Why product training is so important

by Frank 23. June 2013 06:00

I run a company called the Knowledgeone Corporation that produces a software application called RecFind 6 that is used to provide records management, document management, workflow, document imaging, email management and general business process management functionality. Every installation is different because we configure RecFind 6 to the exact requirements of each customer. All installations include some form of business process management and many include a reasonable degree of complexity, especially, when integrating to other systems.

We are always proposing to new and existing customers and negotiating contracts and the one item in the pricing summary that is always under attack is training. As well as questioning the need for face to face training, many customers also try to reduce the cost by just training a core group that will then train the rest of the staff who will use the new system.

I try to explain that effective and complete training is fundamental to the success of the project; that training isn’t a cost, it is an investment in success. I rarely win.

I also try to convince my customers of the importance of ongoing training for new releases and new employees but I am rarely successful.

I try to explain that cutting costs on training is a sure fire way to ensure that the project will never be as successful as it could be. I rarely win this argument either.

And finally, I always recommend that an IT person attends the training course because his/her services will be need by the application administrator throughout the year. This rarely happens.

Yet, time after time and in example after example, projects (not just ours) are significantly less successful than they should be because someone in management decided to cut costs by skimping on training; by not training operational staff in how to use the product in the most cost effectively and productive way possible.

If you skimp on training you are almost certainly dooming your project to failure.

Lack of knowledge on how to best use a product is an insidious cancer. The project may begin with a big bang and lots of congratulations but deep within your organization the cancer has already started to grow. “I don’t like this product.” “This product is too hard to use.” “I can’t find anything with this product.” “My staff don’t understand this product.”

By year two, many people and departments simply don’t use the product any more. By year three there is a concerted push to find a replacement for this product that “is too hard to use. No one understands it.” The replacement project manager or application owner, who hasn’t been trained, is unable to address the complaints and soon also decides that the problem is with the product. It would be a bad career move to decide anything else.

In year four the organization begins looking for a replacement product. In year five, at great expense they select a replacement product and then lower costs by skimping on training. The cycle starts again.

If you skimp on training and re-training your project is doomed to failure.

How many expensive failures does it take before we learn the lesson?

Training is an investment in productivity, not a cost.

Why don’t you make it easy for end users to find what they need?

by Frank 8. June 2013 06:00

Many records managers and librarians still hold on to the old paradigm that says if a user wants something they should come though the information management professional. They either believe that the end user can’t be trusted to locate the information or that the task is so complex that only an information professional can do it in a proper and professional manner.

This approach to tightly controlled access to information has been with us for a very long time; unfortunately, not always to the benefit of the end user. It is often interpreted as a vice-grip on power rather than a service by the end users.

In my experience, (many years designing information and knowledge management solutions), most end users would like the option of searching for themselves and then deciding whether or not to request assistance.

Of course it may also be true that the system in use is so complex or so awkward to use that most end users (usually bereft of training) find it too hard to use and so have to fall back on asking the information professional. However, if this is the case then there will invariably be a backlog of requests and end users will be frustrated because they have to wait days or weeks for a response. In this environment, end users begin to feel like victims rather than valued customers or ‘clients’.

The obvious answer is to make it easy for end users to find what they are looking for but this obvious answer seems to escape most of us as we continue to struggle with the obscure vagaries of the existing system and an often impenetrable wall of mandated policies, processes and official procedures.

If we really want a solution, it’s time to step outside of the old and accepted model and provide a service to end users that end users actually want, can use and appreciate. If we don’t take a wholly new approach and adopt a very different attitude and set of procedures then nothing will improve and end user dissatisfaction (and anger) will grow until it reaches the point where they simply refuse to use the system.

End users are not stupid; end users are dissatisfied.

One of the core problems in my experience is an absence of an acceptance of the fact that the requirements of the core, professional users are very different to the requirements of the end users. At the risk of oversimplifying it, end users only need to know what they need to know. End users need a ‘fast-path’ into the system that allows them to find out what they need to know (and nothing more) in the shortest possible time and via the absolutely minimum amount of keystrokes, mouse-clicks or swipes.

End users need a different interface to a system than professional users.

This isn’t because they are less smart, it is because the ‘system’ is just one of the many things they have to contend with during a working day, it is not their core focus. They don’t have time (or the interest) to become experts and nor should they have to become experts.

