Why aren’t you managing your emails?

by Frank 16. January 2020 15:08

  

Emails long ago evolved to be around about eighty-percent plus of business correspondence. Most records managers also realize that most of us aren’t managing emails well and that this has left a potentially lethal compliance and legal hole to plug.

I have written numerous papers and posts on the need to manage emails, such as:

The need to manage emails differently to paper;

Managing Emails, how hard can it be?;

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

How to simplify Electronic Document & Email Management;

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

The need to manage Emails?;

Six reasons why organizations do not manage Emails effectively;

When I review them today, they are just as relevant as they were years ago. That is to say, despite the plethora of email management tools now available, many organizations still do not manage their emails effectively or completely.

The Manual Model

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

We have to provide multiple options, such as GEM and the Button, because that is what the market demands but it is common sense that any manual system cannot be a complete or consistent solution. If you leave it up to the discretion of the end user to decide which emails to capture and how to capture them, then you will inevitably have an incomplete and inconsistent store of emails.  Worse still, you will have no safeguards against fraudulent or dishonest behavior.

Human beings are, by definition, ‘human’ and not perfect. We are by nature inconsistent in our behavior on a day to day basis; we forget things and sometimes we make mistakes. We are not robots or cyborgs and consistent, perfect behavior is beyond us.

As humans, we cannot be trusted to always analyze, capture and classify emails in a one-hundred percent consistent manner.

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

The Automatic Model

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

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

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

The automatic approach doesn’t require the employee to do anything except know how to search for emails in your EDRMS. It also doesn’t require a license per employee or desktop because the software runs in the background talking directly to your email server. It is a low cost, low impact and asynchronous solution.

The automatic model increases productivity and lowers costs. It also provides a complete and entirely consistent email management solution and at a significantly lower cost than any ‘manual’ model. So, why is it so hard to convince some records managers and /or business owners to go with the fully automatic solution?

Who Decides?

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

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

Its Risk Management

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

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

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.

 

The Records Management Standard ISO 15489 and Wikipedia as a handy reference for Records Managers

by Frank 16. December 2019 10:49

Whereas all records managers would be aware of the ISO Standard 15489, few have access to the full document because it is a proprietary and costly item.  Wherever possible, we encourage records managers to submit a request to management to secure a copy of this valuable standard.

However, if that is not possible there is a reasonably comprehensive description of the records management process on Wikipedia that all records managers can reference for free. We encourage you to access and study this reference material. It is especially relevant to those people just entering this profession.

Please see the following links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Records_management

Contents

·        1Concepts of record

·        2Key records management terminology

·        3Records management theory

o   3.1Records life-cycle

o   3.2Records continuum theory

·        4Records management practices and concepts

o   4.1Defensible solutions

o   4.2Classification

§  4.2.1Enterprise records

§  4.2.2Industry records

§  4.2.3Legal hold records

o   4.3Records retention schedule

·        5Managing physical records

·        6Managing digital records

·        7Current issues

·        8Education and certification

·        9Electronic records management systems

o   9.1Commercial records centers

·        10See also

·        11References

·        12External links

As with all Wikipedia articles, you may not agree 100% with the content. However, as an overview and reference we find this article to be of value.

We sincerely hope that you find this information useful.

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.

15 Compelling reasons to store ALL your information in RecFind 6

by Frank 4. December 2019 12:02

1.    Security of Information

All information, including Metadata, electronic documents and images, is stored in the RecFind 6 Microsoft SQL Server Database, not in insecure flat file systems. In addition, all electronic documents and images are stored as binaries (Blobs) in SQL Server, not native format; they are doubly secure.

The only way anyone can access your data is via the secure RecFind 6 client where access is protected by our industrial strength security system. No one has access to your information unless you authorize it. Plus, the fully customizable Audit Trail means you can track every transaction.

Don’t store your information on insecure shared drives or in insecure applications like Excel or Access; RecFind 6 is the far more secure solution.

Concerned about security, concerned about GDPR? Then store all your information in RecFind 6.

2.    Size of your Data Store, Scalability

The only size restriction for RecFind 6 is the maximum size of a MS SQL Server Database and that is currently 524 PB (Petabyte), 524 thousand billion bytes of information and likely to increase in future versions of SQL Server.

If you are concerned about a system being able to manage all of your data and handle future growth, then store all your information in RecFind 6.

3.    Performance, time to Capture & time to Search

The architecture of RecFind 6 has been optimized for electronic document and image capture (upload), search and download. Upload and download times are also independent of the size of your database.

If you plan on having a large number of users and a large data store and are concerned about performance, then store all your information in RecFind 6.

4.    Full-text Indexing

All textual data stored in RecFind 6 is automatically full-text indexed to facilitate optimum search results. This includes emails, OCR’d images, all documents containing text, and all entered Metadata.

If you need extremely fast and accurate text searches of your data, then store all your information in RecFind 6.

5.    Versioning of electronic documents

All electronic documents stored in RecFind 6 are automatically versioned when captured.

