» Archive for the 'Document Management' Category

The Xerox 914 Copier

Thursday, September 30th, 2010 by Jonathan Spira

Every school child is aware of Gutenberg and his printing press.  But few know the name Chester Carlson, even though his impact on our lives as generators of information and creators of documents was just as great as the impact Gutenberg had on society some 500 years ago.

Imagine all the things we can copy now...

Chester Carlson invented the process of xerography (literally, “dry writing”) in Astoria, New York in 1938 after several years of experimentation and a lifelong interest in duplication.  He had been trying to create a means of duplicating a sheet of paper, such as a letter, but the only means of making copies at the time ranged from carbon paper, mimeographs, and photostats, none of which could take an existing document and copy it onto a new piece of paper without some intermediate steps or processes.

Carlson was successful by following a process outlined by the Hungarian physicist Pál Selényi that resulted in the world’s first xerographic copy.  It involved no chemical reaction and was a completely dry process.  John Dessauer, chief of research at the Haloid Corporation, read about Carlson’s invention and Carlson (along with his agent, Batelle Memorial Institute, a technology company that was headquartered in Columbus, Ohio), entered into a licensing agreement with Haloid.

Carlson joined Haloid in 1947 and the XeroX Copier Model A was born.  The technology, however, was difficult to use and other companies such as 3M and Kodak were already offering easy-to-use copying machines, although these machines used an inferior process and did not copy onto plain paper.  This put intense pressure on Haloid to perfect their machine.

The real breakthrough came with the Xerox 914, the world’s first modern photocopier.

Just as Gutenberg’s printing press revolutionized man’s ability to spread information in geometric proportion, Carlson’s Xerox machine had a similar effect, largely, at least at first, on knowledge workers in offices.

Office life got a lot easier, in many respects, thanks to Carlson, but one could also look at the photocopy as a forerunner of the kind of Information Overload we now get from e-mail and other electronic messaging technologies.  A 1961 ad for the Xerox 914 put it succinctly, it “makes copies of anything… on ordinary paper… even pages in a book.”

Until the era of the laser printer arrived in the 1990s, creators of documents had two choices.  There were those few documents important enough to warrant the investment of time and energy in setting type and printing and the overwhelming majority of documents that didn’t, many of them of an ephemeral nature.  Carlson’s photocopier closed the gap between commercial printing and low-volume copying (which had been more likely to have been handled via carbon copies than anything else).   It also gave knowledge workers the ability to distribute anything and everything to as many people as they wished, just like e-mail does today, albeit with less speed and efficiency.

The photocopier opened the door for knowledge workers to send documents to multiple recipients but there were still some significant limitations compared to what is available today using e-mail.  The distribution of documents within a building or campus was relatively easy and done via intra-office mail or simply by dropping off the document in the recipient’s inbox.  For those people traveling or in a different office or company, documents were typically sent by mail and this meant that they would not arrive until several days later.

Fortunately, the world was not working at twenty-first century Internet speed at the time and the focus on immediacy and the requirement for instant gratification hadn’t yet manifested themselves in the office environment.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

In the briefing room: Microsoft Office 2010 Co-Authoring

Thursday, February 25th, 2010 by Cody Burke

The latest buzzword in document creation is collaborative work.

Who will pop in next?

Who will drop in next?

While there exist various approaches to support collaborative work and varying definitions of what the term means, they all revolve around tools that allow knowledge workers to work together on documents.

Indeed, collaborating in the creation of a document can take different forms.  With cloud-based solutions such as Google Docs or Zoho Writer, collaboration means sharing, i.e. the document is distributed via a link in an e-mail message as opposed to sending along an attachment.  Since only one reviewer at a time can open the document, the annoying document version conflicts that plague workers in the information age are eliminated.

Working together on documents is nothing new, but the processes that are most prevalent are also very inefficient.  Indeed, a majority of knowledge workers send documents as e-mail attachments to multiple reviewers, which then causes version confusion, difficulties in incorporating edits, and missed edits and comments.  A remarkable 20% of knowledge workers say they print out hard copies to send to coworkers.

A different approach to solving this vexing problem is to allow knowledge workers to work on a document at the same time from different locations, be they in a real-time collaborative work session or simply working on the same document independently of one another.

