Five reasons why low-code application development makes sense for growing tech-savvy companies..

Start Small, Think Big, Grow Fast…

As your organisation has grown, you will have encountered many challenges and tweaked and improved the way your business works as a result.

AgilePoint – a “toolkit in a box” (copyright one of our customers) provides ways of doing IT that empowers businesses to do new things that they couldn’t do before.

1 Minimise Growing Pains
As organisations grow, so must the people, technology and processes. For founders of a fast-growing organisation, the hardest thing to do can be letting go of daily ownership of every process. There are no longer enough hours in the day, and your highly-capable workforce won’t appreciate your involvement – unless they ask!

Startup and growing organisations are leaning more heavily on cloud-based, subscription services for many or most of their line-of-business applications. While there may still be on-premise technology, this is increasingly rare. But how do you effectively incorporate your evolving processes to operate effectively across this virtual environment? We suggest that you identify your first key projects, the “low hanging fruit”. be clear on your objectives and how they are to be measured for success. Get buy-in and active participation from your first Business Process Owner. Identify your “Citizen Developers”, who will be key to successful digital transformation.

2 Be Ambitious!
The philosophy of “Start Small, Think Big, Grow Fast” is the best approach: we recommend you do not try to reinvent the wheel on your first project. Rather, empower yourself by creating the right teams to include business process owners and “Citizen Developers” – your key enablers, able to iteratively translate and prototype those business processes over a coffee and a conversation. Correctly supported by an IT team unburdened from day-to-day participation and an expert ecosystem of enthusiastic and knowledgeable experts worldwide, it is surprising and gratifying how quickly results can be achieved.

A great example of this is related in a previous blog – “THE POWER OF LOW CODE – MAKING WAIVES WITH AGILEPOINT“, in which we described an integration with a third-party AI/ML platform to create a functional automated Accounts Payable application in two hours.

3 Comply and Govern
Empowering your business process owners sounds terrifying. Who knows how many holes they could punch in your carefully-crafted security policies? What if you could provide business process owners with a guided, secure environment for application development, like a bowling lane with bumpers to help and assure maximum results? Low Code allows IT to quickly define the secure parameters for interaction with third party systems through end to end encryption, secure communication protocols, global and reusable access tokens and Single Sign On, using a number of proven providers. Management Consoles provide control of running workflows, access and applications.

4 Do more with Less
In this current age of uncertainty, it has never been more important to be responsive to change. Until now, it was extremely expensive and time consuming to develop customer or supplier facing applications that were both functional and pleasant to use. The best low code application development platforms allow for the development of device-aware, responsive user interfaces and native applications without any coding. Corporate look and feel can be achieved using CSS along with other standards-based style protocols.

5 Make Transformation Resilient
Unlike more fragile enabling technologies such as RPA (robotic Process Automation), the best Low Code application development platforms incorporate a stateless design, standards-based integrations and a host of reusable integration stencils (AgilePoint has 70+ integrations and 700+ methods at last count)

There have been hits and misses as your organisation has grown, happily so far the successes have outweighed the failures. But ongoing success and growth needs clarity. Organisations should make themselves clear about their desired outcomes and what it is they specifically seek to improve: This is best achieved by tying digital transformation initiatives to key performance indicators that can best determine the health of the business.

Contact Mark and Paul at ChartaPorta to discuss your plans for growth and how Low Code and Democratised Application Development might play a part.

The power of Low Code – making Waives with AgilePoint

The power of Low Code – making Waives with AgilePoint

..or how one engineer designed and built an integrated Accounts Payable process in 2 hours!

Users of IT services in large organisations are becoming increasingly demanding. The arrival of intuitive and powerful consumer apps and devices has led users to question why the tools and services made available in their work life are not as simple to use.

IT vendors have responded by extending the range and capabilities of their systems, but at a price: Additional capabilities often mean extra complexity, cost, extended time to adoption, and confusing user interfaces. Automation of processes becomes possible but usually only within the scope of the product, or using expensive and limited integral app development environments.

We’ve been advocates of Waives (waives.io) for a couple of years now – an online capability that can interpret any unstructured, unknown content presented to it. However, as a true service, it doesn’t have end user interfaces – it is consumed by systems and environments that do. Elisabeth Belisle, the UK channel manager for AgilePoint, and I wondered what it would take to integrate the AgilePoint app environment with the Waives pre-configured invoice extraction Knowledge Set.