If end users can’t find stuff it isn’t their fault; it is the system’s fault.

The system of course, is more than just the software. It is the way menus and options are configured and made available, it is the policy and procedures that govern access and rights to information. It is the attitude of those ‘in-power’ to those that are not empowered.

If you want happy and satisfied end users, give them what they need.

Make sure that the choices available to an end user are entirely appropriate to each class of end user. Don’t show them more options then they need and don’t give them more information than they are asking for. Don’t ask them to navigate down multiple levels of menus before they can ask the question they want to ask; let them ask the question as the very first thing they do in the system. Then please don’t overwhelm them with information; just provide exactly and precisely what they asked for.

If you want the end users off your back, give them what they need.

I fall back on my original definition of a Knowledge Management system from 1997, “A Knowledge Management system is one that provides the user with the explicit information required, in exactly the form required, at precisely the time the user needs it.”

With hindsight, my simple definition can be applied to any end user’s needs. That is, please provide a system that provides the end user with the explicit information required, in exactly the form required, at precisely the time the end user needs it.

What could be more simple?

More references:

The IDEA – 1995

Knowledge Management, the Next Challenge? - 1997

Whatever happened to the Knowledge Management Revolution?  – 2006

A Knowledge Management System – A Discourse – 2008

 

Records Management in the 21st century; you have computers now, do it differently

by Frank 1. June 2013 06:32

I own and run a computer software company called the Knowledgeone Corporation and we have specialised in what is now known as enterprise content management software since 1984 when we released our first product DocFind. We are now into the 8th iteration of our core and iconic product RecFind and have sold and installed thousands of RecFind sites where we manage corporate records and electronic documents.

I have personally worked with hundreds of customers to ensure that we understand and meet their requirements and I have also designed and specified every product we have delivered over the last 29 years so while I have never been a practicing records manager, I do know a great deal about records and document management and the vagaries of the practise all around the world.

My major lament is that many records managers today still want to run their ‘business’ in exactly the same way it was run 30 or 50 or even a hundred years ago. That is, as a physical model even when using computers and automated solutions like our product RecFind 6. This means we still see overly complicated classification systems and overcomplicated file numbering systems and overcomplicated manual processes for the capture and classification of paper, document images, electronic documents and emails.

It is a mindset that is locked in the past and can’t see beyond the confines of the file room.

I also still meet records managers that believe each and every employee has a responsibility to ‘become’ a junior records manager and both fully comprehend and religiously follow all of the old-fashioned and hopelessly overcomplicated and time-consuming processes laid out for the orderly capture of corporate documents.

I have news for all those locked-in-the-past records managers. Your approach hasn’t worked in the last 30 years and it certainly will not work in the future.

Smart people don’t buy sophisticated computer hardware and application software and then try to replicate the physical model for little or no benefit. Smart people look at what a computer system can do as opposed to 20,000 linear feet of filing shelves or 40 Compactuses and 30 boxes of filing cards and immediately realize that they have the power to do everything differently, faster, most efficiently and infinitely smarter.  They also realize that there is no need to overburden already busy end users by a forcing them to become very bad and very inconsistent junior records managers. End users are not hired to be records managers they are hired to be engineers, sales people, accountants, PAs, etc., and most already have 8 hours of work a day without you imposing more on them.

There is always a better way and the best way is to roll out a records and document and email management system that does not require your end users to become very bad and inconsistent junior records managers. This way it may even have a chance of actually working.

Please throw that old physical model away. It has never worked well when applied to computerised records, document and email management and it never will. Remember that famous adage, “The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and to expect the results to be different”?

I guarantee two things:

1.     Your software vendor’s consultant is more than happy to offer advice and guidance; and

2.     He/she has probably worked in significantly more records management environments than you have and has a much broader range of experience than you do.

It doesn’t hurt to ask for advice and it doesn’t hurt to listen.

Is the IT industry faltering because we have all just lost interest?

by Frank 15. April 2013 06:00

I have just read another IDC industry reporting talking about how PC sales have plunged 14 percent in the first three months of 2013. The report goes on to show that this is a worldwide trend, not just in the USA or Asia Pacific. Europe for example, was the worst with a 16 percent decline.

I also read lots of industry reports telling me how unsuccessful Windows 8 has been, much worse even than the dreaded Vista. Even Microsoft with its huge marketing budget has not been able to buck the trend. Apple also reports lower sales of its PCs and the report suggests they may have been cannibalized by Apple’s own tablets (how ironic).