If maintaining an accurate record of all electronic document versions is important to you, then store all your information in RecFind 6.

6.    Reliability, Availability

RecFind 6 is renowned for its robustness and high availability. Situations where a code failure has made RecFind 6 unavailable to users are rarer than hen’s teeth. RecFind 6 runs and does what it says  on the box, day in and day out for 12 months a year.

If reliability and availability is important to you, then store all your information in RecFind 6.

7.    Microsoft Compatibility

All new versions of RecFind 6 are tested against the latest releases of Microsoft products including Windows Desktop, Windows Server, SQL Server and Office. We protect your investment in our products by ensuring that they continue to work in your chosen Microsoft environment.

If ongoing compatibility with Microsoft is a concern, then store all your information in RecFind 6.

8.    Support

We don’t have complicated, multi-tier plans for support; we address each support request as soon as it is received. Support is also FREE to all customers under a current maintenance agreement. We are rightfully renowned for the quality of our support service. Plus, all support is handled by our employees; we DO NOT OUTSOURCE support.

If high quality support is important to you, then store all your information in RecFind 6.

9.    Flexible Licensing & Pricing

We offer multiple licensing & pricing plans including In-Perpetuity, Annual, Subscription, Hosted (SaaS), Not-For-Profit, Site & Organization licenses. Plus, we will work with you to structure a plan to suit your unique needs.

If flexible licensing & pricing plans are important to you, then store all your information in RecFind 6.

10.         Dealing with the owner of the Intellectual Property (IP)

We designed and built the very first RecFind in 1986 and have designed and built every version since then. Please refer to our history of product development. When you deal with us you are dealing with the owners and developers, not a reseller or licensee. No one knows our products better than we do.

If it is important to you to deal with the experts, then store all your information in RecFind 6.

11.         The need to store multiple types of electronic documents & digital assets

RecFind 6 stores and manages any kind of electronic document including emails, plans, CAD drawings plus any kind and size of digital asset. It has been optimized to handle very large digital objects.

If you need to capture and manage any kind and any size of electronic document, then store all your information in RecFind 6.

12.         Unlimited users, Scalability

RecFind 6 can be delivered with a single user license or an unlimited user license and any number of users in between. Its unique architecture is able to support any number of users. The only prerequisite is that you provide adequate server hardware to meet your requirements. There are no inbuilt restrictions in RecFind 6 for either users or the size of the data store.

If you need to support a large number of users, then store all your information in RecFind 6.

13.         Accessibility

The RecFind 6 Web Client provides secure access to your data from anywhere in the world there is an Internet connection and from a variety of browsers and devices including the iPad.

If remote and convenient access is a requirement, then store all your information in RecFind 6.

14.         Ease of Configuration, Flexibility

The RecFind 6 DRM tool, supplied free of charge, makes it easy for you to modify RecFind 6 (Data Model, Business Process, Metadata, Security System, etc.) without ever having to contact us or pay for changes and still have a standard product.

If you have a need to modify your information management solution to your exact and changing requirements, then store all of your information in RecFind 6.

15.         Ease of Integration to other systems

The RecFind 6 Product Suite includes multiple tools to make integration to any other system or data source as quick and as easy as possible. These tools include the DRM, Xchange, The SharePoint Integration Module, the MINI API and the SDK/API.

If you have a need to integrate to other systems and to import data from a variety of data sources, then store all of your information in RecFind 6.

 

Physical Records Management

by Frank 3. December 2019 11:47

Manage your physical records in the Cloud

There is no easier or lower cost way to manage all of your physical records in the Cloud than by utilizing the new RF6Cloud website and the RF6-RM application.

With RF6-RM you can easily and cost-effectively 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. Record all of the people and organizations you deal with. Track records using fixed and portable barcode readers. Meet all compliance requirements. A complete solution for all forms of physical records management.

RF6-RM is an App specifically designed to handle all the requirements of any ‘physical’ records management challenge. Because it is powered by RecFind 6, one of the world’s most proven records and document management applications, it includes a vast array of records management functionality such as:

  1. File Folder & Box management, File Folder profile, Document profile, Archive Box profile.
  2. Barcode support for any record plus support of both fixed and portable readers.
  3. Full text indexing plus powerful searching by text, metadata, external ID and Boolean together with saved searches.
  4. Powerful Reporting Engine with standard reports plus the ability to run Schedule Reports.
  5. Complete Request, Move and Tracking capabilities.
  6. Powerful Retention function supporting both manual and automatic lifecycle management.
  7. Fully featured Business Classification (BCS) function.
  8. Audit Trail Report for all transactions.
  9. Powerful and flexible security system controlling Permissions and Access. Complete control to determine who see what and what each user can do.
  10. Powerful and flexible file folder titling capabilities, up to 5 title levels can be configured.
  11. Powerful and flexible object numbering (e.g., file folders) capabilities, manual and automatic.
  12. The ability to record all the people and organizations you deal with.
  13. The ability to upload and configure all your existing data (e.g., all your files, boxes, people, organizations, retention schedule, file titles, etc.)
  14. The ability to configure and manage your own Records Center.
  15. The ability to ‘trigger’ actions and automatically advise users via email with embedded hyperlinks.
  16. Online videos for demonstrations & training.
  17. Complete online Help system.
  18. Easy to use FREE email support for when you have questions.
Don't hesitate, contact us today for more information on RF6Cloud and RF6-RM

Moving your Records to the Cloud, a Checklist

by Frank 15. February 2017 06:00

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

Typical Scenario

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

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

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

Take Advantage of the Opportunity

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

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

Cull and Simplify

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Document your new business processes.