The approval screen showing extracted values and captured invoice (stored in Box)

It took an AgilePoint helpdesk engineer just 2 hours to configure a working invoice approval environment that used Waives to extract invoice information and embed it into an approval process. This included integration with Box as a document repository.

The engineer took a look at the well-documented waives API, then configured the integration:

REST Config 1

then configured the mapping..

mapping fields using auto-mapping feature..

Then created an invoice approval flow..

Invoice approval workflow canvas

The forms used will auto-format for the device used:

Screen showing task list (smartphone)

If you combine these two capabilities, the opportunities for innovation are virtually limitless. Some examples that we’re working on include:

  • joiners and leavers,
  • expense processing,
  • matching skills with project requirements,
  • medical record processing (including clinical coding),
  • Personally Identifiable Information discovery

AgilePoint and Waives are both true cloud-based capabilities, with try before you buy options available today. We would be delighted to support you in getting started to achieve your operational outcomes.

AgilePoint – https://agilepoint.com/products/platform/agilepoint-nx-defined/

Waives – https://waives.io

Mark Schroeder – still ridiculously impressed by innovation since 1965

The “Virtue Aisle” -Consumer-driven change for the packaging industry

We’re all becoming increasingly aware of the devastating impact mankind is having on the fragile ecosystem we share.  While pressure groups and political parties are beginning to wake up and slowly enact legislation to control our wasteful ways, the question remains:

Is it too late to reverse the damage we’re causing, in part due to use of plastic packaging with a lifespan and capacity to do harm for centuries to come?

Waste management is a complex subject, with a tension between what is right, and what is convenient.  The explosion of consumerism, online retailing (with associated packaging and delivery), vested interests from packaging manufacturers, and global supply chains are all conspiring to  negatively affect our chances of improving the situation.

However, rapid change is possible, when driven from the end consumer upwards.

One simple way that our supermarkets might make a positive change is to identify those brands known to do more than their competitors to recycle, source products closer to their point of consumption, or use more environmentally-friendly packaging.

These products would be placed in a “virtue aisle”, allowing a discerning consumer to select the best (or least harmful) choice for shampoo, cat food, cereal, deodorant, or battery.

We all want to do our bit – this approach would help us feel more aware of the environmental impact of our decisions.  My bet is that the very visible popularity of these areas in a supermarket will effect popular change fast – faster than legislation or any other top down initiative ever would: One supermarket adopting this approach will see an almost instant improvement in the perception of their brand and the uplift in sales will drive packagers to better behaviour.

Of course, the ability to impartially measure one products environmental worthiness over another is extremely complex – but not impossible. 
A number of organisations already exist, particularly the Ethical Consumer Group , which have already gone a long way in sorting the good from the bad.  

An Environmental Impact Index, which aggregates ease of recycling, product miles travelled, and use of reusable containers would be included as factors to judge product eligibility for the Virtue Aisle.  This index would be maintained by an impartial body with the maximum possible global reach.  The burden of evidence would be placed on the product manufacturer, who would each complete a category-specific questionnaire as a binding and verifiable legal document.

This Index will not be absolute and comparative across different product lines, but based on categories.  For example, shampoos compared with each other for ethical and environmental worthiness.

As individuals, we have discretion in our choices, and those choices would be made much easier to exercise with the adoption of the “Virtue Aisle”.  Let’s make #virtueaisle a symbol of our intolerance for the status quo.

We’d welcome your comments and feedback on this article – get in touch with your thoughts….

Morrisons Lose Data theft appeal

A recent ruling has made Morrisons vicariously liable for the rogue behaviour of an employee who stole over 100,000 employee payroll records.

Andrew Skelton was a senior auditor for Morrisons at the time of the data breach.  He had recently been officially warned about using corporate mailroom facilities for sending personal ebay packages. Mr Skelton was sentenced to eight years imprisonment in July of this year for the data breach.

A couple of interesting points stand out from this landmark judgement, which went all the way to the UK Court of Appeal, where the original ruling was upheld against Morrisons:

Firstly, the intent of the records theft was irrelevant – it didn’t matter whether the motive was personal gain for the data thief, or reputational damage caused to Morrisons.