In the forthcoming Office 2010 suite (currently in beta), Microsoft has added Co-authoring to Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote.  The new feature requires SharePoint Server 2010 to link the applications and store documents.  Co-authoring allows people to work on a document concurrently, so that one person could be working on introductory text while a subject matter expert fills in details on charts.  Areas that are being accessed for edits are locked to prevent conflicts; the locking is possible on multiple levels including sentences, paragraphs, objects, textboxes, fields, headers and footers.

When entering a document, the user is alerted to other authors who are working on the document via a notification box on the bottom of the screen.  By hovering over the box, the authors who are working on the document at that time are displayed, with contact information so that communication by phone, instant message, or e-mail can be initiated with a click.

If an author is working on a section, it is locked to prevent simultaneous edits by others and changes and additions are only shown to other authors when the document is saved.  If changes have been made to the document, bubble notifications appear to show other users what edits have been made and who made the changes.

People expect the knowledge economy to run on twenty-first century time, which means that knowledge workers need immediate feedback on documents from multiple collaborators at once.   Microsoft’s Co-authoring functionality has the potential to support faster movement of information while improving what today is a grossly inefficient and error-prone process.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

The Document Jungle

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010 by Jonathan Spira

The world of the knowledge worker is document centric.  As a group, knowledge workers spend significant time creating, managing, reviewing, and editing documents.

doc mgmt paper mountain

Danger lurks in the document jungle

[For the purposes of this discussion, we define a document as written communication created using word processing software, a typical example of which is Microsoft Word.]

A recent Basex survey of 300 knowledge workers revealed (not surprisingly) that 95% of them create and review documents on a regular basis.

The prevalence of word processing tools and e-mail have made it easy, some would say too easy, to send documents anywhere and everywhere for input from colleagues, business partners, customers, and suppliers.

A mere twenty years ago, document review was very different.  Fewer documents were being generated overall so there were fewer to review.  The review process was paper based, documents were typically stored in file cabinets, and, since making corrections and revisions often meant retyping a document, people only made important corrections and tried to get it right the first time around.

Today, the typical knowledge worker creates one to two documents a day comprised of one to two pages each.  He also receives three to five documents that are between three to five pages long for review each week.

Why the disparity in size and quantity between documents created and documents received?  People who create longer documents also create more of them and are more likely to send them out for review.  In addition, 22% of documents are not sent to anyone for review and a similar number are sent to only one colleague.

What happens when a document comes back to its creator with these edits and comments is also interesting since most documents come back with multiple edits, changes, and comments.

Despite the tools available both within word processing software and externally, the typical knowledge worker uses a fairly inefficient process to review documents, 60% of knowledge workers say they e-mail the documents as attachments to several reviewers at once.  46% report that they then compare edits and comments manually once they have received them back from reviewers.

As a result, almost 40% of knowledge workers say they miss edits and comments in the documents they get back from review.  Fewer than half of the knowledge workers surveyed say they get documents back in a timely fashion.  Another 25% of knowledge workers say they intentionally leave people out of the review process for fear of slowing it down.

All of these inefficiencies come with a significant cost to the bottom line.  Errors in documents that are overlooked can result in lost sales and lower profits.  The multiple hours a typical knowledge worker spends each week trying to manage the review process could be put to far better use.

The future for document review and revision is far from dismal.  Software companies ranging from start-ups to industry giants are tackling the problem.  Nordic River, a version management company based in Sweden, offers TextFlow, a browser-based tool that generates marked-up review copies of a document based on changes and comments made in individual versions of a document.   Microsoft, in the forthcoming Office 2010 suite, will introduce Co-authoring, a set of tools that allows for multiple users to edit a document at the same time.

Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

The Document Management Conundrum

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

How we create, write, and edit individual documents (for the purposes of this essay, a document is something that comes out of a word processing application such as Microsoft Word, Open Office, or WordPerfect) typically reflects the writer’s individual style.

doc mgmt paper mountain

How much is too much?

By this I do not mean how the actual words on the page are written, but rather how we manipulate and edit the text after the initial draft is created.

This may sound simple but that’s decidedly not the case. The way that we edit and refine a document does not just affect the author. Our work has become increasingly collaborative; documents are often touched by multiple knowledge workers, so the manner in which changes and edits are made has a ripple effect on everyone who is part of the process.

It seems as if every knowledge worker has a slightly different way of managing this aspect of the document creation process. Some print out the document and mark it up by hand; others use features built-into the word processing software; and still others have developed their own protocols for indicating changes, additions, and comments.

