Risk Management

The company you’re working for or consulting for will most likely be sued at some time given today’s litigious environment.  As ECM project manager are you knowledgeable and do you have the proper documentation (records of ediscovery, document retention, disposition, etc.) that is required to mitigate the risks in a lawsuit?

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The Top 5 Mistaken Beliefs About Content Management

Gain control of unstructured content

Your company may or may not have a strategy for managing content, the unstructured information streaming in and out of all areas of your organization on a daily basis. It’s likely you at least have a partial strategy where one or more of your departments is capturing and storing some type of unstructured information for later retrieval.

In a world where the use of digital channels is enabling companies to synthesize large amounts of information in seconds, organizations are making it a top priority to gain control of that rogue 80%, which is the approximate amount of unstructured information slipping through the cracks. This information is not easily accessible because it is scattered and isolated in departmental or personal file systems. This is the information you should be arming your employees with so they can do their jobs.

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Setting Expectations

As a Project Manager, it’s important to understand that your time is usually spread over several tasks and/or projects for any given day. For this reason it is extremely important to set the correct expectations with customers. Over the last couple months this lesson has been reiterated to me again and again in several different forms.

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The Power of the Presentation

One area of Project Management that I feel is often overlooked is the presentation of information.  This applies to both presenting to your immediate project team members as well as the project stakeholders.  The value of providing good presentations to your audience reinforces their confidence in you as the Project Manager, and it also builds credibility within the Project Team.

I recently attended a class on Presentation Skills provided by Dr. James Brown.  He stressed a number of points that I believe are the key to the successful delivery of a presentation, and here are my top takeaways:

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Compliant Public Disclosure Starts with Smart Records Retention

If there’s one message I consistently hear from customers today, it’s how big of a deal public disclosure is for the government and how we need better solutions around it. That being said, you would not believe how many of these organizations don’t feel that they have a good handle on their content.

In Washington State, public disclosure refers to the release of all documents and content to the person making the request. These documents at minimum need to be available for the requestor to view. There are some exemptions to this, such as sealed case files.

Good public disclosure practices really start with one thing: good record-keeping (and destruction). We hear time and time again from customers that they’ve never thrown anything away for fear that the document may be needed at a later date. While they may be thinking that this is the best way to avoid throwing anything away that should be kept, it also means keeping records that should have been destroyed.

Some aren’t aware of the fact that when a public disclosure request comes in, organizations are required by law to turn over any documentation pertaining to the request (as long as it is subject to disclosure). That means that if documents haven’t been destroyed and fall under the specific request, those documents need to be turned over as well, even though they are past the retention period. This poses a huge risk in regards to potential litigations.

Getting your records in order may seem like an overwhelming task, but here are some steps you can take to move toward better practices related to retention and disposition of records.

  1. Understand YOUR Organization’s Requirements for Record Retention and Disposition
    Every organization is different. Certain records have to be kept longer than others, some records might need to be sealed, others may need redaction before they can be turned over, etc. Each organization, each department, even each business process may have different requirements around records. Determine and document what the requirements are so that when you start to do an inventory of content, you have a definitive plan regarding what needs to be kept and for how long. Click here for a link to the Washington State Records Retention Schedules.
  2. Where are my Records?
    Identify where records are kept. Are they stored on a network share? In a file cabinet? In a content management system? Somewhere else? Are they in paper form? Electronic? Are there video files? Regardless of where the documents are kept, the regulations are around how you get the content organized, not the file format or how hard the collection process is. This will help ensure that there are not duplicate documents, and if there are, that only the pertinent copies are kept so as not to be a factor in a potential litigation.
  3. Perform an Analysis and Inventory of Your Records
    Some organizations choose to do this internally, some hire a contractor, and some take a hybrid approach. Regardless of which path you choose, determine what content you have, what needs to be kept, and what can be disposed of before evaluating any technology. This will keep you from bringing content into a solution that will need to be immediately disposed of after the initial analysis.
  4. Choose a Solution that is Flexible and Easy
    95% of organizations I work with are looking for a solution that is easy-to-use yet flexible enough to change with requirements. They want something that can easily set up to work with current retention and disposition schedules, yet can be updated without too much effort if laws or regulations change.
  5. Trust the System
    If you’ve done the prep work correctly, then what you need to do is trust what you’ve put in place is going to work. Choose a good partner with a track record of success to help you.

