True ECM savings…#2

28 05 2009

So this is part two if you like in my look at savings ECM solutions can bring to your organisation. In my first post https://andrewonedegree.wordpress.com/2009/05/20/true-ecm-savings-1/ I looked at costs associated with a number of typical tasks, such as filing documents, locating them etc. In this post I want to look at issues with replication of documents within an organisation and some green credentials of ECM.

Typical replication costs

How many times does a particular document get printed out? According to statistics this happens on average 19 times per document! Now that’s a lot. Let’s think of some quick costs associated with that:

  1. Physical paper
  2. Printer toner
  3. Moving physical paper around the world
  4. Environment
  5. Security

Physical paper costs, well if you are printing the same 10 page document 19 times, that cost starts to add up. Now let’s say you store in excess of 100,000 documents, each with just 2 pages (I know, many documents will have a lot more than 2 pages). That’s some 200,000 pieces of paper. What’s that physical paper cost alone to your organisation?

So, how much toner are you using if you are printing on some 200,000 pieces of paper, just for document duplication? Again, that’s not cheap.

It’s also worth mentioning that a lot of this document printing comes around internally within the organisation. It’s not a by product of scanning correspondence from customers for example. More than 80% of documents printed in offices come from digital environments, such as Microsoft Word. This is an awful fact, something that ECM solutions can remove.

Let’s start thinking about costs regarding moving that paper around. Just think if you had to move only a third of that paper we were duplicating, so that’s some 66,666 pieces of paper. How much would it cost you to physically move that around? How much to post that for example? With postage you can see a real actual cost associated, but what about the cost you have to pay for people in your organisation to move it around. How much is that in time, and as a proportion of salary?

Now we come to something that is hard to measure, the environmental cost. All this cutting down of trees for paper alone is a pretty big impact. It is estimated that 768 million trees are cut down each year for paper production alone! Now how much energy is used turning those 768 million trees into paper and what’s the carbon footprint of that alone? This “footprint” continues to grow when you look at your toner and the fuel associated to move that paper around the world.

What about the security cost of that paper? Document security is always something in the background when talking about physical paper. Why? With physical paper you are so much more vulnerable to content being read when it shouldn’t, content being lost or shared when it shouldn’t. What cost can you place on particular documents and their content? One obvious cost is that of not meeting compliance for your industry. But what cost could it have to your organisations if that document content was shared when it shouldn’t be?

The ECM savings…

This will be simple. If you store documents electronically, in an ECM solution, and then share and distribute them electronically, almost all of the costs above are removed from your organisation. You can enforce these savings by limiting who can print what content. This may sound “harsh” but often users are used to just printing files to read them, then bin them. This isn’t a good practice and is expensive to your organisation.

Not only are there lots of savings to be made, remember that these savings automatically promote efficiency gains and additional productivity. With an ECM solution, your users can quickly access the documents all of the time.

When we look at document security, there is a wealth of security features available with all ECM offerings. Though these savings may not be as easy to calculate, they are none the less there.

 

Quick conclusion

You can make massive cost savings by simply removing paper replication, and while making these savings you promote increased efficiency and productivity throughout your organisation.

Finally, a massive reduction for your organisation and in general is that made to your organisations carbon footprint. By removing the dependency on physical paper and the associated costs (such as trees being felled, fuel to move trees and turn them into paper, fuel to move physical paper etc) you drastically reduce your carbon footprint and impact on the environment.

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Is Social Media removing the need for corporate websites?

27 05 2009

Now this is the typical headline grabbing statement that I feel plagues “Social Media” and is possibly one of the reasons why some companies dismiss social media as “pointless…”

So, is social media making corporate websites a thing of the past? In a word, NO!

Come on, let’s think about it. Why do people visit corporate websites? Why do people visit social sites, or websites that leverage social media? Are they for the same things?

 

Social Media for the corporation

Social media should be a vital part of any organisations communications. Social media should be seen as a communications tool to organisations, a tool that provides new ways of interacting with customers, partners etc. It’s very powerful, as a marketing tool, it also has great merits as a way of leveraging marketing campaigns further with little added cost.