To find out more about people’s individual styles and preferences, we created a brief survey, which you can access by clicking here.

Participants will receive an Executive Summary of the survey’s findings and can also enter a drawing to win a $200 gift card from American Express. After you complete the survey, please share the survey link (www.basex.com/docs) with colleagues or forums where knowledge workers congregate; the more people participating in the survey, the better we will all understand how to manage documents more efficiently.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

A New Measure of Information Overload – In Feet

Thursday, November 12th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

It was right in front of me but I never noticed it until an in-depth conversation with a very well-informed CEO of a major auto maker earlier this week: how to measure Information Overload in a meaningful way.

How much information received today, dear?

How much information received today, dear?

“We send our dealerships,” the CEO told me, “about a foot or so of information every day.  There’s no way anyone can digest all of it.”  How did he measure this? The company printed out every piece of paper that goes out to the many dealerships around the country and that’s how high the average stack was.

This reminded me of an experiment the EDP (electronic data processing) manager, Dave Stemmer, tried at the company where my father was CEO, probably around 25 years ago (when IT departments were still called EDP departments).  He noticed that the department printed out dozens and dozens of reports a day (and the reports were on the green striped computer paper in binders) and wondered how many were actually being read.  So he stopped printing the reports and waited for the phone to ring with someone requesting them.  Apparently only 10% of the reports were re-requested so the waste in computer time (when this was a valuable commodity) and paper was huge.

Stemmer’s experiment, while less focused at the problem of Information Overload, does demonstrate man’s proclivity in creating too much information (or written versions of that information) that will go unused.

In the case of our auto maker, the amount of information was a wake-up call and the company is not only looking to reduce the amount of information sent to its dealerships but also looking to find ways of making that information more useful and relevant.

We know from our research here that the cost of Information Overload is great and that the actions of individual knowledge workers in terms of what they send to colleagues and correspondents can exacerbate an already bad situation.  Looking at it from a “how much does our organization send out en masse to individuals and partners” perspective is another way of trying to get not only a fix on the costs but also a good way of finding ways in which a few feet of Information Overload can be eliminated.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

In the briefing room: DotNetNuke

Thursday, October 29th, 2009 by Cody Burke

Finding a content management system that fits your needs is far from simple.

DotNetNuke's Marketplace

DotNetNuke's Marketplace

Indeed, as content creation skyrockets and organizations increasingly need to offer robust Web sites and portals for both internal and external use, the options become dizzying.  The ability to customize and develop channels such as Web sites, intranets, and community portals is increasingly attractive and necessary in a competitive market, no matter what business a company is in.

An offering that provides those kinds of customization options is DotNetNuke, a versatile open source development platform.  The DotNetNuke project, and eventually the company, evolved out of a modified version of Microsoft’s IBuySpy Portal that was released in early 2002 under a liberal end-user license agreement allowing modification.  By late 2002, Shaun Walker, who would go on to found DotNetNuke, released his own modified version that added features and sparked an active and vibrant open source developer community.  The project was renamed DotNetNuke in February 2003 and DotNetNuke Corp. was incorporated in September 2006.

DotNetNuke is an open source content management and application development framework for the Microsoft .Net software framework.  Like other commercial open source vendors, DotNetNuke has grown up around a specific product, in this case the .Net software framework.  The company offers a free Community Edition, and sells Premium and Elite Editions that include expanded features sets and support options.  At its core, the platform is designed to enable users to build Web sites that are customizable through use of open source modules and skins (basic reusable HTML files for graphical presentation that have placeholders for content) that the company provides via its online marketplace.

The platform includes modules for login, announcements, blogs, chat, events, FAQs, feedback, forms and lists, forums, help, newsfeeds, reports, search, site logs, surveys, users and roles, and wikis.  From there, users can customize the system by using modules and skins that an active community of developers and partners maintain.  A visit to www.snowcovered.com (which was recently acquired by DotNetNuke and replaces the company’s own marketplace), reveals a thriving ecosystem of third party modules and skins offering everything from event calendar and registration, video gallery, and document library modules and an expansive selection of skins for tweaking the look of a Web site.

