https://www.drvtech.com Report Conversion/Distribution and Document Management Fri, 16 Jun 2017 14:00:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 Problems Take Center Stage When Designing a Document Strategy Part 1 https://www.drvtech.com/problems-take-center-stage-designing-document-strategy https://www.drvtech.com/problems-take-center-stage-designing-document-strategy#respond Wed, 20 Jul 2016 18:33:28 +0000 https://www.drvtech.com/?p=12624 Problems Take Center Stage When Designing a Document Strategy
Do you ever feel that when you start researching a problem, the more you dig into it, the more complicated it becomes? For example, type your problem into Google and what do you get? Only about 2.5 million hits!
It’s frustrating and overwhelming. Google’s search algorithm aside, one of the reasons you get so much information thrown at you is that those search results often present the problems together with ...

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Problems Take Center Stage When Designing a Document Strategy

Do you ever feel that when you start researching a problem, the more you dig into it, the more complicated it becomes? For example, type your problem into Google and what do you get? Only about 2.5 million hits!

It’s frustrating and overwhelming. Google’s search algorithm aside, one of the reasons you get so much information thrown at you is that those search results often present the problems together with the solutions. “Do you have Problem A? Use Solution B!”

Granted, you’re a problem-solver, but you don’t always want to jump straight from the problem to the solution. Sometimes you want to explore the problem further to get a better grip on it, or you want to research how the problem really affects you. In other words, it’s not quite time to be looking into solutions.

It’s for this reason that when you design your company’s document strategy, you should keep problem-detection separate from solution-creation. In this blog post, I’ll discuss how to find and analyze those problems that invariably arise during the document strategy process. As in the past, I’ll rely on Designing a Document Strategy, the influential book by Kevin Craine.

If you need to get up to speed on previous posts, here they are:

Part 1. How “key documents” can help focus your document strategy design

Part 2. What a document strategy is

Part 3. How to develop a document strategy

Part 4. Baseline assessment: The first step in developing a document strategy

Part 5. Baseline assessment: Documents, technology, and people

Use the Flow Chart as a Virtual Magnifying Glass

To help uncover problems with key documents, Craine recommends that you use flow charts. (Here we pause a moment to enjoy the aptness of documenting documents with a document.) For each key document, create a flow chart that illustrates its entire life cycle. Make sure that you capture all of the major tasks, actions, and events.

Craine recommends flow charting as an excellent way to see the “larger environment.” Without this big picture, you might see a problem as an isolated incident and be tempted to adopt a quick fix or two. Avoid quick fixes at all cost – it’s what got your company’s documents into such a mess in the first place!

Set Clear Expectations for Each Key Document

You now have the steps of the document process clearly defined. But what do you really expect out of these documents? Have you written down exactly what is expected of them? If you don’t have clear expectations, you won’t be able to demonstrate that your document strategy efforts have resulted in any improvements.

Thankfully, you don’t have to do much work to set expectations. Remember that baseline assessment you created? It gave you two important chunks of information:

  • The objectives of your organization
  • The needs of your document constituency

Expectations must be linked to the objectives of your organization and the needs of your document constituency. Because each organization is so unique, Craine omits any precise “how to” steps here. However, he does offer some helpful prompt questions:

  • How does each key document need to perform in order to help your company succeed?
  • How does each key document affect the “hard numbers” used to quantify company performance?
  • How does each key document provide value to your company (as opposed to being a liability)?

How Do Those Key Documents Measure Up to Expectations?

Now that you have expectations clearly defined for each key document, you need to figure out a way to measure the performance of each document process. It’s vital to have these process measures in place to ensure that you make decisions based on facts and not opinions. Craine recommends that you use the flow chart as a guide to place measures at key points of the document process. You can then “weigh” the measurements against the expectations.

Craine stresses that the data you collect must link to your company’s objectives, be measurable, and be easy to understand. Another helpful tip: Collecting data over a period of time will help explain any seasonal fluctuations or other misleading clues.

Although creating process measures and collecting data might seem like dull work, it’s truly necessary to fully understand the problems in your document processes. Only when you have a firm grasp on those problems will you be able to find the right solutions.

Speaking of Solutions …

In the next blog post, I’ll go over Craine’s method for determining the causes of those pesky problems as well as his method for brainstorming and selecting solutions.

REFERENCES:

Kevin Craine’s book, Designing a Document Strategy

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The What, How, and Who of Document Strategy https://www.drvtech.com/what-how-who-document-strategy https://www.drvtech.com/what-how-who-document-strategy#respond Thu, 02 Jun 2016 16:39:13 +0000 https://www.drvtech.com/?p=11899  
We’re about halfway through this series of blog posts on document strategy (relying heavily on Kevin Craine’s book, Designing a Document Strategy). Before I go further, I want to take a backward glance at the topics covered up to this point:
Part 1. How “key documents” can help focus your document strategy design
Part 2. What a document strategy is
Part 3. How to develop a document strategy
Part 4. Baseline assessment: The first step in developing ...

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We’re about halfway through this series of blog posts on document strategy (relying heavily on Kevin Craine’s book, Designing a Document Strategy). Before I go further, I want to take a backward glance at the topics covered up to this point:

Part 1. How “key documents” can help focus your document strategy design

Part 2. What a document strategy is

Part 3. How to develop a document strategy

Part 4. Baseline assessment: The first step in developing a document strategy

Craine writes that the documents, technology, and people that make up your organization are the “what, how, and who” of a document strategy:

  • What documents are important
  • How they are produced
  • Who cares about the documents’ performance

In continuation of the baseline assessment (covered in Part 4), which is extremely important in determining where your company currently stands as well as what it hopes to achieve down the road, you must naturally consider the key documents, the technology used to produce them, and the people who care about them. By doing so, you’ll ensure that the document strategy you design is comprehensive, yet still practicable.

