Records Management System or Information Management System?

by Frank 7. January 2020 14:02

How to manage the process via Natural Language

We have a large number of customers using our product RecFind 6 as a Records Management System and with new customers, the question always arises about how to best organize information in the RecFind 6 database to make it as easy as possible to manage and access. As the Metadata, Data Model and Business Processes in RecFind 6 are 100% configurable, every customer ends up with a unique configuration. As well as managing records, the end result also needs to be an Information Management System.

There is no one-solution that suits all. 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 IT Managers 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. It is usually up to us to come up with an agreed and workable compromise. There is no “one size fits all” paradigm here.

Whereas I fully support the principles behind most EDRMS standards (like ISO 15489) 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.

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 now somewhat old, it is still 100% relevant. You don’t need to agree with me, but please try to understand the message. End users want easy, fast access, not time-consuming complexity.

Let me tell you we solve the problem at Knowledgeone Corporation and manage our emails, electronic documents and shared drives with a hybrid system. We utilize 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 a big fan of making information as easy as possible to capture and as easy as possible to retrieve (eDiscovery). 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.

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.

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.

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.

The structure of our RecFind 6 database is mostly based on customer and prospect files; our Records Management System is also 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, processes and ‘language’ of most staff. Whenever I consult with a new customer, I always try to first determine its core business and its natural language and then design the system around these.

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 focusing on the Entity record (the Entity table is where we store the basic information on each customer or prospect organization). 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.

Ease of Access for eDiscovery

In our RecFind 6 system, every piece of information I need to refer to is just one-click away once I view the customer’s entity record. 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 have configured our RecFind 6 security system around our management structure and that works fine for us. As a Director for example, most of the stuff I save (e.g., a letter, email or quote to a customer) is with a basic security code 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, with appropriate restricted access. Like all good security systems, it is simple but effective.

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.

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, Content, etc. Alternatively, I can search for customer emails from within the Entity record just by clicking on a single link for all emails and electronic documents for that customer.

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. The members of each Security Group see only what they need to see and have only the functionality they need to get the job done

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 groups of users without frustrating any single 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 make users unhappy if you had a choice? Any Records Management System should also be an easy to use Information Management System.

 

Do you have a Heavy-Duty, Complex, Special or Unusual Records, Document or Information Management requirement?

by Frank 13. December 2019 10:10

 

Is your Heavy-Duty Records, Document or Information Management requirement out-of-the-ordinary and does it have special or unusual requirements for business process management, integrations with legacy systems or unusually high users counts or unusually large database sizes that ‘standard’ EDRM or ECM systems aren’t equipped to handle?

If so, we have the answer with the RecFind 6 Product Suite; the big brother to RF6Cloud (RF6-RM and RF6-EDRMS).

Whereas RF6-RM and RF6-EDRMS are based on RecFind 6 they have been designed for small to medium enterprises to make it as easy and as low cost as possible to roll out and manage a records and document management solution in the Cloud. As such they suit most ‘standard’ requirements.

The RecFind 6 Product Suite, by comparison, was designed to handle any RM or EDRMS or Information Management requirement regardless of the ‘difficulties’ entailed.

  1. RecFind 6 has no limit on the size of the database other than the maximum size of SQL Server, 524 Petabytes.
  2. RecFind 6 has no limit on the number of users.
  3. RecFind 6 has been optimized for the rapid upload and download of large electronic documents.
  4. RecFind 6 comes with a standard set of integration tools that makes it as easy as possible to import data from any data source and to integrate to any other system including legacy systems, even mainframe systems.
  5. RecFind 6 is ultimately configurable to the client’s exact requirements including the data model, Metadata and any business process.
  6. The RecFind 6 relational database is designed and optimised for flat search times and can capture, index and manage data of any type including any kind of digital asset.
  7. RecFind 6 comes with an optional standard SharePoint integration module.
  8. RecFind 6 comes with an optional API/SDK.
  9. RecFind 6 comes with an optional eDocArchiving module that makes it as easy as possible to move non-current electronic documents to second level storage but still have access to them from the standard client.
  10. RecFind 6 comes with an optional High-Speed Document Scanning module that automates the digitisation of paper for organizations with large amounts of paper documents to capture.
  11. RecFind 6 comes with optional fully automated electronic document and email management tools that totally automate the analysis, capture, indexing and classification processes.

In short, RecFind 6 is the perfect and complete solution for any large scale, complex records, document or information management requirement. It can be configured to your exact requirements and it can handle any task, no matter how complex.

We have existing customers that successfully utilize the RecFind 6 Product Suite to manage a range of ‘difficult’ and ‘unusual’ applications such as:

  • Mortgage Application processing in a large bank
  • Securities and Vault management in a large bank
  • Contract and Intellectual Property management in a large media organization
  • A Vaccination Register for a state health department
  • The capture, conversion and integration of a large number of disparate (e.g., Access, Excel) databases located in multiple states and countries to provide a single, secure and standardised point of reference system

If you would like us to analyse your ECM requirement and prepare a report, with no obligation, please complete our online Needs Analysis Survey or if you requirement is outside of the ECM sphere please contact us direct and explain what it is you need to be accomplished.