There are many people that now include links to their twitter account, or company’s facebook profile in email signatures, even business cards. I am one such person. There is nothing wrong with this. It allows us to communicate with others through a new medium, and in the case of twitter, almost in real time.

At present, in the USA, Vitamin Water is placing ads that push users to a Facebook page, not a corporate website. This is has a number of benefits, the most obvious being that the company can interact with the people who participate with them on Facebook on an on-going basis. There is also a downside, that those not on facebook or willing to engage in social media will never visit that page, will never learn more about that product. This is potentially wasteful as your target audience shrinks immediately. Many argue though that the long term benefits far outweigh the additional advertising wastage of pushing users to facebook.

For me, this is working, the companies Facebook page has over 350,000 fans, which the company can interact with daily. The only negative is, the company is losing potential visitors as you have to have a facebook account to view and interact with the page. I view this as an intelligent way of interacting with a customer base. However, would I therefore remove my corporate website? No….Would I implement this idea in the same way? No…

 

Why keep my corporate website

Just think what you can place on your corporate website…There is no limit to the amount of information, features and functions you can add. You are always limited if you choose just a social media site, such as Facebook or MySpace.

It is also worth remembering, it is very easy for large organisations with great brand awareness to rely on social media. Skittles recently launched their website that basically acts as a portal to social media activity / websites such as Flickr, You Tube and facebook (www.skittles.com).  This really only works because most of us know what Skittles are. Would this work for a company though that makes taps for oil drilling equipment? Would it even work for massive organisations such as Vodafone, who have more to say than “this is us….”.

Also, what about my brand image itself? On your own website you get across your complete look and feel, your brands ethos both visually and in tone. If you’re using another site, essentially this becomes hard to do.

The point I am making is that while social media is engaging, for people or other companies that want to find out more about you, read white papers, look at the services you provide, social media just won’t get the job done.

 

Corporate website and social media

This is where we should all be heading. Let’s keep our corporate websites, give our website users the ability and choice to interact with our content, features and functionality of our website. But also provide them with access to social media content. There is nothing stopping your corporate website in pulling in images from flickr, videos from your You Tube channel, or even looking at your corporate Facebook page. You can even let users sign into your own corporate website using their twitter account or facebook account. If you do so, this adds to their user experience, and again makes life easier for them to interact and engage with your content. Give the user the choice….

Why not leverage the power of social media websites, social media activities and your own interactive website and marketing? This must be the best option…

Social media is here to stay, and I hope that certain people involved stop trying to oversell it, or over state its importance. Social media is important, it’s crucial in interacting with your customers and others in the modern day, however, it doesn’t replace or make up for other forms of communication, and nor should it.

If you are looking at social media for your own organisation, or what it can do for you, then contact a PR agency. An agency that understands not just the concepts of social media, but the technology that makes it all work for you.  Contact an IT company too, together they can ensure your organisation maximises its communications channels and maximises your communications reach.

(Visit http://www.gbc.co.uk/ for a PR agency that can help and http://www.ODMedia.co.uk for an IT web organisation that can make things happen for you)





ECM and BPM jargon. It doesn’t help!

26 05 2009

Today I have been talking to a number of people on twitter about the issues of using too much jargon, something that ECM and BPM companies and consultants seem to do all the time. What triggered this off was reading a couple of articles where people thought BPM / workflow was something new. Then in their own descriptions of BPM got it wrong, and more importantly started comparing their own services to BPM, which they weren’t at all. The articles also talked about BPM as if it didn’t really exist….why???

I also have been reading a number of articles where explanations of ECM and BPM are just so complex to read or full of jargon that, well they don’t make instant sense to anyone outside the ECM / BPM market place.

Firstly, BPM (Business Process Management), well workflow, has been around and used in IT since the 1980’s. It’s nothing new or revolutionary, though to many businesses, it probably is. Many organisations either don’t understand it, or have not yet recognised the amounts of benefits such solutions bring to organisations.