Key Documents: A Quick Recap

If you recall, Part 1 of this blog series discussed your company’s key documents. These are the documents that are the initial focus of your document strategy. For more detail, you can check out that blog post, but I’ll recap it quickly here:

Key documents are those that are crucial for your organization’s business functions. They have the greatest influence on the success of your organization and are used to help your company achieve its vision and goals. You can also distinguish key documents because they offer the best likelihood for success, the most improvement potential, or the most problems. The success of these documents in the overall document strategy can often provide the biggest return for your effort.

Technology: How It Helps or Hurts Your Documents

Technology is what is used at your company to create and manage the key documents. This technology can range from the nearly extinct fax machine to a WordPress website. The goal here is to get a comprehensive view of your current capabilities without getting caught up in any details, tech talk, or marketing embellishments.

To help examine the technology of your key documents, Craine recommends you become intimately familiar with each step of each key document’s lifecycle:

  1. Creation
  2. Production
  3. Revision
  4. Archive
  5. Retirement

Overall, not unlike our own lifecycle!

For each of these steps, Craine has provided a list of questions to ask yourself and others in order to extract the necessary information in a systematic manner. For example: What are the requirements of this document process? What are the technical aspects? What are the technological strengths and weaknesses?

People: They Are the Document Constituency

The people are the main reason for the document strategy. After all, without them, who would care about the documents or the technology?

“Documents are the one single thing that can stop a company cold, yet no one is in charge.” – Kevin Craine

 

That’s a disconcerting thought, but never fear because there is such a thing as a “document constituency.” The document constituency consists of:

  • Authors
  • Producers
  • Stakeholders
  • Readers

Not only should you know the constituency for each key document, you’ll need to have their support as you proceed with the document strategy design. Furthermore, each type of constituent has a different set of requirements, expectations, and restrictions, and it’s important to consider this in the design of the document strategy.

Another reason why it’s important to identify each document’s constituency is because their activities and requirements influence the document’s message and the medium. The document’s message is what information it contains, including its format and construction. The document’s medium is how it’s presented: typically either paper or in digital form.

Of all the document constituents, Craine notes that the Producers need special consideration. “Producers need the right information from the right sources at the right time, as well as the right staffing and equipment in order to produce documents with acceptable quality, timeliness, and cost.”

That’s a tall order, and the document producers often feel the stress associated with it. Their needs are often at odds with the other members of the document constituency. One of your key functions as a document strategist is to ease the friction between the producers and the other members.

A Herculean Challenge Reaps a Huge Awareness

It certainly seems like a Herculean challenge to collect the necessary information about your organization’s key documents, the technology used to produce them, and the people who form the documents’ constituency – all the while keeping in mind the values, goals, and needs of your company. But keep in mind that what you’ll unearth from all of this examination isn’t just more information, it’s your own awareness of where you are as a company and where you need to go. If you can stay the course, the path you’re on is one that will well serve your organization’s needs.

REFERENCES:

Kevin Craine’s book, Designing a Document Strategy

 

You can leave your comments below

Related Reading

Pt 1 “Key Documents” Can Help Open the Door to a Company-Wide Strategy
Pt 2 One Way to Measure Your Company’s Success: How Well Does It Manage Documents?
Pt 3. How to develop a document strategy
Pt 4. Baseline assessment: The first step in developing a document strategy

 

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When Designing a Document Strategy, First Find Out Where You Are https://www.drvtech.com/designing-a-solid-document-strategy-five-traits-five-steps https://www.drvtech.com/designing-a-solid-document-strategy-five-traits-five-steps#respond Wed, 27 Apr 2016 14:05:44 +0000 https://www.drvtech.com/?p=11509 Have you been keeping up with this series of blog posts on designing a document strategy? If not, I recommend that you read the previous three posts. In this post, I’m going to cover the first overall step in designing a document strategy, which is the baseline assessment. As in the previous posts on document strategy, I will draw heavily on Kevin Craine’s book, Designing a Document Strategy.
Now here we are at Part 4. 
Why Perform a Baseline ...

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Have you been keeping up with this series of blog posts on designing a document strategy? If not, I recommend that you read the previous three posts. In this post, I’m going to cover the first overall step in designing a document strategy, which is the baseline assessment. As in the previous posts on document strategy, I will draw heavily on Kevin Craine’s book, Designing a Document Strategy.

Now here we are at Part 4. 

Why Perform a Baseline Assessment?

As its name suggests, a baseline assessment looks at where an organization currently stands as well as what it hopes to achieve down the road. The reasons for establishing a baseline assessment are just as valuable as designing the document strategy itself:

  • Become intimately familiar with your company’s needs and objectives. The more closely aligned the document strategy is with the company’s needs and objectives, the more likely you are to get support, sponsorship, and funding for the document strategy.
  • Avoid backtracking and additional work. When implementing the document strategy, you don’t want to risk wasting time and money because you missed something important or because you focused on something that wasn’t fundamentally important to your organization.
  • Provides a sense of direction. Besides making the strategy design process more manageable and measurable, you’re less likely to get bogged down in details and trivialities.

Avoiding Baseline Assessment “Analysis Paralysis”

On the subject of baseline assessments, even Craine admits, “[T]he thought of spending hour after hour in a conference room laboring over a drawn out assessment is enough to drive busy managers and overworked technicians down the street to the nearest Starbucks.”

One of the reasons that baseline assessments can be so painful and/or intimidating is that they can fall victim to analysis paralysis. This is the unfortunate side effect that sometimes occurs when a committee attempts to draw conclusions or make decisions. Although Craine does not have a grand solution to bypass analysis paralysis, he recommends that when working on the baseline assessment, accept that there may be details to work on later. This can help prevent you and others from getting hung up on secondary details and technical trivialities.

What to Include in the Baseline Assessment

This is the part where you wonder how to eat an elephant, but Craine makes the concept of a baseline assessment edible by dividing it into two main categories:

  • Business needs and pressures
  • Objectives and strategies

Business needs and pressures

In looking at your organization’s business needs and pressures, you’ll want to examine:

Hard numbers—Try to zero in on the numbers or statistics that measure your company’s performance. Look at the numbers included in operating budgets, expected growth targets, anticipated rates of return, containment of administrative costs, and so forth. Also review the figures in financial reports and performance projections.