Secondly, the Information Commissioners Office had originally found that no action was required under the Data Protection Act 1998 – the relevant legislation in force at the time of the offence: it took a class action under UK Common Law, brought by 5,000 of the impacted employees, to establish that Morrisons shared culpability with Mr Skelton.

Despite the fact that there was no commentary in the DPA for the specific circumstances of this case, the stricter definition of liability in the UK Common Law of Tort applied.  This suggests that there is still plenty of room for interpretation of data protection legislation – current and historical.

Remediation of the breach (including costs for the appeal) has cost Wm. Morrison £2,000,000 so far.  Damage to Morrisons reputation will be harder to quantify.

This case should concern organisations who’ve based their data governance purely around the specific requirements of recent data protection legislation.  This will raise serious concerns about data protection policies and controls for both employers and employees action as data controllers and processors.  It would not be unreasonable to foresee further rulings of this type, whether under previous DPA legislation or the current General Data Protection Regulation. Now, more than ever, it will be necessary for employers and employees to follow the spirit of the law, not just the letter…

 

With thanks to the Yorkshire Post and Herbert Smith Freehills for their research.

 

 

End User IT Analytics – hidden value in your data – printers and printing

I’ve long been an advocate of an apparently new “next big thing in IT” – end user IT analytics.  Our research led us to one particular product in this space – Nexthink, to the point that we now partner with this organisation and are consistently gratified by the ways in which customers have taken the product, run with it, and derive huge benefits from it’s adoption.

One of the most compelling examples of this is from Joanna Smith – until recently, the CIO of the Royal Brompton and Harlow NHS Trust. Her video, describing the journey to Nexthink adoption and the benefits they accrued is one of the most compelling I’ve seen.

https://vimeo.com/268616398

One of the slides Joanna described got me thinking (about four minutes in):  among approaching 800 data points that Nexthink gather, a large number include print behaviour exhibited by the end user community.  it was fascinating to see that, among the print estate:

  • almost 50% of all print jobs are sent to local printers
  • Less than 9% of print jobs are double-sided
  • 75% of print is in colour
  • A high percentage of printers are used less than 5 times per week

These are interesting statistics, that demonstrate a print-using community ripe for further investigation.  Many organisations using Nexthink are collecting this information, but may be unaware of the significant cost saving, service improvements and process optimisation that is implicit in this window into their user’s printing behaviour.  They may not know how to start on the journey of print and process optimisation.  They may be unaware that Nexthink has an integrated capability to ensure that employee sentiment can be continually gathered before, during, and after changes to the printer estate, ensuring that the user community is informed of changes and their views taken into account.

As both Nexthink partners, and Print and Process optimisation professionals, we feel uniquely able to help the Nexthink user community to lessen their environmental impact, realise rapid cost benefits and maybe most importantly, keep the end user happy through the process.

 

Talk to us about making the first steps in deriving benefit from data you already have at your fingertips..

 

mark@chartaporta.com , 07512726368

paul@chartaporta.com , 07496862279

 

 

Bureaux – New and interesting conversations with your customers – CloudHub360 capabilities

As a bureau owner and document storage provider it’s often a challenge to come up with a reason to contact your customers: they’ve been with you forever, and the 10,000 boxes you store on their behalf aren’t going anywhere, are they?

However, the FLAWWEM (Four Letter Acronym We Won’t Ever Mention – except this once) otherwise known as GDPR means that auditable record management is now no longer an option, but an imperative….

While the trade-off between the cost of doing a good job in digitising the documents, and the perceived value of the information held has not previously stacked up, the FLAWWEM means that there is not just a weak perceived benefit – Information accessibility –  but a stronger and more tangible risk: how can your corporate customer be sure, that when asked as a Subject Access Request for their Personally Identifiable Information (PII), that all the documents have been identified from those 10,000 boxes of records?

  1. What if you could introduce a service-based replacement for Manual QA that rapidly and reliably automates the process of classification and extraction?

  2. What if job setup time was reduced to just a few days, not weeks?

  3. What if the same service was able to seamlessly handle “born digital” documents in exactly the same way as scanned documents, allowing for a customer’s unstructured digital document caches to be proven compliant and dependable for PII search.

