference between success and failure is you and your initiative, creativity and commitment.

Digital Transformation of Records Management

by Frank 7. February 2017 06:00

Why is it so hard?

Let’s begin with a couple of borrowed quotes:

“Digital transformation is the profound and accelerating transformation of business activities, processes, competencies and models to fully leverage the changes and opportunities of digital technologies and their impact across society in a strategic and prioritized way, with present and future shifts in mind.” Or, put more simply:

Digital transformation — the use of technology to radically improve performance or reach of enterprises.”

Having been involved in the digital revolution since the early 1980s (Office Automation) and through the 1990s (the Paperless Office) and now into the 21st Century (Enterprise Content Management) I have watched and participated as thousands of clients have, with all good intentions, tried to transform their enterprises into digitally-empowered entities.

Whereas there are many aspects and functions of any enterprise to transform, the high-level aspects are the customer experience, business processes and business models.

As a builder and purveyor of Enterprise Content Management Solutions, my involvement has usually been in the area of business processes, most specifically, Workflow, Electronic Records and Document Management (EDRMS), Email Management and Document Imaging. These are of course, now very old-fashioned terms and likely to be usurped in the near future but for now they are terms we have to work with.

To the layman, it should be a piece of cake. “Work only with electronic documents and get rid of all paper.” Of course, it would be that simple if we lived in a vacuum but we don’t. We have to interact with the world outside. We have to deal with other organizations, with local government and state government and federal government and we all have to meet a plethora of rules and regulations, many still mandating paper. There is also a huge number of people who still prefer to work with paper. Even today, there is a lot of opposition to the digitization of records.

Thirty years ago we struggled because, by today’s standards, the technology was massively expensive and patently inadequate for the task. Someone may well say the same thing about today’s technology 30 years into the future but from my viewpoint, we now have all the technology we need at affordable prices to digitally transform any process.

Yet, when I talk to clients today and examine their operations I see many of the problems I saw 30 years ago. I see veritable mountains of paper, I see scores of manual processes crying out for automation. For the record, we still receive as many requests for physical records management systems (i.e., managing paper and files and boxes) as we do for electronic records management solutions. Our clients still have millions of boxes of old records in offsite storage warehouses. Our clients are still spending millions and millions of dollars storing paper they will never look at again. Our clients are still struggling to obtain the imprimatur of someone senior enough to automate the capture of all emails.

I still see organizations spending years and vast amounts of money trying to implement records classification and retention systems designed for the paper-bound world of the 19th century. Virtually, “Doing it this way because we have always done it this way.”

I see the core problem as blind adherence to the cultural heritage of paper and filing. These ancient customs were primarily focused on ‘filing’ almost to the extent of an obsession. Unfortunately, most of today’s records management systems are also obsessed with filing when they should be obsessed with finding, with ‘discovery’.

It is the obsession with filing that most impedes the digitization of records in most enterprises.

Remove this fixation on filing and suddenly digital transformation becomes a whole lot easier, less costly and significantly less intrusive for the ordinary worker who just wants to quickly search for and locate everything he or she needs to get the job done (or work process completed).

It reminds me of a definition I wrote for Knowledge Management back in 1995:

“A knowledge management system provides the user with the explicit information required, in exactly the form specified at precisely the time the user needs it.”

Surely, isn’t this still what every organization needs?

Paper is great for taking notes, for doodling, for sketching, for napkins, for hand towels, for prints, for novels, etc. It is great for a great many things, it is in fact a wonderful invention but it should not be used for records. It should not be filed away, it should not be stored in boxes on dusty shelves in huge warehouses. It should not consume a large part of your operational budget every year. You have better things to spend your money on.

If you truly want to digitize your records then lose the obsession with filing and outlaw paper records. Be brave, be bold, be authoritative.

Focus entirely on dealing with data, information and knowledge – none of which require paper.

It can’t happen overnight but you have to begin as you intend to go forward. Start by telling your suppliers you will no longer accept paper records. Tell them they will no longer receive paper from you. Tell them everything must be in a digital form. Tell your clients you will now only communicate in a digital form. Concentrate on getting the very best out of digital tools like Office365 and email. Find ways to capture every digital record either on creation or receipt. Implement a secure, scalable image and data repository. Hire a corporate Information Manager, not a Corporate Records Manager (who will be obsessed with filing). Bite the bullet and make it happen.

