The Social Network

The Social NetworkI just finished watching the movie “The Social Network”. Not sure how much is fact or how much is fiction but nevertheless I found it entertaining.

The movie was a good dose of the entrepreneurial spirit, a slice of the harshness that is the business world and a great life lesson on being honest and true to your friendships. It’s hard to believe that the phenomenon known as “facebook” is basically only 7 years old. According to the movie, facebook was incorporated in 2004. It started as nothing more than a simple web site in an already crowded field of similar “social” sites all of which were vying for more and more users.

If you believe the film you are led to believe that Mark Zuckerberg adamantly resisted the temptation to start selling advertisements on the site once they had achieved modest success. I have not researched, nor paid much attention to how Zuckerberg ran the company at the time, but as a facebook member for quite a while now and seeing how the site has evolved over time it’s not hard to believe that this is true of his philosophy. From a business perspective, and especially for a web site business, I have personally witnessed what once started as a good social site become quickly overran with obnoxious advertisements, non-stop pop-up banners and/or infested with viruses/Trojans or spyware. Anyone remember the likes of Geocities, Limewire or even, dare I say, MySpace? All of which are gone or soon to-be gone.

While I do recall some frustration with facebook outages a few years ago when they were growing and adding so many users very quickly, the truth is that the service has been extremely reliable to my standards which are pretty high when it comes to service availability. Also, facebook does serve advertisements but I think they are subtle enough that it’s not annoying and the ads are not all x-rated like so many other web sites these days. This shows some level of responsibility and decorum on the part of facebook to keep their community clean and fun for everyone. I’m sure porn sponsors would love nothing more than to pay big money to serve stupid ads that have the potential to be seen by more than 500 million users!

Overall I think the movie had a good moral story. You almost can’t blame a young successful kid for making silly mistakes. For example (warning: spoiler-alert if you haven’t seen the movie), Zuckerberg allowed himself to get caught up in the fast-paced, party lifestyle that was introduced to him by the founder of Napster, Sean Parker. This mentorship by Sean Parker was both a blessing as well as a curse. This ‘friendship’ and the business connections that Sean Parker had allowed facebook to get the venture capital investment that allowed them to become legitimate and ultimately become the company they are to this very day. At the end of the movie, which is already a bit dated (released in 2010) they said the net worth of facebook was $25 billion dollars. I’ve heard estimations as high as a $50 billion dollar net worth and I know for a fact that they just raised $1.5 billion in additional investment so it’s clear in the business community that there is serious value here and well worth investing. Just a random Kevin Neal thought here but the real challenge with all these cool web based ideas is how to monetize a cool idea.

Anyhow, the curse of the ‘friendship’ with Sean Parker was that apparently his personal character was shady and unprofessional at times. Sure, he had the business connections to get facebook the financial investments they needed to succeed but his personal conduct could have nearly ruined the business as well.

I got the feeling at the end of the movie that writers portrayed Zuckerberg as missing something emotionally in spite of his success. He missed his ex-girlfriend as well as his original business partner.

Some interesting items I found from the movie:

• I love analogies and this was a good one from Sean Parker’s character. “Will you be known for fishing the 3000 pound marlin or 14 trout?”
• Simple ideas can truly be magical with a little common sense and a lot of hard work
• Be true to your friends and don’t trust posers

It will be interesting for me to finally now do some research on the ‘real’ story and see how much of the movie was reality versus fiction. I give The Social Network a eight out of ten Steeler-star rating.

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Trend towards Network Scanning

After a few false starts, and probably an industry getting ahead of itself, document scanner hardware vendors and document capture software vendors finally seem to grasp the opportunity of network scanning.  However, and certainly more importantly than the vendors themselves better understanding the significant trend towards network scanning, end-user customers are demanding these types of devices more than ever.  The concept of ‘networking scanning’ blends appeal points that cross corporate departmental boundaries for the benefit of the organization.

