Same As It Ever Was

Yes, that is from a tune by the Talking Heads, but what I am talking about here is that here we are in September of 2019, and I am still hearing from folks that while technology has moved forward, the fundamental issues voiced by businesses today, reflect the same issues we heard decades ago.

Technology has advanced and its use to automate business processes like metadata application, proposal generation, invoice processing, and other business processes are still an issue. The underlying cause appears to remain the realignment of the user community to the new ways of working.

Change management, governance, and yes, even structure of information is still a challenge. Most importantly, these questions are coming more frequently from the IT folks who are being tasked with and held accountable for better management of the infrastructure and aligning it to the business.

As I have said in the past, technology alone is not always the best or complete solution. The evidence is clear to me that in today’s world, the fundamental issues in business remain the same. Information organization, consistency, find ability, defensibility, and change management are still a challenge that technology alone has not been able to fully address.

If you really want to resolve a business issue, you must peel back the symptom statements from the stakeholders to reveal the underlying problem.

If the stakeholder issue is that it takes too long to process claims or sales orders, that is the symptom of an underlying problem. Look for the real cause. Perhaps there is a dependency on information related to this process that must be complete before the process can move forward.

Identify what a complete information set consists of and look for reasons why it is delayed in coming together. If the problem is that the information is both in digital and paper form, look for ways to bring the information into the process at the first touch point so the complete package is compiled sooner. Scan upon receipt rather than further into the process where is can be delayed, misplaced, or even lost.

Involve the users in the process and solicit their feedback on both the problem and their suggestions on how to address it. This not only provides firsthand insight, it also aids in change management by making them part of the solution as opposed to the recipient of yet another operational mandate.

The technology is there and ready, but is your organization ready for the technology?

Preservation: An Ancestral Lesson

It is amazing to visit the Europe and the Mediterranean regions, exploring the ancient ruins in Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Turkey. The architectural accomplishments of the past and how these structures have survived these many years is astounding. When you stand amongst the ruins and see major portions of these ancient buildings still standing, knowing that the design was by human not software, and that the writings and carvings have been preserved and interpreted so that all can understand their meaning, it is all the more impressive. This led me to think about our Castlecurrent times and the question of what will it be like centuries from now, and what will remain of our existence?

Will the infrastructures we put into place today, stand up to the tests of time? Will our information stores still be available and more importantly, accessible? The ancients documented many things through stone carvings, etchings and paintings that have endured the tests of time and they provided keys to unlock the mysteries of their meaning through translation tools like the Rosetta Stone. So what about your technology infrastructure and file formats? Are you planning for the preservation of your information assets and transformation of your infrastructure?

In my view, the ancient civilizations were well aware that in order to preserve their history and transfer their knowledge to future generations, adaptation and translation to emerging languages was essential. Long term preservation of their information with a means to translate to a common form was part of the plan, thus the creation of the Rosetta Stone. You need to think in the same way as the ancients, in that years from now, information that is vital to your organization must not only be made available but accessible. Additionally, you need to look at what you currently have, determine the value of that information, and update to today’s standards as a first step in your preservations efforts. Do you still have information created in Word Perfect, Lotus 123, or  some other application from the past? If so what is in those files, can you access that information, and how can you transform it into a useable format of today?

You need to look toward the future and prepare for transitional migration to newer formats and media. Information preservation is an essential part of any information management environment and should be part of yours. If as an organization, you are ready to move forward with preservation planning but are not sure where to begin or what to do next, seek professional assistance and/or training to get you started. Don’t wait until it is too late and that information is lost forever.

Reactive Response IS NOT Preparedness

Here we are in Florida, awaiting the first hurricane to directly impact the State. Dorian is predicted to hit the East coast sometime Monday, impacting a large portion of Florida. Weather reports have presented this in many lights, including that the Tampa area may not be impacted at all. It is still too early to tell.