  4. What if the service could be seamlessly incorporated into existing workflows with a minimum of coding effort.

The use of CloudHub360 allows for a 73% reduction in all manually intensive aspects of a typical scan to archive job, which turns the cost/value equation of backfile archive scanning on it’s head.

The benefits of CloudHub360 are even more apparent for day-forward scanning and scan to process operations, where the value of the information in the document is proportionally higher… in these cases, bottom line profitability can be increased by between 10-25%

Fig1 below shows a typical cost breakdown per job – manually intensive on the left, and what can be achieved through the use of CloudHub360 to minimise labour-intensive processing on the right.

 

Previous attempts to digitise historical archives foundered because the costs associated with the interactive elements of setting up and running a scanning job were prohibitive.  These steps are (broadly):

  • Document Preparation –  (including transportation, booking in, destapling/unbinding, manual separation, manual classification using barcodes/classification sheets, and batching)
  • Scanning – the process of scanning, separator sheet salvage, and image quality control
  • Manual QA – including classifying documents, checking or creating index data, and optional two step data validation. along with preparation, often the most labour-intensive step in a digitisation workflow
  • Automation – any automation steps designed to lessen human interaction, typically seen in the Manual QA steps and for automated image format/OCR steps required.  This may range from automated batch management and workflow, through to highly automated separation, classification and data extraction. Typically the trade-off here is in sophistication of the software required and associated cost per document, and time to configure the scanning job..
  • Administration – the human cost associated with customisation of the scanning job – broadly a fixed cost per job, not dependent on the size of the job.  Administrative tasks include software package configuration, formatting the output index, file format, and uploading the files to their destination.

We invite you to join us in  an interactive Webinar on Thursday 7th June, where we will show you how you can once again have interesting and profitable conversations with existing customers, and be ready to win new, repeatable and profitable business.  Please be ready to challenge us with your thoughts, previous issues, and complex project requirements…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image 1 – By Axisadman [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons

Seven Surprising Side Effects from Switzerland – IT Integration Strategy with Nexthink

In our year-long mission so far amongst the IT teams of some of the best known global legal firms, we are often surprised by the unexpected feedback we receive when we present Nexthink, the fastest way to good digital experience management.

We were familiar with feedback such as “this could turn our service support team into heroes”, and ” we had no idea how little-used our new business messaging service had been adopted by our users, until we undertook the Proof of Value exercise with you”.

One use case we hadn’t heard before was an interesting twist on an understood use case very common in the Legal Profession – use of Nexthink to audit the readiness of an acquired companies’ IT infrastructure integration into the core environment.  The twist is that this was undertaken proactively by the IT team under acquisition, rather than the acquiring company.

Let’s take a look at the nuts and bolts of this, the first of seven blogs illustrating interesting benefits from the adoption of Nexthink:

IT Integration Strategies

There are arguably three strategies associated with IT integration in merger and acquisition situations, namely complete IT integration, partial IT integration and IT co-existence.

Irrespective of the integration strategy a clear before and after picture of the organisational and IT infrastructure and underlying processes that align with the go forward IT and business strategy needs to be understood. In addition, one needs a level of assurance that the transition to a new ‘combined’ IT organisation is going to provide at least an equivalent level of service, with minimal disruption. These challenges distil into two broad core use cases for Nexthink, which we will call ‘assessment’ and ‘transformation’.

Sample Assessment and Transformation Use Cases

Assessment

The initial challenge in this task is to gain a full and complete appreciation of the acquired organisations IT infrastructure and underlying processes. The complexity can-not be underestimated and the task of disambiguating all the moving parts across multiple platforms and systems is immense.

Nexthink solves this by going back to the lowest common denominator, the end user, and provides a real-time view of their consumption and use of IT.
Nexthink achieves this by collecting data (some 700 metrics) in real time from every device; this data can be queried, presented and integrated into third party tools to provide a comprehensive understanding and assessment of the IT infrastructure.

Figure 1 below, shows a unique visualisation of this data, presenting how a service or application is being consumed. Here Nexthink shows every device, user, binary, port and destination, the quality of the connection and the volume of data being transferred for an application.

This real time dynamic mapping of the consumption of IT is at the core of the capability of Nexthink. This data can easily be presented in different ways to multiple constituencies in side of IT to support specific use cases, which we shall explore in the rest of this document.