Is it all to do with the ongoing world financial crisis? Do we blame the politicians and bureaucrats of Ireland, Iceland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and now Cypress for this massive fall off in PC Shipments? Or, as I surmise, are we all more than a little bored with the IT industry, its hype and the too regular platform changes forced upon us? Are we all jaded by a decade of too rapid and unneeded change?

I like Windows 7, it works, it is stable and it allows me to run all the programs I need for my business. Why would I upgrade especially as I am going to have to retrain all my staff and also have to upgrade a lot of the software and hardware I use? What compelling reason is there to upgrade to Windows 8?

Similarly, my desktops and servers are now 3 to 4 years old but I bought high quality Dell OptiPlex PCs and Dell Xeon rack servers and they are all still more powerful than I need and still working fine. When something occasionally fails I just pay Dell to fix or replace it. It is a lot less disruptive and a lot less costly than replacing everything. What compelling reason is there for me to suffer the pain and disruption of replacing my PCs and servers?

Of course the world financial crisis has a lot to do with the tumbling PC sales figures because most organisations are still cutting costs to maintain or grow profits. However, I also detect a sea change in attitudes among my peer groups and customers. We have had enough of constant change for change’s sake. Most of the people I deal with are now sticking by the old maxim of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

It looks like a lot of us have all lost interest in technology, we have even become bored and blasé about technology. So it is 10% lighter and 15% faster, “who cares?’ So it is prettier and has even more features I won’t ever use, “who cares?” There is another iPhone that is slightly bigger and slightly thinner than the last one, “who cares?” There is yet another update to Linux or Android, “who cares?”

I own and run a computer software company called Knowledgeone Corporation that builds and markets a range of enterprise content management software applications under the banner of RecFind 6. Because of this I am vitally interested in what is happening both with the ongoing world financial crisis and PC shipments because both affect my business.

Just like my customers, I am fed up with the industry trying to force feed me with new products that I don’t need and frankly, am just not interested in. I am the same as my customers, they just want my products to work day in and day out, 24/7, and do the job they were purchased for. They will buy maintenance because that protects their investment in my products but right now, most aren’t really ready to face or fund a massive change in their operation unless there is a damn good reason with a sound business justification.

I believe one of the main reasons PC sales are down, in addition to the world financial crisis, is because right now we just aren’t interested in new technology for technologies sake. We are more interested in running our businesses in the most cost effective manner and maintaining profitability. We are also tired of the IT industry trying to hard sell another ‘new thing’ every 3 years or so.

I don’t need new PCs, I don’t need new servers, I don’t need the next iPhone or update to Android. I think the world as a whole is now clearly differentiating between need and want and if need rather than want is driving the system then trying to woo us with faster, thinner, prettier technology just isn’t going to work. Frankly, I think we are bored with technology and all have more important things to think about like how to remain profitable and protect our companies and the jobs of our staff.

Maybe we are all waiting for the It industry to come up with something really, really interesting and really, really useful that will actually help us strengthen our bottom line? Now that would be something new.

A lifetime of maintenance and support?

by Frank 31. March 2013 06:00

I run a software company manufacturing enterprise content management products that has been offering maintenance on its products for nearly 30 years and that has never failed to produce at least one major update per year during that time. We have also always offered multiple year options for our software maintenance. We call it the ASU, Automatic Software Upgrade. We currently offer 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 year terms; the longer the term, the lower the cost per year.

I got the idea for a new software maintenance offering from Garmin, the satellite navigation company. Essentially, I bought a Garmin because the manufacturer of a car I bought in 2008 stopped issuing updates to its integrated satellite navigation system and it is now pretty useless as it doesn’t know about all the new and changed road systems.

An attraction of the Garmin was that they offered a ‘lifetime’ supply of updated maps for a single fee that I could download up to four times a year. The end result is that my Garmin is always up to date with all new and changed roads and is one hundred-percent useful while the satellite navigation system in my car is now useless because it is so out of date.

As well as the advantage of always being up to date the Garmin deal was great because it was a single transaction; I don’t have to worry about renewing it every year and I don’t have to worry about future cost increases.

I thought why not offer a similar deal to RecFind 6 customers? They too have to keep up to date and they too don’t want to worry about having to budget and renew the ASU every year and future cost increases.