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking about what can be accomplished around public disclosure, records retention and your content. ImageSource has been assisting customer partners with these types of solutions for the last 20 years. We have done everything from initial consulting through implementation and support. Below is a short list of some of offerings:

  • Expert consulting to determine your “as is” state and develop a plan to get you to your “desired” state using industry best practices
  • Assessment of your current technology and how it can be leveraged
  • Solution evaluation to perfectly match technology with your requirements
  • Solution deployment, configuration, training and rollout
  • Document collection, conversion, scanning, taxonomy definition and automated classification and metadata extraction
  • Data Migration
  • Ongoing partnership for system/process tuning, growth and support
  • Managed applications services

The ILINX platform can assist any organization with getting a handle on their content.

Putting Together an ECM Project Team Part 3

Part 3 – The Project Team

In previous blogs on this same subject, we have discussed the role of Executive Management in the overall Project Team effort.  And what elements from the  internal organization would likely comprise an effective team.   In summary, vibrant and effective executive leadership is likely to be critical in solidifying the vision for the project.  The target of effort to achieve project acceptance and enthusiasm is cascading in that the focus of executive leadership is middle management.  The components of a project team may be different for each organization or type of organization – whatever best suites the particular organizational structure, and what special considerations there might be in the project (i.e. does it involve web content, collaboration, integration with ERP or SharePoint environments, etc.).

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Putting Together An ECM Project Team Part 2

Part 2 – The Project Team

I discussed in Part 1 on this general topic that the strong support of the intended Project by executive management is a critical factor for success – they need to support the projects sponsor, and smooth the path of challenges that sometimes occur when change is contemplated.  Vibrant and effective executive leadership is likely to be critical in solidifying the vision for the project.  The target of effort to achieve project acceptance and enthusiasm is cascading in that the focus of executive leadership is middle management, and then it effort fans out to focus on users and supervisors.

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Putting Together an ECM Project Team Part 1

Part 1 – Getting Started

From a user organization perspective, constructing an effective ECM Project Team needs to be on of the initial mandatory objectives and activities undertaken when implementing an ECM Project.  Achieving this objective in its totality directly links to the success of the implementation of any major ECM project within an organization – whether it be for a phased enterprise or a departmental initiative.

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Microsoft SharePoint 2013 – Interesting Article for SharePoint Administrators

If you want a high level look at Microsoft SharePoint 2013 and some expected updates and how they will affect various roles within your organization you need to check out this article. It is a 4 part series on Microsoft SharePoint 2013. Part 1 is for Administrators: 35,000 Foot View of SharePoint 2013 for Administrators

Brian Alderman’s previous publications include Windows 2000 Professional and SQL Server 2000 Administration. He is an active speaker at SharePoint Industry conferences including SharePoint Saturday’s and the SharePoint Best Practices Conference.

Al Senzamici, PMP
Program Manager
ImageSource, Inc.

ECM Best Practices: Unit Testing and NUnit

Everyone agrees that testing is a good thing. Not everyone agrees on how much testing is cost-effective and what exactly the kind of testing is right for a specific piece of software or product. But automated unit tests cam help you ensure your software is healthy.Software Unit Testing

Unit tests operate on the smallest possible section of code, on logical modules. In software design, a program of any decent size will be broken down into modules. These modules have inputs, outputs and behaviors. These inputs and outputs and behaviors are used by other parts of the program to perform work and can be monitored or tested by the test software.

 

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ECM Best Practices: Training

One of the most useful but less known trick in a fully managed Oracle UCM production site, for example ImageSource, Inc.,  is to prevent content editing on a web site.  By default, a managed or dynamic site allows the content owners to enter the contributor mode by navigating to web pages and hit a standard hot key Ctrl + Shift + F5.  This mode is all fine and useful in development and contribution servers, but it is a no no in a production environment.

