Future Decoded 2017



What is Future Decoded? A large gathering of businesses showing how they’ve benefitted from changing how they work, showing how they are exploiting technology for serious financial improvement, doing things that have been impossible and getting people totally on board with big changes. Keynote speakers showed how their sectors and their organisations are changing, ranging from healthcare to financial services, and industrial power to public services.

So, just another technology showcase? Well yes, and no. A keynote from Hiscox gives a flavour of what it’s all about. They needed to review insurance records to determine claims and risk levels in order to anticipate their future financial model and necessary funding. That amounted to one billion records to review and analyse, which IT estimated would take eight months and cost millions of pounds. They actually carried out the exercise using people in the line of business, using cloud-based cognitive services that took twelve hours and cost £600. Their CTO Jonathan Fletcher says it still blows his mind every time he thinks about it. What that means is your IT strategy may have imploded, which could be the best thing that’s ever happened. The information itself is the vital spark in your organisation. The ways we used to try and structure it and bog it down in silos is failing us and is a bankrupt model. To be fair, we all spent a lot of money making the best of what was available and trying to grapple with non-intuitive ways of doing things, like classifying information. The emerging model is server-less, API driven and using data at the Edge. Centrica's stand emphasised the move to IoT, working on data at the edge and using AI to deliver smarter heating services to home.

Knowing about the technology is of course useful, especially as it is changing so fast. More important are the explanations of the benefits, and obstacles that people have experienced and share. The first big theme was how to create a culture of digital transformation. The behaviour of people in your organisation has a massive influence on your ability to change and has been the subject of research by Microsoft, now available to read for free, see the link at the end of this blog.

Let’s cut to some data points from the research. Businesses are worried, with 53% saying they expect to be disrupted within two years, and we’re talking about significant impact. 47% have no digital transformation strategy, so aren’t able to work out what to do about it. For some big organisations ‘wait and see’ has translated into ‘wait and fail’. Once the disruption hits you, it may be too late to overcome and get back in the game. Much of this is driven by cultures and behaviours that are used to working in ‘execution mode’, they get stuff done. That’s very different to transformational thinking. Only 23% have plans to address those cultural issues. We also see evidence that in three years, 50% of the global workforce will be mobile and need to be better able to cope with that. Further research from several sources indicate many job functions will shrink massively or vanish, counterbalanced to some extent by people coming through the educational system now who will be performing jobs that don’t even exist today.

Bringing things back down to the practical, here now, and useful level, did you know that you can use Skype Translator to perform live translation during your phone calls into your choice of eight languages. You may also like to add a live text box to your slide deck that types your words as you present, into your choice of fifty language(s). This uses machine learning and improves as you use it.

At the opposite end of the scale we heard about developments in Microsoft’s approach Quantum Computing, which sounds like science fiction. I won’t dwell on the technology as the whole point is about what it can do and how it could be used. Microsoft aims to use it to tackle global warming, security, and develop new antibiotics for example. With the best traditional computing it is estimated to take billions of years to work out complex molecule behaviour, but that may take hours or days on a Quantum system – a massive boost to the efforts to synthesise new antibiotics for example. Imagine what it could do for simpler business analytical challenges. To make this practical it will be made available to organisations through a new Quantum programming language that will be incorporated in Microsoft Visual Studio, to democratise access to levels of compute power never even imagined before. This forms an extension to Azure. That facility will be available by the end of this year (www.microsoft.com/quantum).

You might be interested that tomorrow is ‘World Paper Free Day’. The Intelligent Information Management community is celebrating that and sharing some useful education http://www.aiim.org/Events-Section/VEvents/WPFD-2017-DigitalOffice

Microsoft have also just published a free eBook on Uniting your workforce, which helps with the digital journey and tackles the new ways people want to work, all of which helps your organisation improve performance. You may find you are already entitled to use a lot of the thing you will need, depending on your software agreement with Microsoft. Sword can help you on that journey.

