Compliant Public Disclosure Starts with Smart Records Retention

If there’s one message I consistently hear from customers today, it’s how big of a deal public disclosure is for the government and how we need better solutions around it. That being said, you would not believe how many of these organizations don’t feel that they have a good handle on their content.

In Washington State, public disclosure refers to the release of all documents and content to the person making the request. These documents at minimum need to be available for the requestor to view. There are some exemptions to this, such as sealed case files.

Good public disclosure practices really start with one thing: good record-keeping (and destruction). We hear time and time again from customers that they’ve never thrown anything away for fear that the document may be needed at a later date. While they may be thinking that this is the best way to avoid throwing anything away that should be kept, it also means keeping records that should have been destroyed.

Some aren’t aware of the fact that when a public disclosure request comes in, organizations are required by law to turn over any documentation pertaining to the request (as long as it is subject to disclosure). That means that if documents haven’t been destroyed and fall under the specific request, those documents need to be turned over as well, even though they are past the retention period. This poses a huge risk in regards to potential litigations.

Getting your records in order may seem like an overwhelming task, but here are some steps you can take to move toward better practices related to retention and disposition of records.

  1. Understand YOUR Organization’s Requirements for Record Retention and Disposition
    Every organization is different. Certain records have to be kept longer than others, some records might need to be sealed, others may need redaction before they can be turned over, etc. Each organization, each department, even each business process may have different requirements around records. Determine and document what the requirements are so that when you start to do an inventory of content, you have a definitive plan regarding what needs to be kept and for how long. Click here for a link to the Washington State Records Retention Schedules.
  2. Where are my Records?
    Identify where records are kept. Are they stored on a network share? In a file cabinet? In a content management system? Somewhere else? Are they in paper form? Electronic? Are there video files? Regardless of where the documents are kept, the regulations are around how you get the content organized, not the file format or how hard the collection process is. This will help ensure that there are not duplicate documents, and if there are, that only the pertinent copies are kept so as not to be a factor in a potential litigation.
  3. Perform an Analysis and Inventory of Your Records
    Some organizations choose to do this internally, some hire a contractor, and some take a hybrid approach. Regardless of which path you choose, determine what content you have, what needs to be kept, and what can be disposed of before evaluating any technology. This will keep you from bringing content into a solution that will need to be immediately disposed of after the initial analysis.
  4. Choose a Solution that is Flexible and Easy
    95% of organizations I work with are looking for a solution that is easy-to-use yet flexible enough to change with requirements. They want something that can easily set up to work with current retention and disposition schedules, yet can be updated without too much effort if laws or regulations change.
  5. Trust the System
    If you’ve done the prep work correctly, then what you need to do is trust what you’ve put in place is going to work. Choose a good partner with a track record of success to help you.

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking about what can be accomplished around public disclosure, records retention and your content. ImageSource has been assisting customer partners with these types of solutions for the last 20 years. We have done everything from initial consulting through implementation and support. Below is a short list of some of offerings:

  • Expert consulting to determine your “as is” state and develop a plan to get you to your “desired” state using industry best practices
  • Assessment of your current technology and how it can be leveraged
  • Solution evaluation to perfectly match technology with your requirements
  • Solution deployment, configuration, training and rollout
  • Document collection, conversion, scanning, taxonomy definition and automated classification and metadata extraction
  • Data Migration
  • Ongoing partnership for system/process tuning, growth and support
  • Managed applications services

The ILINX platform can assist any organization with getting a handle on their content.

How to get the best bang for your buck!

Why price is not the most important factor
when purchasing imaging hardware

When shopping for new imaging hardware, many customers look at their budget and let that dictate their purchase. Now I understand that budget is an important factor, however over the last 9 years working with imaging customers, many have purchased equipment based mainly on price – only to discover that it did not meet their long term growth needs.

So in light of these discussions, here is bits of wisdom that can be used as a checklist when considering new purchases:

  • Color or Black & White (B & W) scanning? The majority of scanners automatically come with color option but can also provide B & W scanning for smaller document size files.
  • Is Speed important – scanners are classed by Pages per Minute (PPM). How fast do you need the scanner to scan?
  • How much volume are you expecting to scan per day, week or month? Volume and speed is determined by the manufacturer when they develop the scanner.
  • Manufacturers group their scanners into categories based on PPM and the Daily Duty Cycle (DDC). DDC is how many images the scanner can handle on a daily basis. So if you have a large volume of scanning to be completed on a daily basis, a small desktop workgroup scanner will not be sufficient for the volume – it would break down all the time. Here are the general groupings that manufacturers use:

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Why Courts Need Document Management AND Case Management Systems

Document Management System (DMS) needs should be identified holistically, not just for the needs of the courtroom processes. A successful implementation will be gained through a well thought out plan and a DMS solution that can not only integrate with a courts Case Management System (CMS), but also with Fiscal, HR, Procurement, and other department’s line-of-business systems.

To accomplish a successful implementation of an electronic environment there has to be an overall vision and buy-in from all the key individuals of the court system.

  • Culture and vision which incorporates technology as part of the business strategy
  • Identify areas to integrate technology with the courts business strategies
  • Implementation of an electronic DMS to be used by all departments
  • Integration of the DMS with CMS and other line-of-business systems
  • Provide public access to documents via a web portal (e-Access)

    Puzzle_arrows

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City Agenda Packet Solution with ECM

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 10.09.08 AMPutting together City Agenda Packets can be a laborious process. Check out how the City of Kennewick, Washington used their Enterprise Content Management solution to make this process more efficient in this short video.

Kristina Linehan (Parma)
Account Executive
ImageSource, Inc.

ILINX – the new ECM software kid on the block!

