SCAN STORE RETRIEVE INDEX INTEGRATE ARCHIVE
Tag Archives: records management consulting
We have heard the term “toxic asset” or maybe “toxic dollar” over the past few years. Most recently the term has been used to describe US currency from a global investment perspective. These terms refer to an asset that becomes illiquid (valueless) when its supporting market disappears. The term “toxic asset” was coined in the financial crisis of 2008/09, in regards to mortgage-backed securities, collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps, all of which could not be sold after they exposed their holders to massive losses.
While this issue may not seem of direct concern to you, I would suggest that many businesses today deal in their own, internally created “toxic contracts”.
All too often, sales and revenue pressures push organizations into desperate sales activities. The problem with this is, contracts can be signed that, from the point of signature, become a “toxic contract” for that business.
When signing business contracts, you are committing your business, legally, to specific deliverables, milestones and monetary goals which could affect every department in your organization. Poorly, hastily executed contracts many times become “toxic contracts”.
To best describe this point, let’s use an example;
To meet quota, Chris the salesperson needs to close 500K more business before the end of the company’s fiscal year – 2 months away. Chris has been driving the sales process for a potentially large deal valued at over 600K. Chris’ manager is very aware of this project as well and they are going to close this deal!
However, the client requires project launch within 30 days of contract signing and there is just no way to meet that requirement. The Project Management department, Business Analyst Department and Operations Department calendars are all full for the next 90 days. The bottom line is, by signing this contract; the company’s entire internal operational infrastructure will be compromised thus creating a “toxic contract”.
But, because of a lack of internal or team review, the contract is allowed to be signed, the sales team is rewarded with commissions and accolades and the operations team has now been burdened with a “toxic contract”.
From the day of contract signing, the project is behind. Over the coming weeks and months, as the true complexity of the project begins to rear its ugly head, deliverables and milestones begin to fall behind.
As progress falls behind milestones are missed. Managers are pressured into still getting revenue recognition for this project. You can’t really bill for something that hasn’t been delivered, but you are investing a great deal of hours and costs. What do you do now? Now the project manager is pressured into creative milestone variation creation. You need to bill something, so come up with something to bill for! Eventually, because of continuously missed revenue goals, the accounting department is going to start asking questions about this project because they are being asked questions about this project from upper management.
Now the customer, not sure about what is going on agrees to sign-off on milestones with “variations” with the assurance that all is well and there is nothing to worry about.
Before long, practically every department is touched by this “toxic contract”. At some point, because of client complaints, upper management concern or all of the above, this project has to be “reprioritized” over several other projects.
You eventually get final sign-off for the project, primarily because the client is just plain tired of dealing with you and your lousy company. Obviously, you get no reference from this client, and other departments are scrambling to keep other clients happy while their projects fell behind to placate this “toxic contract”.
If such an example is just a single event, then maybe you’re okay. But as we saw from a national or even global perspective, too many toxic assets can practically bring down a global economy.
And let’s not forget about our dubious sales department – word of this project spreading makes the ongoing sales process very difficult. We all know the value of reference-able business.
What’s the solution? Establish a set of minimum contracting standards.
Minimum Standard No. 1 – A List of Core Functionality or Deliverables Must be Provided and Made a Part of the Contract. One of the most common disputes between business services providers and their customers arises out of miscommunications and misunderstandings about the functionality, capability and scalability of the service or product. To avoid this pitfall, these contracts should contain a list of core functionality and the list should be meaningful and not just consist of a brief list using provider terminology that would not convey to a reasonable person the characteristics of the feature or function.
Minimum Standard No. 2 – ELT Review. All contracts should be reviewed and approved by your ELT (Executive Leadership Team). Don’t let the size of your business be an excuse to not have an ELT. Even if it’s just you, your office manager and your delivery guy – get multiple eyes on everything. Besides, your office manager probably has a better prospective on billing and customer status than you do.
Minimum Standard No. 3 – Use Advanced Sales Tools. Put sales tools in place to help prevent “ad-hoc” selling. This sounds challenging, but these types of tools could positively affect your business to the level of up to and exceeding 20% of your revenues. This does not in any way reference a CRM. CRMs just tell you what has happened. You need proactive sales tools that control the pricing activities of your sales force while in the field. Finally, while sales drive a business, salespeople should not manage your business. The nature of the salesperson is to “close that deal, whatever it takes”. I am not “dissing” sales people here; I have been in sales most of my life. However, as Dr. Phil would say, “Get real people”, don’t let the wolves guard the hen-house.
Kevin Williams, CDIA+
SRIIA Technologies, Inc.
SEC. 802. CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR ALTERING DOCUMENTS.
(a) IN GENERAL- Chapter 73 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:`Sec. 1519. Destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in Federal investigations and bankruptcy. `Whoever knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States or any case filed under title 11, or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter or case, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.`Sec. 1520. Destruction of corporate audit records.
Most IT managers would tell us that the only way to archive your records is to back-up on tape or disk drives. When you consider the implications of lost data how long you (firm, office) are responsible to keep much of your corporate records, you’re chosen long term archival media system needs to be thoroughly evaluated.
