Google – Walking the Talk

Google’s latest advertising slogan/mantra is deceptively simple: “Work the way you live.”

Toward that concept, the most unintentionally funny presentation at Gartner’s 2012 ITxpo was a lunch session hosted by Google. To be fair, I should disclose that Google is one of Litéra’s collaborative authoring “compredators” – a term describing the combination of competitor and predator common in the IT industry. And, toward further fairness, I should give Google credit for putting itself at risk by deciding to prove its point with live demonstrations of enterprise-class applications even as the overburdened wireless network thwarted most others. Bravery notwithstanding, Google proved that enterprise-class apps will depend on enterprise-class connectivity as much as they do features/functions. It also proved I tend to enjoy too much irony in my humor.

The huge crowd heard the Google argument about how its integration of mobility/social media/collaboration/information crosses platforms as much as it does processes and even IT boundaries. Ultimately, though, it might depend on lower expectations regarding security, policy management, access control and rights management, etc. that make even ‘good enough’ traditional IT models of end-user provisioning seem remarkably good. So much so, that all the spadework already done to lower consumer expectations about quality, connectivity, responsibility (can you hear me now?) may not have been enough. Imagine the day when just about everything you want to accomplish at work is opposed rather than enabled somehow by technology (as it was for the Google team yesterday):

  • Couldn’t work on the same document at the same time
  • Couldn’t snap a photo of a business card, OCR it, and have it appear in Google Drive
  • Couldn’t connect to data analytics tool BigQuery (fail message actually appeared)
  • Couldn’t video conference multiple participants on different devices
  • Couldn’t get audio working – and when it finally was corrected, every third word from the person speaking was corrupted

I do not want to work in the 3rd Word World. And, 99.9 percent uptime is a meaningless SLA when the one hiccup corrupts your carefully rehearsed closing argument or a critical sale. That’s what happened to Google at Gartner – despite very interesting technology and a sizable fan base, it should have been a great show but ended up exposing some real issues with how it thinks we want to work. It was weird watching a rock star with the hiccups.

Weird, too was how its promo for Google Docs makes clear that rock stars in one arena may not suit the needs of audiences in another. In the short video, we see a blank sheet in an editing environment – and as the soundtrack begins, lyrics begin to appear: … “Oh here she comes, she’s a _________”, and we’re suddenly seeing the famous pop music duo Hall & Oates collaborating as they might have back in 1982 on the hit song “Maneater.” Well, at least we see their cursors flying as they try several alternatives before settling on the term that became the song’s name. It takes a mere 30 seconds to instruct us how Google Docs works even as we are charmed by the mediocrity of the outcome. But those same 30 seconds can set certain types of enterprises back 30 years.

Here’s how: any business that depends on lifeblood collaborative document processes (think contracts, proposals, statements of work, service agreements, policies and procedures, technical documentation, press releases, business plans, annual reports, regulatory submissions, or even songs) understands that the process of collaboration is onerous and often broken. Now, I admit that if Google has taught me one thing, it’s that I can forget everything I ever learned about everything. If I need an answer, I find it (and 240,875,333 more useless options) anywhere I happen to be. So, despite its claims of responsible digital curation for your essential  information,  I wonder if it understands how much value is in the ideas presented by those who may not have them included in the final version. Preserving institutional memory ensures lower risks and higher productivity.

For example, the third collaborator in the song “Maneater” was Sara Allen. She’s credited (and paid) as a songwriter, but her real contribution was suggesting to Hall that he delete parts from the song’s early draft version. I wouldn’t have remembered this without Google’s help. But it underscores the most alarming part of Google Docs (apart from the fact that any public Cloud host will get subpoenaed on any given day and routinely cough up data)… the history of the final version is incomplete without storing all the adds/edits/deletes/approvals. These contributions are part of any negotiated document. They need to be available for the forseeable future. They are records.

If I have a contract with you (in this case, you’ll be a lawyer), and we both work in Google Docs to hammer out the details of a settlement, and I work somewhere else in the document at the same time you are changing the terms and conditions completely in your own favor, then shame on me if I fail to go back and check your work. To a limited extent, I can review changes by any editor, assuming I’ve caught them before they were changed (again). But the potential for overwrite anarchy depends on users understanding the implications of co-authoring – especially in larger teams that operate across firewalls.