Download the Microsoft research
At the event, Microsoft announced the release of their research on ‘Creating a culture of digital transformation’, highlighting the importance of the role of people and culture in adopting change.
Download the report now

eBook on uniting your workforce


Download the e-book.

Intelligent Information Management drives Digital Transformation

Blog by Neale Stidolph


13-14th September 2017 in Minneapolis & 5th October 2017 in London

Here’s a summary of discussions at the ELC USA and EMEA meetings about digital transformation. One of the first themes is the use of deep learning to displace the need for metadata, and records management being replaced by automation to a large extent. One of the big drains on information management has been the need for people to classify information and store it appropriately. This feels like it has become harder as the volume and diversity of information has accelerated. People aren’t good at organising content. The industry built systems that required considerable manual intervention, asking a lot of the people that used them. Real progress is now being made and that has the effect of making data more valuable.

In healthcare there have been many initiatives such as telemedicine, emergency room avoidance techniques, insurance and healthcare at home. They all helped to varying degrees but never delivered their full promise. In the U.S. healthcare cost $3.2 Trillion in 2015, and much of that relates to hospital services. Smarter use of data is making big inroads into those costs, and parallels can be drawn with many other sectors with lots of people, assets and resource constraints.

So what areas are bringing the improvements?

Great insights provided by Optum Technology that generated ideas for everyone.

The presentations moved on to consider legal implications of handling and analysing data. This is a vital subject to tackle due to the personal rights, financial risks and legislation that is having to adapt fast to a digital age. Business models need to be based on using data in a valid and legal manner, then ensure that it is protected. We heard in detail about the Equifax breach and this just underlined how vulnerable many organisations can be, and the risks they may expose us to. Technology won’t fix all this but the potential exists to shift information ownership and control more in the direction of the people the information belongs to. Such shifts rely on systems that can be made sufficiently open on the one hand, but extremely secure on the other. This isn’t just about protecting access to information, it’s about the trust and truth of the information. Blockchain technologies are developing fast and hold great promise in this area. It is highly appealing to avoid dependence on any specific agency when it comes to our information. Even the largest corporations can get into bad information handling situations, we need people to be able to take back more control and restore faith in our information. That gives us a more stable basis for value and benefits through applying AI and other smart technologies to that data.

Further thoughts on the rapid emergence of Blockchain-based services:

Corporations won’t have to build all these things, they will start appearing within services and solutions.

The shift from Enterprise Content Management to a more federated, agile and open model continues – which we refer to as Content Services. This concept is worth looking into for your organisation as it moves away from dependence on a few centralised systems into a more app-based architecture where information can be more freely shared across systems. This model enables more rapid delivery of value, can be more iterative, at lower costs and permits lower risk evolution. The point of all that is to let businesses transform and adapt to new operating models more effectively.

So, we can all get carried away with the marvels of new technology. One effect we looked at is the lag in customer experience. The tools may be awesome but people are confused as there are so many in use in our day to day lives. Apart from line-of-business apps it is common to be using LinkedIn, Yammer, Teams, Skype, Twitter, Outlook, Webmail, GoToMeeting, Evernote, Box, Dropbox, OneDrive, Office365 apps, perhaps Google apps too. People are jumping between a bewildering array of apps to ‘get stuff done’. Those apps change, often fast and get replaced by end users themselves not just via IT. The big pushes are going to come in overall user experience, which starts to pull things together way more effectively. That’s something Facebook has worked on with its internal Workplace tech, now available to everyone. They are all about the experience, but all the other vendors are working hard on that too. If you aren’t putting your focus on customers and users then the tech will fail to make the impact you expect.

If you want to discuss any of these themes or find out who could solve specific problems you can contact me via LinkedIn, Twitter or mail me at neale.stidolph@sword-group.com


Further information:

If you are interested in participating in the ELC, go here for more details http://www.aiim.org/elc

To learn about Intelligent Information Management, get the free ebook here http://info.aiim.org/the-next-wave-from-ecm-to-intelligent-information-management-aiim


and http://info.aiim.org/intelligent-information-management-defining-a-new-age


Blog by Barry Milligan, Head of Public Sector Sales

Public sector bodies are under constant pressure to ensure they deliver a high quality service to their citizens, while at the same time making certain that taxpayers are getting value for money. However, at a time when many organisations are dealing with austerity measures and restricted budgets, the need to do more with less is greater than ever.

