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How to deliver ECM initiatives if the Cart is before the Horse? February 18, 2016

Posted by Sanooj Kutty in Electronic Records Management, Enterprise Content Management.
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BSI standard PAS 89:2012 (Enterprise content management – Code of practice) defines the process of embarking on an ECM initiative as below.


Naturally, this cyclical process makes sense, much like deciding the dish, identifying the recipe, sourcing the ingredients and then preparing the dish.

However, over more than a decade of working with ECM initiatives across UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman (effectively the GCC minus Saudi Arabia), the de facto ECM initiative process more or less follows as below.


Now this becomes an interesting case of almost buying the ingredients, deciding the dish, creating the recipe and then preparing the dish. While this may enable you to definitely end up having a dish, it may not be the right one as you can only have a dish as per the ingredients and not the one you wish to have.

In the case of an ECM initiative, this leads to a misalignment between the requirements and the technologies, leading to either an expensive initiative or a failed one.

None of the above is unknown, plenty of material has been written on how to roll out an ECM initiative. This article aims to guide organizations that may have adopted the above approach to achieve better outcomes, i.e., if the cart is before the horse, train the horse to push!

Iterate Deliverables

Do not even attempt to eat the elephant in one bite. By eating one bite at a time, the organization is able to gauge the effectives of the current implementation, manage adoption and change and gain a better understanding of ECM practices and technologies.

 Avoid Customization

While ECM technologies do provide a platform to customize, it is best to avoid customization. Custom requests always tend to end up in a perennial loop as different stakeholders tend to want the same function in different ways. If business objectives can be met without customization, completely avoid it. Most ECM technologies are configurable to meet your objectives.

Manage Change

Since one has had to cut corners and make the best use of the bird in hand and not the two in the bush, it is imperative that change is bound to occur. Prior to engaging in disparate and individual changes, this could be the opportunity to revisit your change management by adopting the BSI recommended process. Where prevention hasn’t taken place, one surely needs to cure.

Leverage Human Capability

If my mother can learn to use mobile phones starting from Nokia to Blackberry to Android, your users can learn to use the solution the way it has been configured with the available technologies. I’ve seen my dad shift from doing his accounting on books to doing it on Lotus 123 spreadsheets. Having realized that his job and career are at stake if he didn’t learn the new technology, he put in extra effort to learn it. It also helps you to identify your resources who are ready to adapt and progress. As long as business objectives are met and business rules are followed, people can be taught to learn new systems and most users shall end up learning it, sooner than later.

In UAE, We Love Our Paperwork! January 31, 2012

Posted by Sanooj Kutty in Capture, Electronic Records Management, Enterprise Content Management.
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I am someone who rarely bookmarks web pages. However, in September 2011, I could not resist but bookmark a very interesting article. And when it’s titled, “UAE paper use among highest in the world”, how could an aspiring Information Management professional resist.

In football, UAE would have been proud to be on the same status as Italy or Spain. At 200 kg per capita annual consumption of paper, this is not a statistic we should be proud of sharing with them. The significant factor here, though, is that UAE’s consumption is increasing at an average of 5-6% while those of North America and Europe are reducing at 1.8%. We may soon find the world following our paper trails.

The intention of Go Green is very much evident in the visions of the leadership of this country and is reflected in this historical resolution by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president and prime minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai and the launch of the ambitious Masdar City by under the leadership of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Yet, when it comes to implementations, most organizations have taken a backward step with layoffs and budget cuts in their ECM programs citing recession as the reason.  Businesses are still to realize that paper-related costs are not limited to your A4 bundles but also in storage, safety and logistics and it’s a case of being Penny Wise and Pound Foolish.

As an AIIM Ambassador and its Professional Member since 2009, I am extremely disappointed with myself that UAE’s paper consumption is on the rise, especially since document management technologies have been around for around 2 decades. One look at the comments section of this article highlights that the general public is in a cure mode of recycling rather than the prevention mode of adopting DMS or ECM systems.

It is time for the ECM community in the UAE to come together to promote the business and social advantages. Then again, with direct vendor presence from leading players in the domain like IBM, OpenText, EMC, HP (Autonomy) et al, why do I not find enough education or awareness campaigns in the market?

Perhaps, and this is my speculation, is that this is because the UAE is more represented by License-pushers and pure technocrats. The management of content from a business perspective is a gap found wanting in this market.  We need more Enterprise Content Managers and less ECM license salesmen.

Until then, UAE will continue to love its “paper” work.

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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