Why All the Division?

Why All the Division?

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Who’s Gone Digital and Why?

‘What?’ ‘How?’ and ‘Who?’ of Digitalization

Digitalization is the uniquely tailored, ingenious combination of an organization’s digital assets, digital usage and digital workforce. Think of these distinctions as the “What?”, “How?”, “Who?” of IIM.
What? – Digital Assets
Digital Assets are what organizations spend on computers, software, and telecom equipment. These assets also include the interconnectivity of IoT Devices and, of course, overall data storage.
How? – Digital Usage
Digital Usage is how digital payments, digital marketing, social technologies, and workflow software are used to manage back office operations and customer relations.
Who? – Digital Workforce
Digital Workforce can be broken down by title or by tasks associated with positions, such as Database Administrator, Social Media Manager, UX/UI Designer, etc.

Now the ‘Why?’

Why have some industry sectors gone digital sooner than others? It is clear that there are many operational benefits of digitalization, but what ultimately drives this decision? According to the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), there are four factors that determine the likelihood of a commercial, public or social enterprise digitizing:

1. Firm Size

2. Complexity of Operations

3. Knowledge Intensity

4. Threat of Competition

MGI created the chart below which breaks down the level of Digitization by Industry Sector in the United States. It was put together by compiling 27 indicators that combine the ‘What?’ ‘How?’ and ‘Who?’ of Digitalization to show how these industries relate to each other in terms of technological adoption. This chart was created in 2015, so it is likely that there has been more adoption across many industries than what is presented here, but it is still helpful.

The MGI Digitization Industry IndexThe entire MGI Industry Digitization Index summary can be found HERE.

The term “Digital Divide” was first coined 20 years ago to point out the gap between different segments of society’s interaction with technology. The divide was based on socioeconomic and demographic conditions, but it can also be used now in reference to the contrasting levels of Digitalization among different industries and institutions. In most industries there is an astonishing difference in the level of Digitalization between leading firms and average firms.

Even among the companies that have taken the all-important first step of Digitalizing their data and assets, only a fraction of them utilize all of the potential technological capabilities. This means that there is a Digital Divide within the ranks of the digitalized. Automating repetitive tasks and streamlining internal processes to get the most out of high-skilled workers and improving customer relations should be the objective. Ultimately all businesses are customer-driven and there are many ways that Digitalization can improve the overall customer experience and engagement through new business models.

How do the four factors of Firm Size, Complexity of Operations, Knowledge Intensity and Threat of Competition push companies to Digitize?

Here’s the answer, according to MGI:

Large firms are more likely to adopt digital tools than small firms (with the exception of small “digital natives”), in part to manage greater complexity. For a similar reason, firms with long supply chains or many establishments are also more likely to digitize. Companies with a large share of highly educated or specialized workers also tend to be more digitized since the productivity returns tend to be higher. Finally, the actual degree of competition in a sector does not seem to be a factor, but the prospect of competition is.

In other words, large organizations are more likely to Digitalize their assets retroactively, while small start-ups are likely to build their business models digitally from the beginning. Mid-sized organizations are less likely to adopt digital processes. Operations with complex moving parts are also more likely to go digital in order to improve their internal operations. The benefits to improving efficiency for businesses with highly educated, specialized employees are even greater than those with less skilled, lower paid laborers (think billable hours), so they are pushed toward Digitalization to take advantage of their workforce.

The final push to Digitalization is also the greatest motivator; FEAR. The fear that a leaner, younger, more agile and more advanced competitor will emerge and crush you. This fear is not unfounded. In fact, businesses that rely on a single revenue stream or that play an intermediary role are at the greatest risk in the Digital Age because it is the nature of digital disruptors to give things away to consumers and to bypass middlemen. Just think about how music streaming services have changed the recording industry, or how travel booking applications have reinvented the travel industry. These are just two examples, but you can look at how digital disruptors have come into almost every conceivable industry and destroyed value by giving things away to the consumer, seemingly for free. This disruption forces modern companies to create more sustainable business models by experimenting with alternate sources of revenue. 1

The Digital Divide among firms today can be compared to the difference between those organizations that utilized electricity 100 years ago, and those organizations that did not. If you haven’t adopted Digital Processes for your firm, you’re working by candlelight. It’s time to get on the grid.

  1. Manyika, et al., December 2015, p. 15
Form vs Dynamics & the Future of Commerce

Form vs Dynamics & The Future of Commerce

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The saying, “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door” has been attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson for years. Mr. Emerson would likely revise his famous axiom if he were alive today. Building a great product is not enough – it must be individualized and customized in order to offer a personalized user experience. This can only be achieved when organizations embrace the digitalization of their processes. Businesses must rethink how they interact with their customers and how they operate internally if they want to remain competitive. Now and in the coming years, an organization’s survival will not depend on having a superior product delivered at a lower cost; instead, survival will depend on that enterprise’s capacity for change.