The worst could be when you work with dozens of other auditors in a risk management spreadsheet (not just because that’s what you do for a living) and Google detects you are nearing its storage limit: it will ‘prune’ some of the edit history: according to Google’s site “it will automatically collapse some of the revisions from throughout your spreadsheet’s history to save space. There is currently no way to retrieve the individual revisions that were pruned. To permanently save a particular version of a spreadsheet, go to the File menu and select Make a copy.”

Yikes. So, to “work the way I live”, I’ll have to accept lots more risk even beyond lost changes. Plus, I can’t work offline on documents – I can view them but not replicate my changes when reconnected. Plus, I have to live with overwrites in my company’s contracts, presentations, proposals, SOPs, 10-Ks — records, all — that aren’t exposed to me intuitively or might get lost forever. No wonder the theme song Google chose is from 1982. That’s the last time I remember having no enterprise-class technology to rely upon.

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Great News for Telemarketers!

Not that I’m suggesting that trends in our modern service-based economy might ultimately make the headline a ‘grabber’ for many more of us in the future than might find it appealing at this moment – but the simple fact is that our government has opened a floodgate that will madden the mainstream even as it fills the wallets of fringe factions. Like telemarketers. Here’s how:

Way back in 2003, the US Federal Trade Commission implemented a Do Not Call (DNC) list and began enabling registration of phone numbers by those wishing to ‘opt out’ from receiving calls by telemarketers. And, since then, the average number of telemarketing calls received by the more than 70% of households signed up with the FTC fell off by a significant percentage. Enough to consider the program a success – though Wikipedia notes that “… many journalists and victims of fraudulent calls and Do-Not-Call violations have extensively documented ongoing and widespread inaction and lack of enforcement by the FTC.” Some such ‘shades of gray’ notwithstanding, the greater good seems obviously served.

Yet, notably absent from the regulations those many years ago and lasting up to today: political organizations, pollsters, and charities. Oh, my. I won’t waste words complaining about the increasing numbers of calls from charities I must fend off each month. That might make me seem petty and uncaring; and I prefer that those traits not be inadvertently attributed to me by mere exposure to my blog when instead they could be gleaned by a tedious process of interviewing my family and friends. Such as they are.

When politicians were asked to agree to respect the DNC and shut down their direct connections to constituents (they could not otherwise reach via any other means) to deliver important rhetoric personalized for household-level consumption… they said NO. How many NO’s have to be said to qualify for capitalization of both letters? Consider this: among all the politicians across the local, state, and federal levels of government – numbering 513,200 by a Web authority – only 3 agreed to respect the DNC list by suspending contact. So, am I sensationalizing the issue? NO.

Thanks in part to the Supreme Court’s decision on Citizen’s United, the degree of difference between political parties, their fundraising arms, Super PACS, pollsters, and fraudsters in general has become indistinguishable to the average citizen as they field growing numbers of phone calls each day as elections grow closer. Moreover, just as ‘Christmas Season’ for retailers now precedes Autumn and extends to Spring, the political season seems to be in continuous harvest mode without pause for either thought or action, as evidenced by the incessant ringing of my DNC-listed phone. Sadly, it seems to be a prudent course of action to avoid complaining too much about politicians being exempt from respecting the Do Not Call list given that they also have access to the Do Not Fly list. I do not want unfairly to become a ‘person of interest’ as a consequence of being a person with little interest in politics.

I had slightly more interest in politics in prior years. Back in 1976, for example, I was a page at the Democratic National Convention at Madison Square Garden in New York City. One thing I learned quickly is that pages do not have a formal training program, so when I was delivering deli sandwiches to Robert Strauss – the Party Chairman at the time – I unwittingly violated protocol and asked him a direct question: “don’t you guys have the money to bring in a catering company?”

The real question could have been: “why would I want to be a politician?” And, to his credit, he answered as if he’d heard that instead of the original one. His answer? “Son, if it was a cushy job, the wrong people would want it.” He was the last politician I’ve had direct contact with. And, to this day I realize that most constituents have had the same experience – limited exposure to the policymakers and more to the administrators. So, if I get a tidal wave of pollsters calling day and night, I’m apt to suffer in silence. I don’t ‘know a guy’ in government, and I don’t think my voice in this debate will turn the tide.