Secondly, ECM (Electronic Content Management) has been around in some form again since the 1980’s. Though its current badge of ECM is quite a bit younger, essentially, ECM solutions have been round a while.

The simple truth is, if ECM and BPM solutions cannot provide simple descriptions of what they actually do, what hope is there for describing how these technologies help businesses….Which they do, very well.

 

So what is ECM?

Ok, now if you know about ECM, please have a go at describing ECM simply, in a single sentence, and add to the comments for this post…..But I am looking for simple definitions without jargon.

What I constantly see on the web is a paragraph of a description. Something, that for many people may read as meaningless twaddle created by some smart a** in marketing. This is one of those examples I see frequently on the web, and funny enough in Wikipedia. Oh, its also one of the better examples, though I think you may agree, still a little…well, read for yourself:

“Enterprise Content management (ECM) is the strategies, methods and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve and deliver content and documents related to organisational processes. ECM tools and strategies allow the management of an organisations unstructured information, wherever that information exists”

Great…..So I am new to ECM, this is my first venture into reading about it and I am presented with that….Not good, though technically correct, how hard is it to understand. Mind you, I don’t like the word processes there really….But that’s another post..

For me we have to make things simple, even if that means we don’t describe it as accurately as we should do. After all, a business isn’t going to buy into ECM based on one description of what it is. It may though get them interested, or turned off. So what’s my description of ECM…Ok, well I use a few, many of which my company use and, well clients seem to grasp what we mean straight away.

“ECM is a large digital storage area; in it you can place and manage anything that can be stored electronically and or recognised on a computer.”

Now I know that sells ECM short. However, it’s a single sentence. It helps the customer or newcomer to ECM understand a core principle.  Once they understand that, you can explain more about ECM.

 

So what is BPM?

Again if you know about BPM, this is going to seem silly, but try to describe BPM in layman’s terms in the comments of this post. Again I have seen some shocking explanations that just confuse the matter, or make people believe it only relates to software….Here is my own shot at it:

“BPM is a computer based solution that allows you to bring together all the elements of a particular process / job within an organisation and help your staff get their work done efficiently”

Again, I am selling BPM short here, but it gets across a core principle. Is there really any need to talk about mapping business process work flows? Using abstract modelling to deliver strategic management of processes reducing process cycle times? I don’t think so.

Again, simply is best to start with.

So why the jargon in the first place?

Simple…..I have no idea!

Sometimes I think it is genuinely due to people trying to describe ECM or BPM in its entirety. However, more often than not I think it’s the way people seem to want to do business today. Thinking by using some jargon or glossy terms they look more knowledgeable or make their product much better. If you have watched the Apprentice you will see a lot of this rubbish in the board room…

I’m worried, and am sure people walk away from ECM and BPM solutions, simply because they have got lost in the jargon.

 

Is there a point or conclusion????

My point is this. Jargon and lengthy descriptions of ECM and BPM just isn’t good. Anything with that much jargon in it or complex descriptions will have people outside of the market scratching their heads and “best guessing” just what ECM / BPM is all about. More often than not, with them getting it wrong!

By keeping it simple, we get across our core selling point. Once people have a basic grasping, then they can be exposed to the more complex areas of both ECM and BPM, but please, with real world examples businesses can relate to and without the massive amounts of jargon.

A friend today said, “We need to humanise our literature”. I think he hit the nail on the head…





Wiki or Document Management / ECM?

22 05 2009

Yesterday I was asked if a company has both a Wiki solution and a document management repository, how does that organisation decide which is used for what? It’s a good question, as there are some areas of overlapping, but I feel once you define what the actual content is, its accessibility needs and above all security requirements, you should be able to decide where it goes.