Form can be thought of as essence and content. Dynamics can be thought of as potential. What is a greater measure of perceived potential than the stock market? On the open market, an enterprise’s value is not based on what that enterprise is, but rather on what the enterprise could be. Here is a table taken from a recent white paper by Zeus Kerravala of ZK Research entitled, “Digital Transformation Ushers in a New Era of Communications” that tracks the turnover of companies on the S&P 500 Index since the late 1950s.

S&P 500 Index Lifespan, 1960-2025

From the same white paper1, which can be download in its entirety HERE:

The chart shows that in 1960, businesses remained on the index for 50 to 60 years. By the 1980s, the speed of churn had doubled. Based on these trends, by 2025, businesses are forecast to stay on the index for only 12 years. ZK Research predicts that 75% of the S&P 500 Index will turn over in the next 10 years as digital transformation takes hold.

The lifespan of 500 largest U.S stocks (weighted by market capitalization) map up nicely with the Three Waves of Technological Disruption. There are many factors that impact markets and this is purely speculative, but the major drops seen from 1980 to 1990, and 2000 to 2010 could be the result of late technological adoption. The First Wave of Technological Disruption was the availability and development of the personal computer in the early 1980’s. We see a significant drop in the lifespan from 1980 into the 1990’s. Could this be because many of the largest companies didn’t effectively incorporate this instrumental technological development into their systems, while emerging companies managed to do so and passed them by? The Second Wave, the development of the web in the 1990s into the 2000s, was also followed by another major drop in the average life on the S&P 500 Index. Did slow utilization play a role in this spike as well? Now we are in the midst of the Third Wave which is being defined by the leveraging of data and the streamlining of processes through automation. We should see a slight uptick in the lifespan according to the graph. It’s fair to assume that if companies that don’t keep up with these powerful tools and modernize, they won’t be around for very long. Many variables impact markets, but it is hard not to notice the waves.

Although though there are upticks in the lifespan of the major organizations, as the chart shows, the rate of change within the S&P 500 is occurring at a high frequency. These institutional changes might be because technology is continuing to develop at such a rapid pace. The increasing rate of development won’t just impact the major corporations – it will touch everyone. If your organization is slow to react, you could easily find yourself not just one wave out, but rather two or three. Pretty soon you’ll sink.

Here is a list of the 10 largest companies in the S&P 500 as of May 31, 2016:

    • Apple
    • Microsoft
    • ExxonMobile
    • Johnson & Johnson
    • General Electric
    • Amazon.com
    • Facebook
    • Berkshire Hathaway (B shares)
    • AT&T
    • JPMorgan Chase

How many of these companies will still be on this list in 20 years?

In philosophical terms, dynamics and form are intertwined. There is no being without becoming in the world of Process Philosophy. This applies to any business or organizational process. Simply put, there is no stasis. You and, by extension, your organization can’t be too much of form or too much of dynamics. Essence and potential must work together. Consider this revised version of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous expression: “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door… but the world won’t stick around.”

The question that you need to ask yourself regularly is how can you get your users to stay?

  1. Kerravala, Zeus. ZK Research. Digital Transformation Ushers in a New Era of Communications. 2017.
Your Information Is Useless

Your Information Is Useless

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Modern businesses run on data in order to streamline efficiency and guide all decision making. However, there is one problem with this data-driven approach; the vast majority of your information is useless.

With emerging artificial intelligence, most organizational chores are becoming automated. This leaves specialists free to focus on operations and the development of their enterprises. In the coming years every successful organization will incorporate artificial intelligence into both their internal and external processes. Technology will handle much of the procedures employees spend their time on, from HR to Bookkeeping and everything in between. Relations between customers and vendors outside of the organization will also become automated thereby increasing speed, minimizing errors, and improving efficiency.

All of this can be done through data accumulation. Once collected, organizations then leverage these vast informational databases with predictive analytical software which is uniquely tailored to fit each task, employee, vendor, customer, etc. These capabilities exist already and are being implemented across all industries. Their effects will only become more and more abundant.

Paralysis by Analysis

Having all the information available doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll make the correct decision. In any endeavor, discernment is key. Listing all the variables won’t guide you to the right outcome. Individuals and organizations must perform cost/benefit analyses for every decision they make, but the relevant elements are constantly changing and there are only so many pieces of information the average person can account for at any one time. The challenge becomes separating the wheat from the chaff to determine the elements in play and simplifying the equation. This is easier said than done in a world of ever increasing complexity.

Here’s a breakdown of how the average organization manages its content in 2018, according to a recent study conducted by Access Information Protected:

Organizational Content Breakdown
2% Legal or Auditory Info
5% Formal Records (for publicly listed companies)
25% Ongoing or Active Operational Data
68% Outdated or Redundant Info

This shows that most of your information is not only unhelpful, it actually gets in the way and slows you down.

Trim the Fat

How can you avoid an information surplus?

First and foremost, you must go paperless. This is the necessary first step to modernizing your business practices. Embrace digital and get rid of as much physical documentation as you possibly can. One practical way to do this is to simply not print in the first place, which can be done by utilizing digital signatures and taking the proper security precautions.