I’ve thereby become inured to repeated violations of privacy at the behest of politicians who would otherwise protect that privacy with DNC – if not for their own conflict of interests. Thus I can tell you that the reason I think we’re doomed to increasing violations of DNC by telemarketers is that they now know that we are getting slammed with calls and have lost the will to document/report/expect justice. The reason I think more of us are doomed to become telemarketers will have to wait for another day/discussion.

So why should a content management expert care so much about violation of privacy, you wonder?

The government snuck in an exemption to the DNC that they now take overwhelming advantage of… and others are sneaking into my house behind them based on the logical presumption that I’m now too weak to fight.  My further logical presumption: that even
as people don’t know how to handle reductions in rights personally, they’ll have the same problems professionally
. Just as I don’t really know who to call when I have a complaint about calls, I don’t know how to document a complaint about a lost document or email online. Nor do I know who in the government is responsible for consumer protections around Content in the Cloud. So, the logical question to ask is: “If you are working on a document online – in Google Docs, for example – and it disappears, what remedy do you have?”

If you are a large enterprise, someone is already dealing with consumerization issues and can effectively explain that each site has Terms of Use (TOS) or End User License Agreements (EULA) that limit their liabilities in case of loss, downtime, corruption, unauthorized access, etc. They might also explain that the government – which has lots of reasons to want to sift through them – is very happy that the biggest Cloud hosts now contain larger and larger pools of documents because they can more easily reach out to public companies/public hosts (Google, MSFT certainly) and gain access to far more purportedly private stuff than ever before: “As stated in our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, Google complies with valid legal processes seeking account information, such as search warrants, court orders, or subpoenas.”

Privacy is equally tenuous in the online information age as it was in the telecommunications age. Perhaps more so because we’ve been trained to self-serve in response to losses we incur. Put that in the FAQ under ‘disillusionment’. Do you think the government will add protections that might thereby limit its access to huge aggregates of Internet-based information? Uh, NO.  And, do you think as consumers we’re engaging in risky content behaviors as a consequence of new devices, collaboration, and storage options? Uh, YES. Maybe those factors have compelled me to work for a company solely focused on Content Risk Management instead of becoming a politician. It’s possible that investigating opportunities to provide better safeguards for information even as the processes surrounding it get optimized for the mobile/Cloud age qualifies as a kind of activism. But it may not change the world. Sorry, Mom.

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The Rise of Social Documents

I’ve had a hard time finding the best way to describe an emerging technology, despite having bet a large part of my career on its potential. Worse, attempts by others to deliver applications that are ‘close enough’ have clouded the waters so much that I find myself having to start conversations not about my own company’s product but with the more visible alternatives and then contrast ours from there. As an example, I know I can count on any executive to be <somewhat> familiar with Google Docs – but not that they’ll appreciate the degree of difference between consumer grade and professional grade versions of collaborative authoring.

That’s what those of us in technology have called it for years: “Collaborative Authoring.” It has been ’emerging’ for years. And, the world has reacted with indifference. Had the world been inspired to do further investigation into the potential for this technology – by perhaps finding it included in the operating system or apps store for devices like the iPad – the world might have done more than shrug. I’m not saying this as a self-serving attempt to promote my company’s version of a product. I’m saying it as an only partly self-serving attempt to encourage those who work with documents, email, or computing devices of any kind to believe that they could quite literally gain back hours of lost time and some analogous increment of reduced frustration (grrs?) by changing how they collaborate.

Everybody collaborates, by the way. The problem isn’t getting it to happen; instead, it’s undoing all the damage done over the past several decades that resulted in making it happen poorly. An example of this is email. Had we received any training or change management, we mightn’t continue to attach very important confidential contracts saved in Microsoft Word to outbound messages and also send a copy to our personal account hosted by a 3rd party. We would know better. Because it would feel wrong. Like biting tin foil. Which none of us has ever actually done – given that aluminum foil displaced it a lifetime ago. But my point is that we need to set a course to make Wrong behaviors intuitive where presently they feel Right. Using email presently ‘feels like’ biting potato chips/chocolate/french fries and we need to instruct users over time that it should instead ‘feel like’ hearing fingernails on a blackboard or stepping on a cockroach. Which, for most people, would be deterrents.

