Yokohama 11/18/13 – 11/22/13

I made my latest business trip to Japan this past week and while some things change, some things never change.  I might sound like a broken record from my previous trip-recap blogs but some things that never change, and which I totally admire, is the courtesy of the Japanese people.  Second is the absolute efficiency with which everything works.  Trains and bus schedules are often ‘on-time’ and a delay is extremely rare.  Delays in transportation are exceptions to the rule where as I’m accustomed to just the opposite and actually plan for delays any longer.  Being on-time is critical in Japan especially because an overwhelming number of citizens and foreigners use the state-of-the-art railroad system.

All Aboard the Narita Express!

narita express train

A shining example of how to travel in train luxury is taking a ride on the Narita Express.  For this particular trip a majority of our time was spent in Yokohama.  So to get to Yokohama from the Narita airport, which is located in the Tokyo area, the best way is to purchase a 3,980 Yen (roughly $40 USD) ticket on the Narita Express.  While most trains that are used in Japan are nice and clean I would say the general cosmetic look is similar to a subway train you see in most movies, or might have experienced for yourself.  The Narita Express, however, is the equivalent of First Class air travel but only on rails instead of in the air.  The trains themselves have a modern, beautiful technical-looking exterior as seen above in the photo.  As added bonuses the assigned-seats are luxurious, they recline and have plenty of room.  And, although I didn’t have the need to visit the ‘facilities’ (a.k.a. restroom) on my Narita Express rides this trip I grabbed a photo from the internet below and I might have to find some excuse next time because these facilities are bigger than the restroom in my home! (see photo below)

seat 1  seat 2  bathroom

Visiting Yokohama

I landed at Narita Airport Terminal 2 and the travel time via the Narita Express to Yokohama is roughly 1 ½ hours.  You’d think that after 15 hours of air travel that an additional 1 ½ hours would be torture but it’s actually not too bad.

narita express logo

A variety of factors come into play here and other customer service oriented service providers should take note!  First, as I mentioned above, the trains are on-time.  Second, they are neat, clean and comfortable.  I neglected to mention that the train also offers WiFi access and has a food/drink cart service just exactly like the airlines provide.  Lastly, the train stops at only a few stations for a short amount of time along the route which makes the overall experience very nice.

After a full day of travel I finally arrive at the hotel.  Like the rest of Japan, the hotel was gorgeous.  I was surprised to find it fully decorated with Christmas spirit.  The inside of the hotel had a huge tree decorated with all sorts of beautiful ornaments.  There was another tree inside where people making donations to charity.  Everyone was encouraged to make their own origami cranes and hang them on the charity-tree display in the lobby of the hotel.  Also, outside of the hotel they had some fantastic snowman and other flashy lights as seen below.

We arrived at the hotel late and it was dark.  My room was on the 19th floor so when I got to my room initially and looked out on the city of Yokohama it was quite awesome but I couldn’t see anything too far in the distance due to the darkness.  However, in the morning daylight I again looked out my window and saw the most incredible sight as seen in the photo below with the large orange and white tower.  In the background I could clearly see Mt. Fuji which is somewhere I have always wanted to visit.  So, although I was still many miles away and I could not realistically visit Mt. Fuji on this particular trip I found it a privilege to at least be close enough to witness this wonderful site in person.  Can you see it in the photo?

snowman  mt_fuji

Tsukiji Fish Market

After a full day of travel and waking up to such a wonderful view outside of my hotel room window, what else would you expect other than explore more of what the great country of Japan has to offer?  One of my colleagues had made a reservation for lunch at the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world, the Tsukiji Fish Market.  I had been there once before and I was very excited to return because I enjoyed my first experience so much.  You can read more about Tsukiji Fish Market here:  Basically, for me at least, Tsukiji is the epitome of incredible efficiency.

What happens is nightly the Tokyo-based fishing fleet heads out in the Pacific Ocean to catch all sorts of seafood.  The fleet returns daily around 3-4am to unload their catch to a massive air-conditioned warehouse where they display and auction their catch to highest bidders.  As seen below in these photos the tuna, especially, gain a lot of attention and demand high prices.  Some of these tuna are hundreds of pounds and cost tens-of-thousands of dollars.  Once a winning bidder is determined then the fish are immediately the bidders property and they send in their own group of people to claim the fish and move it on to the next phase.  Sometimes a restaurant within the Tsukiji Market is the winning bidder and the tuna would be transported just a few hundred feet to their establishment within The Market where it would be processed and delivered on the menu.  Can you imagine what a delight it is to have this level of fresh tuna first thing in the morning?  It simply can’t be beat!

