Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Countdown to GDPR

Soon the new European data protection regulation will come into force. Are we ready to face it?
The entry into force of GDPR in Europe is imminent. The effective date is May 25, 2018 and by that day companies must be ready to comply with the new regulations. The consequences of non-compliance can range between 4% of the company's income or 20 million euros in fines.

However, many organizations have not yet implemented the appropriate and necessary processes and technologies to comply with this new regulation on the privacy of personal information. The cases of ransomware or leakware have increased in these last two years, with serious consequences for the economy and the prestige of its victims. Are we prepared to reduce the impact of these types of attacks on our companies, and to comply with GDPR?

GDPR is the most stringent data protection regulation in the world. It has been designed so that the individual has the greatest possible control over their personal data: how they are processed, used and stored. This has a special impact not only on multinational organizations with access to personal information of European citizens, but also on companies. 90% of corporate documents contain some type of personal information, whether customers, employees or third parties.

For this reason, the document management software used in a company is key to comply with the rules of protection of personal data and privacy. The software that we use to store our documents must guarantee the protection of the personal data of the individuals and help us in the management of the rights of the individuals and our obligations as data holders.

The functionalities available in the document management software should include the requests of the users, such as the "right to be forgotten", as well as the ability to qualify the information according to the levels of privacy and confidentiality. They must also give us the tools to make sure that we can report any incidents to the competent authority within 72 hours of the event.

It is important to consider performing a situation analysis to determine if our company and our document management software are prepared to comply with the GDPR standard. This analysis should include the following steps:

  • Analyze thoroughly the current situation of personal data management. It is important to define the incoming and outgoing data of the company: what information is stored, how it is processed, who accesses it, etc. This includes exchanges with suppliers, partners and government agencies, which should also comply with GDPR.
  • Define what data is unnecessary. You can't accumulate data regardless. Each stored data must have its reason for being now and should not be stored for future potential use. This will reduce the responsibility and the workload on that data.
  • Identify those interactions with clients that require their permission, or in which they should be notified. You must work on terms that meet the requirements of the standard and at the same time are not complicated to understand. These documents must be easily available to the client.
  • Identify other actors involved. The fulfillment of the norm is extinguished if one piece in our chain of access to the information is not fulfilling it. The rules of personal data deletion applies to the entire chain. As part of compliance, we must notify third parties who access our data, for the corresponding elimination on their side.
  • Define the "right to access" correctly. This is an aspect that includes several facets. Our clients should not only know that they have the right to obtain a copy of their data, but should establish the mechanism by which they can do so. This is a joint task for the technology area and the legal area. The document manager will be key in this aspect.
  • Develop a violation notification process. GDPR requires that we notify the appropriate data protection agency when there is a possibility that user data may have been accessed in an unauthorized manner. The regulation specifies a window of 72 hours. The processes and mechanisms to make this notification, and the texts and messages that will be sent must be defined. A specific workflow for the management of these incidents is a technological tool that can be used.
  • Hire additional specialists if necessary. Or assign the task to someone from the company. But the transition must have a leader. The standard contemplates the figure of the "Data Protection Officer" (DPO).
There is little margin in terms of time to adapt to the regulations, but with the right tools, a quick transition can be achieved. The situation analysis must be approached by manageable stages to reach a good port, in such a way that the transition is as traumatic as possible.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Semantic Tagging in with Athento

Below we will learn how it is possible to use the Athento app on to tag documents automatically. Follow our semantic tagging tutorial for Box. is one of the largest companies in the exchange, storage and collaboration with files and documents in the cloud. According to the Gartner Magic Quadrant, Box continues to be a leader in the Collaboration market in 2017, backed by its more than 74,000 corporate clients.

One of the most frequent challenges encountered by users working in FileSharing applications is the control over the organization of documents.

Today we are going to show you how it's possible - automatically - to achieve an organization and virtual categorization through tags generated by the Athento app in Box.

Semantic tagging

Semantic technologies, in very simple language, seek to find meaning within a given set of data. If we transfer the application of semantic technologies to the world of documents and, specifically, to semantic tagging, the goal is for these technologies to be able to "understand" what the text of the document is about and return a series of concepts or entities that describe that text. That is, technology that will tell us what the document is about without us having to read it.

So far the semantic application. Then, we have the power of a very simple but useful functionality: labels. Labels help us access all the documents that share a given label. If the labeling has been semantic, it allows us to access all the documents whose content refers to the same concepts or entities.

That is, we create a virtual classification, detached from a physical folder structure, which allows us to access documents whose meaning is related or shared by entities (names of people, companies, cities, themes, etc.)

Let's now explain step by step how to do semantic tagging on with Athento.

Tutorial: Athento's Semantic tagging in Box

You can follow  this tutorial step by step to do semantic tagging in thanks to the Athento application. All you need is to have a Box account, free or paid. Once you have your account, you only need to continue with the following steps to tag documents automatically with Athento in Box.