Destruction, Alteration and Falsification
If you store legacy records on paper in files, how easy is it to miss-place a single page, replace an existing page with a new page or eliminate (destruction of some method – i.e. shredding) a file from a record completely.
Corruptibility and Backwards Compatibility
While the idea of a digital back-up of your records seems safe enough, have you recently tried to open a CD or USB type media device that is 10 years old or older?
Technology continues to march forward at an ever quickening pace. Platforms are changing every 2-4 years which makes backwards compatibility very “iffy”. It’s not good business practice to assume that you can easily and reliably access back-up data on a disk-drive from as recent as 6 years ago.
Reliability of Tape Backups– A survey of IT executives on tape backup solutions reported these findings:
Gartner Group estimated that 10 to 50 percent of all tape restores fail. Storage Magazine and Gartner reported that 34% of surveyed companies never test a restore from tape, and of those that do test, 77% experienced tape backup failures.
- 75% of respondents indicated that their companies suffered unrecoverable loss of corporate data they thought was successfully backed up to tape due to unreadable, lost or stolen media.
- 63% said they encountered unreadable tapes when they tried to retrieve data with 76% of those cases reporting a direct impact to their business from loss of productivity to punishments for regulatory compliance infractions.
Every digital media is vulnerable to some type of corrupting influence. Anyone who has participated in a large conversion process from an older digital format to a more contemporary version knows the pitfalls. It is very likely that some (if not all) of the data will be corrupted and lost during the conversion process. And data conversion is very costly.
Trusted Long Term Archival Platform
Archiving your business critical data to microfilm is still the most dependable and trustworthy solution for long term records storage. Altering a roll of film is difficult and obvious. Anyone can see if a roll of film has been spliced. The cost to archive a single image to film costs about $0.03 each and storing a roll of film costs about $1.50 per year.
A single roll of 16mm, 215’ microfilm can store more than 2 full bankers’ boxes of records. Properly filmed, processed and stored microfilm has a life expectancy (LE) of 500 years. And ultimately, you need only a flashlight to view the documents.
Research company IDC last year forecast that 2010 would see the volume of digital data stored by everyone on the planet reach 1.2 zettabytes (1.2 billion terabytes), representing growth of 62 per cent over 2009. And by 2020, that volume will have grown by a factor of 44 to 35 trillion gigabytes.
Research from Gartner estimates data capacity in those enterprises is growing by 40-60 per cent per year on average, not enough to cope with demand if IDC’s statistics prove accurate. Its survey of 1,004 companies in eight countries conducted in August 2010 identified data growth as the top data-centre challenge, followed by system performance and scalability, and network congestion and connectivity architecture.
This Washington Post article sited further reinforces the predicted coming explosion in on-line data storage;
Following the “glass half-empty” analogy, many have said that the document conversion and document management industry is nearing its end. “They” claim all the paper in the world has been scanned and every business has already purchased their fancy new EDMS (Electronic Document Management Software) and ECMS (Enterprise Content Management Software).
Well, not so fast. In a recent survey done by Eclipse Group, an international services firm providing document and content management solutions, they found that an alarming number of businesses and organizations today are still heavily reliant upon paper based business critical processes.
- 75% of companies are still heavily reliant on paper based invoicing processes
- 67% of respondents are currently sending the majority of their sales invoices by paper rather than electronically using a document management solution
- 75% of respondents are currently sending the majority of their purchase invoices by paper rather than using a document management system
- 83% currently have to re-type invoices received into their finance system
The survey, which includes the views of financial professionals from a variety of sectors including insurance, financial services, industrial and automotive, also found that 83% of respondents currently have to re-type invoices into their finance system upon receipt into the accounts departments rather than using a document management system, raising serious concerns over accuracy and efficiency.
Gary Waylett, CEO of Eclipse Group commented, “Given the efficient way most businesses are now able to share information, it is surprising to find so many finance departments are not using a document management solution and continue to re-key data between systems. In addition to duplicating effort, and hence adding cost, re-keying significantly adds the risk of errors which then complicates the reconciliation process.”
So take heart all of you software and services companies, business will be good for years to come.
It was during the 1980’s when document management software first impacted the day-to-day business of local government. The ability to convert paper and microfilm images into digital images and then access them on a computer was almost revolutionary. Maybe it was… Initially, document management software vendors created closed architecture applications that relied upon proprietary (non-standard) image file types. Today we would consider standard image file types (not including-Microsoft/Windows types) as, Group IV tif, PDF, JPEG, GIF and etc…
These early developers of document management products competed primarily against themselves for much of this government business. A vendor could produce a reliable product, distribute it heavily and charge just about whatever they wanted for annual support. Vendors locked government offices into long-term support contracts for what seemed like perpetuity.
However, many of these vendors could not or would not keep up with the rapid evolution of technology. The platforms they originally built upon and the development languages they used became obsolete. The document management world began to embrace more standard platforms and languages.
Government offices found themselves locked into early generation document management products that did not deliver as well as new technology. Support costs were high and performance, by comparison, was poor.
