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Troublesome Threesome II July 9, 2009

Posted by Sanooj Kutty in Others.
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Note: “Troublesome Threesome I” received a short and interesting comment from Michael Jahn. “it is never that simple !”. Very true. Archiving has many challenges and I truly agree with it. Hence, it was time to communicate the focus of this post series. The scope of these posts are not to highlight all the challenges of Archiving. This is merely sharing selected one or more interesting and maybe unique issues that made the relevant archiving projects near disaster.  In case these are not unique, I do hope this helps others avoid the same issues.

So here goes the next one…

Identity Crisis

This time the fiasco occurred in an autonomous Trade Zone. Their requirement was to archive the registration records of the companies trading in their zone and also the Visa records of the employees with those companies. Each file contained various records, but the need from the client was to archive them as one multi-page PDF/A file. samplevisa

A study of the physical archive showed that each company had a separate folder and each employee too.  The approach was quite straightforward. A team to remove the records from the folder, remove the staples, organise in the right order and send it to the scanning team, who would then scan them into a shared drive. The indexing team would then retrieve this from the shared drive (using Folder Watch) and start indexing them. A quality assurance team then validates the indexing for each and every record. And finally,these records are then exported into the ERM system.

Apart from the usual challenges that all archiving projects of such magnitude face, both the client and us were not prepared from the huge issue we would unearth during a random detailed quality check.

It was identified after nearly 500,000 pages of the records were scanned and indexed that there seemed to be quite a  number of files where the pages were interchanged or mixed with those from another folder. For e.g., the passport could be of Bob while the medical test report could be of John.

Being an outsourced assembly line project, which like most archiving projects, the staff employed were not knowledgeable of the content nor were they trained to understand the contents of the pages (mainly for security reasons).  Hence, everyone went ahead with their jobs without focusing on the content.

The  mix up had occurred over the physical archiving carelessness practiced over time.  Since the assumption at the beginning of the project was to trust the integrity of the physical archive, no focus was driven towards it. The client also, unfortunately,  had key reasons that prevented them allowing an extension into the project. Both in time and money. And the prestige of the client required us to rectify these mix ups at least on the ERM system.

This required us to assemble another production line to retrieve these 500,000 pages and study them page by page and re-archive them. One project and twice the resources. While the time and cost of the client remained more or less the same, our bottom line had taken a hit.

For Clients: To assume that your physical archive which has been functional for ages is accurate and consistent could be fatal. Regular reviews over the integrity over your physical archives can ensure that when they get scanned into a digital record, the inconsistencies in the physical environment do not get inherited into the ERM.

For Vendors: Never trust the integrity of the physical archive. If the project demands from you to rectify the inconsistencies of the physical archive, it would be advised to do a full and detailed analysis of the physical archive to quote yourself considering additional resources required. Or just like the first of this series,  having a clause built into your contract will ensure that you are not liable for any discrepancies from the client.

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Comments»

1. Pradeep - July 10, 2009

The word “assumption” itself means that it’s never a 100% sure thing. Always check the integrity of the physical archive, a good point that you had put across. Not just in this line but in any line of business a little extra effort goes a long way, in saving time and money for everyone involved.

2. SSK - August 21, 2009

Sanooj has highlighted very interesting points in this article. I would be interested in understanding who took the brunt of this mishap? Generally, for an outsourced project (as this one), the consultants always are blames of not executing the project without considering the “proper” assumptions. As mentioned by Pradeep in his response, the word “assumption” is a very dangerous terminology in project management. This for a customer means, this is my way out if things go wrong during the project and for the vendor, the way to ensure extra flow of dollars into the project. Either way at the end of the day, the business would always suffer because of these assumption. I strongly believe, during complex project, such as records management and other, the should be a clear separation made between assumption and unknowns allowing both parties (the customer and the vendor) to be clear what is coming their way.


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