Competitive pressures—Study marketplace competitors and how they challenge your company. Any plans in place to gain an advantage? Is your company responding with product development, market research, or advertising? Read over the annual report, meeting agendas, budget guidelines, or corporate planning guide. In particular, pay attention to your company’s strengths and weaknesses in regard to the competition. Craine also advises you to consider internal competitive pressures, such as those caused by restructuring, mergers, and acquisitions. Will those affect your document strategy efforts positively or negatively?

Operational pressures—In other words, how well does your company stand up to the stresses of everyday business? Think of things like material shortages, problems with logistics, or labor issues.

Constraints, requirements, and expectations—Your organization may need to heed the requirements set by government and regulatory agencies. Also consider contract, settlement, and agreement commitments. In addition, Craine points out that there may be societal and ethical expectations that must be met.

You’ll find a lot of this information by digging into your company’s internal and external literature, but you’ll also have to speak with managers and decision-makers to get the full picture.

Objectives and strategies

Your document strategy should benefit your company’s short-term and long-term objectives. (For these purposes, short-term objectives are to be met in one year or less, while long-term objectives take longer than one year.)

Long-term—Find out about your company’s goals in regard to return on investment, productivity, customer satisfaction, and so forth.

Short-term—You’ll need to discover whatever operational and functional strategies are in place (or in the works) that are intended to achieve certain aims.

The Result of All of This Digging and Questioning

In order to sell the document strategy to co-workers and management, you must be able to “speak the language of the business.” If you can unearth the information necessary to craft a baseline assessment, you will have become a native speaker of your company’s language.

The baseline assessment is an extremely important step in designing a document strategy. This blog post isn’t able to cover every detail, so if you’re getting serious about developing a document strategy, check out Craine’s book for more information.

Coming Up Next…

The next step in designing a document strategy closely examines its three most important aspects… the documents, technology, and people as they relate to your company.

REFERENCES:

Kevin Craine’s book, Designing a Document Strategy

 

You can leave your comments below

Related Reading

Pt 1 “Key Documents” Can Help Open the Door to a Company-Wide Strategy
Pt 2 One Way to Measure Your Company’s Success: How Well Does It Manage Documents?
Pt 3 Designing a Solid Document Strategy: Five Traits + Five Steps

 

 

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Designing a Solid Document Strategy: Five Traits + Five Steps https://www.drvtech.com/designing-solid-document-strategy-five-traits-five-steps-2 https://www.drvtech.com/designing-solid-document-strategy-five-traits-five-steps-2#respond Fri, 15 Apr 2016 15:04:43 +0000 https://www.drvtech.com/?p=10852 In case you haven’t been fervently following these blog posts on document strategy, let me refresh your memory. In Part 1, I discussed the 80-20 rule and how applying it to just a few of your company’s most important documents can cause a ripple of positive changes in your organization. Following that, Part 2 explained what a document strategy is and why it’s urgent for your company to develop “information agility.”
Now here we are at Part 3. 
In case ...

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Design_a_solid_document_strategy.gifIn case you haven’t been fervently following these blog posts on document strategy, let me refresh your memory. In Part 1, I discussed the 80-20 rule and how applying it to just a few of your company’s most important documents can cause a ripple of positive changes in your organization. Following that, Part 2 explained what a document strategy is and why it’s urgent for your company to develop “information agility.”

Now here we are at Part 3. 

In case you haven’t been fervently following these blog posts on document strategy, let me refresh your memory. In Part 1, I discussed the 80-20 rule and how applying it to just a few of your company’s most important documents can cause a ripple of positive changes in your organization. Following that, Part 2 explained what a document strategy is and why it’s urgent for your company to develop “information agility.”

Now here we are at Part 3. I’ll provide an overview of how one goes about developing a document strategy. (Once again, I’ll rely heavily on Kevin Craine’s book, Designing a Document Strategy.) Although there are merits to the “just do it” approach, when it comes to creating a document strategy, you really shouldn’t follow this approach. Such impulsivity might lead right back to “just do it again.” Instead, Craine suggests an overall process for developing a document strategy. The strategy itself consists of FIVE traits and contains FIVE overall steps.

The Five Traits of a Solid Document Strategy

When you begin working on a document strategy, consider these traits:

#1. Comprehensive, yet manageable—Strike a balance between making sure what’s important is not overlooked in the document strategy and its slow, sure death due to project scope creep.

#2. United with your company’s goals—To register on the corporate radar screen, the document strategy has to benefit or improve the areas that are important to your organization.

#3. Demonstrated measurements—You should be able to quantifiably measure both your current situation and the results of your efforts toward improvement.

#4. Address corporate culture—To avoid a different kind of slow, sure death of the document strategy, you need to be prepared for these buzz kills: resistance to change, office politics, and lack of support.

#5. Ability to implement and evaluate results—Your insight and planning will come to nothing if you’re unable to follow through. The document strategy must stimulate certain actions, and the results of those actions must be measurable.

With these traits in mind, let’s review the steps involved in designing a document strategy. Think of these steps as both a guide and a framework. Keep in mind that creating a document strategy isn’t a linear process from Point A to Point Z. You might need to place more time and emphasis in one area more than another. You might also find that some steps overlap or that you need to retrace your steps.

Step 1. Baseline Assessment: Figure Out Where You Area and Where You Need to Go

Establishing a baseline means that you’ll need to define for your organization:

  • Its objective and focus
  • Its requirements, demands, and limitations
  • The hard numbers that measure its success

A baseline assessment also looks at your company’s most urgent problems and the most likely areas for improvement. You’ll ask questions such as, What are our most important objectives? and What initiatives are already underway to achieve them?