This outcome is achieved with zero configuration on the endpoint as all devices send all data for all applications to a centralised database for querying using a natural language interface.

Figure 1- End to End View of Real Time IT Consumption

One such use cases is to present for performance and compliance reasons an assessment of the overall hardware health of the organisation, as shown in figure 2.

Importantly the dashboard also includes a customisable overall score, shown as 8.91 in the figure. This allows for benchmarking and compliance to be undertaken across the organisation. In addition, the dataset has been categorised, by location and type and other attributes so that analysis of the underlying issues is easier.

Figure 2 – Hardware Performance Assessment
A considerable number of dashboards and queries (investigations) like the one shown in figure are provided out of the box through an online library, they can of course be created from scratch.

Transformation

Typically, assessment data is used to drive transformation in the organisation. The example in figure 3 below shows this being evaluated in the context of appreciating the overall capacity plan required to perform a migration to Office 365.

As Nexthink captures all traffic by binary it is possible to easily assess the capacity demands of any application or service.

Figure 3 – Capacity Planning for Office 365

One common area of concern within transformation is the overall management of change. In Figure 4 below the dashboard has been configured to understand the impact of change on several different pilot and test groups.

In the example, we can see that those pilot groups who have experienced the change have degraded performance relative to the group without the change.

Using this approach, a “dev ops” type approach can be considered to assess the impact of any change on the performance or experience of the end user.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 4 – Managing and Measuring the Impact of Change

Summary

This document has reviewed a very small number of use cases that we believe would be of value during and acquisition and merger type situation. The underlying principle however is that Nexthink has an extraordinarily unique data set that is simple and easy to access and consume, and extendable by anyone with simple training in its use to address multiple concerns within a merger and acquisition context.

Core content provided by Mark Boggia: Director Solution Consulting, Nexthink – any mistakes are my own, not his.

is the law ready for true digital interaction

Some thoughts from our colleague, Chris Jones at Icon UK, which we’d wholeheartedly echo.  Over the next month or two, we will be exploring this with our customers in the legal sector, and will come back with their feedback and views..

Lord Briggs and other Supreme Court judges advocate the intelligent use of technology to bring the justice system within economic reach of all citizens and to speed the efficient processing and resolution of cases.  Yet too many practicing lawyers/solicitors are unaware of the possibilities and are often unsure if they start engaging with these technologies whether or not they would be contravening Law Society guidelines. We see that it is in no-ones interest for such ambiguities to exist, particularly as the legal sector strives to modernise a wide variety of practices. We would welcome a discussion with the relevant Policy and Practice Head(s) to clarify some specifics, both from policy and member communication perspectives.

Specifically, there are two technology types that we believe if adopted could bring huge benefits in reducing paper and fraud, plus improving security, speed, convenience, cost and compliance:

  1. E-Signing: There are many technical approaches to electronic signatures and these have very different legal implications. Some may be considered under the e-IDAS Regulation (superseding the Electronic Signatures Directive 1993/EC) and interpretations into basic, advanced and qualified e-signatures. Others use handwritten signatures with recoding either solely via a digital pen or hybrid ink/digital pens, whereby the biometric signature created can be forensically analysed to prove identity and is legally also subject to be view as “a handwritten signature in electronic form”. Whilst the Practise Handbook does not distinguish between wet ink and digital approaches, neither is it’s wording such that the majority believe that a digital first approach is permissible.
  1. Virtual Meetings: Solicitors often have an obligation to ‘meet their client’ and to do so face-to-face. This can be onerous for both client(s) and solicitor, plus any advisers. We have software that provides web-meetings via a client’s device (e.g. tablet, PC, etc.) that technically avoids the need to travel as it enables full personal interactions via web-cams, capture of identity documentation (with in-session ID validation options), sharing of documents for collaborative completion or review, screen sharing of any other content including web browsing, eSigning and secure document filing/forwarding. Moreover, all of these interactions are 100% recordable for up to 4 devices and soon to be 10 devices. We would like to validate that this approach fulfils the ‘requirement to meet’ obligations and if appropriately implemented can be a form of legitimate meeting.

We would also like to validate that remote witnessing is permissible using one or more of these technologies. The technologies are proven, used elsewhere in Europe and worldwide; the question now is whether a sceptical legal profession can be convinced that these can be part of modern practice.