In our case we chose to re-name the five year ASU option to the ‘Lifetime’ option. If you choose the Lifetime option you automatically receive all updates for as long as you use RecFind 6 and you also receive free support via email and our web form for as long as you use RecFind 6.

The fee is one-time and the price is therefore fixed for life. You no longer have to worry about budgeting and contracting for renewals every year and your RecFind 6 software will continue to be relevant, fully supported and improved with new and enhanced functionality.

If at any time in the future a customer purchases new software from us or additional licences they can be added to its Lifetime ASU for a single one-time fee.

Frank’s perspective:

For the record, I buy a lot of software for our development team and none offer lifetime maintenance; all only offer annual maintenance and it is very expensive (up to 25% of the value of the software) and the price seems to go up every year. If I could convince my software vendors to offer a lifetime deal I would jump at the offer.”

Frank McKenna | Knowledgeone Corporation
CEO & Sales & Marketing Director
f.mckenna@knowledgeonecorp.com

Why aren’t more software vendors offering this same maintenance option?

Ain’t life funny?

by Frank 27. January 2013 06:00

When I wrote at the bottom of my last blog that I would be taking some time off over Xmas I had little idea what that would actually entail. Seven days after writing that Blog about Santa Claus I was enjoying a ride in the country when I crashed my motorcycle into a guard rail (Armco). I don’t remember how the accident happened but I managed to write off the bike and do serious damage to myself.

Today is my first day back at work albeit in part-time mode as I am still receiving treatment for my injuries. As I try to get myself back into gear and get up to speed I realize again what a great family I have and what great staff I have. Thanks guys.

My heartfelt thanks to my family, especially my wife Kay who has carried all the burden of my hospitalization and treatment regime and my daughter Michelle who has taken on many of my duties at work, and my fantastic staff who have kept everything running smoothly and covered for me when required. Having a close call helps one to focus in on what is really important in life and that is without any shadow of doubt, family and friends.

Before the accident I was focussed on technology and spent hours a day researching the latest trends and development tools. Before the accident it was important to me to know which tablet was succeeding and which phone was selling the most and would the Surface RT capture market share, etc., but for now all that technology news seems so unimportant and transient. Basically, most of it is just recycled, repetitive floss.

To be truthful, despite hundreds of technical papers and blogs since my accident nothing in the IT world has really changed; most of the daily news is just noise. Most of the emails are just noise. I have discovered that I can miss five weeks of technical news and emails and not really miss a thing. It literally took me an hour or so this morning to speed read the latest IT news and get up to date. I have missed nothing by being cut off from the news for 5 weeks.

I also realize that I can happily live without ninety-percent of the emails I receive. This is important because I also believe that most of us waste an enormous amount of time reading and replying to emails that are really of no consequence. My New Year’s resolution is now to unsubscribe from most of the technical emails and blogs I subscribe to; they really are a waste of time when viewed in a wider, whole-of-life, what-is-really-important perspective.

The only emails I want to receive at work are from customers, prospective customers and partners. That is, from ‘real’ people about real issues important to them and my business. Everything else I am going to ignore, spam or unsubscribe from to leave more time for real work, not ‘busy’ work.

My advice to you is to do likewise. You don’t need a serious motorcycle crash to learn the valuable lesson I have just learned; I am happily passing on the lesson to you as my gift for the New Year.

My other New Year’s resolution is to quit riding motorcycles and all other dangerous pursuits. To those of you who are still engaging in dangerous disputes my message is that it is the worst kind of selfish behaviour. Please do what I didn’t do and put your family and friends and employees (if you have them) first. Realize how much they depend upon you and realize the impact any accident would have on them.

As my older brother Pat said to me after my accident, “You didn’t have to crash your bike; I could have given you photos of my crashed bike.” He too had a serious motorcycle accident some years ago and I was just too dumb to learn from his experience.

Life is precious, family and friends are precious and none of us know how much time we have so it behoves us to enjoy every single minute of every day and to think about the people that depend upon us before we take those silly risks.

I am lucky because I will fully recover. I am also blessed with a wonderful and supportive family and great employees that stepped up and kept everything running smoothly in my absence. However, I caused the problem through selfish behaviour and this was neatly summed up my five year old granddaughter who made me a get well card addressed to “Silly Grandad”, now isn’t that just so true?