Although you may think this type of information is rather obvious to others at your company, Craine suggests this isn’t necessarily so. You can easily find this out by quizzing your co-workers along these lines. What you may hear from them might surprise you!

Step 2. Documents, Technology, and People: What It’s All About

If you’re feeling at all lost about how to design a document strategy, take a deep breath and remember: documents, technology, people. Craine explains, “Documents are the subject of your strategy, technology is how you produce them, and the people are why they exist.”

In Step 1, you’re more concerned with your overall business objectives and goals and measuring them. Here in Step 2, you’re getting together a list of target documents, looking at how they’re produced, and understanding the needs of the people who use them.

Step 3. Problems and Solutions: Compare How Things Are with the Way They Should Be

In this step, you’ll narrow your focus even more, looking for problems in your current document processes. How do you find problems? Besides the squeaky wheels in your company, you’ll need to look at how the processes perform and see if they meet the needs of your organization. You may be looking at many problems, but don’t panic because you’ll also be looking at how to choose from among the many solutions.

Step 4. Selling Strategy and Managing Change: Getting the Support of Co-Workers and Management

This is the most worrisome part of proposing any sort of change at one’s place of business. Craine observes that people often have emotional reactions to change, and you’ll need to be prepared for that. One way to get ready is by learning to speak the language of the people you need to convince. What will help bolster your nerve is preparing a cold-blooded financial analysis as well as a formal proposal with your ideas and solutions.

Step 5. Project Planning and Implementation: Map It Out and Get Everyone on the Same Page

This is where all of your work up to this point – the assessment, analysis, and planning – comes together. The project plan you develop will guide your work yet be clearly understandable by everyone else involved. You’ll decide how to implement the strategy and what roles others will play. You’ll define what you must “deliver” in order to be successful as well as how you’ll assess and demonstrate that success. And of course, one should never underestimate the risks. Look for ways to diminish them.

Coming Up Next…

In the next several blog posts, I’ll discuss each of these steps in more detail so you’ll have a better idea how to apply them to your company.

Resources:

  • http://documentmedia.com/article-2278-executing-the-document-strategy-framework.html
  • Developing a Document Strategy, by Kevin Craine

 

You can leave your comments below
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Related Reading

Pt 1 “Key Documents” Can Help Open the Door to a Company-Wide Strategy
Pt 2 One Way to Measure Your Company’s Success: How Well Does It Manage Documents?

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One way to Measure Your Company’s Success: How Well Does It Manage Documents? https://www.drvtech.com/one-way-measure-companys-success-well-manage-documents https://www.drvtech.com/one-way-measure-companys-success-well-manage-documents#respond Thu, 17 Mar 2016 18:03:12 +0000 https://www.drvtech.com/?p=10856 When you think of your work, your day-to-day tasks, do you think of the documents you use as tools? Answering “yes” seems obvious, yet for most of us, it’s probably not something we consciously think about. Perhaps this attitude stems from the fact that the document has been with us since the dawn of human civilization. But however ubiquitous the company document, we can no longer afford to continue this dismissive mindset.
 
More information has been produced in ...

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Blog2_dreamstime_s_60498159.jpg

When you think of your work, your day-to-day tasks, do you think of the documents you use as tools? Answering “yes” seems obvious, yet for most of us, it’s probably not something we consciously think about. Perhaps this attitude stems from the fact that the document has been with us since the dawn of human civilization. But however ubiquitous the company document, we can no longer afford to continue this dismissive mindset.

 

More information has been produced in the last thirty years than in the past five thousand years. Even more fascinating (or appalling, depending on how you look at it) is that information is expected to double every five years. And… with over 90% of information contained in documents, we’d better be able to find it and use it.

How can we do that? With a document strategy, of course! But… what exactly is a document strategy? For that matter, what defines a document? This post is Part 2 of a series that discusses the why and how of document strategy (frequently referencing Kevin Craine’s excellent book, Developing a Document Strategy). Don’t miss Part 1: “Key Documents” Can Help Open the Door to a Company-Wide Document Strategy.

A Document Converts Information into Action

Rather than falling down the rabbit hole by trying to define exactly what a document is, Kevin Craine, in his book Designing a Document Strategy, simply states that a successful document converts information into action. This applies whether your document is external and intended for customers or internal and used by your employees. Did the email convert the reader into a customer? Did the software developer use the requirements specification to create a fine piece of software? Did the client pay the invoice?

With so many internal and external business relationships relying on the humble document, it seems a bit odd that most organizations traditionally view the document as a liability. Admittedly, whether paper or pixelated, documents and the actions concerned with them – creating, storing, updating, finding, losing – can be costly. One factoid mentioned in my previous post on document strategy states that document cost is eventually going to reach about 15% of an organization’s corporate revenue.

A Document Has TWO Sides: Tactical and Strategic

The tactical view of documents as a liability is what drives organizations to reduce the amount of paper they print and store. But that’s just one side of the document. Let’s flip it over and look at the other side. In order to fully unleash its power (remember, this is your company’s information we’re talking about) you must a document both tactically and strategically.

Tactically, your company can reduce document cost and make efficient use of the labor to produce them. Strategically, your company can make sure that their documents help the business succeed. This means improving document workflow, efficiency, and security, not to mention the customer experience.

Companies with “Information Agility” Manage Documents Swiftly and Effectively

The simplest explanation of a document strategy is that it is a set of actions performed for the overall management a business’s content. The document strategy monitors, directs, and improves the way information is used. A document strategy is different for every company, and the road your business takes to develop one will be just as unique.

The thought of developing a document strategy may seem overwhelming, especially when you think of the complications of corporate culture, rapidly changing technology, and competing priorities. But if you want your business to survive the 21st century, you have no choice but to tackle the exponential growth of information.

The increasingly rapid pace of marketplace changes demands that an organization have “information agility,” which is the ability to swiftly and effectively find, use, and keep information. And since only 25% of companies actually have a document strategy, once you have one, no doubt you will already be ahead of your competition.