That is why having the right technology is so important for public sector bodies. Whether it is local councils or the NHS, having the most appropriate tools available makes critical processes much more efficient, and gives employees the power to make the best decisions faster, with the benefit of all available information.

For local councils, Windows 10 solutions offer employees better flexibility and productivity. 2-in-1 tools that combine tablet and PC capabilities into a single device ensure that personnel are able to access the same high-quality experience and apps wherever they are, so whether they are in the office or out in the field, they will always have the most up-to-date information at their fingertips.

When workers are out of the office, they will still need to keep in touch with their colleagues, so a strong communications and collaboration solution is essential.

Most organisations are beginning to understand that Windows 10 is not just another Microsoft operating system release.  Taking full advantage of Windows 10 is drastically different than just installing the new operating system and making sure that applications still work.  If implemented correctly, it’s a fundamentally different approach for users, IT, and security that represents a key part of your transformation to a digital workplace.

Organisations now looking to adopt Windows 10 will have usually already identified shortfalls with their traditional end user environment and are unable to introduce new services or are perhaps concerned about the on-going vendor support for their legacy systems. Combined with the timescales regarding end-of-life support for Windows 7 organisations are now reaching out for advice and help to plan and execute their Windows 10 upgrade programme.

Using a proven set of tools and procedures our consultants have successfully delivered production pilots, upgrading 500 devices to Windows 10 to Public Sector organisations over an eight week period. In addition to migrating the initial batch of devices our approach incorporates knowledge transfer to existing staff, which in turn allows them to continue the migration process.

Here is some customer feedback from Marius de Munnink (NHS NATIONAL SERVICES SCOTLAND). “During March and April of this year the NHS National Services Scotland (NSS) engaged with external consultants, Sword IT Solutions to deliver a Microsoft sponsored accelerated Window 10 production pilot deployment. The scope of work included the planning, a technical solution design and the migration of 500 devices to Microsoft Window 10 Enterprise.

The engagement proved to be hugely successful and beneficial in enabling the NSS to enhance our capabilities to automate our Windows 10 rollout. Not only in terms of a viable reference image but also incorporating this into a revised SCCM task sequence.

Notwithstanding the tight timescales this very successful engagement with Sword IT Solutions exceeded our expectations of what was possible within the framework allowed under the Microsoft program. The work was completed on time and achieved all of the objectives and more.

 The NHS NSS has no hesitation in recommending Sword IT Solutions for any work in this regard.”


You are welcome to get in touch for a no-obligation discussion about how to tackle this key aspect of your digital workplace journey.

You can contact me via email at barry.milligan@sword-group.com

By Steven Black, part two of a series of three technical blogs that focus on Windows 10.

Microsoft added the SCCM servicing feature for Windows 10 to manage Windows 10 upgrades. Using the feature in production environments has raised a few issues with its deployment method and the inconsistent scheduling of Windows 10 upgrades.

This article presents an alternative method of deploying upgrades that put you in control of scheduling and the production configuration of the upgraded Windows 10 operating system.


Microsoft’s Current Servicing Model for Windows 10

Windows 10 upgrades will, apparently, be made available twice a year. The exact month each upgrade is available are likely to vary from year to year if Windows 10 releases to date are indicators of what is to come. This leaves you largely at the mercy of Microsoft in planning update cycles for Windows 10.

When Windows 10 upgrades are available and deployed directly from media or using the Windows 10 servicing feature in SCCM, the resulting upgraded operating system may have re-installed many of the modern Windows applications you may have previously removed.

Both of these scenarios are far from ideal, requiring business buy-in, communications, and flexibility throughout the year as well as re-working of upgraded operating systems to remove what was re-installed.

Our Alternative Windows 10 Servicing Model

The alternative model we propose will allow you to control both the schedule and the final configuration of the upgrade when it is complete. It comprises two distinct parts – scheduling and deployment.


