Self-registering, self-managing records, a reality or just a pipe-dream? Chapter 5

by Frank 9. November 2011 07:34

In this chapter we talk about how we can use standard tools to automate the capture and processing of all electronic documents and emails – the biggest challenge for any organization struggling with compliance and trying to manage its vast store of information.

I said in an earlier chapter that all of the tools we need are available and proven, such as RFID tags for paper documents. This is also true for all forms of electronic documents.

We at Knowledgeone Corporation have developed our own tools to enable full automation just as I am sure our competitors have developed similar tools (and if not, why not?).

However, first I need to explain the difference between structured and unstructured information and how important it is to add structure (content) to any electronic document if we are to achieve our aim of self managing records.

As a general example of structured versus unstructured an email has structure and a Word document does not. It is true they both have natural attributes (properties) that we can automatically capture like original filename and author but we need more.

An email has structured content in the form of:

  • Sender
  • Recipient
  • CC
  • BCC
  • Subject (text)
  • Body of email (text)
  • Attachment (text)

A Word document doesn’t have a ‘standard’ internal structure and we can’t easily extract contextual information out of it as we can with an email. We therefore describe an email as ‘structured’ and a Word document as ‘unstructured’.

This means that automatically processing emails is relatively simple but that Word documents present a challenge because of a lack of a standard structure that we can interrogate.

It is true we can write clever algorithms to extract the text from Word documents (and we have) and then analyze it against our business rules but it isn’t easy and it is not one hundred-percent reliable.

If you want to make you job infinitely easier and the results much more reliable you need to add content. We do this via a proven technique called ‘tags’. We have the ability to process tags in our standard products and you can easily add tags to electronic documents. In fact anyone can add meaningful tags (e.g., File Number or Contract Number) by using standard templates for all key electronic documents. The only effort is in setting up the templates, after that it is a virtually automatic process.

Conversely, it is actually much harder to add tags to emails because most of the emails we process come from outside our organization whereas most of the electronic documents we process are created within our organization.

So, for our fully automatic model let’s assume we are automatically adding tags to all the important electronic documents we create using templates. These tags contain all the information we need to be able to correctly capture, classify and manage (including workflow) the documents in our records management system.

We also assume that we are able to process all incoming and outgoing emails at the email server and correctly select and classify emails based on their structured content, i.e., the values in the any and all of the components of an email, e.g., the domain name of the sender, the recipient, the subject line and keywords in the text of the body of the email or the attachment.

Now all we need are the tools to do this. In the Knowledgeone Corporation RecFind 6 product suite we utilize RecFind 6, RecCapture and GEM. These three products contain all the functionality we require to fully automate the capture, classification and management of electronic documents and emails.

RecCapture (for electronic documents) and GEM (for emails) both include the functionality that allows you to add your business rules. They are therefore called ‘rules-driven’ automatic processes. The rules interrogate the natural properties of the document plus any structured information (including embedded tags) as well as the full text of any component (e.g., an attachment). You can add as few or as many rules as you need to correctly identify, capture and classify any electronic document or email.

We have used both RecCapture and GEM internally at K1Corp for many years in this manner to fully automate our electronic documents and emails. No one at K1Corp has to manually capture anything. I guess that makes us unusual in this business, a software company that actually uses its own products.

The final message is that a fully automatic records management system isn’t just a possibility, it is a reality. All it takes is the will and effort; all the required tools are available and proven.

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