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A Good UI Goes a Long Way

From the model, view, control architecture of programming, the model and control aspects are the undoubtedly the most important.   Without a solid back-end code base, an application might as well not exist.  However, from an end user perspective, the view can make  all of the difference.  After all, that is always their first impression of the application.

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How to Report Bugs

Most programmers I’ve worked with are delighted to fix bugs in their code. Yes, really. It’s the social interaction which goes with it which is often the root of the problem. This is always a tricky subject because by definition something isn’t working right when you have to report a bug; you, the user, are frustrated because the software is not working as you expected and you might have very little control over getting the issue resolved.

I came across an old web page this week on how to report bugs. This is written from the programmer’s point of view, and I can say that it’s pretty close. In discussing it internally at my company around the “virtual water cooler,” I was reminded of the occasional travails experienced by our own Tech Support group in supporting our customers and getting us developers the info we need to fix those bugs.

The previously mentioned article talks about how to provide information to the developer to enable them to fully understand (and recreate) the issue. Recreating the issue is paramount so that once it goes away, we know we actually fixed the problem.

My own version of the summary from the article is this:

  • The first aim of a bug report is to let the programmer see the failure with their own eyes. If you can’t be with them to make it fail in front of them, give them detailed step-by-step instructions so that they can make it fail for themselves. After writing down these instructions, go through them yourself to see if they actually produce the results you are describing. At last 50% of the time, the first set of step-by-step instructions are missing something.
  • Don’t make assumptions, be crystal clear in your instructions, if a dialog needs to be dismissed, then note that; if you open something via a menu versus a shortcut key, mention that.
  • Describe everything in detail. State what you saw, and also state what you expected to see.
  • Write down any error messages *exactly* as they appear, spacing and capitalization and all. Hunting down an error message in the code is so much easier when you are looking for the correct string.
  • When your computer does something unexpected, stop. If you start trying to fix the situation, write down each and every thing you do. Many issues are made harder to resolve because someone modified a setting and forgot to mention it.
  • It’s okay to try to diagnose the problem, but in reporting what you think the error is (I think the catalog file is uninitialized when switching contexts), report *why* you think that, providing all the supporting evidence (pro and con) for your conclusion. You may be right, or you may be simply adding confusing information.
  • Be ready to provide extra information if the programmer needs it. If they didn’t need it, they wouldn’t be asking for it. They aren’t being deliberately awkward. Have version numbers at your fingertips, because they will probably be needed.
  • Be proud. You are engaged in a process to improve the world, or at least the small corner in which you live, or making your software work a little bit better.

It seems to be that there are some basic categories of bugs:

  • Coding error in the software, an actual bug (2 + 2 comes up as 5 on your calculator)
  • User error (I closed without saving, where’s my work?)
  • Interaction with other software (this new Windows patch broke my website)
  • Misuse of the product (I want to use a spreadsheet program as a word processor)

What else?

(The original article can be found here)

Martin O. Waldron
Program Manager, SW Development
ImageSource, Inc.

 

New Folks Moving to Town all the Time, Chief

A while back, I was reading a web page about how to report bugs in a useful manner and I was thinking, this is a good post, but I already know this. I realize that after 20 years in the software business, I am still eager to learn new things. That’s the gift and the curse of a career in software development, there’s always something new and spiffy to learn, but you have to keep at it or get swept downstream.

Continual improvement is a key to success. As I told my kids when they were younger (they’re old and wise teenagers now), even Tiger Woods has a swing coach.

My parents met while working as reporters for the Atlanta Constitution newspaper after WWII. They were sometimes sent to cover a human interest type story which was not what you would call “breaking news.”  The subject would sometime observe, “You all put a story in the paper a few years ago about this.” My mom said she would invariably reply “New folks moving to town all the time, chief.”

This brings me to my second point: passing on good information. If I know something well, and can recognize the good information when I see it, then good for me. Framing it for others to be able to make use of that hardwon wisdom is a whole different thing.

I’m starting a new category on this blog to highlight, reiterate, or refine information which may be out there, but could stand a burnishing or a revisit. After all, new folks are joining the software industry all the time…

Martin O. Waldron
Program Manager, SW Development
ImageSource, Inc.