Since my entry into the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) industry in 2001, the biggest challenge that I see for any company is to turn their ECM investment into one that is utilized across the enterprise, and not just for the benefit of one department. After all, that is the whole point of an enterprise system solution. When the whole enterprise benefits, it reduces total cost of ownership and the promise of a return-on-investment (ROI) is realized.

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I Am Not a Fan of the Cliché

I am not a fan of the cliché “Best Business Practices”. It is a very over used term and seems to imply there is some magic solution out there that will make everything better. The truth be known, best business practice is leveraging knowledge gained through experience at someone else’s expense. Why would you reinvent the wheel if someone has already figured it out? You wouldn’t. Many times I see companies selling software to customers for the sake of selling something, only to have it sit on a shelf and collect dust.

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Busyness is killing Business

People seem to be busier than they ever have been. One result we have experienced due to the decrease in hiring over the last few years is that employees are taking on more work and working longer hours. Some people are doing the work of two people.
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Are you “Powered by ILINX?”

Organizations are realizing more and more every day the need to reduce paper, automate labor-intense processes and eliminate duplicate tasks. Since we all know time is money, this is important now more than ever. But how do you choose the right technology to assist with this? We hear quite frequently that users are comfortable working within their line-of-business systems and that bringing in a large, complicated content management system will only confuse them. My response to this is, “Are you Powered by ILINX?”

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ROI of Document Imaging

Forrester Research analyzed and evaluated ECM technologies and came out with The ROI of Imaging. Forrester Research, Inc. is a global leader in business and technology. They define imaging as software for scanning, capturing, indexing, retrieving, processing and archiving digital images of documents and electronic forms. Many organizations rely on paper intensive business processes and because of that, imaging is a very important component of Enterprise Content Management’s value.

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Save Time and Money With Advanced Capture

Does your organization waste valuable time and resources to manually prep documents? Are you tired of manually typing in data which oftentimes isn’t inputted accurately and error-free? If you want to venture away from these tedious slow processes, there are solutions out there! Advanced capture technologies will streamline and automate the transformation of documents into structured electronic information for your business processes.

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San Jose State University Enrolls Students with Oracle and Peoplesoft SIS

San Jose State University Campus

There is a new way to process students into Universities that are using Peoplesoft SIS. It is called WebCenter Content and it is built by Oracle.  The first installation in the country is in full production at San Jose State University (SJSU).
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The Top 5 Mistaken Beliefs About Content Management

Gain control of unstructured content

Your company may or may not have a strategy for managing content, the unstructured information streaming in and out of all areas of your organization on a daily basis. It’s likely you at least have a partial strategy where one or more of your departments is capturing and storing some type of unstructured information for later retrieval.

In a world where the use of digital channels is enabling companies to synthesize large amounts of information in seconds, organizations are making it a top priority to gain control of that rogue 80%, which is the approximate amount of unstructured information slipping through the cracks. This information is not easily accessible because it is scattered and isolated in departmental or personal file systems. This is the information you should be arming your employees with so they can do their jobs.

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Content Collection and eDiscovery

If your organization is like many others, a call from legal or human resources to produce evidence for an electronic discovery (eDiscovery) request can turn into a time consuming and expensive endeavor.  Searching through and analyzing emails, electronic files, SharePoint, and other content is an arduous task, especially if all of that information is contained in silos, with no common repository.

We have helped customers, at the very least, from a cost savings perspective; realize savings from de-duplication of content.  In many cases, customers can see a return on investment in less than one year!

ImageSource can implement enterprise content management solutions that can collect all of the data in you environment, according to your policies, and make it available for legal search and discovery.

We can advise you on best practice for implementing a “content collection, archiving and eDiscovery” infrastructure that will utilize your file plans, and make sure you address these legal concerns:

  • “We don’t want to keep too much content”
  • “We want to keep the right content”
  • “We want to meet the government’s requirement that consistent, repeatable processes are in place”

We’d love to discuss your specific situation, and leverage our expertise to help solve your challenge.  There’s no reason why, with the technology available, that organizations should still be struggling with the same problems from the ‘90s.

Archie Horton
Regional Sales Manager
ImageSource, Inc.

Utopia ECM

Utopia ECM (Enterprise Content Management) can be defined many different ways.  My definition is when the ECM system is so intertwined with the business process and business software applications that one really can’t exist without the others.  The users of the systems don’t even think about the fact that they are using ECM technology. Here are some examples:

  1. The sales rep submitting an expense report and scanning their receipts into an electronic workflow, doesn’t even think of the technology that they are using to start a business process.
  2. Traveling executives can retrieve, review and approve invoices and expenses from their laptop computer in a hotel room anywhere there is an internet connection.
  3. The employee on the order fulfillment line pulls up the supporting documents for the order details and instructions directly from their business application, but the source of documents were really from an integrated ECM system.

Remember how things like this used to happen without imaging, document management, workflow and system integration?
This concept of Utopia ECM became very apparent to me recently in an upgrade and migration project for an existing customer who is moving from an antiquated ECM application to ILINX.  It made me actually stop and wonder how they went from the simple concept of creating an electronic file cabinet, to a system that is virtually integrated into every department and many of their business processes throughout the company.  What I found out is that they took things one step at a time and have been sticklers about the following: 1) You get what you plan for, not what you pay for and 2) select vendor/supplier partners who have your best interests at heart.  The rest is just details.

Utopia ECM, isn’t that what we all want for our businesses?

John Smetana
VP, ILINX ECM Sales
ImageSource, Inc.

Taking PeopleSoft to New Heights in Higher Ed

The PeopleSoft ERP system you use for Student Information Services (SIS) has been built to support nationwide and world wide applications. As such, it cannot provide unique challenges for each business need.Typically, we see IT shops and business directors working around the deficiencies in the product in an attempt to meet specific business objectives.  We also see universities purchasing complimentary products to try to meet specific needs and requirements.