 

  • Users = Ease of use, intelligent scanning features, versatile functionality
  • Business Managers = Improve business efficiency, higher worker productivity
  • Network Administrators = Simplified deployment, effective device management
  • Software Developers = Integrated solutions through a consistent user interface

 

In essence a network scanner has four main qualities that are fairly common among devices and each quality can be mapped directly to the appeal points highlighted above.

 

Trend towards Network Scanning

 One, the device itself is a complete solution.  In other words, a network scanner obviously includes a scanning engine.  Also it includes other components and software that does not require the scanner be attached to a computer.  A network scanner attaches directly to the network via a network cable and can be managed from a centralized location.  As you can imagine this is quite appealing for Network Administrators.

 


Reduce Network Administrator burden

• Decrease deployment costs with remote administration tools

• Reduce ongoing maintenance costs with ability to push updates to devices from a centralized location

• Utilize existing network resources and systems to conserve budget

• Inexpensive and user replaceable consumables

 

 

Two, an important distinction between traditional USB-attached document scanners and network scanners is that the users operate the network scanner via a touch screen interface instead of a mouse and keyboard.  Using a network scanner requires little or no training which is helping drive quick adoption of the technology because it is not intimidating to use these devices.  From a Users perspective scanning documents is no longer a tedious task and makes a network scanner appealing.

 


Ease of Use to embrace user adoption

• No need to wait for the copy machine to become free for use

• Versatile functionality without compromise of added complexity

• Advanced scanning functions performed transparent to user

• Ability to preview images before sending to destinations

• Simple operation easy to understand

 

 

Third, versatile Main Menu functionality including general office functions such as scan to e-mail/folders/printers and fax makes sharing of scanned images simple and efficient for users.  Additionally, Job Menu’s and Job Buttons can be configured to offer customized interface screens based on user login credentials and one-button scanning for commonly used job tasks.  However, one of the most appealing points for Business Managers is the ability to offer ‘integrated’ scanning solutions directly from the touch screen interface.  Let me be specific.

 


Piece of mind to improve productivity for Business Managers

Restrict access to only authorized users with secure authentication

Highly secure login authentication and transmission protocols
(SSL)

Programmable job function buttons can perform repetitive tasks with the touch of one button

Lock-down job profiles to adhere to organization established
policies

Simple touch screen driven scanning operation eliminates
specialized training

Eliminate complexity and provide simply operation with large
touch screen

 

 

This fourth main appeal point is also the reason why Software Developer’s are trending towards network scanning.  While scanning to folders and e-mail is a nice feature of a network scanner, the ability to scan directly into your organizations Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) application, add metadata/index values to scanned images to add to your Enterprise Content Management (ECM) repository or even provide sophisticated document capture like bar code recognition, document separation to kick-off a workflow process is of tremendous value to increase efficiency.  Especially with all the attention of cloud computing and web services these days, network scanners offers savvy software developers a simplified platform to design highly effective and extremely functional applications, yet also benefit from simplified deployment and ease of use that these devices offer to users and network administrators.

 


Integrated solutions for Software Developers

• Direct connectivity to back-end systems

• Index values and metadata sent directly into Content Management repositories

• Database lookups for validation

• Image enable your Line of Business application

 

 

In summary, network scanning technology has matured to the point of being no longer being only for the trend-setting IT departments to deploy to their users.  This technology has progressed to the point where near immediate return on investment can be tangibly achieved and there are many industry success stories to support these claims.  When considering your distributed scanning strategy, network scanners should certainly be part of the conversation because the Trend toward Network Scanning is undeniable.

 

As always I appreciate the time you’ve spent to read this posting about ‘Trends towards Network Scanning’ and how considering this technology helps streamline efficiencies for the benefit of the entire organization and not just a single department or business unit.  I welcome comments, feedback and/or constructive criticism.  Please feel free to click ‘The SharePoint effect’ graphic below to read about one of the other trends witnessed in 2010 that changed the Document Capture landscape forever.