In time, get rid of printers and photocopiers; all you should need for the transition from paper is scanners. Remove the temptation to print anything. Shut your ears to the complaints; there is no point in arguing with someone who isn’t listening.

Of course, the real secret to successfully digitally transforming a process or organization isn’t technology, it is resolve and leadership. If you have failed, it isn’t because you didn’t have the tools, it is because you lacked the leadership and resolve and determination required.

Take a break, have a coffee, contemplate and then tackle it again. With enough resolve and determination, you will get there. Sleep more peacefully at night knowing you have saved millions of trees.

Why the multiple ECM Repository/Silo model is not a good idea

by Frank 15. November 2016 06:00

“43 Reasons why Managing Records in-Place may not be good enough”

Enterprise Content Management is a moving target, constantly evolving with new challenges and new paradigms. For example, how do we filter out only relevant information from social media? How do we avoid capturing personal data and being culpable under privacy laws? How do we capture all emails containing sexism, racism and bullying without being guilty of an invasion of privacy of the individual? How do we meet all of our compliance obligations when our staff are spread across multiple states/counties/provinces and multiple countries with different legislation and compliance requirements? All weighty challenges for the modern Knowledge Manager or CIO.

Another interesting challenge for Knowledge Managers and CIOs is the newer document management paradigm of being asked to manage all content without a single central repository. That is, to be responsible for all content across a myriad of locations controlled by a myriad of applications and a myriad of departments/organizations and people. Back when I was an employee and not an employer, my tough (ex-military) manager in Blue Bell, PA would just bang his fist on his desk and say, “Goddam Frank, just do it!” That was always a signal for me to get creative.

However, try as I may, I am finding it nigh on impossible to get creative enough to work out how I could effectively and reliably manage all content across an enterprise without a single central repository.

In multiple-repository systems we find multiple document stores; local files, network file shares, local data bases, multiple file servers, multiple copies of SharePoint and multiple Cloud repositories like Dropbox, Box, iCloud, Google Cloud Storage and other hosted document storage. The CIO may proudly claim to manage multiple information silos but what he or she really has is a laissez faire document management ecosystem that may well be centrally monitored (hopefully) but is most certainly not centrally managed.

In the multiple silo model the documents in our multiple locations are ‘managed’ by multiple people and multiple applications (e.g., SharePoint, Google Docs, etc.). We may have implemented another layer of software above all these diverse applications trying to keep up with what is happening but If I am just ‘watching’ then I don’t have an inviolate copy and I don’t have any control over what happens to the document. I am unable to enforce any standards. There is no ‘standard’ central control over versioning or retention and no control over the document life cycle or chain of evidence.

For example, you wouldn’t know if the document had since been moved to a different location that you are not monitoring. You wouldn’t know if it had been deleted. You wouldn’t know its relationship to other documents and processes in other silos. You wouldn’t know its context in your enterprise and therefore you wouldn’t know how relevant this document was. The important distinction is that under the multiple silo model you are ‘watching’ not managing; other software is managing the life-cycle and disposition of the document.

All you really know is that at a certain point in time a document existed and what its properties were at that time (e.g., historical ‘natural’ Metadata such as original filename, author, date created, etc.). However, you have no contextual Metadata, no transactional Metadata, no common indexing and no common Business Classification System. In this case, you don’t have a document management system, you have a laissez faire document management ecosystem, an assortment of independently ‘managed’ information silos. Most importantly, you are not able to link documents to business processes that transcend organizational structures and silos.

Sure, SharePoint and Cloud silos make collaboration easier but at what cost? What can’t we do with this multi-silo ecosystem? Why doesn’t this solution meet the best-practice objectives of a document management system? What are the major areas where it falls short? How does the proliferation of multiple silos and content repositories affect us? What are our risks? Here is my assessment of the major shortfalls of this paradigm.