We look forward to being of service.

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.

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.

The secret to increased productivity

by Frank 4. August 2015 06:41

By nature I am and have always been a sequencer and an overlapper. It comes naturally to me. It is how I process everyday events. For example, in the morning when making a pot of tea I first fill up the jug and turn it on to boil before emptying and cleaning the teapot. This is because I want the two tasks to overlap for maximum efficiency. If I emptied and cleaned the teapot first before filling up the jug and turning it on, the elapsed time required to make a pot of tea would be longer and therefore inefficient. With my method I save time because the total elapsed time to make a pot of tea is how long it takes to fill the jug and get it to boil. I correctly sequence and overlap the two events to be more productive. It also helps me to get to work on time.

Here is another simple example. Have you ever been in a restaurant and watched with frustration as the waiter brought out meals and then returned to the kitchen without picking up your dirty dishes? Then watch in frustration again as the waiter comes out to pick up dirty dishes but leaves someone’s lunch at the kitchen counter getting cold? Why doesn’t the waiter pick up dirty dishes, or take your order, on the way back to the kitchen? Life, business and government is full of such everyday examples of non-overlapping, poorly sequenced processes all resulting in lower productivity and higher costs for everyone.

The worst example of all is when employees are allowed to tightly redefine their jobs concentrating more on “this is what I don’t do” instead of “this is what I do”. For these employees, the terms ‘multi-skilling’ and ‘multi-tasking’ are anathema. I envision them standing within a tiny, tight circle where anything outside of that circle is not their responsibility. We may as well brick them up inside a chimney. These are not the kind of employees or practices I want in my business or our public service or our government for that matter. Unfortunately, these are exactly the kind of ant-productivity practices we find throughout our public sector and our government. As most of us are already more than well aware, the problem is more than endemic; it is systemic and probably not fixable short of a revolution. It is no secret why our taxes are so high and getting higher all the time.

Many years ago when I was a trainee programmer I learnt all about overlap while being trained at IBM. The patient instructor made the point that computers only seem to do multiple things at the same time. In fact, the architecture of computer processing at that time meant a computer could only process one command at a time but in making use of overlap and time-sharing it appeared as if it was doing many things at once. For example, the IBM 360 processor would issue an I/O command to a channel to go off and read a record from a disk drive. Relatively speaking, this took an enormity of time because disks were so slow compared to the CPU. So instead of waiting for the channel to complete the I/O request the processor would process other work all the time waiting for the channel to interrupt it and say “I am finished, here is the data you asked for”. So the computer appeared to be doing multiple tasks at once because it correctly sequenced the tasks it had to perform and took full advantage of overlap. Therein lies a lesson for all of us.

When faced with a list of tasks to perform first think about the opportunities for overlap. Then sequence the tasks to take maximum advantage of overlap.  

All it requires is the desire to work smarter, a little thought and a sense of pleasure in making best use of the limited time life allows us all.

In my role as a designer of computer software I always try to take advantage of sequencing and overlap. In my business, the two terms most used when implementing this approach are asynchronous events and multi-threading. These two techniques should always be applied when a list of tasks to be performed is not sequential. That is, they don’t have to be completed one after the other in a strict sequence. We take advantage of the fact that some tasks are independent and therefore can be processed at the same time we process other tasks. We do this in various ways but usually by defining them as asynchronous events and by utilizing a form of multi-tasking or multi-threading (starting two or more events at the same time). Computers aren’t smart (at least not yet) and they rely totally on human programmers to make them behave in an efficient and ‘smart’ way. Computer programmers who don’t understand sequencing and overlap can write very bad and very slow programs even to the extent of making very fast computers look very slow. Then, they waste everyone’s time and become major contributors to the anti-productivity movement.

There is an enormous amount of money being invested today in the science of longevity; in trying to find ways to make it possible for people to live longer lives. When the solution becomes available it won’t be cheap and it won’t be available to ordinary people like you and me. It will initially only be available to the elite and to the very rich. However, don’t despair; there is a low-cost way to double the amount of time you have to enjoy life. An easy and available now way to double your life span.

All you have to do is be aware of the possibilities of sequencing and overlap in your life and then work to take advantage of them. If you reduce the amount of time you take to do ‘work’ every day by fifty, forty, thirty or even twenty-percent you are adding years to the time you have to live and enjoy life. It is the easiest and lowest cost way to increase your effective life span.

For example, don’t try to impress your boss by working longer hours; arriving first and leaving last (as my generation did). Instead, impress your boss with a proposal whereby you do more work in fewer hours. You of course need to quantify your proposal and add in some metrics so your increased productivity can be measured and proven.

Please don’t waste your time and your effective life span by pondering ways to avoid work; instead, utilize those same cognitive processes to work out how to complete your assigned work in the fastest way possible. Approach every project looking for ways to better sequence tasks and take advantage of overlap. Make it a game; enjoy it.

I was once told that the average pattern of a human life is eight-hours work, eight-hours sleep and eight-hours play. Of course, with commuting, it is really now more like eight-hours sleep, ten-hours work and six-hours play. Let’s try and double those play hours.