Microsoft plan release two Windows 10 upgrades per year, each upwards of 3GB in size, with deployment times of between 45 minutes on SSD equipped devices to over 2 hours on older devices. If your estate has upwards of a few hundred devices this is a significant workload to add to what you already do. The upgrade releases presently have no set monthly release schedules. Asking the business to tolerate this could be a difficult task, as proving business value for each upgrade means re-evaluating afresh the features of each upgrade package.

An alternative approach is to set a schedule to deploy whatever version of Windows 10 is available in a consistent period each year. For example, if you select between beginning of June and end of August as the period and Windows 10 1703 is the latest version available then you deploy 1703 to your estate. Once deployed, you wait until the same period next year to do the same, but with the newer Current Branch for Business release version of Windows 10 available at that time.

The reasons for suggesting this approach are threefold. Firstly, the upgrade is a huge undertaking that requires considerable planning, communication, scheduling, and support. To do this twice a year is unrealistic in resource terms in many organisations. Secondly, the business impact of the upgrade is significant: network downloads to each workstation of over 3GB, users having to logout for an hour or more, and the service desk typically dealing with increased support calls following the upgrade. Repeating this twice a year is an enormous task. Lastly, Microsoft are not committing to set months for releases of Windows 10 upgrades. Consider the first two reasons and factor in the randomness of when they might occur and you have a highly undesirable situation that you probably want to avoid – twice a year.

Our suggested approach is in the diagram below. It is part of a yearly operate and maintain cycle for a Windows desktop operating environment. When the Windows 10 upgrades are complete, normal security patching services will resume. All of this is possible through SCCM.



Ideally, the deployment of Windows 10 upgrades should be via an SCCM task sequence. This puts you in control of the upgrade’s delivery and configuration.

In contrast, Windows 10 Servicing in SCCM is similar to WSUS – it will deliver the upgraded operating system as it comes – out of the box. Any customisations you have made to the existing build following the upgrade could be lost, and any applications you may want to remove or upgrade will remain as is.

Our approach upgrades Windows 10 using an SCCM task sequence. This allows you to uninstall applications prior to the upgrade, deliver the upgrade, and then customise the build by, for example, removing modern Windows applications, upgrading existing applications or installing new ones. Adding these and other customisations to the task sequence improves management and control of the build and the user experience.

Creating a task sequence for upgrading Windows 10 is something we have successfully carried out for many customers to date. You can use this for future Windows 10 upgrades to deliver a reliable and repeatable upgrade experience….once a year!


Steven Black

Principal Consultant


Blog by Neale Stidolph

Celebrating Corrie J. Green’s achievement in winning the BSc (Hons) Computing Application Software Development prize today. Corrie has been developing software for years, publishes games of his own and collaborates with established games developers. It is great to see such enthusiasm, skills and motivation. His interests include augmented reality and security – at a time when these fields are highly dynamic and show great promise. I’m sure his career will be fascinating and rewarding.


I’ve remained close to Robert Gordon University for many years as they do a fine job and encourage organisations to help guide their programmes through the Industrial Advisory Group.

Here’s an overview of the computer science BSc (Hons) showing just how much ground is covered. This builds solid skills that enables businesses to innovate, allowing for later specialisations.

BSc (Hons) Computer Science

If you are in a position to work with a local University, sponsor students or give prizes then know how much they appreciate it.

Neale and Corrie

You can contact me via LinkedIn, Twitter @nealestidolph or mail me at neale.stidolph@sword-group.com

If you work in Information Management in the Oil & Gas sector then you may be aware of some changes coming along. Yes, GDPR is coming along and we all know that, but what else?

The Oil & Gas Authority is carrying out a consultation on proposed changes to the Energy Act 2016 that have a bearing on what information must be held and introduces a specific job function that must be put in place.