From an IT perspective, the cost to write custom code to modify PeopleSoft is prohibitive, or the software simply cannot meet the business objectives. With this in mind, ImageSource, a systems integrator for Oracle, has built several modules for higher education that will have a dramatic effect on how universities conduct business. The integration is codeless, so although we “talk back and forward” to PeopleSoft, there is little requirement to have PeopleSoft technical staff supporting the project.

This new module provides true business workflow that can be designed and built by the business unit, allowing work to be pushed out to the specified knowledge workers. The pilot project recently completed at major California University has been deemed a complete success. This solution now allows them to provide critical real time service to students, parents and faculty.  With the initial implementation in Finance and Student Services, this university is ready to implement the program campus-wide and gain substantial ROI.

If you’d like to know more about how this solution works please email Lynne Butler, ImageSource Higher Ed Business Consultant, at lynneb@imagesourceinc.com

One-Hit Wonders in Enterprise Content Management

Defining Enterprise Content Management One-Hit Wonders

As I go about my every day sales and business development activities to evangelize ImageSource’s ILINX Enterprise Content Management (ECM) software products, I am amazed to see just how common it is for the originally installed ECM software system to be pretty much unchanged.  The use case is the same (e.g. Accounts Payable, Human Resources, Customer Service, etc.) and the system is used by mostly the same people.  Maybe a new application was implemented for Accounts Receivables, but by and large it is still the same system.  In some cases, the software has been up updated only once or twice, the scanners are original, the servers and workstations in use are running older operating systems and databases and the system might still be using a juke box for archival purposes.  This is very similar to what one might call in the music business, a one-hit wonder.  If you were to ask people in the music business, they would say a one-hit wonder is a very common tale.  And, so it seems that we have the same thing happening in businesses when it comes to Enterprise Content Management.

How did we get here?

What I have observed is that enterprise content management has become pervasive; however, it is actually a series of one-hit wonders.  Meaning it is managed and implemented differently by department and/or line-of-business.  For example, the  Accounts Payable department might use the originally installed ECM system, but the Marketing department uses nested shared folders on the network that also requires one to name the files in a certain manner; the Engineering department might be using some document management module that comes with their engineering software, but for imaged engineering drawings they go to the ECM system the Accounts Payable department uses; and the sales department had their CRM software integrated with a different ECM software application that is “cloud based”, as well as, they have become masters at using their network attached multi-function printer (a.k.a. MFP) to scan-to-email and ad-hoc scanning for imaging.  And, when things don’t work as they are expected to or malfunctions, the information technology department is supposed to pick up the pieces, work some magic (and fast) and “ta-dah” everything is back in working order.

What needs to change?

So how did we get to the point where we have so many different ways to image, file, store, retrieve and process documents and content in our businesses?  More importantly, what can be done about it to improve the situation to drive out duplication, increase efficiency and lower operating costs and risks?  First of all, let’s cover how we got here or better yet, what needed to happen first keeping in mind there is no one to really blame.  A large part of why businesses have not centered their businesses on a single ECM software system is that some evolution needed to take place.  First and foremost, the ECM applications themselves had to evolve from client-server and thick clients to be being truly web-based built on Web 2.0 technology and architecture; it is important to note that not every ECM software company has taken this step.  Secondly, the internet had to become as pervasive as the telephone (land line and/or mobile) and the bandwidth to support business use.  Thirdly, the ECM applications had to become less specialized in just performing one thing, such as, imaging, web content management, digital asset management, etc.  Fourth, the computing platform from which we access the information had to become a non-factor; this means that I can access my information from any device:  a PC workstation in the office, a laptop in a hotel, a tablet device like the Apple iPad and/or a smartphones.  Lastly, the investment of ECM software systems needed to scale to based upon the size of the business to actually be affordable and cost-effective which has largely not been a reality.

A new reality is possible today!

It is from ImageSources’ collective experiences of its employees and the 17 years of being in the Enterprise Content Management business that it can confidently and successfully assist companies and organizations of all types create a new paradigm.   Simply put, we make it possible to take disparate ways and systems of managing documents and content into a single system that serves every department and line-of-business of the enterprise.  It first starts with making document capture so simple and so accessible from any device.  ILINX Capture works with any TWAIN compliant scanner and can be configured to work with virtually any network attached multi-function printer (MFP).  ILINX Capture Mobile and the ILINX Tablet make it possible to capture documents and content in the palm of your hand.  ILINX Content Store  is ideally positioned for those companies that need a complete, full functioning, user pleasing and straight-forward approach to Enterprise Content Management.  It must also have the option to be integrated with business applications (ILINX Integrate) and does not burden the IT department with system management and administration tasks.  Mainly because it is built on Microsoft’s .NET web-based architecture; therefore, updates, changes and new applications can be deployed from a single-administration console and users can receive those updates via their intranet or internet.  If the existing content, documents, images and data in your current “dot.90’s” ECM system is a concern for you, ImageSource has the services and the tools (ILINX Export) to make this all important and critical step of migrating your information into ILINX Content Store.  The remaining question that you might have is this:  is it really affordable and cost-effective to consolidate disparate ways and systems, migrate the information and implement a new ECM software system?  And my answer to that is, “ImageSource’s approach and ILINX has proven to be so for many others, I have no reason why to think the same is possible for you and your company!”

 

Knowledge is Power

At an increasing rate, I am getting asked the question “Is SharePoint a good fit for our business”?  I shouldn’t single out SharePoint as the question really is “What XYZ product would be best for my ECM needs?”  Before this question can even be considered, the business processes need to be understood.  Inputs, outputs, systems in place, and platform preferences are all very important to consider.  Is there a workflow process to be considered?  Where and when is data keyed into systems?  Is it keyed into multiple systems?