So. Who are these ‘most people’? They are the overwhelming majority that make decisions supported by documents. I’ll write more about this in my next post. Meanwhile, your thoughts about Collaborative Authoring – whether the name itself, impediments toward adoption, or existing applications – are welcomed.

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Megaupload Message from the Feds: $#%&! Forensics

Given the amazing advances in search algorithms during the past decade, you’d think sifting through large volumes of customer data to find examples of copyright infringement within would be de rigueur for the Feds – part of the cost of regulating content on behalf of publishers while both protecting innocent consumers and proving its case against criminal ones. You’d think so because it is much easier (almost fully electronic) than in the past. And, you’d think so because the content’s all in one convenient container. Like YouTube in many ways. But this week the Feds proved how low their regard for the 99% (or 5% or 23% or whatever) is by planning (as of today) to delete the entire data set of the world’s tenth largest file-sharing site without consideration of the honest majority (or at least one innocent party amidst the file-sharing frenzy). It turns out there aren’t any protections and there aren’t any forensics. It’s over for the data hosts and their subscribers/users.

We should all be bothered. But there were few outraged tweets and Facebook updates, to my surprise. Apparently, news of it was overwhelmed by Facebook’s IPO numbers. Yet, all those 800 Million people and the $5 Billion are at greater risk than I’d earlier imagined. Because if criminals choose to do so, they could compel the Feds to act again. Here’s the transcript from a conversation on my wall earlier today:

Me: MegaUpload: No analog example of punitive indifference shown by Feds unless we count decimating a country for the actions of a single despot

Facebook Friend:  In English?

Me:  ‎50 million Megaupload users have data in danger of being erased. All of it. Because of copyright infringement and file sharing by a portion. Cloud hosted content is a fragile business model if disks get wiped by Feds without protections for consumers. Could happen to gmail, for example.

Facebook Friend:  In that case, agreed! I didn’t actually realise Megaupload had content other than the TV shows and movies. That’s absolutely unfair to punish people for uploading legitimate files for safekeeping, and goes against the whole point of cloud—which SHOULD be infinitely safer than backing up to a hard disc.

Me:  It was the 10th largest host. Baby pictures, wills, drafts of novels, recipes… gone without recourse.

Facebook Friend:  isn’t there anyone who can offer to back it up temporarily?

Me:  The laws of commerce = competitors can’t take the risk of consuming tainted content, and no one has the appetite to do the forensics on the corpus of content for a fee. The Electronic Frontier Foundation says it will try to help… but really, it’s too late and they don’t have a real plan. Just outrage.

Me:  It’s pretty clear that service level agreements and protections need to be in place before Trust is earned again by hosts.

Facebook Friend:  With no warning?

Me:  well… see That was the warning. Data could all be wiped by EOD today. No access for end-users at all since the lockdown of the site.

Facebook Friend:  Without giving users the ability to back up their data, I wouldn’t consider that a warning. Just like in the movies as you watch the progress bar on your laptop as some sinister virus wipes out your hard drive isn’t really a warning.

Me:  We agree. And, it isn’t as if the Feds can’t use analytics to sort out criminal content and let a competing service pick up the remainder. They’ve chosen to stand on a very bad practice of championing the studios over the consumers without regard to fair practices.

What do you think? Can the industry create effective policies and service level agreements soon enough so that individuals can enter their content in the Cloud with the same confidence as enterprises? Can the Feds be bound by rules of evidence handling that are less scorched-earth for the Cloud?

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How to Start a Wildfire

If you’re going to solve a problem, it helps to have a grasp of the underlying baseline… you can’t get from the current to the desired state (or even stimulate such desire) unless you establish a starting point. So, for all of us in content management (end-users, vendors, or analysts) it’s as important to be able to describe what threat unmanaged content poses as it is being able first to describe and then prove what the result will be if we get better at managing it. This requires observation and collection of information at a level that virtually no business has an appetite to pay for. Not even those who might be able to sell that information again and again as research – or even use it to help sell some software.

Yet if you’re like many government agencies, professional services firms, or even individual operators of any type of business that depends on paper, this should interest you. There certainly are ways to a) reduce the amount and costs of physical documents; b) increase the value of information stored within them along with digital docs; and, c) save money while bridging the physical to digital divide. Sadly, there are no actual detailed benchmarks delivered by reputable firms to predict the volumes or values associated with doing so – which can make building a business case to reduce paper much more difficult. If Google can’t find it – try copying the search string “building a business case to reduce paper” into the search box – it doesn’t exist, right?