As I am fond of saying, it isn’t rocket science. It is just common sense, a very simple and achievable way to significantly increase your effective life span; the time available to you to enjoy life. Give yourself twice as much time to enjoy life and in doing so, live twice as long. 

Increased productivity doesn’t just provide benefits to the economy; it can also provide very substantial personal benefits. Why don’t you give it a try?

How to clean up your shared drives, Frank’s approach

by Frank 22. August 2014 06:00

In my time in this business (enterprise content management, records management, document management, etc.) I have been asked to help with a ‘shared drive problem’ more times than I can remember. This particular issue is analogous with the paperless office problem. Thirty years ago when I started my company I naively thought that both problems would be long gone by now but they are not.

I still get requests for purely physical records management solutions and I still get requests to assist customers in sorting out their shared drives problems.

The tools and procedures to solve both problems have been around for a long time but for whatever reason (I suspect lack of management focus) the problems still persist and could be described as systemic across most industry segments.

Yes, I know that you can implement an electronic document and records management system (we have one called RecFind 6) and take away the need for shared drives and physical records management systems completely but most organizations don’t and most organizations still struggle with shared drives and physical records. This post addresses the reality.

Unfortunately, the most important ingredient in any solution is ‘ownership’ and that is as hard to find as it ever was. Someone with authority, or someone who is prepared to assume authority, needs to take ownership of the problem in a benevolent dictator way and just steam-roll a solution through the enterprise. It isn’t solvable by committees and it requires a committed, driven person to make it happen. These kind of people are in short supply so if you don’t have one, bring one in.

In a nutshell there are three basic problems apart from ownership of the problem.

1.     How to delete all redundant information;

2.     How to structure the ‘new’ shared drives; and

3.     How to make the new system work to most people’s satisfaction.

Deleting redundant Information

Rule number one is don’t ever ask staff to delete the information they regard as redundant. It will never happen. Instead, tell staff that you will delete all documents in your shared drives with a created or last updated date greater than a nominated date (say one-year into the past) unless they tell you specifically which ‘older’ documents they need to retain. Just saying “all of them” is not an acceptable response. Give staff advance notice of a month and then delete everything that has not been nominated as important enough to retain.  Of course, take a backup of everything before you delete, just in case. This is tough love, not stupidity.

Structuring the new shared drives

If your records manager insists on using your already overly complex, hierarchical corporate classification scheme or taxonomy as the model for the new shared drive structure politely ask them to look for another job. Do you want this to work or not?

Records managers and archivists and librarians (and scientists) understand and love complex classification systems. However, end users don’t understand them, don’t like them and won’t use them. End users have no wish to become part-time records managers, they have their own work to do thank you.

By all means make the new structure a subset of the classification system, major headings only and no more than two levels if possible. If it takes longer than a few seconds to decide where to save something or to find something then it is too complex. If three people save the same document in three different places then it is too complex. If a senior manager can’t find something instantly then it is too complex. The staff aren’t to blame, you are.

I have written about this issue previously and you can reference a white paper at this link, “Do you really need a Taxonomy?”

The shared drives aren’t where we classify documents, it is where we make it as easy and as fast as possible to save, retrieve and work on documents; no more, no less. Proper classification (if I can use that term) happens later when you use intelligent software to automatically capture, analyse and store documents in your document management system.

Please note, shared drives are not a document management system and a document management system should never just be a copy of your shared drives. They have different jobs to do.

Making the new system work

Let’s fall back on one of the oldest acronyms in business, KISS, “Keep It Simple Stupid!” Simple is good and elegant, complex is bad and unfathomable.

Testing is a good example of where the KISS principle must be applied. Asking all staff to participate in the testing process may be diplomatic but it is also suicidal. You need to select your testers. You need to pick a small number of smart people from all levels of your organization. Don’t ask for volunteers, you will get the wrong people applying. Do you want participants who are committed to the system working, or those who are committed to it failing? Do you want this to succeed or not?

If I am pressed for time I use what I call the straight-line-method. Imagine all staff in a straight line from the most junior to the most senior. Select from both ends, the most junior and the most senior. Chances are that if the system works for this subset that it will also work for all the staff in between.

Make it clear to all that the shared drives are not your document management system. The shared drives are there for ease of access and to work on documents. The document management system has business rules to ensure that you have inviolate copies of important documents plus all relevant contextual information. The document management system is where you apply business rules and workflow. The document management system is all about business process management and compliance. The shared drives and the document management system are related and integrated but they have different jobs to do.

We have shared drives so staff don’t work on documents on ‘private’ drives, inaccessible and invisible to others. We provide a shared drive resource so staff can collaborate and share information and easily work on documents. We have shared drives so that when someone leaves we still have all their documents and work-in-process.

Please do all the complex processes required in your document management system using intelligent software, automate as much as possible. Productivity gains come about when you take work off staff, not when you load them up with more work. Give your staff as much time as possible so they can use their expertise to do the core job they were hired for.

If you don’t force extra work on your staff and if you make it as easy and as fast as possible to use the shared drives then your system will work. Do the opposite and I guarantee it will not work.

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.

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