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.

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

What does it take to digitize your records?

by Frank 21. February 2018 06:00

A customer, with a very large physical records database, recently asked us for references for other sites that had digitized their records so he could copy what they did.

We explained that unfortunately, that approach doesn’t work because:

1.      The other customers aren’t interested in a long term ‘free’ consultancy exercise helping him to determine his requirements; and

2.      In our experience (over 34 years) every customer’s requirements and culture are different and each customer requires a unique and personalized solution.

Its back to that time-honoured common-sense approach that says,

“You can’t solve the problem until you first know what the problem is.”

There is no shortcut to doing the job properly, professionally and appropriately (to match the culture of the organization).

Our Approach          

First, we begin with a face to face meeting where our experienced consultant asks a lot of questions about the organization, its structure, its data, its objectives and its timeframes. Then our consultant comes back to our office and engages in a second discussion with our expert team, reviewing our findings and coming to a considered consensus about the best way forward. This is followed by a short report to the customer summarizing our findings, conclusions and recommendations. This is the initial working document that the customer can then review and discuss internally with all stakeholders.

So far, all this is at our cost and comes under the heading of pre-sales.

The customer then usually says something like, “We have discussed your report and are in agreement about the best way forward with a few changes. What is the next step?” We respond by proposing a more formal onsite consultancy, at the customer’s cost, where our consultant interviews the key stakeholders and gathers all the information available about the customer’s records, standards and business processes. Out of this exercise we are able to produce a detailed report and project plan for review by the key stakeholders.

It may take several iterations of review and edit before all parties are satisfied that the detailed plan is appropriate, cost effective and doable. We then produce a formal proposal that includes everything agreed and await the customer’s approval and go ahead.

What does the proposal include?

·        Ordering of any hardware required

·        Installation of any software required

·        Administrator training of key operational staff

·        Pre-implementation consultancy, finalizing how we handle all data and work processes

·        Capture and conversion of existing records from multiple sources, ‘mapping’ the data to our products

·        Implementation consultancy, making all the changes required to the data model and business processes in our products

·        Report production, modifying standard reports and creating new reports

·        Trial run of any conversions and data uploads

·        Review of configured products, data model, business processes, reports, converted data, etc.

·        Approval

·        Final configuration changes

·        End-user training

·        Live conversion and data uploads

·        Go-live

·        Post-implementation consultancy (usually 3 to 6 months later). Did we achieve our objectives?

How long does it take?

In our experience, from start to finish can take from 3 months to 24 months. The main cause of a longer time-frame is how long it takes the customer to make a decision on our proposal. Another lengthening factor can be any complicated integrations that need to be designed and tested.

The actual implementation usually takes from 2 weeks (a very small site) to 3 months (a very large site).

Is every customer implementation really that different?

In 34 years we have never seen two identical implementations. Every implementation has something unique and each implementation uses a different mix of software, tools, training and consultancy to meet its objectives.

There is no substitute for determining your unique requirements in detail and there is no other way to do this other than by speaking to all stakeholders and by involving all stakeholders in the decision-making process. As my ex-partner used to say, “it is just work!”

References:

Sample Project Plan

EDRMS options with RecFind 6

Rolling out a pain free, low cost records and document management solution

Why RF6Cloud is the lowest cost and easiest way to solve any Content Management need

by Frank 8. December 2017 06:01

Why is RF6Cloud such a big improvement on the old Enterprise Content Management, Records Management, Document Management paradigm?

The Old Model

As Knowledgeone Corporation, we have worked with the old model since 1986. Big upfront software costs, big annual software maintenance costs, expensive computer hardware and software, extensive and expensive consultancy and training programs, expensive IT support.  Yes, it worked but it was and is very expensive and it takes a very long time.

The New Model

As RF6Cloud, our new company and new paradigm, we set out to change and disrupt the industry. The same end result but a much faster, much less invasive and much less expensive process to get there.

What you don’t need with RF6Cloud

Because we host the solution ‘In the Cloud’ you don’t need expensive servers and software. Because we run and maintain everything, including taking your backups, you don’t need IT people. Because we provide a pre-configured solution and an easy way for you to upload all your data and standards you don’t need weeks or months of expensive consulting.

Because we have created a whole series of online training courses on our YouTube channel plus detailed online help you don’t need weeks of onsite training courses.

Free Support

You also won’t get any ‘do not reply’ emails from us either and you don’t need to spend hours on our website trying to find our how to contact us. Just click on Contact Us and ask your question. We respond to each and every contact. We welcome your input and questions. We look forward to hearing from you. Online support is free.

Management Console & Dashboard

We also provide you with a management console and dashboard so you are always in control of your app.

A single low-cost monthly subscription

A complete, secure, scalable and robust solution for just a few dollars per month per user. There is nothing else to pay.

“Much less than the average employee spends on coffee each month.”

A no-obligation free one-month trial

If you are still nervous, sign up for our one-month free trial. It’s the full solution and you get full service during the trial. Please put us to the test, we are happy to accept your challenge.

It’s your Data

If you decide not to proceed after the trial, we promise to delete all of your data and if required, even provide you with a backup before deleting your data. The same goes for any time in the future should you decide for any reason to cancel your subscription. We will provide you with a full backup of your data before deleting it. That is a guarantee.

Still have questions?

Please ask away Contact Us

 

 

Digital Transformation of Records Management

by Frank 7. February 2017 06:00

Why is it so hard?

Let’s begin with a couple of borrowed quotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Frank 15. November 2016 06:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 We are unable to:

1.    extract the critical insights that enterprise information should provide

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

3.    find the right information at the right time

4.    provide a single access point for all content

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

6.    effectively protect against natural or man-made disasters

7.    produce evidence-standard documents

8.    minimize document handling costs

9.    guarantee the integrity of a document

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

11.guarantee that a document is not an older copy

12.minimize duplicate and redundant information

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

14.create secure, searchable archives for digital content

15.effectively secure all documents against loss

16.implement common enterprise version control

17.facilitate enterprise collaboration

18.Improve timeliness

19.manage enterprise document security and control

20.manage smaller and more reliable backups

21.achieve the lowest possible document management and archiving costs

22.deliver the best possible knowledge management access and search

23.guarantee consistent content

24.optimize management and executive time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

34.guarantee enterprise-wide Regulatory compliance

35.produce an enterprise-wide audit trail

36.share information across departmental and/or silo boundaries

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

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

39.identify duplicates based on document name.

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

41.control access via AD single sign on

42.access all enterprise documents using a single license.

          43.centrally audit access and changes to metadata.

What are your risks?  Your risks are huge!

 

 

 

 

 

Stop thinking Records Management & start thinking Business Process Management

by Frank 25. August 2016 06:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Don’t segregate, integrate!

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