Talk to similar companies / organizations / departments that have gone through the process.  Go on site visits to see how companies are using technology to solve business problems.  Get educated.  Seek out your local AIIM chapter.  Go to relevant conferences that have a large congregation of people who are using solutions for content management.  Seek out systems integrators that have multiple offerings and address full end to end processes.

When information is gathered from the RFP process, it usually results in software manufacturers responding with one thing in mind – license revenue.  You shouldn’t worry about licenses or product until you have determined your end goal, efficiencies, and points of integration.   Also, keep it simple.  Successful projects don’t need to overly complex, long, and expensive – they need to solve a business problem.

I don’t usually go to the doctor and ask for a prescription until the doctor has done a thorough diagnosis.

Thanks for listening.

Jeff Blissett
Senior Account Executive
ImageSource, Inc.
www.imagesourceinc.com

Why Training is Important

I recently had a conversation with an individual about ECM training.  This person needs to learn how to build a new application for both capture and her ECM system.  When I described the training and associated cost to her, she could not understand why the training is a comprehensive as it is or why the cost is what it is.  Her feeling was that the system must not be “user-friendly”.

What we tend to forget is that a successful implementation of a new application includes much more that creating fields and assigning properties.  It is essential that the entire business process be taken into account.  ECM systems are designed to replace your paper manual paper and other  processes.  Throwing together some fields that hopefully allow you to find your information is not enough.  It is necessary to know your processes inside and out and to  look at other processes that might touch your application as well.

As with everything else, it is the up front planning and effort that make the end result “user-friendly” .

One place to learn more about the subtleties of ECM is at the 2010 Nexus ECM Conference in Bellevue, WA on November 4 and 5.  Please consider attending this event.  It will be well worth your investment.

Selecting an Enterprise Content Management Solution

DEFINE THE BUSINESS GOALS

Your ECM initiative must begin with the identification of clearly defined measurable goals. These goals must emerge from cross‐functional planning groups. Too many efforts begin with a list of requirements for the ECM Solution, but these requirements cannot be defined accurately at such an early stage. The goals themselves will typically number between five and 10, and require agreement from all business units before you begin
constructing shortlists of vendors. This will help you avoid lengthier discussions at an inappropriate stage of the ECM effort. The goals should be strategic in nature, reflecting your objectives over two or three years. The overall business goals should succinctly and quantitatively summarize the essence of the required ECM solution, and they should be linked to the overall strategy of your organization. They should also be clearly phrased so that the benefits are clearly understood and actively supported by the executive sponsors and stakeholders. These objectives will form the basis for all requirements of the ECM project and will be the tool that allows irrelevant features to be quickly identified. The benefits of this approach include:

  • Faster short listing of suitable vendors.
  • Reduced expenditure in the selection phase.
  • Increased clarity about the solution components necessary for the appropriate solution.
  • Greater project transparency and more support from high‐level sponsors as a result.
  • Easier building of business case for the initiative.
  • Accurate listing of requirements.

APPLY AN ECM MATURITY MODEL

The adoption of maturity models is inhibited by the perception that they are abstract and theoretical, with little connection to the real world. Yet the appropriate maturity model can provide the basis for practical decisions, cost savings and the mitigation of many risks. A maturity model is a tabular representation of solution areas such as Capture, Workflow, Search and Retrieval, Web Content, or Records Management, together with a rating of how “mature” or developed that solution area can be. A simple thick client capture technology would have a low rating, while a sophisticated, thin client capture technology would score higher. The model can therefore be used to assess the level of maturity a future ECM Solution should have. It also assists in the articulation of a strategic vision and permits insight into the complexities of reaching that vision. A complete and realistic evaluation of all aspects of your current environment is necessary to assess the maturity level of your current system. Without this initial assessment you will be unable to determine what future levels of maturity are achievable, or how much effort is required to exact the corresponding changes. Such analyses also help to simplify buying decisions, and clarify whether the products on which your existing solution is based require upgrading or replacement. Benefits from applying maturity model analysis include:

  • The creation of a succinct, easily communicable summary of status of the ECM Solution to executive sponsorship and stakeholders.
  • The difficulty and cost of moving an ECM Solution to the desired level can easily be underestimated. A maturity model helps expose these difficulties and costs, and provides valuable input to the design of another indispensable tool — the road map.

BUILD A ROAD MAP TO PROMOTE LONG-TERM SUCCESS

A road map is a high‐level representation of the planned changes against the chosen timeline for those changes. Road maps are commonly represented as Gant charts, with the overall effort typically divided into overlapping phases. Each phase represents the changes required to raise the maturity of the ECM Solution to a higher level on the maturity model. The complexity of the required change will determine whether multiple steps for a particular solution area are taken in any one phase. (A phase typically ranges from three to six months.) This approach helps mitigate the risks associated with lengthier endeavors, such as attrition of key staff and budget reallocation away from the project.

Use a road map‐based approach to:

  • Ensure that the order in which you deploy the ECM Solution components matches the priorities of your overall business strategy.
  • Help organization leaders avoid deploying short-sighted point solutions and silos. Easy win can be considered, but not at the expense of higher‐order goals.
  • Permit a more thorough assessment of vendors and filter out those that can’t support your vision of your solution.
  • Allow a careful assessment of how long it will take for your ECM Solution to provide business value.