Well, it seems that many vendors and buyers of document management software have been searching for the Holy Paper Grail (HPG) for some time. For so long, as a matter of fact, that Facts (in case studies or research documents) about paper costs have long outlived their freshness date stamp. “That one time, we saved ten thousand Confederate dollars (or Drachmas) by using telegrams instead of …. ” Thus, I can find dozens and dozens of examples of nearly useful claims or opinions or study data from a single departmental or geographical implementation – but not the HPG, or any data closely resembling it:

“Cost of a document”
“Costs to produce a document”
“Costs to reduce paper in document management”
“Benefits of digital documents”
“Improving productivity through enhanced document collaboration”
“ROI of ECM”

Oh, I know there are lots of results to be found online that challenge my assertion that the HPG hasn’t (yet) been found. Lots of researchers – whether paid by a Gartner or by a project sponsor building a business case or even by a vendor hoping to stake a claim – have been down this well-trodden path I might call the trail of tears were I insensitive to the history of the Cherokee people (among others). Yet, here I am proposing that even vendors like the one I work for might not be able to fully support their claims of finding ROI by better managing documents and their processes in every case. With facts.

As an example, here at Litéra, we sell content confidence. Meaning that in combination, our software apps deliver increased productivity and reduced risk through document processes and controls that also virtually guarantee ROI. And, our ROI calculator is very simple: the average knowledge worker (lawyer, accountant, consultant, project manager, etc.) works on 6-20 document processes each week, and collaborates with others on more than 90% of those. Our applications EASILY save those participants an average of 10 minutes per day. We might presume a professional works 261 weekdays in a given year and makes no less than $40 an hour given benefits, etc. Some likely make much more – and charge out time to clients at an even higher rate. So, no matter what the value of their time, our software – in some cases, as little as $180/yr. – costs less than the $1722 saved annually. It’s a great story and many customers would swear by the results they’ve achieved. So much so that more than 90% of them are willing to serve as named references when we talk to our prospects.

But – until we can both certify results with an outside auditor and promote our story relentlessly to gain visibility, I suspect things will stay the way they are in most businesses. Therefore, if you wanted to start a wildfire in your office, the best fuel would seemingly still be paper – at least for a while. Colloquially, office wildfires get started by rumor, not paper: e.g., “John’s been dipping his pen into the company inkwell.” If that even makes sense in your world, it is very likely that you could improve document processes by removing John’s pen (and the paper he writes on) and giving him better productivity tools. Or maybe in your world – like mine – rumors combined with some facts about paper costs could do the job. Imagine the wildfire I could start in the document and content management world by combining all known facts about document management costs and ROI potential in a single blog posting. Buyers, sellers, and end-users of software that might improve the way people work with information would love it.

We don’t even need facts, I think. We could merely use some figments disguised as facts. In my years at Gartner, one persistent element of inquiry was the helpless search for verified <actual> facts about the document problem in macro terms. They knew roughly how bad things were in Boise or Bahrain, but not in the overall context of global content mismanagement. Anywhere. And, to get the business leadership to invest in better technology, they need to make a strong case based on detailed analysis. So they’d ask – again and again – what fresh, relevant survey data or case studies were available, and I’d open a file drawer and draw out the dusty folder o’ facts and hope elves had updated the data. They never did. Moreover, of all the years I spent invested in finding solutions to the problem, I was more easily able to count Failure Measures (TM) than Success Measures.

It was never hard to find disillusionment and despair – more than enough to obscure the one shining example of a company that set expectations about what outcomes they wanted, and then measured them when the time came. Worse still, all things once fact become hypothesis again after a period of time. So a fact can remain relevant roughly over the span of about a year or two – which sadly corresponds almost exactly to the lifespan of most software implementations. On the other hand, there’s good news about document software figments (like all dangerous elements) – they have a half-life instead of a shelf-life. You can find them easily but should trust them sparingly. And publish them never. That’s why Gartner can’t – because unless it is the source of the data, it can’t trust it.

