Monday, September 4, 2017

How to put in production an ECM 9 month project in 2 months?

This month our team delivered Athento into production for the colombian subsidiary of a large french company. An important project for us, but with very tight time constraints. Also important for our customer, since it was a core business process to improve.

If you had to guess how we did it, you could think it was done by doubling or tripling the human resources in the project. But, in our sector, it's very hard to bring people to a project in such a short period of time because it requires knowledge over specific technologies and learning takes time. So adding resources to the project was not our approach to this challenge.

These are the key elements that have let us implement a 9 month project in 2 months:

1. Prioritize that the users can do their job over any other requirement
In the first place, we prioritized that the process could be carried out taking into account and involving the end users of the system. We sacrificed some things along the way, so that everything that could be dispensable in the start up, we left for a post production phase. We made this decision because the goal was to get users to do their job and comply with internal SLAs. This is not easy because we have to do a prioritization work together with business, and get everyone to agree on what are the functionalities that are essential both technologically and operationally.

2. Onboard users to the use case development 
From the beginning we had end users doing tests, giving feedback of what we showed them, regardless of wether it would work or not. This feedback was important to know that we were doing things well and that the goal of putting a functional tool for the process was going to be met or not.

3. Prioritize product vs customized software development for each project
This is not something to be decided solely for one project. It's a company philosophy. We have been working very hard this last two years in tools that let us accelerate the product development, like Athento Rhombus, which lets you customize the document management tool without programming. Thanks to this tool we can go faster customizing the product and its maintenance.

As we told in a previous post about Requirements Gathering: 3 Lessons Learned, understanding what each customer needs is key to ensure the success of a software project. And this translates in understanding the importance that each project milestone has for the customer, both from the technical and from the business side.

In our Resources section of our website you can see how we have helped other customers transform their document processes.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

How to ensure a good Document Management RFP?

Many companies face having to launch a Document Management RFP (Request for Proposal). Some have RFP templates they re-use, while others start from scratch.

Whichever method you choose, launching an RFP involves a lot of work:

  • Before drawing up the RFP
  • While drawing up the RFP
  • During the selection of the successful company

With technical and business teams facing such a large volume of work, you would at least hope this work bears fruit and leads to the selection of the tool that best satisfies the needs that have led to the undertaking of a Document Management System RFP.

Nevertheless, many companies fail when trying to find a provider that will present them with the greatest possible benefit from an acceptable investment. Why? I think it's because they fail to share their true business needs with providers.

Many companies fail when trying to find a supplier that will present them with the greatest possible benefit from an acceptable investment. Why? I think it's because they fail to share their true business needs with providers.

When I looked into this issue, I found interesting articles, such as Carrie Hane's, which highlights the 5 reasons your RFP sucks:
  1. It doesn't focus on a problem to be solved
  2. It is a list of requirements
  3. It is sent out blindly
  4. What you want doesn't match your budget
  5. It asks for innovative ideas, added value, etc.

When reading this list, it feels like Hane works in sales and has had to deal with quite a few RFPs. In my opinion, the first 3 are clearly the ones that determine whether a tender succeeds or fails.

I want this to be a positive post, so, instead of telling you what not to do, I am going to talk about the 3 things that, in my experience, all teams should do to ensure a good Document Management RFP.

1. Find out and write down why you need a document management system

You don't or shouldn't buy/hire a document management system because all companies need to manage documents and that's it.

A project based on criteria like this one is destined to be sidelined every time a more urgent need arises within the company.

Document management software is acquired because there is a specific need:

  • Legal, audits, quality (compliance).
  • A process in which money is being lost or where there is a clear margin for optimisation and cost savings.
  • We already have a document manager that is about to collapse.
  • Information security is at risk.

This need must be well defined and justified, but not only in terms of defending the project internally. If the project remains unclear and we fail to convey it to those invited to take part in the RFP, the providers will not be able to help us solve our problem.

If the requirement that leads us to draw up an RFP is not clear and we fail to convey it to those invited to take part in the RFP, the providers will not be able to help us solve our problem.
Most teams focus on searching for specific functions. I recommend you focus on looking at how a tool can solve your problem.

2. Become an informed shopper

Some decisions are made based on feelings: I buy a Coke because I'm thirsty and I would like to have a Coke. A Coke will cost €3 at the most (at an airport), so not stopping and thinking whether buying a Coke is a good decision is a risk we can take.

Nevertheless, when we launch a Document Management RFP, we are usually talking about budgets of more than €50,000. That's 17,000 Cokes. It is therefore worth finding out what we want to buy and what is on offer before launching the RFP.