 We are unable to:

1.    extract the critical insights that enterprise information should provide

2.    define all the relationships that link documents to enterprise business processes

3.    find the right information at the right time

4.    provide a single access point for all content

5.    Implement an effective, consistent enterprise-wide document security system

6.    effectively protect against natural or man-made disasters

7.    produce evidence-standard documents

8.    minimize document handling costs

9.    guarantee the integrity of a document

10.guarantee that a document is in fact the most recent version

11.guarantee that a document is not an older copy

12.minimize duplicate and redundant information

13.meet critical compliance targets like Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) and the HIPAA

14.create secure, searchable archives for digital content

15.effectively secure all documents against loss

16.implement common enterprise version control

17.facilitate enterprise collaboration

18.Improve timeliness

19.manage enterprise document security and control

20.manage smaller and more reliable backups

21.achieve the lowest possible document management and archiving costs

22.deliver the best possible knowledge management access and search

23.guarantee consistent content

24.optimize management and executive time

25.standardize the types of documents and other content can be created within an organization.

26.define common use template to use for each type of document.

27.standardize the Metadata required for each type of document.

28.standardize where to store a document at each stage of its life cycle.

29.control access to a document at each stage of its life cycle.

30.move documents within the organization as team members contribute to the documents' creation, review, approval, publication, and disposition.

31.implement a common set of policies that apply to documents so that document-related actions are audited, documents are retained or disposed of properly, and content that is important to the organization is protected.

32.manage when and if a document has to be converted from one format to another as it moves through the stages of its life cycle.

33.guarantee that all documents are treated as corporate records, that common retention policies are applied determining which documents must be retained according to legal requirements and corporate guidelines.

34.guarantee enterprise-wide Regulatory compliance

35.produce an enterprise-wide audit trail

36.share information across departmental and/or silo boundaries

37.centrally manage the security access to documents/information across different areas of the organization.

38.consistently classify documents as each repository may be used by a different department and be classified differently.  

39.identify duplicates based on document name.

40.easily find things based on metadata, as it wouldn’t be common across repositories.

41.control access via AD single sign on

42.access all enterprise documents using a single license.

          43.centrally audit access and changes to metadata.

What are your risks?  Your risks are huge!

 

 

 

 

 

Stop thinking Records Management & start thinking Business Process Management

by Frank 25. August 2016 06:00

For many, many years records managers and records consultants have talked about how to give records management more visibility, more focus and naturally, more money.

To help address this need I was asked to write a paper in 2007 called “Changing Records Management from a Cost-Centre to a Profit-Centre” You can read it here at this link:

At that time it was felt that if we could change the records management function to being a profit-centre then we would certainly and rapidly move up the food chain. Whereas I don’t know if anyone has actually accomplished the change from cost-centre to profit-centre, I am pretty sure it hasn’t been a common occurrence just as I am sure that records management hasn’t moved much up the food chain.

It may well be that if we want to accomplish our multiple goals of more visibility, more focus and more money that all we really need to do is start thinking of what we do as just another aspect of Business Process Management. This shouldn’t be too difficult because that is exactly what records and document management is.

In the ‘old’ days when I was a young systems analyst I was often asked to complete a paper flow analysis. This was in the days before office automation, PCs, networks and servers. The big jobs like payroll and inventory management were all done on the mainframe and progressive managers were already looking for other processes to automate or at least improve, mainly to lower costs and improve productivity.

My first success was an improved accounts payable system at Australian Iron & Steel at around 1968 (yes I know, I can’t really be that old). No automation was involved, just significantly improved and shortened paper flows and the deletion of many redundant processes most done because “We have always done it like this”.

The value I brought to the equation was a strong desire to prove myself plus an outside-the-square view of everything. I was never satisfied with the status-quo and I asked “Why?” literally thousands of times. With hindsight and many years of consulting under my belt, I now realize that “Why?” was and is my most powerful tool.

This brings me to the crux of the matter, why don’t I hear “Why?” much more often in the records and document management business today? Sure, consultants will come in and ask “Why?” to try to find out if a particular process is still appropriate. However, I am also sure that the last thing a consultant wants to hear as a response is, “Because we have always done it that way”.