How does Santa Claus handle all those letters?

by Frank 2. December 2012 06:02

All over the Western world little kids are writing to Santa Claus asking for presents for Christmas and telling Santa what good children they have been.

However, Santa must receive tens or even hundreds of millions of letters and all within the short few months before Christmas. How does he handle this veritable avalanche of mail? How does he process it? How does he even read each and every letter? How does he match the presents to the letters? How does he make sure the child has been good?

As Santa has been doing this for some time we can only assume that he has some pretty slick systems in place so as not to disappoint even a single child. The scale of his operation is awesome and dwarfs anything undertaken by any other organization.  Granted some of the work may well be handled by elves and fairies but surely in this day and age even Santa makes use of computers and software? I mean, there are millions and millions of letters, how many elves and fairies can he employ? How would he house and feed them all? You can imagine the problems if they are unionised; he must be automated in some way.

I don’t know but I envision that he must use at least a super computer or two and some really very, very clever auto-reading, auto-matching and auto-ordering software. This isn’t the kind of job you could do manually. He has to read let’s say one hundred million letters and at even just one minute a letter that equates to 1,666,667 hours of reading or 69,444 days of reading (if he works 24 hours a day) in just 60 days. That is a tough ask even for someone as experienced and capable as Santa Claus.

Yet despite these astounding statistics Santa meets his objectives year after year after year.  This is the man I would like to have as Prime Minister or President. Can you just imagine what he could achieve if he was running the country?

But, back to the question; just how does he do it?

Well obviously he must have a central mail room with a very fancy machine that opens every letter and separates the letter from the envelope. Then every letter must pass by a reading station that scans and OCRs it allowing for multiple languages, fonts and any kind of hand writing, including that of a two-year old. Santa’s software must be significantly more sophisticated than anything I have seen.

Then the text of each letter has to be intelligently analysed to extract the child’s name and address as well as the list of presents.  This information then feeds into Santa’s purchasing system that issues orders to toy manufacturers world-wide. Then he needs to track millions of orders and deliveries and package and stack everything in the correct order for his deliveries all around the world on Christmas Eve; phew!

Just think about the difficulty of ensuring that the right toys are at Santa’s hand very time he stops over a home. On second thoughts, he must be automating the process by uniquely tagging every toy with Santa’s advanced (and invisible) version of RFID tags. Maybe he even has his elves or fairies go out in advance and RFID tag the homes or even the children to ensure a perfect match? All I know is that he gets it right year after year after year so whatever hardware and software he uses it must be pretty special.

Of course, my admiration for Santa’s abilities grows by leaps and bounds when I try to work out just how fast he moves. Even allowing for an extended Christmas Eve because of multiple time zones he still has to visit hundreds of millions of homes in just 24 hours (1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds). This means that good old Santa manages to visit a home, deliver a present, eat the cake or biscuit the good child has left for him and drink whatever libation the child or dad or mum has provided in around eight ten-thousandths of a second. This man is fast and I don’t know what he feeds his reindeers but it must be the ultimate ultra-high energy food to support this pace; it is no wonder that Rudolph’s nose glows.

There may well be some miserable, glass-half-empty, doubting Thomas’ out there who look at these amazing statistics and say Santa can’t be real because it is just not doable. But that is a dumb thing to say because it is as obvious as the nose on your face (or even the nose on Rudolph) that Santa is real and that it is undeniable that every Christmas Eve for centuries he has left presents for good little children all around the world. His record is impeccable; this man sets a standard for all of us to aspire to and admire. Santa never disappoints any child despite the enormous challenge he sets himself every Christmas Eve.

Santa brought me presents when I was a child (I still remember the Hopalong Cassidy cap-gun and holster), he brought presents to my children when they were little and now he brings presents to my grandchildren. This man is real and he has never let me or my family down; what a wonderful person he must be to do so much to make children happy.

When I read the newspapers, listen to the depressing news on radio or watch it on TV I realize just how much we all need to believe in Santa Claus and what he stands for. A wonderful, loving, caring and unselfish person who does everything in his power to help the most helpless; our beautiful children. Would it be that our leaders were even a fraction as good and as unselfish and as accomplished and as trustworthy as Santa. Can you imagine what a wonderful world it would be?

Santa is my hero and I hope he is yours too; Merry Xmas to you all.

 

Footnote:

Frank is taking a break over Christmas and New Year and will be back writing his Blog again in late January 2013.