When considering commercial open source solutions, the number of active developers and community members is reflective of the health of the project. What is attractive about DotNetNuke is the large and thriving ecosystem that, when paired with the modular approach the company takes with the platform, gives organizations the ability to set up sites and have a wide range of options for customizing them for their specific needs. This makes DotNetNuke a platform that will end up on more and more organizations’ short lists.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

In the Briefing Room: Nuxeo DM 5.2 and DM Cloud Edition

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009 by Cody Burke and Matt Siper

Content can be a unwieldy beast to tame in any organization.  With copious amounts of e-mail messages, files, and other documents being created every day, managing content can seem daunting.  With the number of documents that knowledge workers create each day, organizations need to find new and better ways of managing them in order to keep up with the onslaught.

Indeed, there are dozens of vendors who will be happy to offer you their systems to manage all types of content, ranging from large commercial vendors such as IBM, EMC, Open Text, and Autonomy, to completely free open source software options such as Plone or Drupal.  Between these extremes, there is a robust and mature selection of commercial open source offerings, providing the benefits of open source software, namely the elimination of an upfront software purchase and access to the source code.

One company in this space is Nuxeo, which offers Nuxeo DM in both on-premises and cloud editions.  Nuxeo DM is based on Nuxeo EP, the company’s open-source enterprise content management platform.

At log in, users are presented with a dashboard with modules for tasks, workflows, workspaces, recently published documents, and customizable portlets.  Documents can be created with desktop tools such as Word and saved in the system using a plug-in, or knowledge workers can drag and drop documents from the desktop.  Documents can also be created within the system using a built-in Notes function that suffices for shorter documents.  Workflows can be set up by simply selecting a document, choosing individual users, and assigning actions and due dates.  Users are notified through their dashboard portlets of review tasks that await them.

Nuxeo has developed industry-specific solutions for such areas as government and new drug approval management, simplifying what would otherwise be fairly complex processes in those areas.  The company also offers consulting, development and customization, and training.

For companies looking for ways of taming their document management problem, commercial open source offerings, such as those Nuxeo represents, are an attractive option and should be looked into alongside more traditional DM options.  With the amount of Information Overload that is prevalent, knowledge workers today spend far too much time trying to keep track of content and documents and need all the help they can get.

In addition, stay tuned for our upcoming report, Content Management Systems: The New Math for Selecting Your Platform, an in-depth analysis of over 30 offerings in this space.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.   Matt Siper is an analyst at Basex.

Google Apps Twitter Hack Raises Red Flags on Password Security

Thursday, July 16th, 2009 by David Goldes

One might presume that technology companies do a better job with such mundane tasks as password security than the great unwashed masses.  However, time and time again, this turns out not to be correct.  Yesterday, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, posting in the company’s blog, revealed that a hacker had broken into an employee’s personal e-mail account and then gained access to that employee’s Google Apps account, which contained “notes, spreadsheets, ideas, financial details” – well, you get the picture.

Although Stone tries to emphasize that this has nothing to do with any vulnerabilities in Google Apps per se, the very fact that anyone can log into a Google Apps account from any browser if you have the correct user name and password does increase a company’s exposure.  Companies that keep their confidential information behind a corporate firewall in systems such as Lotus Notes or Microsoft SharePoint, are indeed less vulnerable simply because their systems could not be hacked with just a simple user name and password.

Multiple studies have revealed that close to half of computer users tend to use the same password over and over again – typically with the same, easy to remember, user name.  Indeed, TechCrunch, a blog that received Twitter’s confidential documents from the hacker, reported that Twitter uses the password “password” for its servers (presumably, it’s been changed by now).  The same article revealed that Twitter had also used a co-founder’s first name, Jack, as a user name for servers.

Moral of the story: use complex passwords with numbers and symbols interspersed.  Do not use words found in a dictionary.  Even better: use passphrases, i.e. concatenated words such as “thisismypassphrase123″.  Use a different user name/password combination for each account.  If one account is hacked, this will ensure that your other accounts remain safe.  Finally, do not leave passwords visibly written down.  Believe it or not,  I still see Post-It notes with passwords attached to monitors when visiting other companies.

David M. Goldes is the president of Basex.

In the briefing room: Nordic River TextFlow

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009 by Cody Burke

Collaboration on documents is a given in knowledge work.  Seldom will one author be the sole contributor to a document; rather, two or more knowledge workers typically come together to create the content, make edits, fact check, and finalize.

