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Information Network delivers on turnkey records management

This article appears in the issue December 1998 [Volume 7, Issue 13]

Your organization's KM initiatives will probably fail unless you directly address your records management requirements--starting today. Why? Your organization must comply with various regulations to keep running. To meet and demonstrate compliance you must manage--capture, track, control--information from a myriad of systems in the normal course of business. That is a serious endeavor that neither vendors nor user organizations are quite ready to tackle. Effective RM solutions simply don't exist for anything much beyond office documents and perhaps E-mail. You essentially have to select products that have addressed the easier parts of the problem and hope they will evolve solutions in time for you to apply them. Everyone is pretty much in the same boat.

One RM software vendor that has nicely solved the problems of physical RM and has a good solution for the simpler types of electronic records is Information Network (www.intorm.com). IN is a company with vertical expertise and implementations in highly regulated industries such as petrochemical (e.g. Shell and Pennzoil), transportation and distribution.

We recently evaluated IN's InSight 32 automated records management system and found that it offers an easy-to-deploy, easy-to-use solution for the management of records and information resources. Smaller installations require little or no IT support--good news from an administrative standpoint, because many RM implementations receive little IT support. InSight can use a Microsoft Access, SQL Server or Oracle database, and provides a simple way to migrate from Access to SQL.

IN clearly knows records management. The company understands that many enterprises have localized records repositories, as well as active, centralized collections. It also recognizes that electronic RM systems are often acquired initially as an interim departmental solution, but eventually become a primary system used across multiple departments. IN thus supports phased deployments, which is critical in most large organizations.

InSight architecture

InSight is a client-server records management system that processes requests at the server. Three suites may be used within InSight: the Main Suite for users, the Records Suite for records managers and the System Suite for IT. The system can run in Windows NT, Novell NetWare and Banyan networks. Clients connect to SQL databases via ODBC.

InSight ships with Microsoft Access as the database as well as the back-end graphic user interface utility. Because Access has such broad market penetration, chances are good that customers will not need to add a database administrator or specialist for installation and maintenance of the InSight database. Providing a turnkey records management tool with an Access back end means that IN can more easily secure a foothold at client sites, by leveraging the ability to gain quick approvals through IT processes.

For larger deployments, InSight is also compatible with SQL databases, and the company recommends using a SQL database for systems of more than 20 users or databases of more than 50,000 records. At that stage, of course, an organization will need IT resources for deployment, including assistance from a database administrator.

With increasing clientside interaction for electronic records management, RM products require more robust back ends, and a middle tier to broker database connectivity and reduce the client footprint. IN has made strides in that direction with SQL database support and the release of its 32-bit solution. IN also offers a three-tier Web solution called InSight EveryWhere, which provides direct access to InSight 32.

IN integrates to publishing, imaging and content searching engines using OLE, DDE, API ADO, ASP and DLL technology. Current development efforts include integration with 32-bit EDMS products.

Key features

The following are some key features of InSight:

  • Use of roles--InSight's use of roles is impressive. The application comes with 10 predefined roles, and users may have a combination of roles. Packaged roles include requester roles (InSight users who can search, request, request to add, view and print reports), performer roles (such as data entry, records center staff, records coordinators and records analysts who contribute policy updates and initiate policy-driven destruction processes) and administration roles (for database and user management functions).

  • Employs Action Technologies' (www.actiontech .com) conversation model for workflow--IN's strategy is to improve the RM process by targeting the request and acknowledgment stages for physical records, and by retrieving electronic documents via InSight's ability to launch registered Windows applications or other integrated third-party applications. Using Action Technologies' conversation model for workflow, customers initiate and negotiate requests for actions with a "performer." The performer fulfills the request by executing the action and then sends the customer an acknowledgment.

  • Scalable RM solution--InSight provides client-server records management for a departmental deployment, but also supports a phased deployment to multiple departments (perhaps geographically distributed), with each group keeping separate records inventories and repositories.

  • Support for database extensions via InterLink module--The optional InterLink component allows authorized visibility into collections and the ability to integrate processing with other databases. That allows line-of-business databases to be programmatically integrated with the records management database. The InterLink module includes a charge-back report.

  • Optional space management module--InSight provides an optional space management module that can track location, container type, equipment type, address information and space inventory in large containerized collections (e.g. more than 20,000 boxes). That is helpful for tracking the exact location of a folder, tube or box used to store records.

  • Three-tier Web solution--To address the need for an Internet/intranet solution, IN introduced InSight EveryWhere Version 1.0 in fall 1997. The latest version of the product lets users customize search forms, perform content searches and view electronic documents and InterLinked database hits.

Room for improvement

InSight provides good RM functionality; however, it is currently stronger for physical records than electronic records. And InSight's Web client is essentially a solution for users to search and request rather than perform records administration tasks. Expect IN to move beyond those basics in future releases. Furthermore, users unfamiliar with RM may need to spend some time learning the system; the use of wizards and more intuitive interfaces would help reduce learning time. Fortunately, though, administrators can easily add custom help to every field, minimizing IT support needs.

But even with those drawbacks, we consider InSight 32 to be a strong offering. For organizations that need strong management for physical records and space, yet also need to minimize requirements for IT resources, InSight definitely fits the bill.


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