For the Wiki…

Ok, so what content would I place in a Wiki. Well first off, let’s remember that typically a wiki is open to everyone (within that organisation) and as such, any one member can update it. Wiki’s are very “loose” though often are somewhat limited to what content medium you can store in them and access easily. One of the selling points of a wiki is the fact that anyone can contribute to its upkeep, ensuring that the information is kept up to date and correct. Typically a wiki stores electronic content as web pages or displays stored content as web pages.

So what would I place in my organisations wiki?

Firstly, content that is always changing and that I don’t need to version control.

Secondly, content that is not to be released outside of the organisation.

So what examples do we have to make this a “real world” and “useful” blog post. (I do hate it when all you get is examples that just don’t work in the real world!). Ok, well the obvious one is a glossary. But I want to build on this. Think of your glossary as not just a glossary of terms or definitions, rather than a glossary of everything that is going on within your organisation or is useful to staff members. When you think like this, a glossary could consist of case studies, internal updates, information on particular departments, certain process guidelines, good practices, information on certain places to eat your lunch, staff events, suppliers used, reviews etc. etc.

Would I place “physical documents” in a wiki, electronic or other….The simple answer is no. Only place content in a wiki, if that makes sense, not the actual document from which it came from. Once you place physical documents in a wiki you loose that fluid nature in which a wiki is used by users, and you will find it hard to locate that document in the wiki.

Always remember security of your content. If that content needs to be managed or restricted, then it should not be in the wiki, simple as that. If it requires to meet some compliancy guidelines, then again, it has no place in the wiki.

For the document management repository…

Ahh, well with a document management repository or ECM solution, you have a platform geared to supporting a wider range of content types. You also have far greater control over accessibility, delivery, versioning and retention periods. All access and activity can be recorded, but each user has to be identified, either via dedicate security within the document management solution, or integrated windows security for example. This means access and privileges are always governed by a member of staffs individual security access rights, so not everyone can view or update this content.

So what am I to place in my repository?

Firstly, any public facing or external documents need to be controlled and the original versions kept. This applies to both electronic documents and scanned images. You must must must always keep the original and have quick access to these.

Secondly, content that requires a version trail. If it is going to be updated and or has a lifecycle (by this I mean it goes through iterations of drafts, releases, publications etc.) then again, you need this in your document management repository. Ideally you will be able to access any version of a particular piece of content (document in this case) and have the ability to “roll back” to that version.

Thirdly, you require some form of classification of particular types of documents. Typically this is to help identify and find those documents based on particular types of meta-data and actual meta-data value. You can also still retrieve certain files based on their content, however for scanned images etc. this sometimes can be tricky and require a deeper level of document capture and retrieval sophistication. For me, you should always be able to find your files based on meta-data value, if not, something isn’t quite right…

Fourthly, your files have a retention period. This could be based on the type of content you are storing, so in some cases you may require to keep a content / document for several years, after which it must be deleted.

In short…

Use a wiki for pure content that requires no level of security and maximum levels of accessibility. Use a document management / ECM system for everything else…..





FIA, F1 and going green?

21 05 2009

Sorry, this isn’t my usual look into IT technology, trends etc but a post about two things that I am passionate about, motor racing and green technologies.

At present the teams within formula 1 are battling it out (in the court room as well as in the press) with regards to next season’s idea of capping the amount of money each team can spend on developing their car. Now I understand why they want to do this, as the FIA and the sport do need to see more competitive racing and independents racing against the big manufacturers, such as Ferrari, Renault and Toyota. However, F1, unlike other racing formulas, is all about pushing the engineering and mechanical boundaries; pushing technology on and having this technology working its way down to us, sitting in our day to day cars.

There are numerous technologies that we find on ever car today that have their roots in F1, some more popular than others, such as semi-automatic gearboxes (flappy paddles to change gears). So with this in mind, why hasn’t F1 looked at the big issue of the environment? Surely, if we need to develop green, environmental cars that perform well, this is the best place to do it.

F1, could it be green?

Every 4-5 years it seems, F1 has a major shakeup of its rules with regards to how the cars can be built, specifications etc. This 2009 season is an example of such a year. When this happens, I am always amazed just how quickly F1 teams manage to get cars up to speeds, and performance levels close to that of the year before. It’s testament to the designers, engineers and technicians at each team.