This morning I stopped into a local gas station, to find a line of folks filling gas cans just in case. The news showed how many of the wholesale outlets were being drained of their bottled water inventories, and hardware outlets were selling plywood, generators, gas put-out-firecans, and batteries at a rapid rate. All in the name of preparedness. This caused me to stop and think, is this really preparedness or is is reactive response to the news and weather reports? Most of are like firefighters waiting for it to happen then reacting to put it out.

In my mind – with gas as the exception – most of this should have been done long before now, stocking bottled water, canned goods, fitting plywood to the windows, and all the rest, should have been done months ago as part of a preparedness plan rather than running around now hoping things would still be available.

This is also the case with many businesses, especially those in the small and mid-sized sector. Disaster preparedness is not front of mind and what happens is reactive response when some potential catastrophe is looming. Now they are asking, what do we do if we are flooded? Can we mover the servers? What about our paper information? How do we protect that? If power is out for any length of time, how do we continue to operate? And of course, when it is all over, how do we get back to a normal level of operations and in what timeframe?

In my view, every business – and every household for that matter – should have a disaster preparedness plan in place that details who does what, when they do it, and how it gets done. Additionally, there should be a detailed plan for how the business recovers and reestablishes normal operating levels. Are you really prepared or are you one who takes action as a result of reactive response?

Going Back to Green

As technology advances and we begin to realize its potential, we must also look at the short and long term impacts it will have on the environment. For example, using plastic bottles in place of glass. Glass would seem much greener in that the bottles would be returned to the store and in return you would get a few cents back for each one. These bottles would then be sent back to the beverage supplier to be washed, sanitized, and reused. Granted there were other issues such as breakage leading to potential hazards of cutting someone, but they were nonetheless, recycled for reuse.

Plastic bottles are much more convenient, won’t break, and can simply be disposed of. Of course it is the “disposed of” that presents the challenge. The impact it has on the Polutionenvironment is becoming a major challenge in that plastic bottles don’t breakdown quickly – if at all. The are now being seen as a major pollutant, floating on the shores of rivers, lakes, and the oceans. They can be found in forests, cities, and mountains just lying there, discarded by humans. Convenient? Yes. A growing, unplanned for issue? Yes.

My point here is that there are many positives for technology advancement and use, but we must also consider and plan for the impact this will have and make accommodations to prepare for the impact it will have – even in the office. While the type of ecological impact described in the above scenarios may not directly relate to an office environment, it does apply to the implementation and impact new technology will have on your information ecosystem.

People and processes will be immediately impacted with implications for long term effects. Technology introduced into a business organization must not be viewed as a one-time event but as a planned and carefully orchestrated program with an eye on continuous improvement to prepare and accommodate the ever changing business landscape and regulatory requirements regarding the management and protection of the data you hold.

We do many things in both our personal and business lives that impacts those people and places around us. The key to improvement, quality, and longevity, is to take care of our ecosystems whether they be information or environmental. By all means, we should adopt and use technology. At the same time, we must use it intelligently and plan for the impact in order to address it and manage it before it becomes an issue.


Transitional Challenge

We hear a lot today about organizations transforming to a more digital environment and transitioning from older ways of thinking and working to newer and more modern thinking and work methods. Many of the conversations focus on the technology while the greatest challenge is typically human, even when there is no technology involved.

To support my statement, I am going to do something I very rarely do and use our political parties as examples. Over the years, both Republican and Democratic parties have been challenged with the arrival of a younger generation of Congressional and Generational TeamSenatorial members. In both cases, there have been challengers to the ways of managing the political and legislative processes. The most recent between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and four newly elected Congress Women who see the traditional ways of Speaker Pelosi as outdated, and are pushing for a transformation of sorts, within the Democratic party and Congress.

There is no technology involved here, but is does show that there is a divide which in my opinion is more one of one generation holding on to tradition “this is how we do things and have done things”, and the other pointing to their sense of need for change away from the traditional, “Just because this is how we did it, doesn’t mean there isn’t a better way”. I even see this in families where from generation to generation, what was once a tradition is changed due to now different lifestyles, work and personal requirements, or some other reason driving the need for change.