IDENTIFY AND FOLLOW THE RELEVANT INDUSTRY BEST PRACTICES

Choose a Solution‐Deployment Methodology: ECM programs which diligently apply a project management office (PMO) and solution‐deployment methodology have a significantly higher chance of succeeding. The methodology will provide focus, optimize time to value and help reduce potential risks. Discuss the most appropriate methodology with your vendor. The methodology that your organization primarily endorses may
not provide the full benefits. An intelligent mix of your existing practices and those extolled by the vendor for its products is usually optimal. Choose the Right Team: The right mix of staff will ensure that the right strategy and designs are established, that costs for core‐development phases are reduced and that on‐the‐job training for in‐house staff is provided. Apply a Form of Requirements Tracing: Requirements tracing is a method by which the requirements of the individual phases are aligned with the goals identified and selected for that phase. This provides focus and helps ensure the exclusion of costly and unnecessary features. It can also prevent, or reduce, scope creep. Collaborate With Your Vendor: Involve your main vendor in the selection of the appropriate products and the design of the ECM solution architecture. Some of these changes are likely to involve third‐party products and will require a firm statement of compatibility from your main vendor.

SELECTING A SYSTEMS INTEGRATOR

When implementing an ECM Solution you should set your sights on a full‐service Enterprise Content Management integrator that provides infrastructure and services that streamline information processes. The vendor should help your organization leverage your information assets through document imaging, distributed capture, workflow and integration with existing business software systems. A true ECM vendor will have a comprehensive approach, including analysis, training and support; will advance efficiencies, security, compliance and competition through your entire organization. Teaming with Experience: Your organization should work with a vendor that can bring several years of ECM experience to the table. This results in well‐defined, long‐term goals that are enlightened and effective. Let the Problem Drive the Solution: Work with a Vendor that does not come to you with a specific idea of what product you need, but instead concentrate on specifically defining business challenges that you face. This process leads to business solutions that integrate with your standing technology investment and result in real returns for your organization. The vendor’s services should provide an independent and objective approach. Many vendors use a one size fits all philosophy. Find a vendor that is flexible and has proven methodologies to help you define a truly suitable solution. Best Practices: In each industry there are recognized best practices and leading tools that are used by organizations based on their size and demographics. Seek a vendor that has a breadth of experience to draw upon, so that you can leverage their best practices and apply them.

PITFALLS TO AVOID IN ECM PROJECTS

  • Primary causes of excessive deliberation and consequent budget overruns in ECM projects include:
  • Disagreements while building a business case for the required investment.
  • Poor selection criteria leading to difficulties in selecting a vendor.
  • Difficulties in recognizing products to match the solution components.
  • Business users rushing to install ECM products to gain short‐term benefits.
  • Underestimation of the importance of change management.
  • Inconsistencies between the requirements cited and those which govern the deployed solution.

Shon D. Mueller
Senior Account Manager

Client Vendor Partnership

I’m on my soap box again, looking for anyone to lend a sympathetic ear.  Whether it is RFP season or just engaging in the content management sales cycles, I’d like to provide some suggestions in the requirements gathering / evaluation process.

Before I begin, please take into consideration the following definitions:

Me or I = Not specifically me, but any consultant, colleague, or professional that provides knowledge in a specific area of business functions.
You or Your = Not specifically you, but any organization looking for assistance in improving business functions.

It is shocking to me how organizations invite subject matter experts to learn more about their business process that needs some TLC, and then respond by not giving full information, acting on ulterior motives, being condescending, and trying to position themselves internally as an expert by asking ultra specific offbeat questions.   It is a similar process of going to the doctor and withholding information that might lead to a more accurate diagnosis.  I don’t want to compare what I provide to life saving efforts of the medical community, but want to simplify this by stating “How can I help you if you can’t tell me what is wrong?”

My Top 4 Peeves in the Vendor Client Relationship:

  1. Get past the stigma of “This guy is trying to sell me something”.  We bring best practices, and over 400 examples of similar projects into consideration while looking at your business process.    If you are communicating in an open manner, you might be surprised at how much easier the process is and how much more value you will obtain.
  2. Don’t ask for free services / consulting / advice.  Please respect my profession, experience, and subject matter expertise.  I wouldn’t dare walk into your business and ask you to give me something that has taken you 20 years to develop and perfect.
  3. Respect my time and expertise.  If you are in an active initiative and respect my knowledge and involvement, please do not abuse it by calling me into every meeting to provide educational information when your process dictates that you have to go through a stringent evaluation process for multiple vendors and it is your policy to purchase from the lowest bidder anyway.
  4. You are correct in the assumption that I am in it to make money.  At the end of the day, aren’t we all trying to make profit for our organizations and selves?  I am not asking you to pay a King’s ransom, just an amount that is commensurate with the time spent, value brought, services rendered, AND the perceived value to your organization.

For a few laughs, but a startling dose of reality, please take a few moments to view this video that puts things in a bit of perspective.  Vendor Client Releationship Video.

Here is another related post by Tony Byrne of CMS Watch that expands on this diatribe.  Tony Byrne blog post.

As a systems integrator, we aren’t looking for any special treatment, only fair, upfront collaboration that will allow us to determine if there is value in our service offering, meeting your business needs.

P.S.  I am happy to take you to lunch but I do expect respect and a clear understanding of your fair process.

Jeff Blissett
Senior Account Executive
ImageSource, Inc.

Beyond the cool factor: show me the value

Although I have always worked in the IT industry, I have never been what people call an early adopter. As an example, I was still one of those people with a standard cellphone (you remember? the type that only lets you place a call and receive a call) until last week when I received an iPhone for my new job at ImageSource.

I will adopt a technology when I can easily and quickly identify the benefits it will bring me, which usually means it has to be affordable to begin with. The cool factor wears off after a while… I have to say that within the last 10 years, we became spoiled with an abundance of “freebies.” With the advent of freemium business models, it is now easier to find free applications, services or products over the Internet. Need free email?  Sign up for Gmail. You need more storage? Just pay for it. That is why I will always spend some time trying to find a free solution to my problem first. Only when I can’t seem to find a good enough solution for free will I explore the possibility of paying for it. Call me cheap, I call this common sense!