Most of the security threats organizations face are internal. It’s true that businesses must be vigilant in defending themselves against being hacked from the outside, but security breaches are actually much more likely to come from within. These breaches can usually be traced to negligence and not malicious intent, so content management training and establishing normal procedures for employees are vital.

There is always fear and reluctance to change, especially when the processes you currently use seem to be working and have been effective. The old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is hard to shake, but mapping to the past is not a recipe for future success.

Waves of Disruption

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We are in the midst of a major technological disruption – one that will transform the nature of our business practices and daily operations. How we function internally and with our external customers will evolve. The kind of dynamic change we are experiencing has occurred twice in the last 40 years. We are in the third wave of technological overhaul. These waves of change will likely happen more frequently in the future. The simple truth is that once this wave has passed, EVERY company will become a technology company to a certain degree.

First Wave of Technology Disruption

The first wave came about with the availability of the personal computer in the early 1980s. In 1965, Moore’s Law predicted that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit would double every two years and decrease in relative cost at an exponential pace. It stated that processing power would double and the price would drop by half in bi-yearly intervals. This prediction coming true is what pushed the world into the digital age. Computers could be built smaller and smaller and at a fraction of the cost of the prior years’ models. By the early 1980s the technology was affordable enough and could be made small enough that individuals could take advantage of them.

The decentralizing of computing technology allowed individuals to rapidly perform functions and improve overall efficiency. This was the beginning of database management as we know it today.

Second Wave of Technology Disruption

Telecommunication networks were used to link these personalized computers. This interconnection enabled the rapid collaborative development of open source software through online repositories, which became the worldwide web. These software programming languages came to be standardized and used all over the web. Most businesses at the time utilized these programming languages to set up their own intranets, which were isolated and customized to their own particular needs.

Tech companies like Microsoft, Apple, Google and Apache had to allow for these technical standards which were established in the early days of the web to be supported by their server software and browsers rather than build their own individual proprietary software. This allowed the web to continue to grow because it required cross-system functionality. For example, Google Chrome would support the same features as Apple’s Safari and vice versa. It also meant that one tech company couldn’t black out their competitors features and forced them to compete by advancing the tech and delivering better products. Businesses began to use the massive established telecommunication networks for practical business solutions in the late 1990s and 2000s. This allowed for instantaneous access to data and mobile utilization through email and later through mobile applications. As smartphone technology advanced and connectivity became more reliable and more available, the mobile workforce blossomed and traditional corporate systems and expectations began to shift.

Third Wave of Technology Disruption

This is where we are now. This current wave is propelled by the availability of vast amounts of data and artificial intelligence and machine learning. According to the Association of Intelligent Information Management (AIIM), the Third Wave of Technological Disruption will be about using advancing technology to improve efficiency and productivity and for “understanding, anticipating, and redefining internal and external customer experiences.” The wave is going to change many organizations’ approach. There will be less need for intermediaries. Multiple parties will be able to work on the same task with minimal delays and an increased level accountability. Systems will face less security risks IF organizations make the proper investment in their information governance programs… That is a big “if.”

Intelligent Information Management

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SwiftSHRED ECM Series, Part VI
Intelligent Information Management

Slaying the Dragon

We all know the fairy tale… The brave knight challenges the fierce dragon, who has been sleeping on top of an immense and unclaimed treasure. By slaying the dragon, the knight captures the gold and the glory that everyone else has been too afraid to attain or even attempt. This fairy tale is an analogy for modern business practices: organizations that utilize ECM are the sleeping dragons and their content is the unused and wasted treasure. In the coming years, Intelligent Information Management (IIM) will play the role of the knight.

One theme of this ongoing Enterprise Content Management Series that we’ve emphasized is that all data has a lifecycle. So too does ECM, and its lifecycle is coming to an end. So why were the last five installments series dedicated to ECM? Because, even though the terminology will change, conceptual familiarity is necessary for optimal organizational performance. ECM must be achieved in order to evolve into IIM.

The reason ECM is being phased out as a term is because of emerging technological trends like IoT, data-centric metadata management tools (Hadoop, NoSQL, Blockchain), cloud content management solutions that are being incorporated into file platforms, the push for digital and the need for on premise legacy systems to move to the cloud1 These technological advances will change the way we look at information and the data continuum. The data lifecycle will be much shorter and it will become more dynamic. The enterprise content, itself, will also morph, especially with the implementation of artificial intelligence. In this data-driven age content is a valuable commodity and it must be protected. With these IIM advances, enterprise content will not only be protected – it will be put to work.

Intelligent Information Management Model

One way to think about the IIM Model is to conceptualize it as one brain. The brain performs many functions and the different parts of the brain regulate different life functions (the temporal lobe handles emotion, associations and equilibrium, while the occipital lobe handles sight and recognition, while Broca’s area handles speech functions, etc.2). All the brain functions just seem to be happening and that’s because of the immediacy with which our brains operate. There is so much information constantly coming at us. Our brains sort it all and focus only on the things that are relevant to the task at hand, whatever that may be. The brain is continuously reacting to outside stimuli. It’s a little surreal to think about, but this is the way that organizations will operate with IIM systems. There will still be separate specialized enterprise areas, but they will become completely fluid. IIM will become the central nervous system of any successful and innovative organization in the coming decades.