Nordic River's TextFlow visual version management software

Nordic River's TextFlow visual version management software

There are myriad pitfalls in this process ranging from lost efficiency as a document is e-mailed around for review, requiring those involved to wait their turn to edit, and to version and save conflicts when different versions of the document are inadvertently created.  Manually combining the work of multiple authors and editors into one document is a time consuming process – and definitely not a pleasant one.

To date, the greatest advancements in document collaboration have been the simple track changes and commenting functions found in most word processors.  Being able to insert comments, make edits with the original text preserved, and, through the sometimes dizzying color coding, keep track of who did what and when, makes it possible to pass documents through a workflow process and arrive at a consensus without manually comparing multiple documents and manually merging them.

However, the track changes method is far from perfect.  Its use is premised upon there being a single master copy of a document that is circulated to colleagues and editors, either as a file or via a document repository.  In either case, there is one master copy and knowledge workers take turns writing and editing in a serial fashion.

Nordic River is a Swedish company trying to change that dynamic through TextFlow, an online document collaboration tool that takes a decentralized approach to collaborative document creation.  TextFlow is browser-based, but also can be run as an Adobe AIR desktop application.

The Flash-based system lets the user drag-and-drop documents into the browser window where they are automatically merged with changes shown for approval or rejection.  The suggested changes show up inline in the document (similar to the way a traditional word processor would display tracked changes) unless they are of a larger size, in which case the changes are presented in a color coded box with options to accept, move to scrapbook, hide, and reject.

All changes are also indicated by tabs on the left side of the page that are clickable to hide or show the changes.  A box in the window shows whose documents are being merged, and this can be changed at anytime to adjust which documents are being merged.  For example, it is possible for two colleagues who are subject matter experts to have their documents merged first, and then incorporate the changes of other authors.

TextFlow also serves as a repository by hosting documents on its server that also maintains an archive and history of each document.  Documents that are created in or added to TextFlow can be put into a workflow via e-mail to colleagues and split and merged as many times as necessary.  It is not necessary to be a user of TextFlow to participate in the workflow process.  Because there is no master copy, every collaborator has a copy and can work concurrently without fear of creating version conflicts.

For companies that find themselves struggling to manage the document lifecycle, TextFlow may provide a very simple yet elegant solution that simplifies the authoring process.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

Cloud Content Management with Salesforce Content

Thursday, March 5th, 2009 by Cody Burke

Cloud computing, for better or worse, is a hot topic right now.  We recently took a look at Salesforce Content, an integrated content management system (CMS) for sales teams using salesforce.com.

In an effort to make knowledge workers more efficient, Salesforce has created a unified workspace where the user can access content from multiple sources, including a cloud-based repository that is part of the Salesforce.com platform.  This keeps the knowledge worker from having to open  other applications when he needs to locate a piece of content.   Integration with Google Docs, for example, allows documents to be created and opened from within the Salesforce user interface without having to leave the environment.  In addition to the content residing in the cloud, the system can also access content from other repositories via  pointers.

When searching, users have the ability to view results based on factors such as high ratings by their peers or numbers of downloads.  The results can be further refined though custom fields that sort content based on relevance and user defined parameters.  Additionally, the knowledge worker can subscribe to content based on a variety of factors, including authors, topics, and tags.  When new content that fits the parameters is added, the knowledge worker receives an e-mail notification linking him to the content in the repository.

Salesforce.com has added other new content management functionality to the platform that increases knowledge worker efficiency.  To facilitate the assembly of slide presentations the knowledge worker can search through existing slides from across the organization to find relevant material.  Once the slides are found, they can be assembled into slide decks through a drag-and-drop interface, without having to download or copy and paste.  Salesforce Content also features a preview option for PowerPoint, Word, and Excel documents that allows the user to see the content without downloading it.  Additionally, the content can be sent via e-mail as a hyperlink, without the actual file being attached.  Once the material is sent out, the sender can track it to see when the link was opened, when and if the file was downloaded, how long it was viewed for, and, if need be, even discontinue access to the material.

The addition of CMS functionality to the Salesforce platform is a big step in the right direction towards building a true Collaborative Business Environment, a workspace for the knowledge worker that supports access to all applications and resources under one virtual roof.  Enabling knowledge workers to stay in one environment, create linkages between disparate repositories and Web services, and assemble and distribute content with no downloading or bulky file attachments is laudable, and organizations looking to gain efficiencies for knowledge workers who need to track interaction with multiple parties should give this due consideration.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.