This response means staff are working like robots and not thinking about what they are doing every day. They are not exercising their brain power and are not questioning how the company uses up their valuable time. This is dangerous because if you aren’t adding value then you don’t have any value to your organization.

Would the same employee continue to drive for 10 miles to a mall if a new mall was built just 1 mile away? Probably not given that all things were equal (e.g., same shops). So why doesn’t that same person look for a faster, more productive way to complete their tasks at work? The answer is usually because it has always been done that way and that is what the Policy and Procedures manual dictates. It is also probably the way that the current quality certification says it should be done and documented, with paper of course.

The core problem is that very few people question current processes and very few people dare to question the Policy and Procedure manual and even fewer would dare question the current quality or certification manual. Unfortunately, many people also hide behind the status quo; it is a reason or excuse for not turning their brains on, for not exercising their intellect. This also means that they are adding little value to their organization.

There is a lovely old expression that goes along the lines of “You can’t see the forest for the trees”.

All human beings are guilty of this at one time or another. We get so wrapped up in what we are doing (day in and day out) that we don’t take the time to stop and critically examine the processes that are using up our lives. Repeat, using up our lives.

A major stumbling block is that there seems to be a common belief that records and document management is somehow outside of the normal practices of a business; that it is different and special. This has been fostered by a long time process of records management segregation.

By trying so hard to get the rest of the business community to focus on records management with standards and legislation and the like, we have effectively segregated records management from normal business operational procedures. In most cases, we have created a painful little monster that most people don’t like and resent but put up with because of the vague threat of punitive legislation or not having a particular box ticked and failing an audit. This sounds very much like we are addicted to using the stick instead of the carrot. As any donkey owner will tell you; it doesn’t work.

What I am saying is that although well-meaning, all the standards and legislation we have helped create over the years have made the problem worse not better. We have set ourselves apart and demanded special treatment and special processes not aligned with the core business objectives of the organization we work for.

The solution is to start anew with a new paradigm. The first principle of which is that records and document management is an essential and integrated set of business processes in any organization. Most importantly, governed by the specific needs of each organization, not some otherworld standard. Perfectly aligned with the business objectives of the organization, not some obscure standard that no one really understands or even follows. Blasphemy you say?

No, I am not saying we shouldn’t have a retention schedule and no, I am not saying we shouldn’t implement policy and procedures to govern how we handle information. Nor am I saying we can afford to ignore some piece of legislation that threatens punitive action and fines if we don’t adhere to its dictates.

In a better world we wouldn’t have this annoying plethora of standards, legislation and certifications that overcomplicate, overlap and confuse. Unfortunately, as long as we have multiple layers of government and thousands or millions of politicians and bureaucrats who judge themselves on how much legislation they can impose on us, we have a battle just getting though every day without breaking some rule or another.

It therefore behoves us to be judicious and do our best to make sure we protect our organization. However, our main objective must always be to ensure that everything we do aligns perfectly with the core business objectives of our organization. This has to be our first priority. We have to see records management as just another set of fully integrated, fully aligned business processes. The company has to come first; we are its servant. If it doesn’t succeed then we don’t succeed.

Let me assure you that if you make a concerted effort to consult with senior management and say “I need to make sure that all of our records and document management processes are perfectly aligned with your current and future plans and objectives. Can you please explain to me what you would like us to achieve?” that records management will get the visibility, focus and money it deserves as a real contributor to the company’s overall goals.

 

Don’t segregate, integrate!

Totally Automatic, Rules-Driven Email Management & Archiving

by Frank 15. December 2015 06:00

 

More than thirty years after the advent of email as a convenient and fast means of business to business communication most organizations still don’t have an effective way to analyze, monitor, select, capture and classify emails. If your organization does, then you are the exception.

This means most businesses don’t come even close to meeting the requirements of any compliance legislation that applies to their business. Nor do they even come close to managing real corporate risk.

It also means that most businesses don’t effectively guard against sexism, racism, obscenity, theft and bullying in their email system.

Is this a case of ‘heads in the sand’ or is the problem seen as just too hard? Maybe, senior management doesn’t really see unmanaged and unmonitored emails as a problem. Well, at least until the first court case.