So here is where the really big problem came into view. As government offices were deciding to upgrade to new document management technology, they became aware that they could not use their legacy images. Why, because the legacy images were in proprietary formats. These images could only be viewed in the original, now obsolete, software. Converting the proprietary images to standard image formats could only be done by the original vendor, and you guessed it, vendors were charging outrageous fees for these services. The fees required to convert their legacy images many times made the move to new technology cost prohibitive. Eventually, all of these dinosaurs became extinct, right….
Wrong – Proprietary is back and in a big way. There are multiple vendors in the local government market today selling document conversion services bundled with proprietary software. Deals are disguised as exceptionally inexpensive conversion services bundled with the vendor’s proprietary document viewing software. We know that price is always the predominant factor in purchasing at the local government level. However, what has happened now, un-suspecting government offices find themselves in the same predicament as their predecessors 20 years ago. The upfront price to provide the document conversion services seems too good to be true – and it is. Just like in days past, when the government office needs to export their images out of this proprietary environment for other uses, the answer from their vendor is “NO, you cannot have your images”. These un-suspecting government customers are required to view their scanned images in the vendor’s software or not at all. To have use of the images in another document management system, you will need to pay to have the original documents scanned again.
How to avoid this trap?
Prior to signing any contract with a document conversion vendor, demand that you receive your images in a standard format that you can use in any system. This will deter most of the proprietary vagrants from trying to lock you and your department into an embarrassing mess.
Have you been to a “Scanning Seminar” recently? You probably walked away believing that the document scanning was the most import part of any “conversion project”.
But then you visited with a consultant who greatly undervalued the importance of the scanning with a dismissing statement such as, “anybody can scan paper (or microfilm)”… He or she then explained that the crucial element of a document scanning project is the consulting and professional services to implement your project.
But wait; now you visit with a software salesperson. You are informed that buying the proper software will ensure a successful project no matter what type of scanning and/or professional services you employ.
Referencing the “Three Legged Stool” analogy, we can see that if any of these three elements fail to deliver, you will fall right upon your _ _ _. Experience will tell us that each of these elements is equally important. Each is dependent upon the other to ensure a successful project:
Scanning Service: Proven Quality Control and Project Tracking methodologies along with proper hardware and software are crucial in the success of your project. Determining the document capture configuration is entirely dependent upon the type and volume of your source documents. The software functionality used to do image clean-up is the most important in this selection. If you intend on OCR or automated forms processing, image quality is key to success.
Professional Services: These services should set the table for the project. From elements such as a pre-scan inventory, importing scanned images into your new software, pilot projects, project milestones, determining indexing nomenclature, network requirements, training and other elements involved in the over-all project implementation are the nexus to the software and scanning.
Enterprise Document/Content Management Software: Of course software is always important. Your software selection must meet and exceed your current needs and provide scalability for the future. Very cliché, but truthful; by working with both a good consultant and a good software vendor, you will get more of a 360 degree view of what you will get out of your new software. Initially, you should access the scanned images in your new software system in a way similar to that if you were looking for these records in a standard file cabinet. Moving too many steps passed this may lead to user confusion, a feeling of intimidation and a lack of user buy-in.
The discussion on the viability of using microfilm or digital for long-term archiving rears its ugly head on a regular basis in courtrooms, boardrooms and offices for both government and private institutions alike.
From a legal perspective, microfilm is a supported format. The Best Evidence Rule (Federal Business Records Act, Uniform Photographic Copies of Business and Public Records as Evidence Act) states that these statutes permit the admissibility of any record which has been “kept in the regular course of business and copied or reproduced by … any photographic, photostatic, microfilm, microcard, miniature photographic or other process which accurately reproduces or forms a durable medium for reproducing the original.” Accordingly, the reproduction is as admissible as the original. The process of recording information optically clearly falls within the law’s language of “other process which accurately reproduces or forms a durable medium for reproducing the original.”
All US states have published document retention and library standards and micrographics adhere to just about every state’s standards for long-term document archiving. New York State, California, Texas, Indiana, Arizona, Louisiana and Florida Archives, just to name a few, promote microfilm as a viable and practical medium for preserving the state’s history.
Now, ask yourself this question; Let’s say you have been left a trust in the value of $100,000,000.00. You must wait 20 years to have access to these funds. The money will be accessed via a 1,000 character code found on 200 separate documents (files). You will be provided with these documents on a USB drive, a CD, a DVD or a roll of microfilm. Which media would you choose? Backwards compatibility will always be a serious concern. What platform created the electronic copy? Was it Windows? Will this format be supported in 20 years? Will you need to do some type of conversion to your 20-year-old data to have access to your code? If you lose one single image, you will not be able to access these funds. Now, instead of a code for a trust, look at those documents as proof of purchase/ownership, human resource records, certification documents, medical research history, etc…
Advantages of Microfilm for Long Term Archiving:
- Properly filmed and processed microfilm on a polyester base has an anticipated life expectancy (LE 500) of 500 years.
- All you need to view film is a light source.
- Individual pages cannot be pulled or lost.
- Original rolls cannot be edited.
- A single roll of 16mm microfilm can hold over 8,000 images – that is almost an entire 3 drawer file cabinet of documents.