 

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

by Frank 25. November 2012 06:00

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

 

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

 

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

1. Lack of ownership and leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Tell employees that:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

6. Multiple and conflicting objectives

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Are you still losing information in your shared drives?

by Frank 18. November 2012 06:00

Organizations both large and small, government and private have been accumulating electronic documents in shared drives since time immemorial (or at least since the early 1980’s when networked computers and file servers became part of the business world). Some organizations still have those early documents, “just in case”.

Every organization has some form of shared drives whether or not they have an effective and all-encompassing document management system in place (and very few organizations even come close to meeting this level of organization).

All have megabytes (1 million bytes or characters, 106=ten to the power of 6) of information stored in shared drives, the vast majority has gigabytes (109), many now have terabytes (1012) and the worst have petabytes (1015).

As all the IT consultants are now fixated on “Big Data” and how to solve the rapidly growing problem it won’t be long before we are into really big numbers like exabytes (1018), zettabytes (1021) and finally when civilization collapses under the weight, yottabytes. For the record, a yottabyte is 1024 or one quadrillion gigabytes or to keep it simple, one septillion bytes. And believe me the problem is real because data breeds faster than rabbits and mice.

Most of this electronic information is unstructured (e.g., Word and text files of various kinds) and most of it is unclassified (other than maybe being in named folders or sub-folders or sub-sub-folders). None of it is easily searchable in a normal lifetime and there are multiple copies and versions some of which will lead to legal and compliance nightmares.

The idea of assigning retention schedules to these documents is laughable and in general everyone knows about the problem but no one wants to solve it. Or, more precisely, no one wants to spend the time and money required to solve this problem. It is analogous to the billions of dollars being wasted each year by companies storing useless old paper records in dusty offsite storage locations; no one wants to step up and solve the problem. It is a race to see which will destroy civilization first, electronic or paper records.

When people can’t find a document they create a new one. No one knows which is the latest version and no one wants to clean up the store in case they accidentally delete something they will need in a month or a year (or two or three). Employees often spend far more (frustrating) time searching for a document to use as a template or premise than it would take to create a new one from scratch.

No one knows what is readable (WordStar anyone?) and no one knows what is relevant and no one knows what should be kept and what should be destroyed. Many of the documents have become corrupted over time but no one is aware of this.

Some organizations have folders and sub folders defined in their shared drives which may have at one time roughly related to the type of documents being stored within them. Over time, different people had different ideas about how the shared drives and folders should be organized and they have probably been changed and renamed and reorganized multiple times.  Employees however, didn’t always follow the rules so there are miss-filings, dangerous copies and orphans everywhere.

IT thinks it is an end user problem and end users think it is an IT problem.

The real problem is that most of these unstructured documents are legal records (evidence of a business transaction) and some are even vital records (essential to the ongoing operation of the entity). Some could be potentially damaging and some could be potentially beneficial but no one knows. Some could involve the organization in legal disputes, some could involve the organization in  compliance disputes and some could save the organization thousands or millions of dollars; but no one knows.

Some should have been properly destroyed years ago (thus avoiding the aforementioned legal and compliance disputes) and some should never have been destroyed (costing the organization evidence of IP ownership or a billable transaction). But, no one knows.

However, everyone does know that shared drives waste an enormous amount of people’s time and are a virtual ‘black hole’ for both important documents and productivity.

There is a solution to the shared-drives problem but it can’t happen until some bright and responsible person steps up and takes ownership of both the problem and the solution.

For example, here is my recommendation using our product RecCapture (other vendors will have similar products designed as ours is to automatically capture all new and modified electronic documents fully automatically according to a set of business rules you develop for your organization). RecCapture is an add-on to RecFind 6 and uses the RecFind 6 relational database to store all captured documents.