Only today I was reading an article about Warwick University in collaboration with Lola and others, building and delivering a GP3 car, which brings unbelievable green credentials to the table, not just for motor racing, but as a day to day car! It’s built using recycled carbon fibre, potatoes, carrots and runs on chocolate waste and vegetable oil. It also converts ozone in its radiators to oxygen! See, very very green. Also, don’t think that this car won’t be safe; it meets all GP3 regulations with the exception of using a bio fuel which is currently not permitted in GP3. I won’t go into any more detail, just simply follow this link, have a read and watch the video. http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/racing_car

So why oh why, if a university with Lola can produce a competitive green car, can an F1 team not? It’s simple…An F1 team could and would if the rules incorporated such thinking…

Why not, forget budget capping, and bring in a radical shake up which puts all the teams on an even playing field. Why not make F1 a green formula. Let the designs free on using turbos, skirts, lots of banned aerodynamics etc, but ensure their car is made in a sustainable fashion and their engines are environmentally friendly running on either a bio fuel or something else that is environment friendly….I’m sure the racing will be great, and I’m sure the performance of the cars will not suffer too much. But more importantly, I’m sure we would soon see large manufacturers putting in place such technologies in our day to day cars!

 

What do you think???

Would be interested to know what others think of this…Drop a comment…





True ECM savings…#1

20 05 2009

This is going to be something I will continually look at through my blog posts, so you could say this is post #1 in looking at the true savings ECM solutions can provide organisations.

In this first post, I want to look at what organisations consider to be their costs when:

  1. Filing a document
  2. Locating documents
  3. Waiting for documents due to others using them
  4. Locating misfiled documents
  5. Reproduction of lost documents if possible
  6. Paper Archive / storage
  7. Retention period management

It’s weird, as I have read many blogs recently that do actually place monetary values to these things. I find this great in illustrating a point, however each organisation is different and to get a real feel for what your organisation is spending here, you need to get a consultant in to review these issues.

So, quoting from an AIIM blog http://aiim.typepad.com/aiim_blog/2009/05/management-ecm-excuse-3-weve-got-to-pick-our-battles-.html we see that some typical values have been placed. So, $20 to file a document, $120 to find a misfiled document and $220 to reproduce a document. These are just some figures I have chosen to reference. Now some organisation will look at this and think “hey, that’s not too bad. An ECM solution investment is going to cost us mega bucks so our ROI is going to be over a large period of time….” Well you would be wrong….

First off, just how many times does your organisation have staff file a document in a day? How many times are documents searched for in a day by staff and just how long does that take? How much time is wasted waiting for a document from another staff member? How many times do you have staff looking for misfiled documents? How often do you actually reproduce documents? How much does it cost to store your physical paper? How much do you spend on managing retention periods and looking at compliance issues? Now put a price on these things per day and multiply by the number of working days in the year……hmmm you see these costs aren’t small.

But they aren’t the only costs. There are so many more. For example, just how much are you spending on physical paper? Filing cabinets themselves, stationary etc? There are also the costs that are even harder to measure, and which could be argued are far more important. These are costs or impacts on your actual business. The time it takes you to respond to the market, the time it takes you to deliver for your customers, the time it takes you to execute business processes, the time it takes you to deal with customer complaints or enquiries. All of these have costs associated with them, both in terms of monetary costs right now, and longer implication costs to your company in retaining customers and winning new ones.

All in all, when you start looking at ECM and looking at the costs, make sure you start to investigate in detail just what are your current operating costs. I think you may well be shocked….Of course there are companies out there, consultancies ready and willing to help you with these things, my own company offers such services. I would strongly advise getting all the information to hand before you start looking at ECM solutions, that way you know you can get a good feasibility study together and have an accurate ROI projection…..