References: https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/briggs-review-online-court-needed-to-cut-out-lawyers/5052973.article

User-centricity; the new focus for IT service provision

We’ve spent the last couple of months exploring some of issues of concern to IT functions in the legal sector. Here are some of them:

Legal firms are very acquisitive, and usually expand through mergers or wholesale onboarding of another firms’ sector practice. This means that large cohorts of devices, networks, associated data and systems often need to be incorporated, merged, or at least coherently managed.

The lack of availability of a service or source of information can vary from the trivial/inconvenient, through to reputationally harmful and up to being critically damaging to the legal firm.

The move towards the cloud-like service provision is especially complex for legal IT service leaders: clients often mandate the collaborative systems to use, and have their own policies for data location, collaboration and access.

IT (especially the helpdesk) are often seen as a necessary evil, and not particularly helpful in resolving an IT issue. This is a painful fact to IT support managers, who may be incentivised through a bonus scheme based on their user feedback ratings (‘Net Promoter Scores’)… Of course, there is a counterargument: if the IT ticket raised by the managing partner simply says “Internet seems to be slow” then the user should not expect a particularly quick fix, notwithstanding their seniority or the importance of access to the required resource.

Legal firms are by nature risk-averse and are not often the adopters of leading-edge innovation. This seems to be generally true for associated IT functions in the legal firms, even when the technology, practice or service has been proven in other sectors.

In the last two months, we interviewed twenty three senior men and women responsible for IT service provision to some of the largest and most well-regarded legal practices. Our approach was based on their providing simple feedback to the products and services we socialised on the following page: Innovation for Legal IT

In virtually all cases, we received positive interest and follow up requests for nexthink – user-centric IT analytics: many scenarios were shared with us in which nexthink would be useful, ranging from the readiness of the IT infrastructure to cope with a Windows 10 upgrade, the reduction in use of expensive second and third line resources, reduced helpdesk tickets and reduction in resolution times, and reducing the chance of compliancy breaches.

Most often spoken about was the transformation of IT support from reactive to proactive in nature, and the potential for improved Net Promoter Scores and a correspondingly healthy bank balance.

Take a look at this nine minute video from Nexthink and tell us what you think!

nexthink “my internet is slow”

Your life in the ether…. Record Management Online

Memory is the treasury and guardian of all things.

Marcus Tullius Cicero

You may find some of the ideas suggested eight years ago interesting, and maybe still valid with the advent of GDPR. This was an idea for storing and managing all information – personal or corporate – in the cloud, using the very powerful HP RM (record manager) engine as a basis.

The original is here  – apologies for the loss of images, which used to be in there.