Remember, there’s more to come. In my next post, Part 3, I’ll discuss the steps needed for an organization to develop a document strategy.

Resources:

  • http://documentmedia.com/article-2278-executing-the-document-strategy-framework.html
  • Developing a Document Strategy, by Kevin Craine

 

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4 Ways Message Monitoring Software Can Help Avert IBM i Disasters
Four Keys to Fair Software Pricing
What Else Can I Do with My IBM i Package?
 

 

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“Key Documents” Can Help Open the Door to a Company-Wide Document Strategy https://www.drvtech.com/key-documents-can-help-open-door-company-wide-document-strategy https://www.drvtech.com/key-documents-can-help-open-door-company-wide-document-strategy#respond Fri, 04 Mar 2016 18:03:56 +0000 https://www.drvtech.com/?p=10864 Whether you’re in the trenches of IT, at the level of CIO, or somewhere in between, you’ve no doubt heard about the importance of an organization having a document strategy.

Maybe your company already has a document strategy in place or is working toward having one. That’s great! But if you work for one of those 75% of organizations that don’t have a document strategy, read on.
Developing and following a document strategy isn’t as simple as implementing ...

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Whether you’re in the trenches of IT, at the level of CIO, or somewhere in between, you’ve no doubt heard about the importance of an organization having a document strategy.

Maybe your company already has a document strategy in place or is working toward having one. That’s great! But if you work for one of those 75% of organizations that don’t have a document strategy, read on.

Developing and following a document strategy isn’t as simple as implementing the “best” content management system out there. In fact, crafting a document strategy first requires one to dive deep, deep, deep into your company’s innards to discover the documents, technology, and people that make up your organization. (Yes, it’s ironic. You’ll be gathering information about your company’s information.) And that’s just the initial baseline assessment.

How to Not Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

As you can see, constructing the framework of your company’s document strategy is a huge undertaking, one that doesn’t quite fit into this blog post. But, by identifying your company’s “key documents” and then streamlining the process of creating, producing, and archiving them, you’ll achieve these things:

  • You’ll hit a home run right off the bat, giving you and your team confidence.
  • You’ll impress the decision makers who have the power to make or break your efforts.
  • You’ll have the knowledge to repeat the process for your company’s other, less crucial documents.

Get Help from the Pareto Principle (Or, the 80-20 Rule)

To get in the mindset for identifying key documents, consider the 80-20 rule, also known as the “law of the vital few.” Twentieth century American businessman and quality control expert Joseph Juran stumbled across the readings of Vilfredo Pareto and developed Pareto’s initial 80-20 concept. Pareto himself was a pretty well-rounded 19th century engineer (and sociologist and economist and political scientist and philosopher). The gist of the Pareto Principle is that most problems (the 80%) are a result of a few causes (the 20%).

Now I’m going to throw a few percentages at you, which I pulled from Kevin Craine’s book, Designing a Document Strategy:

  • Working with documents is responsible for 45% of labor costs.
  • Working with documents takes up to 60% of an employee’s time.
  • Document cost is eventually going to reach about 15% of an organization’s corporate revenue.

Understanding this along with the 80-20 rule, you can see how identifying and streamlining key documents can result in big rewards for your company.

Sieve Your Company’s Documents Through These Finely Meshed Questions

Whether documents feature heavily or hardly at all in your business, it’s probably fair to say that only a few of them are crucial. If at first it seems difficult to narrow down the key documents to just a handful, ask yourself these questions:

Which documents does your company need for crucial business functions?

Which documents have the greatest influence on the success of your organization?

Which documents help to achieve your company’s vision and goals?

Still need to narrow down the field? Apply an even finer mesh to your document list with these questions:

Which documents offer the best likelihood for success?

Which documents need improvement the most – or are the most troublesome? (Does a certain squeaky wheel come to mind?)

Which documents have the potential to provide the biggest return for your effort?

Of course, even with a short list of key documents in hand, there is still more work to be done. Keep in mind that documents are just a part of the overall “what, how, and who” of document strategy. When you understand all three elements – documents (what), technology (how), and people (why) – you can navigate a successful path toward a complete document strategy. But don’t try to go it alone! For further reading, I highly recommend Designing a Document Strategy by Kevin Craine.

Related Reading

4 Ways Message Monitoring Software Can Help Avert IBM i Disasters
Four Keys to Fair Software Pricing
What Else Can I Do with My IBM i Package?

See Our IBM i Paperless Products in Action!


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Losing Sleep Over IBM i System Failures? Get 24/7 Monitoring. https://www.drvtech.com/losing-sleep-ibm-system-failures-get-247-monitoring https://www.drvtech.com/losing-sleep-ibm-system-failures-get-247-monitoring#comments Mon, 15 Feb 2016 15:37:48 +0000 https://www.drvtech.com/?p=11286 We are excited to announce a major upgrade to MessageFlex, our system notification and monitoring software. We first introduced MessageFlex in 2009 as a tool for IT Managers to be notified 24/7 about any interruptions or malfunctions to their IBM i, iSeries, and AS/400.  It’s a “peace of mind” protocol that generates an immediate text message, email, or instant message if issues such as a program encounters an error, tape fails overnight or the power goes out, or some other ...

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MessageFlex 2.0 We are excited to announce a major upgrade to MessageFlex, our system notification and monitoring software. We first introduced MessageFlex in 2009 as a tool for IT Managers to be notified 24/7 about any interruptions or malfunctions to their IBM i, iSeries, and AS/400.  It’s a “peace of mind” protocol that generates an immediate text message, email, or instant message if issues such as a program encounters an error, tape fails overnight or the power goes out, or some other disaster happens that impacts server processing.