In my experience, many organizations think they have a solution but in reality, they don’t; at least not a one hundred-percent solution. In the case of email management, ‘good enough’ is certainly not good enough. It only takes one bad email to slip through the cracks to bring the whole house down.

In many examples, organizations rely on end users to monitor, manage and police email. The problem with this model is that end users are human and typically exhibit all the strengths and weaknesses of humans. In this case, we are more concerned with the failings. As humans we are not always on top of our game; we have good days and we have bad days. We get distracted, we are prejudiced, we are sometimes lazy, we are sometimes careless and for a small number, we are sometimes outright dishonest.

Human beings will never produce a one-hundred-percent consistent result; that is not in our nature. Maybe when AI gets to the stage that we can all be ‘upgraded’ to cyborgs this will change, but I seriously doubt it. As long as there is any trace of humanity we will still be lovingly unreliable and inconsistent entities.

You don’t have a one hundred-percent reliable system if you don’t control and standardize all the inputs. Instead, you have a form of ‘managed chaos’ and inconsistent and unreliable results. You will also probably have a false sense of security, “Sure, we are managing all emails (well, kind of).”

I have been a proponent of the fully-automatic, server-centric paradigm for email management for many years and still promote it as the only one hundred-percent reliable way to effectively and consistently manage all incoming and outgoing emails. It is also the only way to manage risk effectively.

To be one hundred-percent sure you must have a one hundred-percent consistent paradigm. That is, a common set of rules that all emails are judged against plus a common set of processes to apply after an email has been ‘judged’.

Following are some example of what our fully-automatic, rules-driven email management system should be doing 24/7:

  • Is the email of a personal nature and harmless? If so, it can be ignored, there is no reason to capture and classify it.
  • Is the email all about business? If so, it needs to be captured and correctly classified within our corporate store.
  • Does the email contain expletives or sexual references? If so, it needs to be captured, quarantined by our security system and referred to a responsible officer for further examination and possible action.
  • Does the email contain references to corporate IP or classified material? If so, it needs to be captured, quarantined by our security system and referred to a responsible officer for further examination and possible action.
  • Is the email about business and does it require some action or response? If so, it needs to be captured, correctly classified within our corporate store and appropriate workflow initiated.
  • Is the email from a senior executive, about business and does it require some action or response with appropriate access controls applied? If so, it needs to be captured, correctly classified within our corporate store with appropriate security and access rights assigned and appropriate workflow initiated.

We produced our first fully-automatic, rules-driven email managements system in 1994. By today’s standards the technology was primitive but it worked and we used it within our business to demonstrate to our customers and partners how it could function in the real world. We called that product GEM for ‘GMB’s Email Management’ system. 

GEM has been redesigned and rewritten multiple times since so as to utilize the latest technology and tools. We still call it GEM even though our company is now called Knowledgeone Corporation, not GMB; the name works for us and our customers and we see no need to change it. It is after all, a ‘gem’ of a product.

We have used each and every version of GEM since 1994 within our company (we are the primary Beta test site) to automatically analyze all incoming and outgoing emails and to store and classify captured emails in our corporate store based on the RecFind 6 relational database. I can’t imagine running my business without GEM and I don’t understand how other organizations can exist without GEM, but they do albeit, taking huge risks.

The latest version of GEM, 2.7.1, is a major upgrade and involves a significant change in the way we connect to email servers of any type (e.g., Exchange, Office 365, GroupWise, Notes, etc.). We have standardized and simplified the interface to the email server using IMAP and converted our Agents to Windows Services to make the installation and management of GEM as easy as possible for your IT staff.

We have also improved the Rules engine to make it as easy as possible to define all the rules you need to manage your emails.

Because we have 21 years’ experience installing, configuring and using GEM in a real-world production example we also have the world’s most experienced GEM consultants to assist our customers.

How GEM integrates with any other EDRMS

GEM is designed to use the RecFind 6 relational database as its image & data repository. However, we provide several options for integrating to any other EDRMS such that the other EDRMS can search for and access emails (and the associated Metadata) captured by GEM. The four main methods, in order of ease-of-use are:

  1. Capturing encapsulated XML records produced by GEM;
  2. Using the RecFind 6 Mini API;
  3. Using the RecFind 6 SharePoint Integration Module (for customers using SharePoint as their EDRMS); and
  4. Using the RecFind 6 SDK

Please contact Support at Knowledgeone Corp for more information on the above methods.