With an initial cost of zero dollars, you might be tempted to think that Return on Investment (ROI) would be infinite. However, you have to factor in time and switching costs in the equation. If I realize it will take a long time to find what I want, or learn how to operate a free application in comparison to the benefits a non-free solution can bring me, I will gladly pay for it. However, if I can’t find a free or reasonably priced solution, I will choose the status-quo solution and will wait until the switching costs decrease. As an example, I recently paid $15 for a video screen scraping solution after I spent 30 minutes trying to find a free solution that would be good enough. I am still not fully satisfied with Jing, the solution I eventually purchased from the makers of Camtasia, but it was good enough as a solution to my problem for the financial and time investments I made.

Every day, we are discovering new ways to do old things that may not change our life dramatically but definitely contribute to making it easier and more enjoyable. I was among the people who were reticent about the idea of going digital when it came to photography back in the early 2000s. I felt like I needed to have printed photos in order to enjoy them. To me, if not on paper, they could not be called photos to begin with. Fast forward to a few years later, and I probably became the biggest proponent of digital photography. When I moved from Chicago to Los Angeles in 2008, I scanned all of my older photos from the 90s and disposed of all of them as I realized it was easier to access them on a computer rather than having to access and sort through them in stored boxes. I used the move event as an excuse to go all digital. When you think about it, there are probably more chances of my pictures fading, getting destroyed, misplaced or lost in these boxes than if stored digitally. Obviously, those precious photos (most of them taken at the time when I had hair) are now scrupulously stored on (1) my external hard drive for easy access, (2) DVDs for backup, (3) a (very inexpensive) external backup service for disaster recovery. Welcome to the digital age!

As we all know, paper will not go away any time soon and the volume of physical content even continues to grow. However, the volume of electronic content grows at a faster pace than paper content. With ubiquitous capture devices such as digital cameras, smartphones, as well as desktop scanners, everyone is now a contributor to the explosion of rich media, including photos and videos.

ImageSource just released the first version of a free iPhone app (you should know I like freebies by now) for distributed capture called ILINX Capture. It is a very simple and intuitive, yet very powerful application that allows users to capture a photo with their iPhone, index it and have it sent to their email in a PDF format. The enterprise version of this distributed capture solution is obviously more advanced but we can imagine future versions of the iPhone app that would complement the enterprise version and allow users to send the photos of scanned documents to particular server locations, repositories or send them in formats other than PDF. What is interesting about this is that we are slowly but surely covering the “last mile of digital distribution.” What I mean by that is that the distribution of content had traditionally and historically been addressed by larger operations such as newspaper editorial staff or broadcasters. The largest staff in the world will never be able to cover every event and breaking news at the time they occur. We are now putting all the tools and applications in the hands of the consumers so that everyone is potentially a content contributor, be it text, photo or video content.

You can imagine all sorts of use cases with an application such as ILINX Capture for iPhone. On the Menuism website, for example, users can not only write reviews of the restaurants they frequent, but also upload photos of the establishment as well as the menus. With applications such as ILINX Capture for iPhone, it is easy to imagine all sorts of other real business or consumer applications, including expense receipt submission that would allow users to store and index receipts at time of purchase before they are consolidated and submitted as part of an expense report. Consumer-oriented companies such as Shoeboxed built a service business around scanning, indexing and validation of receipts and business cards to make it easier for end users to retrieve this type of information after it is categorized. Can you think of other business-oriented or consumer use cases for ILINX Capture for iPhone?

Michael Benayoun
Account Executive
ImageSource, Inc.

 

How Many Organizations Have Initiatives to Truncate Content at its Source?

I’m sitting in the local IBM ECM UserNet conference in Irvine and David Caldera, Product Marketing,  is speaking about the IBM/FileNet road-map.  He has communicated, and it is proven, that there is huge ROI in deploying ECM solutions in an enterprise.   Many companies have jumped on the ECM bandwagon and have implemented storage and retrieval in their enterprise.  But, how many have taken the initiative to actually truncate content at its source?  What does this mean: truncate content at its source?

To truncate content at its source,  I am referencing an initiative to keep electronic documents as electronic documents (i.e. not printing out the Word Document or Excel Spreadsheet for review), utilize fax server technology and ingest faxes as images (ingesting faxes directly in to a capture application so meta data can be attached to it and accessed through a repository),  take in outside content as EDI and leave it as EDI (by utilizing COLD technology and storing it with users being able to view the content with template overlays),  and leave email messages and their attachments in their electronic format (by capturing the email, ingest the email’s content and strip off the attachment so that it can be preserved in the repository in electronic form).  A truly GREEN organization.

How can we help enterprises achieve this?  One method is to simplify the process that content is captured at the end user.  This may include embedding capture technology in every day applications like Word and Excel.  A simple to use “button” placed in the application that evokes a simple window that allows the user to fill in one or two key meta data fields – like Kofax currently offers with Kofax Desktop and ImageSource offers with ILINX ® Capture.  Another option is to leverage existing multifunction devices, having a capture application sweep the directory and push some light indexing or not, back to the submitter or sending it to a central data processing center.  Most importantly, capturing the content in-process!

In-Process Capture through thin client applications is the most consistent and efficient way to truncate content at its source.  Enabling knowledge workers to submit content as part of their process, versus at the end of their process.  All knowledge workers, not just high volume workers, having this capability.  Leveraging ad-hoc, highly distributed capture processes throughout an enterprise.   For example, the executive assistant who has contracts, high dollar Purchase Orders, NDA’s, HR documents, or regulatory submissions being able to commit these documents right in to the repository or workflow.  Another example, to enable agents or sales people in the field to submit claims, reports or expenses from their automobile, prior to leaving the customers parking lot, so that financial transaction can be processed immediately.

Some organizations “think green.”  Its time now for these companies to go to the next step and put their IT projects behind these eco-friendly initiatives.