Modernize, Digitize, Automate & Leverage

According to AIIM (the Association for Intelligent Information Management), there are four key actions that must be taken to enable IIM to happen; modernize the information toolkit, digitize core informational processes, automate compliance and governance and leverage analytics and machine learning.

IIM Solution Software & Service is a growing sector with a range of capabilities available, but there is no one solution or combination of solutions that will work for every organization. It’s not one-size-fits all, so you should be prudent and focus on what it is your organization is trying to accomplish. When choosing an IIM software or service you shouldn’t focus on the suite capabilities that are available. You should focus on what’s required and absolutely necessary before you invest.

ECM is the essential first phase of IIM. It cannot and should not take place without mastering the four main areas of ECM; Imaging, Workflow, Records Management and Enterprise Relationship Management. As the information age rolls on, the changes to business operations are really unknowable. Human work arenas have developed, from farming for most of history, to factory, to office, to the mobile workforce. In recent years there has been much speculation as to the effect artificial intelligence will have on our organizations. Here are two major questions:

What kind of impact will automation have on future work opportunities for individuals?

How will AI automation affect the very nature of work?

“Nothing is written.”
-Lawrence of Arabia

It is impossible to predict the future with any accuracy, but there is no debate that artificial intelligence is starting to reshape the ways businesses approach their operations as seen through the ECM evolution and the more proactive IIM advances. Organizations will become better and better at optimizing their data and using it to develop a more fluid approach. Rather than locking it all in a vault to be opened periodically, content will be used to create more content and the barriers between an organization, its partners and its customers will shift as well. Complex inter-relationships will be established and automatically updated to maintain the functions of the organization at large. Artificial Intelligence will make this dynamic change a near constant occurrence and Intelligent Information Management will be leveraged to make this happen. It will be interesting to see how these operational changes will be adopted, and how new organizational formations will manifest over the next few years. With such dynamic and sweeping changes, new opportunities for individuals are bound to present themselves as well.

  1. Mancini, 2018
  2. Cognifit, n.d.

Enterprise Relationship Management

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SwiftSHRED ECM Series, Part V
Enterprise Relationship Management

Enterprise Relationship Management (ERM) encompasses many facets of an operation. What makes it distinct from earlier installments in this ECM Series is that it is the only ECM area that incorporates and utilizes outside elements. While the other categories (Imaging, Workflow, Records Management) all deal with the internal workings of an enterprise, ERM acknowledges and accounts for external drivers. Enterprise Relationship Management covers the methods you use for coordinating with your suppliers, vendors, distributors, customers, etc.

To give a quick example of these external drivers, consider an Uber driver, or a Lyft driver, or a Via driver, or any driver from pretty much any rideshare app you can think of. They pick you up and take you to your destination. Each driver has a profile, and you can give their service a good or bad rating through the app. They can also give your customer profile a rating. If you get enough bad ratings, all the ridesharing drivers will know not to pick you up. This is Enterprise Relationship Management in action. ERM is the utilizing of operational data to improve efficiency and organization.

There are four elements of ERM: Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – the last example was CRM -, Partner Relationship Management (PRM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Human Resource Management (HRM), and Supply Chain Management (SCM)1. If you like initialism, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll go through each category, but it is helpful to remember that the goal of ERM is similar to that of workflow – to automate as much as possible in order to improve efficiency and drive profits.

“Speed, Speed, SPEED!!”
Mick, Rocky II

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) & Partner Relationship Management (PRM)

There is some debate over whether or not PRM should be considered a separate entity from CRM, or if it’s really just an extension of it2 . Both CRM and PRM share their data through an extranet network. This allows access to a small subset of data from an organization’s intranet. Extranets act like an intranet, where employees can create content, communicate, collaborate, etc., but it provides controlled access to authorized customers, vendors, and partners, or others outside the company3.

How is this extranet good for partnerships?

Your extranet can streamline repetitive business processes. For instance, if you order from the same vendors over and over, it makes sense to establish a secure private network where all of your orders can take place in a virtual space4. Say you’re a beverage company and you use the same distributor for all your regional sales. With a good PRM system in place, every time an order is placed with you it can instantaneously be communicated to the warehouse, and then an order form is automatically sent to the distributor, which calculates the number skids, the weight, the price, pickup and drop off location and ETAs, and any other pertinent information. All of the input is done by the customer in the extranet, rather than over the phone or through email.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

ERP is, simply put, the accessibility of certain resources to multiple divisions of the same organization. One example would be sales orders automatically populating a financial sheet5. It reduces redundancies and ideally puts the right information in front of the right people.

Human Resource Management (HRM)

HRM takes the same concept of automating repetitive tasks and attaches it to speeding up the processes associated with the recruiting, hiring, developing, and reviewing the performance of personnel. Performance management software can determine performance by establishing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for personnel based on their roles and the expectations associated with those roles. One of the more common ways it is used is through payroll software like electronic timesheets.

