Records Management Blog | Practical Records Management

Enterprise Search - To Search...or To Find?

Posted by Michael Thomas on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 @ 12:27 PM
For years, I've spoken with clients about making all of their companies' information available to users just like a "Google" search. Recently, I've begun hearing from clients and prospects, however, that they're beginning to see tools like Google Search Appliance (GSA) as an alternative solution to true Enterprise Content Management. This question is extremely valid, and to be honest, I couldn't put my finger on exactly what the right answer was.

In Early March 2009, I had an opportunity to pose this question to Miguel Zubizaretta, CTO of Hyland Software during their Team OnBase Conference. Miguel answered the question for me in a way that finally made it clear to me how ECM Technology and Enterprise Search Technology are different, and perhaps just as importantly, how they need to co-exist. "The Google, or Enterprise Search Paradigm is different from that of ECM." Said Zubizaretta. "When you do a search online, in Google, for example, the user is looking for content that relates to a specific search term. What is returned is a series of results which have a relationship with the query. If a user has their question answered or issue resolved, or if they find something relevant to that query, they're satisfied and the search was a success. The question, however, is does that query provide ALL applicable results, or does it even provide the correct result? That is the purpose of ECM."

ECM technology is built on the premise that documents and content are indexed with certain, specific pieces of metadata, or keywords. This allows for a very high degree of specificity when conducting a search - Dates, Amounts, and other Identification are specifically tagged to that object. When searching within an Enterprise Search Platform, however, the results are largely based on an algorithmic scoring and interpretation of the text within that content. This means that the search may locate the item that you're searching for, but it also may neglect certain documents that were relevant to the query, but which were not defined to have a direct relationship with that document via common metadata or keywords.

Therefore the real difference between the technologies is reflective of the two purposes for their use. If you want to find ANY answers to a given query, then Enterprise Search is likely an acceptable strategy. If, however, you want to be able to find ALL applicable answers to that query, then ECM technology is likely to be the better choice. This is especially important for CTO's and other Technology Decision makers to understand as they invest in systems, because without accurately capturing ALL of the possible results, there could be dire consequences for the business.

In addition to the difference in the search paradigm, other functionality, such as version control, audit trails, and workflow are often inherent to ECM systems. This makes ECM a critical component for a company's regulatory and audit compliance. This doesn't make these two technologies mutually exclusive, but rather quite complimentary to each other. The ability to provide full-text search capabilities within an ECM System is often very useful for eDiscovery Processes, or when someone remembers an obscure fact about a given document, but may not remember where they read it. Likewise the ability to conduct a broad Enterprise Search and view all of the ECM Results within the same window can provide a great method of federating the retrieval of content that may not be stored within the ECM System. So while neither ECM nor Enterprise Search alone are the panacea for all that ails enterprise information management, but together, both technologies can go a long way to improving the end-user experience and help users find the information that they need to make better, more informed business decisions.

Tags: ECM, Enterprise Search, OnBase, Google

The REAL cost of Lost Documents

Posted by Michael Thomas on Thu, Aug 13, 2009 @ 01:19 PM

Document management is one area of business that is often overlooked.  That is, of course, until the first time that an important document goes missing.  Lost documents can cause problems including poor customer service, inefficient operation, and legal penalties. The best way to avoid disorganization is by to ensure that you've taken some simple steps to ensure you can find your files when you need them.

Create a Document Policy

Start by putting together a document policy for your company.  This should include specifics about how employees are to handle filing, retrieving and keeping files.  Lost documents can cost your business in lost time, money and reputation.  When documents are needed for tax purposes or for litigation the outcome depends on the ability to produce accurate records.  If records are lost it can cost your company thousands of dollars.

Stay Organized

Keep your company organized by putting a document storage policy in place.  Typically, the safest and most affordable place to store older documents in at a records management facility.  There your files will be properly inventoried and organized.  If you need a document you can easily get it with a simple request.  Files are secure and easy to find - the two main requirements of any file system.

Consider all Storage Options

In addition to storing paper files you can also choose to turn your files into electronic documents by scanning.  The scanning of files can either be done internally or outsourced, depending on your preference and needs.  For many companies file scanning makes sense because it cuts down on storage costs and improves file organization.  Once files are no longer needed they can be disposed of by shredding.

Leverage Efficiency to Save Money

Lost documents can actually cost your company in the long run.  Choose a records management policy that you can work with and that properly does the task of organizing your documents properly.  Partnering with a reputable records management company will almost always save you money and provide you with ongoing support for all your records management needs.

Tags: ECM, Scanning, Enterprise Search, File Storage, Records Management

To Scan or Not To Scan - It's not a Question.

Posted by Michael Thomas on Thu, Aug 06, 2009 @ 01:23 PM

There are so many questions I get asked, but one of the most common ones is ... Should I scan my files or store them?

Well, Both options have their pro's and con's and most often, the right choice is a mixture of both.  Physical Document Storage consists of files that are organized and packed into marked storage boxes for future use. File Scanning converts paper files to scanned documents eliminating the need to keep the original documents.  The decision is up to you and will depend on several factors.

  • Type of Business - the kind of business you have may dictate which storage method works best.  For example medical records are typically kept in well-maintained folders making scanning an easy option.  Some business files may include many notes, floor plans or other items that may make scanning more difficult.  If you want to keep originals available for access, it's likely that you would choose storage over scanning.
  • Accessibility - Scanned files may be easier to work with since they can often be emailed and kept electronically.  Stored documents need to be retrieved when needed which takes time and manual labor resources.
  • Manpower - Document storage takes manpower.  If you choose to keep paper records or scan, consider using a Professional Records Management and Scanning Company to do the work for you.  You'll save time and money by using this outsourced solution.
  • Cost - Compare the costs associated with either type of arrangement.  While document storage on your own site can be expensive a much cheaper alternative is to use off-premise storage.  In most cased, off-site storage of the files is significantly less expensive than both on-site storage and Scanning. Again, a professional records management company will handle all storage and organization of documents.  They can also provide complete scanning services at an affordable price.

No matter whether you choose storage or scanning the important thing is that you've determined the need for finding a records management solution.  Pick a solution that works for your company, fits into your budget and will provide your company with the necessary documentation you need for tax purposes, legal reasons and customer support. Your business will be much better for it.

Tags: ECM, Scanning, File Storage, Records Management