In my view, change is inevitable in every aspoect of our lives. In some cases we can inflluence what will change, when it will change, and how the change will occur. In other cases, we have no control over the pending changes and should accept that change is inevitable, beneficial for the organization, and hard. Organizational transformation and the transition from current state to future state is a team effort, and all parties must work in unison if success is to be achieved. While the older generation – of which I am now part – must come to realize that while traditional methods (even though they are still fully functional and effective) may not be the best approach in current and future times, the younger generation, full of ideas and knowledge of updated methods and technologies, must realize that change is uncomfortable for those who have been in this role for many years.

Once generational balance is found, and common ground established, as a team there can be success. Gone are the days of running an organization with the mindset of doing things my way or take the highway. Address the transitional challenge with an open mind to change and trust that there may be some glitches along the way, but in the end it is the organization as a whole that wins.



Enforcing GDPR

I, along with many others, have written about Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) since it was first introduced in April of 2016, and then implemented in May of 2018. Businesses had a two-year period in which they were to establish proper governance and practices to protect Personally Identifiable Information (PII) they stored and managed.

On July 8 of 2019, CNN reported that British Airways is now facing a (US)$230M fine due to a website failure compromising the personal details of Lawapproximately 500,000 of their customers. The fine represents about 1.5% of British Airways’ annual revenue. Additionally, this article reports that Facebook – as a result of the Cambridge Analytica scandal – was fined the maximum allowed at the time of $626,000 which was before GDPR was implemented and enforced. As you can see, the difference between then and now is significant.

GDPR is here, it is real, it is being enforced, and it will result of non-compliance will be one of great consequence. If you think it does not impact you, think again. Businesses need to take this seriously as many States are now implementing GDPR like regulations, and the Federal Government is considering a national version.

From a personal perspective, you should be glad that such a regulation is in force, as it is now pushing businesses more than ever to take responsibility for the information they hold on you, and be held accountable for the inability to do so.

Business People Choose….

…gamblers leave it to chance.  One of the great Philosophers – Aristotle – said “Choice, not chance… determines your destiny.” In business and in our daily lives, we are constantly making choices. We choose to get up and go to work or not. We choose to automate our businesses, or not. We choose to embrace best practices and upgrade our technologies, or not. We choose to prepare for disaster and chaos, or not.

I have talked to many business owners over the years about preparing their businesses for various things like changes in the market, a catastrophic disaster, or changing regulatory rules and often hear “I’ll take my chances.” I then ask if they are so casual Confusedwith their personal lives and possessions. More often than not, I get a perplexed and sometimes angered look with a response of “no, I make sure my home and family are safe.” Yet in their business lives, for whatever reason, there is a willingness to leave things to chance and hope that disaster, regulatory audit, or rapid market shift doesn’t happen to them anytime soon.

In my view, nothing replaces being prepared even if we cannot prepare for 100% of the possibilities. Forward thinking Executives understand that what lies beyond the horizon must be addressed today and reassessed frequently in order to stay in the game competitively, recover from a disaster, or avoid fines and penalties that cost far more than the preparation needed to protect the business. It is a matter of choice. You can choose to be proactive and prepare today, or chance the eventuality you will have to react in the future, with hopes of muddling through to address the situation and save the business.



Hey! I know you

Or at least I think I do according to my facial recognition system. There is some debate going on about the use of facial recognition in public areas, used without specific notification to all who pass by. In other words, when facial recognition is being used in cities like San Fransisco which just banned the use of facial recognition by law enforcement.

Let’s face it – I know “bad pun” – facial recognition is in place by many apps we willingly use every day to unlock iPhones, access iTunes, and more. Yet when we talk about using this technology for law enforcement and consumer recognition in stores, that is an area of concern. Perhaps it is due to the level of discomfort in the accuracy of facial recognition.