Supply Chain Management (SCM)

SCM will overlap with the other elements of ERM because the supply chain is a term used to describe the flow of business processes from one arena to the next covering materials, suppliers, transportation, warehousing, reverse logistics, inventory and distribution. It is an end-to-end coordination. Its nature is to be a multi-operational, cross-functional, cross-company coordinating agent6. The supply chain is really about collaboration between internal divisions and external operators. The right SCM technology is similar to a lot of HRM software. SCM evaluates performance of suppliers and it can also assign corrective and preventative actions, like providing alternate routes and accounting for all kinds of roadblocks and delays.

The barriers between CRM, PRM, ERP, HRM, and SCM can be hazy at times, which is why they all fall under the umbrella of ERM.

When all of these abbreviated terms are put together it can seem very confusing. The main point to remember is that all the Enterprise Relationship Management divisions are meant to minimize risk, eliminate waste, drive down cost through automation, and speed up processes. Stay tuned for our final installment in our Enterprise Content Management Series, where we’ll discuss Intelligent Information Management (IIM) and speculate about the future of ECM.

  1. Techopedia, 2018
  2.  Rouse, 2018
  3. Eisenhauer, 2017
  4. Eisenhauer, 2017
  5. Oracle, 2015
  6. Dittman, 2010

Records Management

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SwiftSHRED ECM Series, Part IV

Records Management

You understand the importance of Enterprise Content Management (ECM), the data continuum, cloud-based imaging technologies for back filed documents and the importance of proper workflow. These are the large-scale, macro concepts and system implementations of ECM. Records Management is the next area of ECM we will focus on. Records Management is the nitty-gritty, day-to-day, no-frills, in the trenches work of ECM.

“Let’s get down to the neety greety.”
-Ignacio, Nacho Libre

We’ve covered digitizing physical documents and discussed the push toward paperless environments and workflow protocols, so let’s focus on electronic documents. Most organizations are sitting on a mountain of data, and, unless there is a solid Records Management system in place, it will be a jumbled mess. Standardized file naming conventions are the best and most immediate way to manage your organization’s records, but just because you have a naming convention in place does not guarantee information won’t be lost, work won’t be duplicated, and time won’t be wasted. It has to be the right naming convention.

What’s the right standard naming convention?

Naming conventions vary across industries and from one organization to the next, but the first step is to implement something that makes sense. Just because you put a system in place, doesn’t mean you’ve improved efficiency. The point is to make sure that the records are easy to navigate and immediately recognizable. This video from the University of British Columbia’s Records Management Office does a great job of clearly explaining how you should go about it:

The tutorial gives a breakdown of how file naming conventions should be set up. It points out the need to have simple naming that separates drafts from final documents. File names should be broken down into unique elements, separated by underscores, so a user can know what the document is about at first glance. If it’s a working document, it will likely go through drafts that need to be revised. You should mark each revised document’s drafting status by assigning it a revision letter, i.e. “revA,” “revB,” etc. and NEVER mark a document as “final.” If you want to mark it as completed, name it “rev0” so last minute changes can still be made to it and it can be given a status of “rev1,” “rev2,” etc. instead of something like, “final final.” We’ve mentioned in previous posts that all information has a life cycle. By marking a document as “final”, you are essentially killing that document and the information it contains. If you mark it “final final,” you’re hiding the body.

As stated above, there is no standard file naming convention that crosses industries. Your files can be named in any way that fits your organization’s needs, but name should answer three questions for the user:

1. What is this document about?
2. What is its drafting status?
3. Is it in use?

You must be sure that whatever method you choose is adopted by everyone. Consistency is crucial.

“All things must pass
All things must pass away”
-George Harrison, All Things Must Pass

Once you set up your naming convention, you have to properly organize your folders. If you can’t find the folder that contains your properly named file, it doesn’t matter what it’s called because it is lost. Folders become confusing when they contain sub-folders, which contain sub-folders, which contain sub-folders… etc. When organizing folders, you cannot be afraid to change their set-up. Often the previous setup was completely logical and made sense at that stage of institutional development, but all institutions are constantly evolving and pivoting (at least they should be), and, now more than ever you must be able to adapt. In the future you’ll have to adjust your organizational models even more frequently than you do now.

Okay, how should Folders be set up?

Whether you’re proficient with the command line, or you’re comfortable using the file finder window on your computer’s operating system, you want to eliminate waste and improve efficiency when dealing with your content, which is a key theme of ECM. The best way to do that is to make your folder structure as simple as possible while still being effective. So, just as with file naming, there is no standard, one-size-fits-all, cross-industry folder structure implementation that exists. It must be tailored to fit your organization’s functions, and it is subject to change over time.

One way to organize folders is with the ABC Method. This organizes folders alphabetically so, for example, the “accounts payable” and “accounts receivable” folders may be subfolders to an accounts folder, which is a subfolder of the root folder titled “A.” Folder A might also contain a folder titled “access codes”. Basically, in the ABC Method, unrelated folders are grouped alphabetically. This may be a great method for smaller institutions to organize their folders, but you have to know what you’re looking for, so it may not be as effective for larger groups.