-Kevin

 

 

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The SharePoint effect

‘SharePoint is ubiquitous’. Ubiquitous (adj.) is defined as Being or seeming to be everywhere at the same time; omnipresent’.

Microsoft has certainly invested heavily on marketing SharePoint, but they have also invested heavily in Zune.  Why is SharePoint an unbelievable success and Zune….well, isn’t?

People might dispute when SharePoint truly became a legitimate ECM offering, but I would have to say that 2010 was a sincere “coming out” party for Microsoft SharePoint Server.

First, from the product development perspective specifically, Microsoft released a major overhaul of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 with SharePoint 2010 this year which incorporated many of the ‘must-have’ features for a true ECM solution such as List Validations and Document IDs.  Basically, and you would think this should have been obvious, List Validations means that administrators can enforce metadata rules with commonly used document capture techniques such as hidden columns, no duplicate values and column validation conditions.  While Document IDs are basically a persistent/permanent unique identification number assigned to a documents in SharePoint.  Meaning that if they are moved around within SharePoint site collections they can always be accessed by a special URL.

Secondly, Microsoft has done a wonderful job of building their SharePoint Ecosystem and, therefore, has the support of many complimentary software and hardware vendors to promote SharePoint ECM.  Generally speaking, I think just a few short years ago SharePoint was being wrongly promoted as the ‘the one-stop ECM shop’ for everything content management.  This was clearly misguided as SharePoint has many good qualities, but from an ECM perspective had many more deficiencies than it did useful features.  One obvious major deficiency even to this day is there is no native document capture, or scanning directly, into SharePoint without third-party document scanning solutions.  It’s clear that Microsoft has changed their tune on the promotion of SharePoint and now embraces the SharePoint ecosystem.  It seems that ‘enhancing the SharePoint’ experience by enabling integration to the SharePoint platform is more of a priority than it originally was as evidenced by the major turn-out and interest at the “SharePoint Partner Pavilion” at AIIM 2010 earlier this year in Philadelphia.  Complimentary vendors offering best-of-breed applications such as document capture and BPM (Business Process Management) to the SharePoint platform were nearly stampeded in their respective booths and kiosks with customers interested in product demonstrations or eager for more information about their respective offerings.


No longer do traditional ECM software vendors dismiss SharePoint as a weak solution.  Rather these long-standing ECM vendors now have complementary product development and marketing strategies because of the overwhelming interest in SharePoint is real and to deny the SharePoint effect.

I think in years past we’ve certainly heard more and more discussion about the practicality of using SharePoint for ECM but I believe for the most part it was early-adopter IT departments or organizations on a tight budget that were actually using SharePoint.  No longer is this the case.  Organizations and businesses of all sizes from small companies to large enterprise are deploying, investigating and building upon the SharePoint/Office platform.  But what is driving this demand?

Simply-put, if you make something accessible and ease to use then whatever it might be, it stands a good chance of adoption.  This is especially true when it comes to technology.  For users to learn SharePoint is not too unlike software applications they are already familiar with using such as Internet Explorer, Word, Excel or Outlook.  Since users already have some level of comfort using these applications, extending the capabilities of these desktop applications to now store electronic documents in SharePoint is probably one of the most effective ways to get users to accept and, more importantly, embrace change.

As always I appreciate the time you’ve spent to read this posting about ‘The SharePoint effect’ and how a major IT company such as Microsoft being involved in our once niche industry is helping drive adoption of technology we all know is good for business financially, terrific for the environment and improves our lives through more efficient processes.  I welcome comments, feedback and/or constructive criticism.  Please feel free to click either “The ‘No Folder Zone’” graphic below to read about one of the first trends that changed the Document Capture landscape forever of click the ‘Trends towards Network Scanning’ graphic below to read about the third trend witnessed in 2010 that changed the Document Capture landscape forever.