But I am no longer bound by the constraints of fact-based research. So, I’ve done some scouting for facts and figments on high performance workplace issues like documents and their costs – just so you don’t need to. I have found a number of them. Many are woefully out of date, but several are attributed to Gartner and I could suggest minor edits might bring them up to 2012 standards. Many tie back to a Coopers & Lybrand survey commissioned so long ago that the firm’s convoluted history alone suggests the data to be diluted and the original research team likely disbanded and out of reach. Most are still relevant in some ways, though many favor one geography over others (the average office document no longer gets photocopied 19 times in North America, I’d warrant, but perhaps it’s still true in parts of South America or Asia or North Dakota). I’d be happy to discuss this further if you are interested. Happier still to work with you on finding ROI by buying some really great software from Litéra. Comments are welcomed.

Undifferentiated Facts and Figments* Worth Considering (especially if the authors added an exclamation point!):

Through 2014, at least 30% of content management projects will be perceived to have failed because they had no agreed-to business success criteria.

30 billion paper documents are copied or printed by US companies annually.

When factoring copying, archiving, and time to locate activities, the cost of each document can reach $60-$120.

Only 1% of archived documents are ever retrieved.

Of the archived documents retrieved, only 10% are the correct version.

Of the 10% correct versions, only 10% get read completely. The rest are printed, skimmed, then archived as paper.

More than 80% of business processes are forms-based and organizations today require end-to-end solutions that make it easy for people to enter, access, integrate and route important business data to multiple systems across their entire organization.

Of all documents that are handled every day , 90% are solely shuffled.

The average company spends $20 to file a document, $120 to find a misfiled document, and $220 to reproduce a lost document. Meanwhile, 7.5 percent of all documents get lost, 3 percent get misfiled, and the average professional spends 50% of their time looking for information.

7.5% of all documents are lost.

3% of the remainder are misfiled.

Professionals spend 5-15% of their time reading information, but up to 50% looking for it (approx. 400 hours a year).

Digitized documents only need to be prepped once (all staples removed etc.), while hard copies may be prepped up to 19 times during their shelf life.

There are over 4 trillion paper documents in the U.S., and this number is growing at 22% per year.

Nearly 75% of time spent working with paper-based information is wasted in searching and filing.

The average office worker maintains 20,000 pieces of paper annually.

It costs $25,000 to fill a four drawer cabinet, and $2,160 per year to maintain.

In spite of reports to the contrary, paper use is huge and continues to grow. Each day, U.S. workers generate 2.7 billion new sheets of paper.

U.S. businesses spend $350 billion on computer printouts annually. Paper copies cost between 6 and 12 cents per page (though 130 billion of the 350 billion copies per year are not needed).

The average American office worker is estimated to use a sheet of paper every 12 minutes—a ream per person every two and a half working weeks—and to dispose of 100-200 pounds of paper every year.

The number of pages consumed in U.S. offices is growing by about 20 percent each year.

The introduction of email into an organization resulted on average in a 40 percent increase in paper consumption. A worldwide growth of 600 percent in printer accessibility is part of what contributes to this.

The U.S. is by far the world’s largest producer and consumer of paper. Per capita U.S. paper consumption is over six times greater than the world average and about 25 percent greater than Japan, the world’s second largest per capita paper consumer.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, global paper products consumption  tripled over the past three decades and was expected to grow by half again before 2010.

Professionals spend 5-15% of their time reading information, but up to 50% of their time looking for it.

U.S.-based companies spend $25 to $35 billion processing (filing, storing, and retrieving) paper. Management of documents over their life cycle pushes that figure up to $100 billion per year.

Of managers surveyed, 49% feel they are often unable to handle the volume of information received.

Paper Management reduces office productivity. Of a total 8 hours wasted per week in paper document management activity, finding documents wastes 1 hour, difficulty sharing documents wastes 1 hour, distribution & storage wastes 1 hour, and archiving and retrieval wastes half an hour.

The most valuable documentation is littered across department manager’s desks. It is a gigantic organizational problem – where do documents exist?

The number of pieces of paper used in offices in the United States is increasing at 6% per year. Personal computers and copiers make it easier to generate paper output.

90% of corporate memory exists on paper.

The average office spends $28 in labor filing or retrieving a document.

$150 in labor is spent finding a misfiled document.

$350 in labor is spent recreating a lost document!

The average Fortune 500 company sends 150 million paper documents and receives 150 million paper documents annually.

In addition, over $17 million is spent by each company just on faxing!