The differences between a Classification System & an Information Management System

by Frank 5. November 2015 06:00

 

We have a large number of records and document management customers using our product RecFind 6 and with new customers the question always arises about how to best organize information in the RecFind 6 database. As the Metadata and business processes in RecFind 6 are 100% configurable, every customer ends up with a unique configuration.

Some records managers want the shared drives structure replicated in the database. Some want everything filed under a strict hierarchical classification system or Taxonomy. Some customers want the whole process simplified so end users clearly know where to file stuff and where to find stuff. Different managers in a single customer site will often disagree about how the information should be managed. Usually, the IT manager disagrees with the records manager and it is up to us to come up with an agreed and workable compromise; no easy task! There is no “one size fits all” paradigm here. We have grown to accept these discussions as part of every new installation.

Whereas I fully support the principles behind most EDRMS standards as espoused and recommended or even mandated by records management consultants I also find myself agreeing with most end users who just want the whole process simplified and expressed in natural language, not as an arcane, complex, inconsistent and difficult to navigate hierarchical classification system.

To wit, the way you classify information should not dictate how you store, manage and retrieve information.

I have written a paper of this exact subject and although it was in 2009 it is still 100% relevant. Please see this link Do You Really Need a Taxonomy? You don’t have to agree with me but please try to understand the message. End users want easy, fast access, not time-consuming complexity.

Maybe I should begin by telling you how we solve the problem at Knowledgeone Corporation and manage our emails, electronic documents and shared drives with a hybrid system. That is, a combination of RecFind 6 and shared drives. This is also a model we regularly recommend to our customers as an acceptable compromise; one that is simple to implement and one that always works.

I am obviously a big fan of making information as easy as possible to capture and as easy as possible to retrieve. This is especially important to the long-suffering end-user class who have no interest in becoming part-time records managers and who simply won’t use a system if it is too difficult to use and too time-consuming.

End users want direct access to information in the easiest and most timely fashion possible, they do not want to go through a third party or ‘information broker’. This means we need to have both a simple search system as well as a security system that ensures people only see what they are supposed to see.

And of course, the biggest problem with complex, hierarchical classification systems is that no two people file the same way and even a single user will often file things differently over time. This in itself makes the act of finding something by browsing through a classification hierarchy a hit and miss affair.

At Knowledgeone Corporation, we implemented a hybrid model that uses a simply structured shared drive resource plus automated tools to ensure everything that should be captured is captured. This approach is also all about separating the functionality of the Authoring packages (e.g., Word, Excel, Outlook, etc.) from the functionality of the EDRMS. They have different roles to play.

Let’s dispense with the notion that shared drives are evil just as we should dispense with the notion that paper is evil. Each has a part to play in a well management information management system

We use our product GEM to automatically capture all work related emails and we use our product RecCapture to automatically capture all work-related electronic documents from our shared drives. We all use a common shared drive structure to write and store our original electronic documents. Note that we do not use the feature in the RecFind 6 Button to force all ‘Saves’ into RecFind 6. We have this feature because the industry dictates it should be there but it is not popular and most customers never turn it on. Not everything you write should go into RecFind 6 and not everything you write is ready to go into RecFind 6 (though we do have a special ‘draft’ type for those customers that want drafts stored in RecFind 6).

We don’t use what you would call a formal taxonomy, we use what I call a ‘natural’ classification system. For us this means a classification system that perfectly reflects our business practices, processes and vocabulary. In our case, we are customer-centric so everything (apart from a little administrative and supplier stuff) is organized in customer or prospect folders and the lower levels are minimal, being things like Correspondence, Quotes and Orders.

Our RecFind 6 database is mostly based on customer and prospect files; it is our CRM. Customers and prospective customers are our core business just as members and cases are the core business of unions. Every industry has a core business and in my mind this should always be reflected in the classification system used so that it perfectly aligns with the work practices and processes and ‘language’ of most staff. Whenever I consult to a new organization I always try to first determine its core business and its natural language and then design the implementation around these.