-Kevin

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The ‘No Folder Zone’

Despite tremendous improvements in document capture technology and ease of use becoming more prevalent, the fact of the matter is that document capture is not totally automated and often involves human intervention.  Therefore, careful considering the pro’s and con’s of your document capture strategy is imperative to ultimately create better operational efficiencies within your organization or, unfortunately, cause unnecessary burden within your business process.


Technologies such as Intelligent Document Recognition (IDR) or Automatic Forms Processing to automatically identify documents and extract information from scanned images are fairly amazing and perform highly automated functions if the system is designed with well-known document types.  In other words, the information on the pages such as a invoice number is in a fairly consistent part of the page (i.e. always in the upper-right hand corner of the page).  But when more and more document types are introduced to the capture system, the complexity of the system becomes exponentially more difficult and chances are that the automation accuracy will decrease.


The truth is that these capabilities are not complete magic (yet) and require system administrators to carefully develop capture strategies that assist the capture software in making intelligent decisions about documents.  If you are in the document capture or document scanning business you’ll often hear the phrase similar to, “Oh, I’ll just use my existing multifunction device to scan to a folder and let my capture software process the scanned images from the folder.”  While this approach of document capture is certainly an option that works, this road to document capture is littered with potential potholes, possible dead-ends and a lot of downstream work that should be carefully considered.


The idea of scanning images into a folder and then performing data extraction from these images is certainly not new.  In fact it is probably the most commonly used method to get images into document management systems, however there are certain considerations to take into account when using this capture technique.  Just because it’s simple to configure, cost effective and works, this does not mean that it is necessarily the most effective.  For some of the reasons I will elaborate below the year of 2010 saw a dramatic rise in The ‘No Folder Zone’.


A truly integrated document capture strategy has some of these qualities that scanning to folders may lack:

  • Reduce complexity of the capture system through centralized control
  • Enforce business continuity from the repository, not desktop
  • Eliminate the need for rescanning and ensure optimal image quality

While there are several methods to get an image into a document management system (including scanning to a folder), what is just as, if not more, important is getting the properly associated metadata or index values with that image into your repository for search and retrieval purposes.  Otherwise your document management system is nothing more than a glorified publicly shared folder on the network where retrieval of these images is done by memory or found by file name only.  Scanning to a folder is not necessarily a bad thing based on your organizations particular requirements, however when many people are contributing scanned documents into a system this creates honest mistakes such as lack of consistency, decreased efficiency and potential security or retention risks.

The “Twilight Zone” is defined as “the ambiguous region between 2 categories, states, or conditions (usually containing some features of both)”.  This is a also a good description of The ‘No Folder Zone’.  While scanning to a folder, then importing might give the appearance of an integrated solution, the truth is the region of connectivity (integration) is ambiguous between capture and ECM repository.  A solid document capture system will contain the following certain qualities:

  • Changes in the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system should immediately be reflected in your document capture solution
  • Mapping of capture software index fields to ECM index fields is dynamic
  • Affords the system to be modified, changed or enhanced easily as organizational requirements change


My main point in writing this blog post about the ‘No Folder Zone’ is not to bash all that is wrong or point out potential pitfalls with scanning to folders.  In fact this is a great solution if this is truly what a particular organization requires.  However, far too often taking the simple approach of scanning to folders is the easy way to offer document scanning to users and many of the other issues this causes are not carefully considered.  As system administrators become more aware and truly understand some of the incredible advanced in document capture technology then hopefully they can appreciate that a well-designed document capture system can drastically help reduce labor costs, improve quicker access to information and be a strategic business advantage, as well as, improve adherence to compliance or regulatory standards.

The ‘No Folder Zone’

As always I appreciate the time you’ve spent to read this posting about The ‘No Folder Zone’ and how this trend is influencing the Document Capture business.  I welcome comments, feedback and/or constructive criticism.  Please feel free to click ‘The SharePoint effect’ graphic below to read about the second trend witnessed in 2010 that changed the Document Capture landscape forever.

-Kevin


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iPad updates

…and endless supply of “supporting applications” just to get your iPad updated!

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