However, and more often, the fish (including Tuna) from The Market is packed up on ice and shipped all over the world to other destinations.  What I find absolutely incredible is the amazing food supply-chain of ‘in-the-wild’ to ‘eating’ that is clear at Tsukiji.  In other words a tuna, for example, can go from early morning in the ocean in Japanese waters to the finest/fanciest dinner in San Francisco within 24 hours.  It’s simply a remarkable experience and I would highly suggest an adventure at the Tsukiji Fish Market if you ever have a chance to visit the Tokyo area.

fish market 1fish market 2fish market 3

Japan never disappoints

In the end I cannot express, again, how much I am impressed by the Japanese culture.  They are simply terrific people, so helpful and most considerate.  They are not a perfect society but I feel such a renewed sense of optimism for the future every time I visit.  I can only hope that the western culture of independence spirit and the Japanese culture of teamwork and effort can continue to find a happy-medium where everyone can experience the best of each culture.  It’s really a beautiful balance that we should all be able to experience.  I count myself as one of the lucky one’s that has experienced this first-hand.  I can only hope everyone reading this message has such a terrific opportunity to visit, and genuinely feel, the terrific Japanese spirit.

Sayōnara Japan – Until next time.

japanese sunset

Killing Season (2013) – Movie Review

killing_season_2013So, riddle-me-this…typically when you get two great actors such as Robert DeNiro and John Travolta in one flick you have an instant movie classic, right?  Well, let me solve this riddle and inform you that this isn’t always case and Killing Season (2013) is one of those.

Don’t get me wrong, this certainly was not a bad movie.  But neither was it a particularly good movie.  This simply was a movie that seems like it “didn’t happen”.  It didn’t have a soul, nor conviction.  In other words, the movie started and then it ended.  1 ½ hours later and there was no meat in-between in spite of some high action scenes.  I can’t find the right way to describe how this movie missed-the-mark other than it felt like DeNiro and Travolta did a personal favor for a movie-director friend.

Killing Season opened with a disturbing scene depicting some awful events that took place during the Bosnian War.  While this scene was quite emotional this could have set the stage for a good plot, especially considering the star talent of both Academy Award winning actors.  There was some attempt by the director to create an emotional attachment with the characters throughout the film.  Yet in spite of the greatest of Robert and John’s acting talent, it just didn’t work well for me.

Therefore I can easily summarize Killing Season as this: “Start movie : Some action here in the middle : End movie”.  The movie felt like it wanted to be great but it was just blah.  This was a movie that seemed to have great potential so I was a bit disappointed in this under-achiever.  If it weren’t for Robert and John acting in this film then Killing Season would get a much lower Steeler-Star rating however, in the end this deserves an average rating of 5 out of 10 Steeler Stars.


The logic of document capture

Indexing, Metadata, Keyword, SharePoint, Capture, Scanner, Documents, ECM, Content Management

What is wrong with the collection of words above?  Well, it’s a collection of terms that are closely related but have no logical structure in order to be of value to anyone reading them.  In order for these words to be valuable in terms of readability for context they need to be logically organized into a sentence.  The logic of document capture and Enterprise Content Management is much the same.  In this blog post, instead of going into the nuts and bolts of document capture I thought it is more important to discuss two critical components to your overall success, or failure, of your content management strategy.  These two critical components are taxonomy and metadata.  This is philosophy and not technology.

To break down document capture in its simplest form, just think of this as the process of extracting information from a document and making that information available in the future.  The future could be immediate where a scanned invoice, for example, immediately kicks-off a payment process.  Or it could be two weeks from now where a customer service agent needs to retrieve a signed airbill for a proof of delivery.  The point is that document retrieval is based on some unique keyword or a set of keywords related to a particular document.  In the case of the invoice it could have been the invoice number and in the case of the airbill it could have been the shipping tracking number.

If you do not consider a well thought-out strategy then your organization could have accomplished the task of taking an organized paper mess and simply converted it to an electronic mess.