RecCapture allows you to:

  • Develop and apply an initial set of document rules (which to ignore, which to keep, how to store and classify them, etc.) based on what you know about your shared drives (and yes, the first set of rules will be pretty basic because you won’t know much about the vast amount of documents in your shared drives).
  • Use these rules to capture and classify all corporate documents from your shared drives and store and index them in the RecFind 6 relational SQL database (the initial ‘sweep’).
  • Once they are in the relational database you can then utilize advanced search and global change capabilities to further organize and classify them and apply formal retention schedules.You will find that it is a thousand times easier to organize your documents once they are in RecFind 6.
  • Once the documents are saved in the RecFind 6 database (we maintain them in an inviolate state as indexed Blobs) you can safely and confidently delete most of them from your shared drives.
  • Then use these same document rules (continually being updated as you gain experience and knowledge) to automatically capture all new and modified (i.e., new versions) electronic documents as they are stored in your shared folders. Your users don’t need to change the way they work because the operation of RecCapture is invisible to them, it is a server-centric (not user-centric) and a fully automatic background process.
  • Use the advanced search features, powerful security system and versioning control of RecFind 6 to give everyone appropriate access to the RecCapture store so users can find any document in seconds thus avoiding errors and frustration and maximizing productivity and job satisfaction.

RecCapture isn’t expensive, it isn’t difficult to set up and configure and it isn’t difficult to maintain. It can be installed, configured and operational in a few days. It doesn’t interfere with your users and doesn’t require them to do anything other than their normal work.

It captures, indexes and classifies documents of any type. It can also be used to automatically abstract any text based document during the capture process. It makes all documents findable online (full text and Metadata) via a sophisticated search module (BOOLEAN, Metadata, Range searching etc.) and military strength security regime.

Accredited users can access the document store over the network and over the Internet.  Stored documents can be exported in native format or industry standard XML. It is a complete and easy to implement solution to the shared drives problem.

I am sure that Knowledgeone Corporation isn’t the only vendor offering modern tools like RecFind 6 and RecCapture so there is no excuse for you continuing to lose documents in your shared drives.

Why don’t you talk to a few enterprise content software vendors and find a tool that suits you? You will be amazed at the difference in your work environment once you solve the shared drives problem.  Then ask the boss for a pay rise and a promotion; you deserve it.

Do you really need all those boxes of records in offsite storage?

by Frank 11. November 2012 06:39

Is it jobs or useless paper records?

It is my belief that all over the western world companies and government agencies are wasting enormous amounts of money maintaining boxes of paper on the dusty but lucrative shelves of offsite storage companies like Grace Records Management, Iron Mountain and Crown Records Management. In total, it must be hundreds of millions (I know of one Australian company that spends a million dollars a year on offsite storage at multiple offsite repositories and doesn’t even know what its holdings are) or even billions of dollars a year; most of it wasted.

It is almost enough for me to dive into debt to build an offsite storage facility and then buy a few vans and shredders. I say almost because I am not a hypocrite and I wouldn’t be able to sell a service to my customers I didn’t believe in. For the life of me, I cannot understand why senior management delegates this level of expenditure to junior or mid-level managers when it really should be scrutinized at board level like every other significant cost.

Even the advent of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) beginning in 2008 doesn’t seem to have woken up senior management or board members to this area of massive waste. Instead, big corporations and government are ‘saving money’ laying off staff and outsourcing jobs to third world and developing countries. Where is the sense in that when there are easier and less disruptive and more ‘humane’ savings to be made by simply reducing the money being paid to store useless paper records that will never be referenced again? How would you feel if management laid you off because they thought it was more important to keep paying for boxes of old paper they will never use again?

Is it really only me that sees the unfairness and absurdity in this archaic paradigm? Why is the huge cost of the offsite storage of useless paper often overlooked when management is fighting to find cost savings? Why are people’s livelihoods sacrificed in deference to the need to maintain old, never-to-be-referenced-again, useless paper? Is it just because senior management is too busy with more important stuff like negotiating their next executive pay increase?

If you talk to the records manager you will be told that all that paper has to be maintained whatever the cost because of the Retention Schedule. In most cases, the Retention Schedule will be mentioned in the same way one talks about the Bible. That is, it is holy and sacrosanct and anyone who dares question it will be charged with heresy and subjected to torture and extreme deprivation in a rat infested, mouldy, dark and damp cell in the basement.

But, dig deeper and you will discover that the Retention Schedule is way too complex for the organization. You will also discover that no one really understands or can explain all the variations and that the application of it is at best, haphazard and irregular. This is when you will also discover that no one in records can actually justify why a huge percentage of those old, dusty and now irrelevant paper records are still costing you real hard cash each and every month. More importantly, they may have also cost you some of your most trusted and most valuable employees.

Isn’t it time someone senior actually looked at the money you are spending to manage mostly paper rubbish in very expensive containers?

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