The Next Killer App for ECM

Enterprise Content Management for the most part has become mainstream business.  The ability to scan documents from remote locations has been made increasingly easier by applications such as ILINX Capture and other web based scanning applications.  Indexing documents has been simplified with ODBC compliance and the maturity of systems integrators capabilities of integrating with ERP table structures.  System standards have allowed for ECM repositories to interface with ERP sessions where the users can work heads down in their legacy application and retrieve / view images from their desktop with little to no knowledge of the ECM application – see ILINX Integrate.

Accounts Payable has been the traditional starting point for most organizations in testing the waters for document imaging because it has a definable process, set business rules, and shows a reasonable ROI depending on the number of received images, discrepancies, and time it takes knowledge workers to process invoices.  Other repeatable processes include Contracts, Sales Order Processing, Legal, Shipping / Receiving, and HR Personnel Files.

What will be the next Killer App?  In the past 2 years we at ImageSource have seen a great deal of consideration in HR on-Boarding process.   Understandably, it costs a lot of money to bring in new employees and involves a great deal of resources.  From the application process, to the processing of I-9 information, setting up payroll and direct deposit, insurance, issuance of equipment (laptop, cell phone, scanner) it is no slight undertaking.  Standard ECM solutions as well as products from Autonomy (see Liquid Office), this process can become automated and affordable for most organizations.

From there, where do we go?  With the adoption of smart phones, almost everyone has a camera in their pocket at all times.  This can allow for the capturing of data – snapshot of a document, whiteboard drawing, and presentations can be captured immediately and then fed into the indexing process for ECM.  This expands the reach of content capture and protects the loss of important information.  Technical architecture is now compatible and flexible to allow for almost anything.  Nexus 2010 will provide some great ideas and visions for upcoming solutions.

What is next?  Feedback is welcome.

Jeff Blissett

Senior Account Executive

ImageSource, Inc.

jeffb@imagesourceinc.com

In-Process Capture: Who Needs It?

Enterprise imaging and capture has been deployed in most large organizations around the world for many years.  This includes pushing capture out to remote sites in a semi-centralized way.  This approach still has a great deal of overhead in terms of support, maintenance, infrastructure costs, and many times postage to this more localized site.  What if every company could leverage their existing office equipment to capture content at the source, whether it is the organization itself or its customers/partners, to get content in as part of their normal work process?

Inserting capture in-process allows service level agreements to be achieved or even exceeded, move content/images through the organization quicker and more efficiently, and leverage the knowledge worker’s expertise who are  in front of the customer in a limited, yet simple,  efficient manner.  Who could benefit from this?  Well, just about every company.

If you are a retail organization setting up a new credit account – imagine scanning the document on the local printer/scanner and it goes off to the financial institution without keying in anything.  So, the cashier can ring other customers as the approval is being sought.  If you’re a distribution company who just dropped off a pallet of goods to a center and that signature can be scanned in from the truck, with an internet connection, to the accounting department to generate an invoice that same day?  Or if you’re a financial services organization and you have high valued customers out on the golf course and you want to get their application in and an account number generated before going to the next hole?  What about a physician’s office who needs to provide a referral, prescription or orders for surgery to a hospital, doctor or pharmacy, so that by the time your really sick patient arrives the process or prescription has already been issued?

Lets start saving some trees,  maximizing efficiency and providing real customer service with in-process capture!

Michelle Semple
ImageSource, Inc.

Is ECM a Green Technology?

Going green is getting easier as technology develops.  The “paperless office” utopia is still being developed but the amount of paper can be, and is being dramatically reduced due to document imaging and content management solutions.  It is a fairly straightforward concept – if a business process begins with physical paper, why not scan it, index it, and store it where multiple people can access, it is secure, traceable and auditable, and it adheres to your corporate records policy?  This concept does not only save your organization money, but it does reduce the environmental impact of doing business.

It is easy to see the savings in industries such as Health Care and Financial Services.  In Health Care the green factor and carbon footprint reduction relates to the courier cost, fax cost, copying cost of duplicating patient records and insurance correspondence.  This is a huge magnitude when you consider the general health of the population.   Financial Services green footprint is also correlated with courier and copying but also in the workflow process to route documents.

There is great information published on this topic at various sites such as AIIM , and also at AIIM.  There is also interesting case examples at  New and Good in ECM.

Distributed scanning  can also have a directly positive impact on a green initiative.  Capturing documents and data at the point of creation or receipt will save on shipping and courier services which also impacts the environment by reducing the oil consumption in transportation.

The digitizing of documents greatly reduces off-site storage costs which also has a direct effect on oil consumption used in the transportation to and from the storage facilities.

Much of the transition from paper to electronic comes with the paradigm shift from physically handling paper to viewing documents and data and routing them from the computer.  This takes time and facilitates true change management disciplines but the amount of money, efficiencies, and resources saved can be tremendous.  To be successful, you need to plan for the initial pushback from the knowledge workers.  In the beginning, they might even print more than what they were before the implementation.  If change is managed correctly, the users will adopt and embrace the efficiencies.

The going green concept is growing and is a focal point of the upcoming Nexus ECM Conference held on Nov 2-3 in Bellevue, WA.  Take a look at the Nexus Agenda for some of the “green” sessions.

Comments and feedback welcome.

Jeff Blissett
Senior Account Executive
ImageSource, Inc.
www.imagesourceinc.com

Distributed Capture Allows In-Process Workflow Enablement

In traditional capture environments, organizations are submitting their documents, whether in fax or scanned form, in batches.The ability to submit ad-hoc documents using existing hardware like MFPs/MFDs or scanners is the current momentum in enterprises. Reaching beyond this takes forward, out of the ordinary thinking.