1. Install the application: To do this, within the Box applications, look for "Athento". This option is found in your user menu, in the upper right corner of the screen. In applications, you can put "Athento" in the search engine. When you find it, you have to add it from the left panel and then choose the option to accept.

2. Upload documents: If you are already a Box user and you have your documents there, you do not need to upload any new documents. If you have made a Box account to test Athento's semantic tagging, you must go to the document panel and upload a new document. You can do it by dragging it from the desktop to the web or from the "Load" option in the corner panel. Important, the automatic labeling in its free version is only available for PDF files.

3. Analyze the document with the Athento app: We locate the file and select the option of 3 ellipses "more options", which appears to the right of the file name. In the options that appear we go to "Integrations" and then select "Athento Semantic Tagging". Finally, we accept and wait for the result.

4. Review the results: Wait for Athento to extract the text from the document (OCR) and then apply its semantic technology. When the result is ready, you will see a green message at the top of the screen. You will see the new labels under the name of the document.

Semantic tagging on is quite easy, as you have seen in this tutorial. For clients with more complex needs, the Athento team can activate specific ontologies (related to your business), as well as massively analyze the documents.


Monday, November 6, 2017

Reasons to use MongoDB (NoSQL) as your ECM's Database

In this article we will explore the advantages of using NoSQL databases such as MongoDB to store data and documents

MongoDB is currently one of the most popular NoSQL databases. Unlike relational data bases, the data is not stored in tables, but rather flat files are used in JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) format, which is a widely used standard among a large number of current applications. This allows the integration between MongoDB and these applications much easier.

The term NoSQL refers to "Not only SQL". This means that NoSQL does not use a relational model, and this is useful when the structures of the data you use can vary. It is possible to make changes to the schemas without having to stop the database. NoSQL data bases can be adapted to real projects more easily than an entity-relationship model.
It also has a decentralized structure, which allows it to use distributed schemes. This feature makes it easily scalable. The scalability is horizontal: you can use more machines with less computing capacity, instead of having to resort to a single, more powerful machine. The choice of a NoSQL database is more reasonable if you do not have a large budget for equipment.

Another advantage is that in a NoSQL database, queries for large amounts of data are optimized. To give you an idea, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit or Foursquare use NoSQL databases.

Regarding the limitations of NoSQL, the NoSQL databases do not offer such strict control over the atomicity of transactions. This is a significant advantage in relational databases. The atomicity, is what allows to perform a complete operation involving several tables, without there being changes in the environment, before the transaction ends completely. That is, either the entire transaction is carried out or it is not carried out. For example, the atomicity ensures that in a bank transfer, the transaction is not half done, but if the money is entered into an account, it must leave the other. While this quality impacts the performance of the database, atomicity is what maintains the integrity of the data and, eventually, allows an ordered rollback, if necessary. The NoSQL databases, on the other hand, support an eventual consistency of the data.

The relational model already has more than 40 years of use, so the evolution of the products and the tools of relational databases have a great maturation. The NoSQL databases are not yet fully standardized, so each of them has its own characteristics in terms of queries and does not necessarily maintain compatibility with SQL statements. However, the fact that today has to deal with such large amounts of data, open an extensive panorama for these repositories of data. NoSQL is a good option for those companies that detect performance and scalability problems or costs due to large volumes of data.

Use in Document Management Systems

In a document management system, with large volumes of documents and high numbers of query, write or update transactions, the use of a NoSQL scheme is much more efficient.

The relational data bases require that a schema shall be defined, which is no more than a structure described in some formal language interpreted by the database engine and that describes the skeleton of the existing tables and their interrelation. This introduces a limitation, since the metadata of the stored documents will be restricted to the data type defined in this schema. This limitation does not exist in a NoSQL database.

In addition, within each table you must define restrictions regarding the rows and columns, as well as the data type that can be stored in each column. With NoSQL, based on the type of data, the definition of this restriction is automated, reducing the time spent for development.
The high performance and high scalability of MongoDB makes it ideal for a system of this type. In addition to providing a JSON document structure, it supports a dynamic schema called BSON. In a relational database, files can be stored as BLOB (binary large objects) data types, which have a maximum size of approximately 4.25 Gbytes, which indicates a limit to the maximum size of the stored document. Although MongoDB supports a maximum size of 16Mbytes per document, this limitation can be overcome if GridFS is used, which divides the file into pieces in order to store it, allowing the total size to be virtually unlimited.

It also has a feature called "sharding", which is what allows load balancing between servers, by assigning different data to each one of them, and in this way the query task and data insertion are distributed. A mapping or transformation between the objects of the application and the objects in the database is not necessary. It uses internal memory to store the work set, which allows faster access to data. MongoDB supports dynamic queries using a powerful document-based query language.

These general characteristics make MongoDB the most suitable database mechanism to be used in a document management system.


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%.

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