Little plug here, if you need some help in looking at your day to day costs and benefits of ECM, why not mail the guys at One Degree… info@onedegree.co.uk





Successful document capture…

14 05 2009

Well this is something close to my heart. My first ever project after leaving university was to help write a document capture application that was built on-top of the FileNET Panagon Capture platform. Ahh happy days…Though I did seem to earn the name “scan man” from then on, which wasn’t so great, as every document capture project our company then had, I had to be involved with….

Ok so how do you implement a successful document scanning / capture solution. Well it’s very simple, follow these 5 guidelines and you are well on the way.

  1. Throughput is everything. Make sure people can load the scanner and let it do its thing. You don’t want to be stopping to separate documents or batches. Make sure your software can do this and purchase a scanner with a big document holder.
  2. Ensure you maximise the quality of the images you are capturing. If this could be a problem, then make sure you get in place good quality control and re-scan technology
  3. Identify as much information as possible up-front with your software. The more a user has to do, the slower and more expensive the process will become
  4. Ensure your data captured or assigned to a document is accurate. Remember your retrieval of these images depends on the accuracy of your data capture
  5.  Your document capture is pointless, unless you release the images into your storage repository with all the correct information. Again make sure this is done seamlessly and accurately. The longer the files are in your capture process, the longer it will take for them to turn up in a customer file for example…

 

So where to start?

Well this is with your document capture software, and there are lots of solutions out there. Firstly, when choosing your capture software, have those 5 guidelines in your mind. You want to automate as much as possible (unless we are talking only the odd scanned document through the day). In addition, you don’t just want to watch a sales pitch on the actual scanning process, or the physical scanner being used. You want, and need, to see the process all the way through, and with a variety of documents.

It’s best if you can use forms wherever possible, but you will always have un-structured documents coming to you, such as letters. Now you MUST see a demonstration of how these are dealt with, then ask yourself;

“is that efficient?”

“how could that be speeded up?”

“am I happy with the way data is entered / captured?”

“now let’s find the document in the retrieval system”

I don’t want to start recommending software, as depending on your storage repository etc you may find you have a limited selection. What I will say, is that for our workFile ECM repository we use software that I have been familiar with and more than happy with for sometime, Kofax. I have worked on numerous projects with Kofax Accent Capture and with Nuerascript recognition modules (which are now part of Kofax). Kofax provides you with all the technology and features you could want to streamline any capture environment. And, more importantly, they allow you to write your own release processes into the repositories of your choice.

What about architecture

Scanning can be quite intensive for your PC. A while back, all of your “steps” if you like were carried out on a single machine, so you scanned, had the batches and documents recognised, processed, enhanced then sent on for an agent to index. However, this isn’t great, ideally you want to split out this intense processing work and let your scan station simply scan images.

Server based solutions are best, freeing up staff to scan and pull documents as and when they are ready. Your images should always be ready quicker than your staff can quality assess them or carry out indexing tasks. Oh, don’t be fooled by “thin” document capture, something has to drive the scanner and therefore it’s not “thin client”…

What about staff?

This can be a boring task, so rotate your staff to different jobs, every couple of hours. They may still get bored, but if you don’t do this, they will be making lots of errors and getting really bored. Trust me, just spend a couple of hours doing one task such as scanning and your brain can go numb…

You will also need a “champion” of the capture process. Someone who can keep people motivated and ensure they maximise the potential of the system. All too often the system capacity is not met as staff becoming lazy or complacent. This negates your investment and diminishes your return on your investment, so a champion is very important.

It’s also worth noting that from time to time, you will need someone with more experience of the scanning process, again that champion, simply because you will get issues with stuck paper, batches not getting recognised, image quality problems etc. At this point, you need someone with a little more knowledge of how things work.

 

Finally

Remember no matter how good your capture process is, your retrieval system is only as good as the quality of the images and the data associated to those images. Also, please don’t invest heavily in a great capture system then scrimp on your retrieval system. If you do this, you will find no benefit of the capture process and document imaging at all. Your first port of call is still ensuring you purchase the right retrieval / document management system. Then address the capture side of things.