 

We have made updates along the way with the help of our clients who have made insightful suggestions for how MessageFlex could expand.  For example:

  • Monitoring for character string within the Message text in addition to Specific Message Id
  • Allow attachment of a document when sending notification via email
  • Allow monitoring for a message severity value 

We thank our clients for valuable input and enthusiasm for MessageFlex and we are glad to let you know that we are getting ready to release a new version of MessageFlex that offers even more enhancements:

  • Monitor Number of jobs waiting in a Job Queue and set up timing parameters to ensure a malfunctioning process does not hold up other jobs from running
  • Monitor Subsystem for Active or Inactive to ensure subsystem is active or not
  • Monitor a specific job, make sure it is running or not running or running too long
  • Monitor System Resource, notify in case disk space is reaching capacity
  • Ability to Auto Answer messages

 

There are some other features that address smart customer requests such as: 

Third Party Vendor Notification. Some of our customers want to let third party vendors know when certain errors occur that originate from that vendor’s software. Good idea. We are going to preconfigure our software to have some common monitoring that will expedite the process of getting issues resolved involving outside vendors. 

Credit Card Processing and Online Banking Software. Once a customer calls in for technical support it has already become a revenue-losing issue that becomes magnified with each minute services are unavailable. MessageFlex helps critical processing areas stay up and running 24/7 by sending immediate alerts to key personnel.

Business Continuity. Added features in the upgrade further ensures business continuity by preemptively sending alerts of issues before they become a crisis. When business critical processing is disrupted because of a programming error, users submitting excessively long jobs, power outages, and other unanticipated events, then workflow is disrupted. We are excited to build on our MessageFlex solution that lets you know real-time when a problem occurs and in some cases when a problem may occur. The better night’s sleep you get knowing you will be notified of any issues, well, that part’s free

MessageFlex training:  We just recently finished a training session and have not yet scheduled the next one. But anyone who would like a personal one-on-one demonstration of the new features, send us an email at support@drvtech.com and we will be glad to accommodate you. We stand 100 percent behind our products and invite you to try our software for free.  Click here.

 

Please note, there may be a price increase coming for the MessageFlex software but we will offer a discount during the first 30 days of this major release.  We want to give time to those companies that are currently looking at the software to explore the enhancements before making a purchasing decision. Existing MessageFlex customers can upgrade their software for free by going to our web site customer zone and downloading version 5.7.2. starting Monday.

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Licensing IBM i Third-Party Software for High Availability https://www.drvtech.com/licensing-ibm-third-party-software-high-availability https://www.drvtech.com/licensing-ibm-third-party-software-high-availability#respond Mon, 08 Feb 2016 18:02:09 +0000 https://www.drvtech.com/?p=10867 Many IBM i shops run high availability (HA) software on a backup IBM i system.

In an HA environment, IBM i work management, user profiles, devices, programs, and data are replicated to a backup machine on a minute-by-minute basis. This creates a “warm” replica of your processing environment that production can be quickly switched over to in a disaster, such as a fire, flood, machine failure, or other emergencies where your IBM i isn’t available.
The problem with ...

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Many IBM i shops run high availability (HA) software on a backup IBM i system.

In an HA environment, IBM i work management, user profiles, devices, programs, and data are replicated to a backup machine on a minute-by-minute basis. This creates a “warm” replica of your processing environment that production can be quickly switched over to in a disaster, such as a fire, flood, machine failure, or other emergencies where your IBM i isn’t available.

The problem with HA systems is licensing

You need to license IBM i third-party software for use on both your production systems and your high availability systems. Duplicate licensing insures all your software works during role swap testing (where your backup server becomes your production server) or when a real emergency hits and you have to use the HA box as a production system.

The problem is that an HA system is really an insurance policy against disaster. Like life insurance, you need to have it, but you may never use it in a crisis. Most HA systems are only used once or twice a year and duplicate licensing only adds to the cost.

To make matters worse, different IBM i vendors offer different licensing schemes for lightly-used HA software, several of which create profit. As a software vendor, DRV Tech frequently looks at how IBM i third-party software vendors license their software for disaster recovery (DR) and high availability scenarios and advise our customers on this issue. Here are the common licensing schemes IBM i vendors provide for running their software on a backup HA system and some things to watch out for when using them.

DR/HA licensing scheme

How it works

Situations the software is perfect for

Things to watch out for

Free licensing The vendor doesn’t charge anything for running your software on a backup machine. You can either run it without a license key or you obtain a license key when you’re in a DR/HA situation Any situation. The software is free. Check with your vendor to see if you need a key or whether you can just load the software and run it on your HA platform. You may need to prove the software is only going to be used in HA situations.
Grace period licensing The software automatically runs on any machine it’s loaded on for a specified grace period (which could be as low as 7 days or as high a month). When the grace period expires, the software stops working.

Many of IBM’s licensed programs for i use grace periods.

Good for switching to your backup server for a short period of time that falls within the machine grace period. Grace period licensing is great for 1-3 day testing. If you’re running several HA switches in a year, you could quickly exceed the grace period.

There is typically only one grace period, so you can only use this technique once.

If you’re switching over for a longer period of time (say a bank that performs a role swap for 30 days), the grace period may expire while you’re running on the backup box.

Temporary licensing You contact the vendor, who issues you a temporary activation code. Enter the code when you swap roles between the backup and production machine, and your backup machine can run your production software. Once a year, short-term role swaps. May be limited to one temporary key a year, which can cause problems if you’re performing multiple role swaps in a year.

Startup processing will be delayed while you retrieve the key. If your machine is swapped on the weekend in an emergency, you may not be able to get the key until Monday.

Reduced permanent DR licensing for your HA backup machine The vendor sells you a permanent DR license that’s cheaper than a production license. You install the permanent license on your machine and the software is ready to go when role swap occurs. Great for software that you absolutely must run when you role swap. Software is always available. DR licenses are usually sold for DR/HA situations only. If you buy a DR license for a job scheduling program (for example), you can only use that software when switched over. You usually can’t use it for day-to-day situations on your backup machine.
Full licensing Buying a full license to use on your Power i HA system. All situations. No restrictions on running the software. You could use it for daily processing on your HA system, as well as when you swap roles. Expensive HA solution. May have no choice if the vendor doesn’t offer any of the other alternatives.