Your life in the ether…. Record Management Online

HP Records – Record Management in the Cloud
Record Management for the home, for small business, and the enterprise
idea qualification
Reach: How many people would this idea affect? – all those who, in their professional and personal lives, have a need for long term organisation, management, and eventual disposal of their critical personal or corporate information In other words, simply put – records.
Depth: How deeply are people impacted? How urgent is the need? – nearly everyone has struggled to find a piece of vital information they know they have, but can’t find. This can be from the mundane (a password, utility bill, or old address) to the life threatening or life-changing ( a medical file, or a lost case file relating to a crime).
Attainability: Can this idea be implemented within a year or two? Yes – easily
Efficiency: How simple and cost-effective is your idea? It’s a fusion of record management practices, a cloud based infrastructure, existing and development expertise.
Longevity: How long will the idea’s impact last? Potentially, decades.
Background
As a child of the sixties, I grew up at the crossroads between paper records and newly-arriving electronic content. Today, with the advent of web-based billing, electronic payslips, online tax and accounting, and the growing number of instant communication streams, there has never been a more critical time to manage important records – both in a domestic and a corporate environment.
In the business world, a typical knowledge worker receives streams of information which are then stored in multiple ad-hoc ways, including:
  • Local drives
  • File shares
  • Line of business databases
  • Email systems – central or local (in PST archive files)
  • Web pages – internal and external to the business
  • Physical documents (the classic file)
  • Samples in physical form, or objects that cannot be digitized
  • Increasingly, cloud-based document hostinging environments (Google Docs as an example)
  • Collaborative environments – current – such as Instant Messenger, Wikis, Blogs, Twitter, – and forthcoming – such as Google Wave.
Unfortunately, the ability to manage these records seems to have been lost over the past 15 or so years..
Usually this content is stored indefinitely, at great expense in terms of physical storage, management, time and risk. The risk accrues since the information under ownership by an organisation is not managed, categorised, or disposed of – it’s simply backed up slavishly in ever-decreasing available time slots. The data is therefore not understood and becomes a risk for large organisations unaware of what information they may or may not have, who are then prey to legal forensic experts familiar with e-discovery and the practice of billing multiple thousands of dollars per gigabyte they examine. Users often create content and store it in proprietary ways, unknown or inaccessible to other potential collaborators. Email can actually prevent collaboration by becoming a limited silo of unmanaged content, as can newer technologies like Microsoft SharePoint.
This growing stream of information is paralleled in a domestic environment, with service providers tempting us (with discounts) to adopt electronic billing and online ways of getting assistance.
The advent of electronic document and content management systems were a first pass at managing at least some of these corporate information management systems, allowing document collaboration and versioning to be managed, and a degree of compliance with external drivers and internal governance to be achieved. However, this falls short of meeting todays record keeping requirements.
In parallel, Electronic Record Management developed, emphasizing the inter-relationship of all the information management streams to allow knowledge workers to have an understanding of a business decision and how that decision was arrived at. This was achieved through complex configuration, and integration with all the information streams (bulleted above) to allow easy transferral of key documents into a contextual classification based on record management best practice and tailored for the business. This in effect became the classic “filing system”, transferred to the digital age. These RM systems are able to manage both electronic and physical forms of information, as well as their transformation from one to the other. RM systems can ingest any form of electronic document, and typically support the view or transformation of that file type to allow for format obsolescence of the originating application (WordStar, WordPerfect, Visicalc). This last point is increasingly critical:

In a survey, conducted in early 2006 by the Digital Preservation Coalition,

  • 36% of respondents said that their organisation had inaccesible data;
  • 28% said some of the main type of data had been lost
  • 48% said some of the data was in danger of becoming in accessible
  • 38% said file formats had been used that were now obsolete.
Record Management (as opposed to content or document management) placed great emphasis on the reliability, usability, integrity, and authenticity of the data captured within its framework. This framework gave these records long term trustworthiness, and allowed them to be the basis of a “corporate memory”, adding efficiency to the list of benefits achieved by organisations that adopted record management. The price to pay was predominantly change management – persuading the user community to actually adopt the systems and accept a degree of initial overhead in adding the information into the record structure. Retraining was involved (mostly in record-keeping best practice, as opposed to the use of the record management system), and record-keeping corporate policies had to be created usually on a per-organisation basis. There is also an additional overhead in IT equipment required to establish and support the record management framework.
My proposal is to make available a cloud-based record management repository encompassing all of the benefits of using record management systems, with far fewer of the overheads: in this way, a workable Home or Corporate Memory would not have to be reinvented many thousands of times in corporate environments, or many millions of times in domestic scenarios.

Idea – cloud based domestic and corporate memory
What I envisage is a development of the Google Docs engine, with the addition of record management functionality. In my proposed scenario, more emphasis is placed on the inter-relationship of documents with each other (the context, if you will); the fundamental differences between document and record management are well-defined and laid out in an ISO Standard – ISO 15489. There are several key elements that make a record management system more valuable than simple document management, but the key one is the fact that a record is usually a collection of documents, made up of many interlinked documents or objects that together form the record. In this way, an understanding of the whole process that went into a decision can be understood. A good analogy is to consider a traditional medical record ; In it, a clear chronological picture is given as to history, events and decisions – because all the information that went to form that decision are reliably present, authentic, usable and possess integrity.