Produce a report

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

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

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

What to look out for

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

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

References

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

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

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

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

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

 Good luck.

The Essential Digital Records checklist

by Frank 10. February 2017 12:00

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

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

Lists

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

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

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

“When do you want me to start?”

“What is the budget?”

“What extra resources can I call on?”

“When do you want this project to complete?”

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

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

Management Approval and Ownership

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

IT Support

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

The Project Plan

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

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

Human Resources

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

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

Software

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

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

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

Hardware

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

Management

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

Success or Failure

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

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?

The absolute easiest & lowest cost way to meet all Electronic Document & Records Management (EDRMS) requirements?

by Frank 19. May 2015 06:00

Because we are a software vendor that builds and markets a range of Enterprise Content Management tools under the RecFind 6 banner I have often been asked, “What is the absolute easiest and lowest cost way to meet all compliance requirements?”

I usually respond with a well-considered and ‘traditional’ response that includes information about Business Classification Systems, UI design, Retention Schedules, etc., etc. The solution proposed would also require a significant degree of consulting so that we aware entirely conversant with the customer’s requirements and business practices and also involve a significant amount of end user training.

This is what the customer expects and it falls in line with the traditional, professional approach.

However, the final solution is rarely ‘easy’ or ‘low-cost’ primarily because it has followed the traditional approach. The more we ask questions and consult and the more people we speak to the more complex the solution becomes. This is normal because we end up trying to configure a solution to meet hundreds or thousands of variables.

There is an easier and lower cost way but I fear that very few of my customers would ever consider it because it requires them to disregard everything they have ever learned about rolling out an EDRMS. We have tried proposing it a few times but never with success. It usually gets shot down by the external consultant or the internal records management professional or both.

It doesn’t require a BCS or a Taxonomy and it doesn’t require a complex Retention Schedule and it doesn’t require significant consulting or significant end-user training. Records Management professionals will surely hate it as a ‘career-ending’ trend. It does require an open mind, the ability to think laterally and a willingness to redefine both the problem and the solution.

It only has three requirements:

  1. Know what electronic documents and emails you don’t want to capture;
  2. Provide a powerful but easy-to-use search that allows anyone to find anything instantly; and
  3. Employ a risk-management approach to retention and select a single retention date (e.g., 7 or 20 years).

Fundamental to the success of this non-conformist solution is the acceptance that computers and storage are dirt-cheap compared to human time. If your IT manager or CIO still agonizes and complains about how much disk space you use up for emails and electronic documents then this is definitely not the solution for you. Your IT hierarchy is still living in the long-gone past when computers and disk were expensive and people were cheap (by comparison).

However, if you have practical, sensible IT people then the approach is worth considering especially if your organization has a long history of failing to digitize its records and automate its processes. That is, you have tried at least once to roll out an organization-wide EDRMS and have failed and/or blown the budget. The word ‘pilot’ probably appears often in your company history usually prefixed by the adjective ‘failed’. Don’t feel too bad, most pilots are initiated because management lacks conviction. They are therefore destined to fail.

We have the tools required to implement such a solution but I won’t go into detail about them now. This is a concept paper, not a detailed instruction manual. If you are interested in the concept please contact me and I can then elaborate.

So, if you really do want to rollout a successful EDRMS and do it in the fastest and least disruptive and lowest cost way possible then please write to me and pose your questions.

For the doubters, this is the same way we manage our electronic documents and emails at Knowledgeone Corporation and we have done so for many years. We use our own software; apart from a couple of accounting packages we run our whole company with the RecFind 6 Product Suite and totally automate the capture of all electronic documents and emails. All my staff have to know is how to search and yes, they can find anything in seconds even after 31 years of operation and a very, very large database.

It is not difficult, it is not ‘expensive’, it does not require a huge amount of management or maintenance time and it runs largely in the background. As I said above, all your staff have to learn is how to search.

It does however, require an open mind and a desire to finally solve the problem in the most expeditious manner possible. But, please don’t tell me you want to run a pilot. Test my solution by all means and put it through the most vigorous change control procedures but don’t damn the end result by beginning with a “we are not really sure it will work so are not really committed and won’t allocate much of a budget but let’s try a pilot anyway because that limits our exposure and risk” approach.

I don’t want to waste your time or mine.

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