Establish a well thought-out taxonomy

Taxonomy is defined as classifying organisms into groups based on similarities.  Why is taxonomy relevant for document capture?  For several reasons, including security, quicker access to information and retention policies.  So, if you work backwards in the methodology of how and what, technology to implement for your document capture solution a solid consensus of the end result is of paramount importance.  The end result is typically a high-quality scanned image conducive for data capture (OCR, ICR, OMR, bar code, etc.) and the metadata itself.  So if your taxonomy has organized methodology then it should assist in making your document capture strategy fairly obviously.  Let’s take security as a benefit for a well thought-out taxonomy strategy.  By segregated documents based on a logical taxonomy, organizations are afforded an addition level of comfort knowing that a set of security policies can be applied to, for example, Human Resource, documents allowing access to everyone for a general set of available scanned documents such as the café menu which is clearly not a information sensitive document.  Additionally, another benefit of a well thought-out taxonomy is quicker access to information for users.  Many content management software applications and search engines use a ‘crawl’ method to check newly added content and add them to an index (database) which is then searchable.  As you can imagine, common sense and logic dictates that ‘crawling’ a more narrow scope is much quicker to keep the database up-to-date, but also access times could be considerably less by not having to search the entire database and only the relevant data indexed.  This makes access to data quicker.  Lastly, in regards to retention policies, having your data well organized is a major benefit for this area.  Imagine that an organization has all of their tax documents properly electronic stored via a well thought-out taxonomy in their content management system.  If they did then easily, and within corporate governance standards and policies the organization can removed these images from their repository based on a retention schedule.  So, as illustrated, investing the time to develop a strong taxonomy is important for many reasons including security, searchability and retention.

It is extremely important to not over look this important concept when planning out a document capture strategy.  A simple taxonomy might be organized like below:

  • Accounting
    • Accounts Receivable
      • Check
      • Statement
    • Accounts Payable
      • Invoice
      • Receipt
  • Human Resources
    • Applications
    • Resumes
    • W2 Forms


Considering a well thought-out strategy might seem cumbersome in the initial stages of establishing your document capture strategy, but it can save organizations significant time, money and aggravation in the long-run.  As a best document capture practice it is important to establish a solid taxonomy for scanned documents and also re-evaluate the strategy as it relates to taxonomy as any new documents are introduced within your organization.


Consider what information is important, and what is not

Creating Searchable PDF’s is one form on document capture; however, it is not always an ideal document capture strategy.  While sometimes, in certain situations, creating Searchable PDF images of your scanned documents is the right approach for an organization sometimes this technique of document capture often creates inefficiencies.  You might be thinking to yourself how could creating a fully Searchable PDF with all the words of the document indexed be construed as being inefficient?  Let me elaborate.  When creating a Searchable PDF the scanning software does its best job possible to recognize every single character and every single word on a page.  This might sound appealing but let’s consider the possible results in real-world applications.  Imagine that an organization in the insurance business scans as little as 100 single-page documents and creates Searchable PDF documents.  Then they want to retrieve a document based on a keyword so they use the word “claim” in their search criteria to find a document a user is searching for.  As you can imagine the user would most likely be presented with a long set of links to possible documents but only one is the important document they are looking for and the rest is “irrelevant search”.  This is because the entire page was indexed via the Searchable PDF method.  Alternatively, if your data capture strategy had included only extracting “relevant search” terms that apply to a particular document then you make the organization much more efficient by being able to find the data you have requested much quicker with the first search.

One of the other significant benefits with an integrated document capture/content management strategy is that often times any sort of metadata fields created, and rules applied, in the content management system can be brought forward and applied into the document capture system itself.  For example, if an organizations’ policy dictates that on a healthcare insurance form that for a metadata field the social security number is required and can only be nine characters long of numeric characters, then directly in the document capture system these rules can be enforced.  This allows for great business continuity and consistency in your data capture process.

An analogy I like to use is go to your favorite internet search engine and enter in a vague term such as “taxonomy for document capture” then you will get a long list of ‘hits’ that probably are not of interest because you might be looking for a specific piece of information, or a scanned image.  In the contrary, if the user enters-in a more specific term such as “aim document taxonomy” then the focus of the search is narrowed down to a more relevant list of potential information the user is searching for.  This is an example of relevant search versus irrelevant search and it’s all related to applying metadata to web pages, electronic documents and, yes, especially scanned images.

Summary: Organized taxonomy + relevant metadata = Efficient process

In summary, my point is to carefully plan out your document capture process.  Pay close attention to developing an effective taxonomy for your documents.  Determine what information is important on a particular document and what is not.  Document capture technology has evolved to nearly magically proportions but, the truth is that organizations can still greatly help their efficiency and content management effectiveness through careful planning; after all there still is logic to document capture.

Do you have thoughts of the topic of document capture, taxonomy or classification?  Please share your comments.