If you are a traveler, imagine what it would be like to board a flight to anywhere and Future-of-Face-Recognition-Technologynever again need a boarding pass. Imagine that all you have to do is walk up, and let the facial recognition system take it from there. One quick pic, compare to the files maintained in a database, say the Customs and Border Patrol database used for the Global Entry System now, and you are allowed to pass through. No more fumbling in line with a paper boarding pass or the digital version on your phone.

I for one, as a frequent traveler, would appreciate that greatly given all of this information is already kept for my passport, Global Entry, and Clear enrolments. It is coming and here now with JetBlue where the claim is that since 2017, they have successfully incorporated facial recognition into their boarding process with 125,000 passengers on 1,400 flights.

Is facial recognition infallible? No. There are still some things to work out regarding accuracy or inaccuracy by untrained systems, but it is here and ready for prime time. The question is how far will the human race allow it to go and how much legislation will be enacted to harness its use for what some may consider unscrupulous reasons. I for one am in favor of exploring the possibilities on a more  universal level like healthcare. Imagine if all you had to do was smile for the camera and all of your information is made available to the Doctors and staff. No more fill-out the form marathons. How willing are you to embrace facial recognition?



Is It Really The Technology?

“We bought this new intelligent information management solution and the damn thing is a failure!”  This is something I often hear and the question I have is typically, “Is it really the technology that failed or did you fail the technology?” This of course opens a discussion or prompts quick responses like “What do you mean we failed the technology?” My point being that of knowing what the technology was intended to do. I have always said that technology for technology sake will always fail to meet expectations.

In order for technology to be successful, there must be a purpose – reason – for the technology. Are you trying to solve a business problem and do you really know what the Confusedunderlying problems is or are you simply addressing a symptom? Are you upgrading in order to remain competitive? Are you planning to use the technology as part of your RISK/compliance program and if so, how does it factor into the information ecosystem? Perhaps you are trying to automate some of your business processes, but do you truly understand those processes and their interrelationships with other processes, information, and people?

These are but a few of the questions that should be asked before a technology purchase decision is made. If you don’t understand the true reason you want the technology, how can you expect it to succeed and you should ask yourself, if you really need it? Once you understand the true reasons and business problems you are trying to solve, you can match what you already have in place to see if it provides what you need. If not, then go buy it, but why spend more money if you have something in-house already? If you are unsure about any of this, seek external advice. Many times an independent third-party can help you step back and look at the bigger picture.

Next time you feel a technology solution is failing you, ask yourself – “Is it the really the technology or is it us?” You may be surprised at the answer.




Set Your Personal Goal

In 1984 I began working in R&D for Wang Laboratories and became involved with their document imaging technology – the foundation technology of what we all take for granted today. In 1986, I attended my first Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) conference, became a member, and took note of a special group of individuals known as the Company of Fellows. These individuals held special recognition for their accomplishments in the field of Information Management (IM) and involvement with AIIM to help mentor, educate, and move IM to new levels. This I decided, was where I someday had hoped to be. That day came on March 28, 2019 when I became Fellow 221 in the 57th year of the AIIM Company of Fellows.

FellowsThis for me was my Professional goal, to make a difference, to help drive education, innovation, and interest for what we do, forward. It is a goal I set way back in 1986 and kept in front of me throughout my career. Receiving the award was very gratifying but I have to say, it is the journey that is most rewarding. Making new acquaintances, taking on new challenges, and witnessing first-hand how what you do makes an impact in business and even some people’s personal lives.

My point here is that you need to set some personal goals. Whether these be in business or your personal life, it is essential to help you keep focus and achieve your desired outcome. When working on projects, set the goal and work toward that goal with the intention of never waning or abandoning your journey. In my mind, everything is possible – it just may take longer and more effort than you thought to get there. Set your sights high and enjoy the journey. Don’t be afraid of change, to ask the tough questions, and welcome the answers even if they are not what you want to hear. It will make you stronger, help you become more well-rounded in your thinking, and take you farther than you can imagine.