The ABC Method may be the best way for you to organize your files or it may not be. There are countless ways for you to set up your folders; the challenge is finding the best way. The point of highlighting the ABC Method above is to illustrate that the methodology changes. What makes perfect sense to you might not make any sense to someone else, and what made sense in the past may not make sense now, and what is in place now almost certainly won’t make sense in the future. Finding the best system doesn’t mean finding a perfect system. The best way to decide how to set up folders is to try to imagine that you know nothing about the intricacies of your operations and then follow the most logical file path as if you were starting from zero.

Here’s a helpful article (Zen and the Art of File and Folder Organization) to reference when managing your folders. Tip #27, “Try to Minimize the Number of Folders that Contain Both Files and Sub-folders” is a good rule of thumb for avoiding confusion. Another rule to remember is that all your data has a lifecycle. Since this is the case, so should your Records Management systems; be willing to change outdated and inefficient models. Change is inevitable, so try to embrace it. In the next installment of our Enterprise Content Management Series, we’ll be discussing Enterprise Relationship Management (ERM).


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SwiftSHRED ECM Series, Part III

We’ve covered what ECM is and the data continuum. We’ve gone over the immediate and quantifiable changes associated with Imaging. Now it’s time to tackle Workflow.

“Now the real game begins.”
-The Riddler, Batman Forever

Don’t worry. Workflow is not a new concept. Henry Ford’s famous assembly line is an example of workflow. One modern example of workflow is an online repository, like GitHub, where web developers can work on different phases of a project. The project can be tracked and monitored and tasks can be assigned to those who are best suited for them. Another modern and more accessible example is a fast food drive through. You have one person on the headset taking the orders, ringing them up and plugging them into the computer that sends it to the people in the back. There’s someone on fries, there’s somebody else whipping up the burgers and another person on drinks who hands you the food. There’s also a manager onsite overseeing everything to make sure everything goes smoothly. Your fast food is only fast because of the efficient workflow set up by the franchise.

What is Workflow?

Examples of workflow are everywhere. Workflow is the optimizing of high value workers so they can concentrate on high value tasks1. Going back to the drive through, the person working the register and the person working the fries both have important roles in the operations of the restaurant, but the person who’s taking the orders on the headset has a much more specialized skillset. He can interact with customers and work the register. The person on the headset must also be able to make change for one person while taking orders from the next. He has to be able to concentrate and multitask for hours because a slip up slows everyone else down. It would be a waste to have a talented high-value worker focusing only on the fries because it is a much simpler task.

How are burgers related to Enterprise Content Management?

“Mmm… Burger.”
-Homer Simpson

The fast food analogy is only meant to get you thinking about the systematic break down of tasks into sequential units as a productive operational process. That’s the essence of workflow and that’s how it is used in ECM. One of the most common ways workflow is seen in ECM is by establishing different admin accessibility for different users. Say you’ve digitized all your information and destroyed the physical documentation. You know that you can access and search all these scanned files using OCR technology. It’s all right there at your fingertips… but you might not want everyone to have access to all that data, just like the fast food manager doesn’t necessarily want the French fry guy working the register. If you are implementing an ECM system in a hospital, for instance, you may not want the Doctors to have access to employee health records (even though they are medical professionals), but you probably do want them to be accessible for certain members of Human Resources. There are any number of examples of role-based limited access that you want in place. In organizations, you want people to focus on the roles they are suited for and limit the opportunities for misbehavior.

These different roles can be established through a variety software, but the key is to find one that is easy to use and can be integrated with your current systems as seamlessly as possible. Workflow solutions enable work to be shared between workers easily and allow duties to be routed to the appropriate personnel.

Much like the assembly line we mentioned at the beginning, the purpose of an effective ECM workflow is to automate processes as much as possible. If you’ve ever applied for a job at a large company, the first step is often to fill out its online application, which is an online form. When we fill out these fields we are sending structured information to a database that is one piece of its larger ECM software system. There are likely minimum requirements for the position e.g. college degree, five years’ experience, etc. If any of the minimum requirements are not met your application will be sent to sit in a database on file and will most likely never actually be reviewed by the human hiring agent. If you do meet the requirements, then it will automatically be sent to the hiring agent for review. Enterprise Content Management workflow applications not only manage all the content an organization produces, they also manage all the content an organization receives.

“The idea is unnatural naturalness, or natural unnaturalness…”
-Bruce Lee

All of this is meant to alleviate manual processes, save time and money and improve security2. The whole purpose of workflow in ECM is to allow specialized people to spend more time doing productive work and less time on organizational and retrieval chores. Individuals in organizations often debate whether or not these workflow systems help. Some see them as cumbersome and restrictive, and others see them as great tools.

So, which is it?

An individual’s stance on this may vary depending on one’s skillset, personality, tendencies and temperament. These workflow systems are a part of professional life and will only become more vital to operations as time goes on, so, if you’re unable to adapt or adopt them, you’ll be left behind, BUT, if you rely on them too heavily, you might be limited in your career because one firm’s ECM system can be totally different from the next. Let’s finish up with our friend from the French fry station. Just because he shouldn’t be working the register doesn’t mean he’s not a valuable asset to the fast food operation. He may bring a positive attitude or a willingness to work which is intangible but does have a productive effect. In sports these are called locker room guys. Until an organization’s system is entirely automated through workflow, these locker room guys will still be needed.