The vendor survey and the decisions it makes

The trick with licensing IBM i software for running on an HA box is surveying your vendors and determining what software you need to buy or license to allow your HA system to work in a role swap.

For people implementing an HA solution, I recommend they do the following when determining what to do about IBM i licensing for their backup system. Even if you’re already running an HA solution, it’s a worthwhile exercise to find any new packages you’re not licensed for on your HA box.

  1. Make a master list of all third-party IBM i software you’re running on the partitions you’re going to replicate – This list is the universe of software packages you’ll need to manage during a role swap or emergency switch to your HA box.
  2. Contact all your vendors, see what DR/HA licensing schemes they offer, and get any costs the vendors are asking for running their software on the HA box – Most vendors will fall into one of the licensing categories listed above. Get quotes. This step will tell you what licensing you have and how much more you need to spend to get all your IBM i third-party software running on your HA partition.
  3. Decide on your action plan and budget for procuring HA licenses – Determine which products you can use on your HA box with free, grace period, temporary, or paid licensing. In some cases, you’ll want to buy a license. In others, you’ll want to use temp licenses or grace periods. You may also decide that in an emergency, you will only run your core products on the HA box. Put this in your budget and buy HA licensing appropriately.
  4. Include instructions for activating third-party software in your run book – The run book is the list of instructions you perform to switch production processing over to an HA environment. Multiple copies should be kept off-site. Include any instructions you’ll need for calling your vendors (including phone numbers and machine information), for getting temporary license keys, or for activating HA software.

 

Related Reading

4 Ways Message Monitoring Software Can Help Avert IBM i Disasters
Four Keys to Fair Software Pricing
What Else Can I Do with My IBM i Package?
 

See Our IBM i Paperless Products in Action!


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Mapping an IBM i IFS Share to a Windows Network Drive https://www.drvtech.com/mapping-ibm-ifs-share-windows-network-drive https://www.drvtech.com/mapping-ibm-ifs-share-windows-network-drive#respond Thu, 04 Feb 2016 15:02:53 +0000 https://www.drvtech.com/?p=10872 Many IBM i software packages store stream file data like PDFs, Excel spreadsheets, emails, Web pages, and log files on the Integrated File System (IFS). And because we live in an integrated world, Windows users need to map their Windows desktops to the IFS as network drives, so they can access this information the same way they access folders on other Windows servers.

If you’re a Network administrator or PC technician, here’s a simple primer and supporting documentation on ...

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iStock_000028037006_XXXLarge_web.jpgMany IBM i software packages store stream file data like PDFs, Excel spreadsheets, emails, Web pages, and log files on the Integrated File System (IFS). And because we live in an integrated world, Windows users need to map their Windows desktops to the IFS as network drives, so they can access this information the same way they access folders on other Windows servers.

If you’re a Network administrator or PC technician, here’s a simple primer and supporting documentation on how to map an IBM i IFS share to a Windows desktop.

3 Easy Steps to IFS -> Windows Mapping

It only takes three steps to create IFS folders for storing and sharing stream file data in a Windows network drive.

  1. Create a folder on the IFS
  2. Share the folder with authorized users
  3. Map the folder on a Windows desktop through a Windows network drive

Check out these two Web sites for instructions on quickly setting up and using an IBM i IFS share.

Here’s some additional information on performing these steps, outside of what’s included on these recommended Web sites.

You’ll Need IBM i NetServer

The IBM i operating system shares its folders with Windows users by using file shares created inside the IBM i NetServer server (NetServer). NetServer must be up and running on your IBM i partition, in order to share folders in a Windows environment.

You can easily start NetServer by running the following Start TCP/IP Server command (STRTCPSVR).

STRTCPSVR *NETSVR

NetServer allows IFS folders to be shared and mapped to Windows network drives using standard Windows technology.

See the IBM i NetServer page for more information on NetServer.

Three tools for setting up IFS file sharing

As part of their installation routines, most third-party software companies will walk you through how to create an IBM IFS folder and share it with your Windows’ users. But if you need to map additional IFS folders to a Windows network drive, you can use any one of these three methods.

  • The File Systems function in the System i Navigator program that comes with IBM i Access products, such as IBM i Access for Windows
  • The Create Integrated File System Folder and Create File Shares functions in the Web-based IBM Navigator for i product
  • The GO NETS menu from the IBM i command line. GO NETS has been shipped in the QUSRTOOL library, under the IBM i 5722SS1, option 7 licensed product since i5/OS V5R2. GO NETS provides a way to create and manage file shares natively using IBM i green screen commands.

Use whichever tool you’re most comfortable with for creating and sharing folders with your Windows users. As I said before, Simon Hutchinson has a very nice tutorial on creating folders and Windows file shares using IBM i Access and IBM Navigator for i. You can also check out the IBM i NetServer Web site for information about sharing IFS folders using GO NETS.

Mapping an IBM i folder to a Windows network drive

There are two ways to map an IBM i file share to a Windows network drive.

  1. You can use the Windows Explorer function on your Windows desktop
  2. You can use the old DOS NET USE command to manually map an IBM i network drive on your Windows box

See the Windows drive mapping tutorial from the DRV Tech Web site for an example of how to use Windows Explorer to map IBM i shares to Windows network drives.

NET USE comes in handy for batch file and on-the-fly connection and disconnection of Windows network drives. Here are some tips on how to run NET USE from a Windows desktop to make your IBM i -> Windows file shares easier to use.

  • NET USE creates an IBM i-shareable network drive on a Windows desktop by using the following command and optional parameters.