Professionals spend 5 to 15% of their time reading information, but up to 50% looking for it.

The average business document is copied 19 times – over 81 billion sheets of paper are copied each month!

There are over 4 trillion paper documents in the U.S. alone – growing at a rate of 22% per year!

Over $5 billion each year is wasted on printed materials that become obsolete before they are ever used!

For every 10 printed pages, only 1 is ever consulted.

That blog you thought people were following closely is buried among 700,000 others in a feed reader.

People subscribe to/follow/download/watch more content daily than they could collectively consume in two lifetimes apiece!

Most written information on the Web is most often read by the person who wrote it!

Of all the documents stored on network drives, file servers, and in document repositories, 22% constitute those authored by a single person. They were never reviewed or distributed again – and typically, the person creating them left the company 5 years ago!

More people on Earth will read any one specific tweet from Ashton Kutcher tomorrow (25/1/2012) than will read To Kill a Mockingbird – ever!

*some likely sources: Gartner, Ernst & Young, Coopers & Lybrand (now PwC), Orfal, Harkey, and Edwards, Cap Ventures; PC Magazine, AIIM, Imaging Magazine, Lotus Development, IDC, ATG & Rheinner, Reuters, Orfal, Harkey, and Edwards, Forestethics

Posted in Content Strategy, ECM | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Is SharePoint the New Definition of ECM in Legal?

Until recently, the content management software marketplace was fragmented. Many vendors, industry analysts, and buyers insisted that their viewpoints about the future of ECM made the most sense. But despite nearly continuous investment in the technology, most firms’ implementations ranged from ‘tolerable’ to ‘miserable’ – and end-users revolted accordingly. What has become apparent is that various forces have shaped the new definitions of ECM – and that the prospects for better-managed information, improved availability, enhanced collaboration, and successful implementations (by any measure) have never been better. Like any story, there isn’t one hero. But there’s a new end-user focused ecosystem of apps that both supplement SharePoint and are shaping the future of ECM in Legal. One business outcome of successfully understanding and leveraging the extended ecosystem is what we call ‘Content Confidence’.

Like any self-respecting Gold ISV Partner of Microsoft’s, SharePoint has become part of our continuing dialogue with customers, employees, and prospects. And – as each vendor with tight integration and a strong value proposition has come to do – we frame our discussion about the synergies carefully to both recognize the benefits of SharePoint and distinguish our offerings objectively. Herewith, our Top 5 SharePoint gaps and how the products we’ve developed can deliver professional productivity and reduce risk – thus, content confidence:

1.  SharePoint doesn’t effectively raise the bar for collaborative authoring, despite having synchronous editing

Litéra is the only software company with patented technology that allows users to harness a truly open collaboration environment: within IDS, multiple users can share input on a single live document and retain the history of all edits and comments – even after the final document is completed. With Litéra IDS, users no longer have to review multiple redlined versions of shared input to create one, global document. Instead, Litéra IDS incorporates all feedback into one document, open for collective view in real time. Firms can improve accuracy, openness and productivity with robust and powerful software that integrates fully with Microsoft SharePoint, Word, and legacy document management systems.

2.  SharePoint has caused many enterprises to consolidate content, but doesn’t provide detailed comparison tools for office files of every type. Search tools cannot handle granular comparison

Today’s documents are no longer just text and tables; instead, they include a wide array of embedded objects and images, including Excel, Visio, ChemDraw/SmartDraw objects, and imported jpg, gif, tiff, bmp and png images. Though Microsoft has added some comparison functionality, it doesn’t provide easy to use, detailed, patented, third-generation comparison technology. Litéra Change-Pro is the only product on the market that can compare documents on a granular level. And, fast and effective comparisons of multiple versions of a Word document or between Word, PDF, and TIFF (faxed) documents are essential in Legal.

3. SharePoint doesn’t easily support document governance at the file level – metadata cleansing, reporting, and administration – when mobility and file sharing demand it more and more

As more people use mobile devices to access and share files, firms will want tighter controls. Litéra Metadact-e is a server-based metadata cleaning solution that includes mechanisms for central policy management and a patented unified platform for mail gateway including webmail and smart phone attachments. This user-friendly utility provides a mechanism to analyze and clean documents before they are distributed.    Metadact-e integrates with multiple e-mail systems, and protects Firm and client confidential information.