Keep an eye out for our next installment in the Enterprise Content Management series, where we’ll focus on Records Management.


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SwiftSHRED ECM Series, Part II



The paperless push has been happening across many industries for almost a decade now, particularly in healthcare with the passage of Health Information Technology for Clinical and Economic Health (HITECH) in 2010 (Compliance & Ethics Blog). Why is there a push to digitize? Is it just to keep up with the times, appear more modern and adapt to a changing workforce, or does it actually improve Enterprise Content Management? Also, what industries should be going paperless? These are good questions to ask when considering converting your systems from paper-based to digital.

“Because I want to fit in.”
-Patrick Bateman, American Psycho

Going paperless is the first area of focus for your ECM. If you have a filing cabinet, you should be going digital. It is a way to keep up with the times; it will make you appear more modern to outsiders, and it will help you adapt to a changing workforce. Your systems should not be archaic. It doesn’t make sense to teach new personnel outdated operations. The digital age is in full swing. It’s said that Gen-Xers are the last of the analog age, with millennials being fully immersed in the digital experience since youth. Successive generations that are still too young to enter the workforce are going to be more and more comfortable interacting with an interface, and they will be much more adaptive to the new ways information will be shared, stored, indexed, received, queried, and retrieved. Whether or not paper will be in common operational use in 15 years remains to be seen, but hard copies may go the way of carbon paper.

How to go paperless?


The first step is to scan your physical files. Scanning is a digital image capture process. It is best to outsource the scanning of your files to a third-party service because they are experienced and have the proper equipment to produce the best images. There are a number of scanning services that will perform this function for you as it is a very time-consuming and labor-intensive process. The digital files should be indexed in a way that is consistent with your current system to minimize confusion.


The files should be migrated from an organization’s application server and uploaded to a cloud-based server. This may vary depending on your organization’s security protocols and comfort level of having information on separate hosting, but for most cloud-based is the way to go. If this is an issue, they can be integrated to application servers, but the truth is no system is 100% secure, and cloud-based servers provide the best backup coverage. You should also make sure that all the digitized information is backed up onto secondary storage devices, like CDs, as an extra failsafe in case of some sort of unforeseeable black swan event.


What really makes digital imaging and archiving worthwhile is Optical Character Recognition technology, or OCR. OCR is the process of transforming an image of printed text into code so it can be read by a computer. The scanning process produces an electronic version of the original document as a bitmap image and it’s saved as a TIFF file. OCR technology increases productivity and accuracy. It actually corrects flaws in original documents through text image and blocks identification, character recognition, word identification and formatting output processes (Sheehan, Elizabeth). Simply put, you can search through decades of files with a simple search query using a scanning process software.


Once the files are digitized and backed up on the cloud, you should destroy the physical documents. The main reason for this is to eliminate threats because what is being digitized can be extremely sensitive. Some of the threats people and organizations face are fraud, legal action, loss of business, damaged reputation and termination. Ask about the size of a company’s shredded materials when considering a shredding service (should not be wider than half the width of your thumb) and make sure the shred is cross-cut.

Imaging and the Bottom Line

“That’s the bottom line.”
-Stone Cold Steve Austin

Optical Archives, Inc. is a trailblazing digital imaging service that has been scanning for decades. They recently removed documents for a major hospital in New York’s Lower Hudson Valley that filled up 40 filing cabinets, scanning and archiving all of them onto a cloud-based server. This under-utilized real estate that had been designated as storage space for the hospital’s records was freed up because they went paperless and is now where they conduct all interviews for prospective employees. In Westchester County (where this example took place), at the time this is being written, commercial real estate is between $25.00 and $30.00 a foot (loHud). In Manhattan it may average $80.00 a foot. Aside from improving operations, this move cut expenses for the hospital. Real estate is usually the second highest expense for any business, according to CoreDispo, right behind payroll. You wouldn’t pay people to do nothing, so why pay for commercial space that does nothing? This example illustrates how improving ECM can impact productivity and improve the bottom line in ways that aren’t so obvious.

Imaging is the most immediate organizational change, and its potential cost savings can be seen and calculated (Real Story Group), like in the example above. There are also less immediate or ways in which imaging can help you. Take this scenario:

You’re an HR professional, and a lawsuit has been filed against your company for wrongful termination from a former employee named, John Doe. John Doe hasn’t worked for the company in five years, which was before you held your current position and you have no knowledge of the situation or circumstances that lead to his firing. Since so much time has passed, all the parties who had any involvement with John Doe’s firing have also moved on. You would have to search through years of records, track down former employees and try to get them to remember and recount the specifics of this case. It would be better if the company had gone paperless because all you would have to do is search “John Doe” and all his records would be immediately available. You’d see that he was fired because he failed a drug test five years ago, and John Doe’s case would go nowhere.