NET USE x: \\ip_address or DNS_name\file_share_name /user:IBM_ i_user_profile_name [password]

Where:

x: = The Windows drive letter to map the IBM i file share to

ip_address or DNS_name = The IP address or DNS name of the IBM i server where the NetServer file share resides

file_share_name = The NetServer file share name you’re mapping to a Windows network drive

IBM_user_profile_name = The user profile name to use when connecting to the file name on your IBM i server

[password] = An optional password to automatically access the IBM i share without having to manually sign in. If you don’t enter a password, the system will prompt you for a password.

Because you can enter a user ID and password in a NET USE command, the command can also be embedded in a batch file to run related commands in sequence. A NET USE batch file can also be used in your Windows startup routine to always connect an IBM i shared drive whenever Windows starts up.

  • If you type in NET USE x:\file_share_name, Windows will disconnect the designated mapped drive from the Windows desktop 
  • If you type in NET USE without any parameters, it will show you all the network shares that are currently mapped on your Windows desktop

NET USE is a good substitute for mapping a drive when Windows Explorer isn’t working for an IBM i share. It’s also more flexible and can be used in more situations than a standard Windows Explorer mapped drive.

Easier than you think

Mapping a Windows network drive to an IBM i file share is incredibly easy, and there’s great documentation on how to do it. You just have to know the right techniques for getting it done.

 

Related Reading

How to Map a Network Drive, DRVTech

How to map an IFS folder as a Windows share, RPGPGM.COM, Simon Hutchinson

IBM i NetServer Overview, IBM

IBM i NetServer, GO NETS command, IBM

 

 

See our IBM i Paperless Products in Action!!


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What is Positive Pay & how Does It Prevent Check Fraud? https://www.drvtech.com/positive-pay-prevent-check-fraud https://www.drvtech.com/positive-pay-prevent-check-fraud#respond Thu, 28 Jan 2016 15:01:31 +0000 https://www.drvtech.com/?p=10876 In its 2015 Payment Fraud and Control Survey, JP Morgan reported that simple low-tech paper checks were the most widely used payment fraud method in 2014.
In spite of the fact that overall paper check usage continues to decline each year, check fraud remains high. Paper checks are an easy target for criminals. Since they’re passed hand-to-hand on their way to payment, they can easily be stolen, duplicated, altered, or cashed illegally.
Organizational risk & fraudulent checks
As if that ...

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iStock_000049666544_Double_web.jpgIn its 2015 Payment Fraud and Control Survey, JP Morgan reported that simple low-tech paper checks were the most widely used payment fraud method in 2014.

In spite of the fact that overall paper check usage continues to decline each year, check fraud remains high. Paper checks are an easy target for criminals. Since they’re passed hand-to-hand on their way to payment, they can easily be stolen, duplicated, altered, or cashed illegally.

Organizational risk & fraudulent checks

As if that wasn’t enough, organizations are taking on more risk for fraudulent checks. In 2016, the liability for a bad check can quickly shift to the check issuer and away from the bank that accepts an altered deposit. There are several situations where organizations can be prevented from seeking restitution from a bank that pays a fraudulent check, especially if the organization did not exercise “ordinary care” in issuing checks (see this page from the National Check Fraud Center for some examples where an organization may be liable for a fraudulent check).  This means an organization can’t count on a bank making them whole after accepting a fraudulent check.

All of which calls for a better solution to catching fraudulent checks as they occur.

One of the better ways to protect your organization from altered checks is to implement Positive Pay technology, which is available in many IBM i check printing packages, including my own SecureChex software.

What is Positive Pay?

Positive pay is a fraud prevention system offered by most commercial banks to protect against altered, forged, and counterfeit checks. It checks the accuracy of a check’s account number, date, and dollar amount when the check is presented for payment. The concept is as easy as closing a door, and involves the following steps.

  1. Bank customers send a check register file containing check numbers, dates, and amounts to their bank for checks the customer has written.
  2. When a check is presented for payment, the bank compares the presented check against the customer’s previously transmitted check information for that account.
  3. Where there’s a discrepancy between a presented check and check file information, the bank notifies their customer through an exceptions report and withholds payment until the customer tells the bank to accept or reject the check.

Positive pay is a simple but effective way to prevent check fraud. It stops criminals from cashing fraudulent checks using stolen account numbers. It also catches bad checks where the check amount has been altered or the check has an invalid date.

Where Positive Pay isn’t enough

Here are a few things to watch out for when using Positive Pay.

Over-the-counter fraudSome banks don’t offer over-the-counter verification, where tellers at a retail banking location can verify incoming checks at the banking counter, using your check file.  When instituting Positive Pay, make sure your bank verifies check information against all check-cashing scenarios, not just when checks are transmitted or scanned.

Payee verification Payee Positive Pay offers a higher level of fraud protection than traditional Positive Pay. Traditional Positive Pay only includes comparing check numbers, dates, and amounts. It does not include payee verification, to insure the payee name has not been altered. Many banks provide Payee Positive Pay as an added feature to Positive Pay, and that may include additional fees. If you need payee verification, make sure that your software and your bank both support it.

File formats – There are several different transmission formats in which check data can be submitted to a bank. Not all banks use the same transmission format. And some banks use different formats in different divisions. If your organization is programming Positive Pay as an IBM i DIY project, you may have to account for several different check file formats. Keeping up is easier if you implement Positive Pay through a third-party check writing package that produces check registers in the correct format for your banks.

Positive Pay does not detect all check fraud

While Positive Pay detects mismatches in check data, it doesn’t identify when someone forges a signature on a stolen check. If you’re using standard Positive Pay without payee verification, checks can slip through because the bank is not verifying on payee name.

Positive Pay is a great way to institute check fraud protection, stopping bad payments and reducing liability when dealing with fraudulent checks. But while Positive Pay is an effective way to catch check fraud, it is not foolproof.

Related Reading

 2015 Payment Fraud and Control Survey, JP Morgan

Check Fraud – Who is Liable, National Check Fraud Center

 

Interested in the security and cost savings of laser check printing but you have a lot of questions?

Download our new e-guide, with everything you need to know – from facts vs. fictions to how to work with your bank to get approved checks, and more.

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