4. SharePoint doesn’t manage other file types efficiently nor does it help make conversions easy 

File sharing in email and unsecured Internet repositories has become common – and secure transfers of information demand formats beyond Microsoft’s own. Yet to quickly convert, for example, a PowerPoint file to a PDF for sharing with outsiders isn’t easy because the controls over metadata, notes, etc. are obscure. And, opening or converting PDFs is also difficult, especially for batch conversions or multiple file binding. The Litéra PDF Suite offers the capacity to manage many of the core aspects of PDF documents, including extract PDF to Word with the optional Litéra OCR Server (powered by ABBYY).

5. SharePoint isn’t the most effective tool for handling large numbers of templates, and migrations from earlier versions made things worse

Litéra Innova is a document automation platform that streamlines and standardizes document creation and automation utilizing custom and pre-prepared templates. Create and manage letter, memo, fax, Certificate of Service, Pleading and custom templates easily. Develop firmwide styles and settings with no programming required. Organize templates by user, security group and/or office location. Innova allows users to insert contact information from Outlook, CRM, or document management applications into new documents, existing documents or templates. Each template includes bookmarks that identify locations in a document where contact information can be inserted, and easy to use dialogs provide a quick way to define details for automatic generation of documents.

What else would you like to see added to the ECM ecosystem (whether to bridge the gap between office and professional productivity or something else); and do you think SharePoint and its apps ecosystem is becoming synonymous with ECM in your Firm?

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Update from an ex-Analyst

I’ve gotten a number of messages from friends and people I know in technology through LinkedIn, gmail, Facebook, etc..  The top question I’m asked is “why did you leave Gartner?” and the second is “what’s so special about Litéra?”

Here is my response.

The principle reason I left Gartner to join Litéra was a chance to learn how to run (and grow) a software business. The opportunity to be mentored by the CEO/founder – an inventor with tremendous operational experience – was too good to ignore. Though he’s added some products through acquisition, the essential technology set for comparisons, collaborative authoring, and metadata cleansing is organic and patent-protected. And, I believe the demand for professional productivity tools and content protections will become stronger – particularly as the risks of mobile device proliferation, file sharing/transfers, cloud-hosted repositories, and increased regulatory pressures become clearer. Just cleaning up the legacy mess of office documents as enterprises transition away from paper and digital proliferation typical of on-premise technologies toward new hybrid architectures and distant users will compel updates to their content strategy.

Ultimately, minding the gap between administrative content and professional content will become a key part of the new strategy, and Litéra has developed a set of “professional services for documents” for regulated or valuable content that I found compelling. I think most executives across several industries could implement these applications easily and gain great advantage with little added cost or difficulty. Legal is the most obvious vertical, but other industries could just as effectively justify an investment toward building stronger deliverables. Right now, Microsoft, Google, and Adobe have mechanisms and methods used by business people to construct important content. Others have resources to protect it in collections. But at the moment it traverses the void toward outsiders, the rules (and risk) change. Outbound content should be prepared to travel. And, so too should it be quarantined when it returns – given how much can change can occur in uncontrolled environments. Document comparison at a granular level is going to become critical.

Even as entire industries – think healthcare and electronic patient files as an example – undergo radical transformation as information becomes broadly accessible, the work that surrounds the information will also change. I think collaborative authoring is key among an enabling set of technologies that could be transformative in the next few years. Though wikis are a good example, they are still limited in the ability to engage professionals in real-time as they drive toward delivery of collaborative content. Contracts, proposals, policies, presentations, and advertisements are all built by highly skilled knowledge workers in a way that seems incredibly stilted in both process and pace compared to what’s possible.

More importantly, guiding the collaboration with embedded policy/procedure will yield better results than the poor version control and ‘overwrite anarchy’ that currently exist in creation through review/approval phases. The system itself can keep comments and contributions from all parties in play without typical problems in selecting and concatenating them. This can help bridge the gap between enterprises and their employees, customers, business partners, and regulators as much as it enables Cloud-hosted content management to fully emerge given mobile applications in professional and trade domains.

It should be obvious that I have enthusiasm for the company and products. We’re already connected to Microsoft and several of the ECM suite vendors. But the partner potential of several Litéra products hasn’t been fully explored, and I intend to reach out to several of my friends to see whether there’s interest in discovering new use cases and markets together.

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