What should you digitize?

This is difficult to say. What you want to discard and what you should retain varies from business to business. If you don’t know where to begin, you can start with employee records, historical payroll sheets, accounts payable, client and/or patient information, any microfiche or microfilm and all auditing information. HR and Accounting are good places to start.

Digital Imaging improves accessibility, efficiency and productivity. It is the first area of ECM and all other areas follow. Stay tuned for our next post of our Enterprise Content Management series where we’ll be covering the next ECM focus area: Workflow.

What Is Enterprise Content Management (ECM)?

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SwiftSHRED ECM Series, Part I

What Is Enterprise Content Management (ECM)?


We are in a very interesting time in human history, a time marked by great convenience and comfort for large swaths of the world’s population. We’ve seen rapid technological changes over the last decade and seem to be on the cusp of even greater and more radical technological breakthroughs in terms of connectivity, processing power and mobility. For the first time ever, we are not held back from a lack of information, but instead must deal with the challenge of an information surplus. We have so much data at our fingertips yet there is still consistent confusion, uncertainty and disorder.

It’s important to keep in mind that every piece of data has a lifecycle and because things are changing so rapidly in the modern world, a piece of data can outlive its usefulness very quickly. Once a piece of information becomes outdated, it becomes an unwanted and unnecessary burden. This is something that all organizations and institutions are coming to realize. Whether they are large operations with multi-variable blockchain systems in place or small mom & pop firms that are still running on paper-based systems, it doesn’t change the fact that they need to have some form of an information governance program established or they will be inundated with data.

…So, what’s ECM?

ECM stands for Enterprise Content Management and is the evolved form of Document Management. The term “Document Management” has become outdated because there are so many other forms of media where a piece of information can live, beyond just a physical document.


When we’re considering what ECM is, we should first consider the nature of information today. Information in 2018 can be categorized into three groups: Unstructured Information, Semi-Structured Information and Structured Information (AIIM). These three groups are known as the data continuum . This may seem highly semantic, but it is helpful in understanding the usefulness of ECM.

Unstructured Information

“It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”
-Bill Clinton

Human communication is extremely contextual, which is why it is so hard to define the exact meaning of a word. One way to think about unstructured information is to think of it as human communication. It is content that is produced by humans for a human audience. Anything that’s done in a word processor or presentation application is unstructured information. It can be formatted in many different ways but it is usually text heavy data (Expert Systems). Documents, emails, news streams and web pages are all vehicles for unstructured information . You may remember the theory of Dramatic Structure from high school English (Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, Conclusion), but as far as ECM is concerned even a great work of literature is unstructured information. What you’re reading right now is unstructured information too.

Semi-Structured Information

“Get it? Got it. Good.”
The Court Jester

This is where these semantic differences of the data continuum can become confusing. There is some debate in the IT world over whether or not unstructured information should even be used as a viable data classification because almost all data with any commercial value has some structure (Computer Weekly). However, there is still a reason for the distinction for our ECM purposes. Invoices, receipts, purchase orders all need to be processed by computers and inserted into relational databases but their data is still usually classified by humans (for now) . This is why semi-structured information exists. Part of it is automated and part of it needs human verification. Another example is an X-Ray. The raw X-Ray image is an example of unstructured information even when digitized – it’s captured by people and meant to be viewed by people – but once meta data is added to the document for classification, indexing, archiving and retrieval purposes, it becomes semi-structured .

Structured Information

“I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
-Hal 9000, 2001: A Space Odyssey

Structured Information is very precise. It is usually table based and lives in relational databases and spreadsheets. With every form field you fill out, you’re placing data into related databases. Changes to the data fields in one categorized database will affect the others in a relational database system. This is accomplished by utilizing functions that recognize the primary keys of one table and the foreign keys that reference other tables. Think back to a purchase you’ve made online – you may have a filled out a customer profile (first name, last name, address, date of birth, payment information, etc.) and then been given a customer ID which you typed into the form along with an item number, quantity, etc. All of that information you filled in is structured information. It’s is being put into a relational database and is making changes and manipulating data to any number of tables. Simply put, all structured information is exact and quantifiable because it has to be that way in order to maintain the integrity of the relational database. In a spreadsheet if the information is not structured, it will break the function and you’ll receive an error. Structured information is the best data for being stored, processed, queried and accessed. It is often managed using Structure Query Language (SQL) which was first developed in the 1970’s by IBM for its internal use and then commercially by what’s now Oracle. The fundamental composition of the SQL really hasn’t changed very much in the past 40 to 50 years, which is very unusual for programming languages, and it is the foundation of relational database systems.

Why is ECM important?

Enterprise Content Management is how any venture governs the information it produces. Effective ECM will help to minimize risk, maintain adherence to regulatory and corporate compliance, improve efficiency, maximize office real estate, speed up information retrieval times and minimize outside threats.

In the next few blog posts we will focus on the Four Key Areas of ECM: Imaging, Workflow, Records Management and Enterprise Relationship Management. After that we will look to the future of ECM and speculate a bit about Intelligent Information Management (IIM).