Core features

Long –term Access
Another key aspect of record management is the durability of a record: in 20 years time, although the original document is still stored, the original application used to create the content may no longer be available to support opening the document and viewing/editing its content. Traditionally, record management has a three-fold approach to solving this: the use of so-called “universal viewers” and the ability to create a viewable “rendition” of the original document without altering the original, which is still the record. Separately, the IT infrastructure has to be periodically refreshed, to ensure hardware, media formats and operating system longevity. As a trusted provider of centrally hosted and managed applications, HP would be well placed to manage the search for and rendering of outdated document/content types into formats with long-term viewability and integrity (such as PDF/A or equivalent).
Classification
This is the file structure – predefined as a template appropriate to the environment in which it will be used: – HP records for home, HP records for legal, HP records for local government, HP records for health and so on. These are based on known templates that exist for many or most corporate environments. The home environment classification would need definition, as no standard exists here.
This structure provides the “memory”, creating a logical and maintainable structure to which household records are attached. The templates (home, legal, health, local govt) provide a sound basis for classification, but this could be tailored by the record owner as required.
By using a filing structure, very detailed security can be applied in terms of file visibility, access and permissions to carry out tasks. Rules for disposal can also be applied at this level. Disposal of content, as content volumes continue to grow, will be just as important as keeping the content.
HP records for the home – aimed at domestic users, HP would provide a standard classification structure template based on the usual functions within a household. Within this standard classification, records can be added.

View of the classification structure – the customizable framework provided to the consumer as a structure for their records. Detail shows a standard 3-tier classification loosely based on “Function – Activity – Task”; the yellow folder icon (“HR53 JWT) is the record object with contained documents within it
Granular security
Very detailed security model defining who can see and do what, where. Areas of the classification (such as utility bills, genealogy) can be shared with specified users or groups.
Tied to this is a full audit trail of who has viewed, downloaded, amended, and deleted records within the system.
A configurable degree of access to a subset of the classification and its contents could be granted to trusted third parties (such as your utility provider, or employer, or accountant, family member and so on), to enable enhanced service levels and communication. For example, bills could be automatically posted to a unique URL representing the classification, and record type. The user could be notified of the bills arrival by email, with a link to the document.
The standard template used by different categories of user could allow for a degree of global standardization of intercommunication.
Scanning – ad-hoc and as a service
Your organisation could make available cheap but powerful scanning devices allowing for local paper records to be converted to electronic format and uploaded. These would incorporate an Automatic Document Feeder, and support for colour TIFF or PDF scanning of at least legal, letter and A4 paper sizes. Third party bureaux could also scan these files, and optionally post then to the customers record set (either in a queue, or direct to the appropriate area of the classification).

Support for physical records and those that don’t support scanning or conversion to electronic format
Record management can support tracking and management of objects in physical space. These spaces could be user defined such as: “my house – loft – box1”, or a location such as “H Pringle – Solicitors”. This functionality is extended to the concept of physical documents having owners, home locations and assignees. In this way the movement of documents can be tracked and managed.

The ability to store any electronic format
Web 2.0 content should be capable of being stored at the time it was referenced, to support how a decision was made.
One of the most exciting elements of this idea is the breadth of its applicability: Classifications can be designed for domestic, SME, and large enterprises; zero capital cost in infrastructure set up for the customer, long-term access to records from a trusted provider like HP. Technology and file format refresh would no longer be an issue, with centrally managed services.

Competition
Microsoft have just awoken to the importance of record management (as opposed to document management), and have gradually enhanced the functionality of the SharePoint platform from versions 2003 through to 2007, to the extent that now with 2010, they appear to have realistic Record Management functionality – albeit grudgingly. They will be heavily promoting this platform as a cloud-based service on a subscription basis in the coming years.
Many small ad-hoc scanning bureau provide a central scanning service with hosting of the scanned files. These provide a useful, but limited service.
Documentum/OpenText/IBM – the enterprise level providers typically aim their offerings at the larger enterprises, but do not yet have a coherent offering for cloud-based record management.
Summary
There are probably as many questions as there are answers in this document which I have considered, but left unanswered at this stage. The proliferation of information, and the need to sort that information into the items of value, mean that now is the perfect time to provide long term record management for all. It requires a combination of (mostly) existing technologies, record management best practices, and intelligent marketing to succeed. It is a perfect complement to the new ways of communication, offering context, longevity, security, and finally disposition and destruction of content when no longer needed.
I believe my experiences over the last 20 years in the corporate document and record management, and my good technical and commercial grounding, would help an organisation like HP continue to win hearts and minds by resolving one of the main concerns we have to resolve domestically and professionally.
About myself
For approaching 20 years I have worked in the field of Electronic Document and Record Management – as a project manager, marketer, in sales and presales, and as a trainer – helping large organisations derive the maximum benefit from their information assets.