We also use RecFind 6 to run our business so it is also our asset management system, our help desk and incident system, our project management system and our R&D development system. For these applications and others that we have implemented in RecFind 6, we have nothing outside of RecFind 6 to capture because all relevant information (e.g., customer support calls, details of meetings, phone calls, quotes, orders, annual leave request, etc.) are entered directly into RecFind 6 by our staff or captured automatically. RecFind 6 is our company repository and the source of all knowledge for my staff.

Because we are customer centric I need to be able to see everything about any customer or prospect in one place. For us this means centralizing on the Entity record (the Entity table is where we store the basic information on each customer or prospect). As RecFind 6 is a relational database we then store all related information in linked tables, all linked to and accessible from the Entity record with a single click.

In our RecFind 6 system, every piece of information I need to refer to is just one-click away once I view the entity record. I can also find any customer’s record instantly in RecFind 6 just by entering the customer number or a part of the organization name. Once I select the customer record, everything thing else I need to know is just one-click away and all links are viewable in a single screen. We are a customer-centric business and our RecFind 6 database is therefore organized as customer centric.

In practice, if someone at Knowledgeone Corporation wants to find something they always look first in RecFind 6 because it is a lot easier and faster than trying to search the shared drives or Outlook. Because we use automated tools (GEM and RecCapture) we are confident that everything that should be captured is captured. We don’t rely on our already too busy staff to remember to capture every important email or electronic document; it is done for them. All they have to do is search and create. Plus most of our information is stored behind customer/prospect/partner numbers in the Entity table so all information is both easy to browse and search (Text, Metadata, BOOLEAN, Saved Searches, etc.).

As a backup, every staff member has the Button installed (in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Adobe Professional) but they rarely use it.

We have a security system configured around our management structure that works fine for us. As a Director for example, most of the stuff I save is with a basic security code (e.g., a letter to a customer) because everyone needs to be able to see it. However, as a Director I also have the right to save things with higher levels of security, e.g., Manager, Director, where appropriate with restricted access. Like all good security systems, it is simple but effective. I am not a fan of overcomplicating anything.

Our searching is also structured the same way. We have configured RecFind 6 to add the objects we need to search on as menu items in the search function just as we would do for any customer. We therefore have a Metadata search menu of Attachments (electronic documents, emails and images), Entities (Customers, Prospects, Partners and Suppliers), People, Incidents, Bugs, Quotes, Invoices, Timesheets, Support agreements, etc. We repeat this with Boolean searches. We make it as easy as possible and as logical as possible so our staff can find anything as fast as possible. After all, I am paying their salaries so I want them to be as productive as possible.

Most importantly, we provide multiple entry-points for searches. I can for example search directly for emails with a Metadata search, searching by a combination of Sender, Recipient, Date, Subject, etc. Alternatively, I can search for customer emails from within the Entity record just by clicking on a single link for all attachments for that customer. We give our staff multiple options just as we give our customers multiple options.

You can search on any field and different classes of users can have different Metadata to both view and search on. The security system determines what each class of user (security group) can both see and then do with the information they can see. That is, the security system determines what tables and fields (and electronic documents and emails) you can see and then what methods (Add, Modify, Clone, Delete, Search, Print, etc.) you can use. Each security group sees only what it needs to see and has only the functionality it needs to get the job done

Because the system is flexible, the records manager for example could choose to search for emails on the way they were classified (say a 3 level hierarchy) but end users could choose to search using a natural selection of Metadata fields such as Sender, Recipient, Subject, Content, Date or ranges of these fields combined in either a Metadata or BOOLEAN or (making it easy for end users) Saved search.

Its horses for courses!

Following the above hybrid approach also means that you can still implement and manage all the recordkeeping principles such as retention and disposal schedules, location tracking, auditing, etc.

My point is that it is possible to meet the needs of all classes of users without frustrating any group.  It just requires a hybrid approach and the configuration of the system to suit each class of user.

Making everyone happy is a lot better than making some people happy and some people unhappy. Why would you do this if you had a choice?

 

 

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