Some things you can do:

  1. Search for price comparisons
  2. Look at public pricing
  3. Request quotes
  4. Read articles from Document Management experts
  5. Talk to companies from the industry or from other industries that have already gone through a document management selection process.
  6. Test product demos or request demonstrations.

The idea is that, before launching the RFP, you know:

  • What your price range is
  • Who you would like to invite or what products you like or are a good fit.

3. Instead of a list of requirements, make a list of use cases

80% of functions requested in an RFP are not critical for users.
Eighty per cent of functions requested in an RFP are not critical for users. There is also a problem with functionality being defined in a single line, with each party interpreting that line as well as they can or wish. This especially happens when the list of requirements comes in an Excel. In this case, not even providers have enough space to explain our interpretation of the function, so neither client nor provider is sure they understand each other.

I recommend explaining specific use cases: "We need to gather documentation and information about Money Laundering Prevention from possible purchasers. We need to know at all times what we are waiting to receive, in order to ensure the documentation is complete. We receive documents via email."

This is a clearly very short case study, but it will give the provider a clear idea of your needs. It is the provider's job to explain to you how their tool can help you solve this technical challenge.

4. Ask the provider to help you see how some of their other clients have solved problems like yours

One of the biggest challenges being faced by those undertaking an RFP is that they do not know how they can solve their specific problems using a tool.

One of the biggest challenges being faced by those undertaking an RFP is that they do not know how they can solve their specific problems using a tool.

They do not know what the tool can do or whether what they are considering is feasible.

In this situation, the best thing to do is explain the problem to the provider and ask: Do you have a client with a problem like ours that you helped solve?

References are normally requested in order to evaluate how serious and reliable the provider is. I suggest you ask for references in order to understand how a tool can solve a specific problem.

I hope this post has been clear and interesting.

See you soon! Download this case study Share

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Athento adds improvements to EasyShare for sharing documents

As you know, Athento ECM has a plugin that lets you share documents with users from outside the platform. This document-sharing feature is called EasyShare. Users can send one or several documents via a URL to other users who do not have user IDs and passwords for the platform. External users who have the URL can then download documents and the user who sent the link is notified when the download takes place. The URL also has an expiry date, defined by the user sending the link. This function is provided by other services such as Hightail and Dropbox, but with the added advantage that documents are permanently found in the document manager, with their metadata, version control, etc.

We have developed some improvements to this plugin's usability while also adding elements requested by users to make this function much more useful. Now, EasyShare folders have two new buttons that are explained below.

Copying the URL

Users now have a button to copy the download link, without having to right-click on their mouse. This function will be useful when sharing the URL via messaging tools such as Skype, Slack, Whatsapp, etc.

Send via email

If you want to directly send the download link for your documents via email, the Send by Email button will be useful. This was a small improvement that had been requested by many clients and which is now ready for everyone to enjoy. By clicking on the button, you can enter an email address where the link will be sent.

The email user specified in the previous step will receive an email like the sample message below.

We hope you enjoy this new version of the EasyShare plugin.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Athento: One of the 20 Most Promising ECM Solution Providers of 2016

Athento has been selected as one of the 20 Most Promising ECM Solution Providers of 2016 by CIOReview, in acknowledgement of the investment in our product made by the company over the past two years.

Athento was selected from among more than 300 businesses that offer Enterprise Content Management services, for being a company that is at the forefront of dealing with current ECM challenges.

As well as this acknowledgement, the Enterprise Content Management special published by the media outlet every year in print and digital versions, which features industry leaders such as Mark Barrenechea (OpenText CEO), Tomas Phelps IV (VP of Corporate Strategy & CIO at Laserfiche) and Scott Craig (VP of Product Marketing at Lexmark), also includes an interview with our CEO about the vision and evolution of the product, called Simplifying Document Management.

The evolution of the smart document capture platform

According to CIOReview, Athento helps business leaders respond to emerging technologies, drive innovation and reach strategic business goals in the era of digitization.

One of the key factors contributing to our inclusion in the list is Athento's commitment to intelligent features such as automatic document classification and data extraction. Athento helps international companies such as Reed Elsevier and Inditex carry out automatic information classification and extraction processes.

Power and Speed

Through the rapid development of Athento's customization tool Rhombus, over the past year, we have empowered users and obtained shorter and more efficient document management projects. The power of Rhombus and its ease of use mean we can implement complex processes in the document manager more quickly. This is exemplified by clients such as Barclaycard, which reduced its Customer Onboarding process from 14 to 4 days, and Páginas Amarillas, which saw the number of Document Management-related incidents fall by 95%.

Download this success case Share

Monday, November 28, 2016

Elasticsearch fine tuning for optimal ECM performance in Nuxeo

One of the key elements for any Enterprise Content Management tool is its ability to scale. At Athento, we base the core ECM in Nuxeo, precisely for scalability reasons.