How would it be in an enterprise organization to actually place a single document into their local MFP/MFD and submit that work directly in to the workflow allowing the documents to be processed that same day? Inserting lab orders from physician’s offices directly to ancillary services? Placing a new account opening document directly in the workflow queue to get approval and an account number? Scanning bills of lading at the shipping and receiving dock and having them go straight to accounts payable and automatically matched with the P.O.?

We’ve seen many large financial services organizations start to leverage in-process distributed capture in an ad-hoc collection and capture form. Having a simple user interface, minimal clicks at the front panel of an MFP/MFD, as well as very little learning curve has been essential. What could your organization do if everyone could easily scan/import documents so they could get placed in the repository, data base, legacy system or workflow right away? How many millions of dollars would be saved? How many redundant workers would be allocated to jobs needing more workers?

Michelle Semple
Account Executive
ImageSource, Inc.

 

Distributed Scanning – Sales Perspective

“This is going to be the year that document imaging really takes off.  This is the year…………. “.  The adoption of storing files with a standard naming convention on shared drives is still being forced around corporate America when the technology has been around for 20 years to securely scan, index, store, and retrieve in a single repository.  What makes us think that the concept of having scanners at every desk or even on the same physical floor is going to catch on in the 20 years?

“When it is easy enough for the CEO to scan documents from his office, we know that document imaging is mainstream. “ In the industry, we have all heard this claim of the past 20 years.  We have had visions of every organization, big or small, regardless of industry, deploying scanners and efficiently capturing paper documents at the source of receipt.  Multi-Function Devices (copiers that scan and fax) have now become mainstream where most people are comfortable in scanning a document and feel comfortable with the concept. – This is the easy part.  The reason we still fight with adoption is that traditional document capture  software that allows for the scanning  and indexing, has been difficult to understand, use AND had to be loaded on every person’s desktop that wanted to scan and index their documents.

Internet security, reduced file sizes, increased bandwidth, web services, and development of web parts have all been in development high gear.  Companies that have been focusing on these technologies and disciplines have made significant breakthroughs in the Distributed Capture / Remote Scanning marketplace.  See Kofax, Cardiff, EMC / Captiva, ImageSource / ILINX, Oracle / Captovation, ReadSoft.  Out are the complex interfaces that require understanding of terms such as batches, document classes, OCR.  In are the simple interfaces that allow for the scanning at a push of a single button, simple drop down menus, and few key strokes.  Web based scanning applications should be commonplace where the user can scan a document from anywhere, provide simple indexing functionality, start a workflow, and have the document committed to the secure repository.  The concept of “collecting” documents and taking / sending / Fed Ex’ing them to the mail room or scanning supervisor for processing is now not necessary / antiquated / a big waste of time.  The technology is here and now.

Distributed Capture solutions should be thin client, scalable, not linked to a page count, able to support multiple ECM systems, and require little to no training.   This shouldn’t be too much to ask.

How long is it going to take to get the message out to the masses?  Will this be the year of distributed capture?  Comments and feedback welcome.

Jeff Blissett
Senior Account Executive
ImageSource, Inc.

 

Infonomics Article ECM

Dan Hooper of Integrated Services Inc. recently contributed and article to the July.August issue of Infonomics Magazine.

July.August 2009 Cover

July.August 2009 Cover

The article focuses on the importance of developing a strategy for managing information and content.  So often organizations focus on the technological features of an ECM platform or software solution and not the business processes and people that will need to adopt change in order to successfuly implement a new ECM system.  Whether your looking to implement a Document Management, Content Management, Document Capture, eForms, Web Content Management, Business Process Automation or Document Imaging solution it is important to understand that a key difference between success and failure is user adoption through effective change management and executive leadership.  You can dot all your I’s and cross all your T’s on the technical front evaluating a software solution but if you don’t understand how it will affect the user community, what policies and procedures you will need to revise and how you will market the solution internally you could end up winning the battle and loosing the war.

Another key element to a successful ECM strategy is a committment to future upgrades, enhancements, technical support and ongoing training.  A well managed ECM strategy should constantly evolve over time.  Many organizations who invest in an ECM solution from an initial purchase and implementation standpoint do manage to meet many of the goals and objectives of the original project.  The challenge comes when the project is complete, users are working with the new solution and the implementation partner has fulfilled its obligations.  At this point many ECM solutions are not upgraded consistently, new employees don’t recieve the same level of training and new technologies are not incorporated to enhance the functionality of the solution.

I look forward to reading the next column’s on this topic.  Thanks to Dan Hooper and AIIM for publishing this article.  Many of these topics will be explored and discussed during Nexus 2009 held in Bellevue, WA. November 2,3

Shadrach White
Chief Technology Officer
ImageSource, Inc.
ILINX Capture

ECM Essentials – Governance

Do you have the proper governance in your plans to deploy an ECM Solution for your organization? There are so many organizations now deploying ECM Solutions and so few of them are paying attention to the Governance aspects of the project. It is not surprising to me to see so many of our friends run into more problems with expensive system deployments that cost more than budgeted and have slow results on benefits. Without planned, clearly defined Governance structure and processes your organization may run into the same problems.

There are some Solution Providers , including ImageSource, Inc., that specialize in assisting organizations plan and structure appropriate Governance to assure measured success of their project initiatives. It is very important to plan ECM Governance in the very early stages of a project. These plans should include prioritizing strong IT project management with constant executive management involvement. Make sure you spend the time to identify clear ways to benefit your business with ECM.

A Global Chip Manufacturer used the lessons learned on Governance from an experience solutution provider and found great success with organizational correspondence, an effective reporting system and the ability to use existing technology. If you are serious about deploying a successful ECM solution then you need to plan appropriate Governance from the beginning and use the experiance of a qualified solution provider.

Written by an ECM Specialist currently serving on the AIIM National PAC – Professional Advisory Council.