In October of 2014, Nuxeo reached an important milestone in ECM scalability and performance, achieving One Billion Documents with Elasticsearch and PostgreSQL as the database.

Alfresco, another key player in Enterprise Content Managament and perhaps one of the leaders according to Gartner published a similar milestone achievement, but they had to wait one full year later (October 2015).

Nuxeo has kept making progress ever since, innovating in providing NOSQL support for the MongoDB Database. But recently we found an article named "Goodbye MongoDB hello PostgreSQL" about transitioning back from Mongo to Postgres once again.

There are some hints in Nuxeo documentation about recommended tuning of Elasticsearch node, in which it includes having half of the total memory (RAM) size for the Elasticsearch Heap Size (in the example, 6g in a machine with a total of 12g). But this post is mainly about setting Page Provider to query over Elasticsearch instead of a less efficient SQL Database. In our experience, this can improve slow queries of 5, 7 or 10 seconds to under 1 second, and typically in the range of 0 to 200 ms.

In this sense there is documentation: How to make a Page Provider or Content View Query Elasticsearch, but the Page Providers can be set up also from the Administrator Panel:

And scrolling all the way down you can select "Advanced setup" button here:

You'll be notified the advanced setup is for advanced users.

And inside the advanced setup area scroll down to the elasticsearch.override.pageproviders

You can see by default "default_search" appears, but you can add most providers, here is a complete list based on our experience:

elasticsearch.override.pageproviders=default_search,document_content,section_content,document_content,tree_children,default_document_suggestion,simple_search,advanced_search,nxql_search,DEFAULT_DOCUMENT_SUGGESTION, GET_TASKS_FOR_ACTORS, GET_TASKS_FOR_PROCESS,GET_TASKS_FOR_PROCESS_AND_ACTORS, GET_TASKS_FOR_PROCESS_AND_NODE, GET_TASKS_FOR_TARGET_DOCUMENT, GET_TASKS_FOR_TARGET_DOCUMENT_AND_ACTORS, GET_TASKS_FOR_TARGET_DOCUMENTS, GET_TASKS_FOR_TARGET_DOCUMENTS_AND_ACTORS, GET_TASKS_FOR_TARGET_DOCUMENTS_AND_ACTORS_OR_DELEGATED_ACTORS, SAVED_SEARCHES, user_sections, user_workspaces, user_documents, user_favorites, domain_published_documents, GET_TASKS_FOR_ACTORS_OR_DELEGATED_ACTORS, domain_documents

One of the few Page Providers NOT to use with Elasticsearch is the one used by the content view orderable_document_content.

The reason why is because this involves reindexing the position of documents, which has a high cost.

To summarize: enabling a separate physical or virtual machine with an Elasticsearch separate instance (it's not recommended to use the by-default embedded version that Nuxeo provides) will enhance performance a great deal, by adding the Page Providers discussed.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Athento integrates its document capture software with Alfresco 5.x

Now you can export processed documents from Athento’s document capture module to Alfresco Enterprise and Community editions.

Thanks to Athento’s document capture module -Athento Smart Engine-, auto-classified documents can be sent to Alfresco with their metadata already extracted. 

San Jose, CA. February 10, 2016

Athento Smart Engine, the document capture software by Athento, is now integrated with Alfresco. The integration, available for versions 5 and up, will provide Alfresco  ECM software users with a data capturing application for carrying out automatic operations related to digital document handling, including dividing batches, automatically classifying documents, OCR and data extraction.

Integration is carried out using CMIS 1.0, which lets users export documents and data from Athento to the Alfresco platform.

According to the Athento CEO Jose Luis de la Rosa,

“The benefit of using CMIS as the vehicle for integration is that it allows integration to become easily configurable and can potentially be used for any version of Alfresco that supports CMIS”

Athento’s Documentation Center now provides information on how to integrate Athento and Alfresco. The integration between the two platforms means storage folders and routes in Alfresco can be dynamically defined, according to metadata values or document types.  It also allows data extracted from documents to be sent to Alfresco.

In addition to the CMIS integration, Athento Smart Engine has an API that provides access to its features as services. Athento SE is available as a cloud service and also for on-premise deployments.

About Athento:

Athento incorporates cutting-edge technology such as Machine Learning, Semantics and Image Processing to automate processes related to working with document capture, document management, storage and all those operations needed to cover the complete life cycle of documents. Athento currently works with more than 100 clients in Europe, Africa and the Americas. It also works with a wide-reaching network of authorized partners, and is the product that has been chosen by Barclaycard, Reed Elsevier, Leroy Merlin, Yellow Pages and the Spanish General Traffic Directorate to manage documents.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014