Quick recap – the OGA came about following Sir Ian Wood’s review and the report ‘UKCS Maximising Recovery Review Final Report’ in 2014. The OGA exists to drive maximum economic recovery of oil & gas in the UK, and has increasing powers to ensure this happens – for the benefit of employment, energy security, taxation and supply chain.

The Energy Act 2016 will include key provisions for information:

  1. Regulations about retention of specific oil & gas information
  2. Enforce the reporting of information and timing of responses to written notices
  3. Define when the OGA will disclose information
  4. Requiring that Information & Samples Co-ordinators be appointed by oil & gas companies
  5. Require that information & samples plans be provided for specified UK license events

The purpose of this isn’t to make life more difficult, but to create better conditions for information sharing and analysis that will result in better economic production of oil & gas resources. This approach has been highlighted by initiatives such as the OGA’s involvement in new seismic data being gathered for the benefit of the industry, stimulating exploration.

What sort of information will be covered in the Act?

Now is the time to let your views be known in this consultation, and to assess how the proposed requirements might affect your organisation.

The Oil & Gas Authority link for the Energy Act 2016 consultation is here:


Responses are invited by the OGA before 25th August 2017 and the response will be published by 17th November 2017.

If you are interested in this topic you can contact me via LinkedIn, Twitter @nealestidolph or mail me at neale.stidolph@sword-group.com

Information Management is getting hot!

Blog by Neale Stidolph

14-15th June 2017 in Washington D.C. & 22nd June 2017 in London

We all hear the old tales that IM is necessary but perhaps not the most exciting topic. Business leaders don’t care for the mundane, so it is unfortunate that the practitioners of IM haven’t got them excited. Until now. IM is now one of the fastest growing sectors, but the rules of the game and the players are changing. Things are indeed getting hot in IM, which was well matched by the heat of D.C. and London over the past two weeks.

These notes came from my recent trips to Washington D.C. and London and represent my opinion based on what I heard and the conversations with people during and after these events. The first thing to note is that these summits are not sales pitches; they exist to test ideas and check the latest developments from the front line. The ideas, examples and thoughts came from greater minds than mine, you shall be relieved to know, but I can connect you with the people who specialise or have specific knowledge of points raised in this blog. AIIM will publish a ‘Trendscape’ based on the ELC meetings so treat this blog as informal and reflecting only my personal interpretation.

The first thing that should catch the eye of businesses is that things that were expensive, slow and hard have reached a tipping point, and a very dramatic one at that. At the same time, businesses are changing more quickly than ever – or are being wiped out by brand new business models and competitors. These situations are bringing business and IM together in a manner that most people have not seen before. Both parties seem a little surprised but are finding that they can actually get along well.

So, what’s going on?

The IM industry is convulsing, and may reach about 150 mergers/acquisitions this year, a scale that has not been seen before in this sector. Many large vendors are merging, but a number are struggling to change their business models as the technology is shifting so fast. They each risk cannibalising their old markets. On the flip side of that, there are dozens of startups coming along who are all about bringing new approaches to market. This is challenging for businesses used to buying from the big names, as their vision is now dubious or caught up in legacy issues. These vendors will likely have to make big acquisition cost synergies, simplify their offerings, keep old customers on board as long as possible whilst they spin up new solutions. They are fighting on many fronts. IM is one of the biggest growth areas in IT, but the names are changing.

Most corporations are not used to buying into new ways of doing things, there is a rush to be second or lag until things become well established and mainstream. That may be OK for your business if you have the time and money to wait. Here’s the forecast fall in employment, according to an Oxford Martin School study ‘The Future of Employment’.

This will also apply to many other roles where people are following rules, looking up information to give to others, and performing repetitive work.

Just a couple of years ago there was entrenched thinking; a disbelief in file sync/share such as Box, DropBox, OneDrive, mobility, and cloud tech. Much humble pie is being consumed. Hundreds of millions of pounds or more are being wagered by vendors betting on the future. We are now seeing many bets paying off and the losers fading away.

So here’s an example from the United Arab Emirates – All government to go fully digital by 2020 (and may beat that target, despite starting in 2016), based on Blockchain. UAE also founded the Blockchain Council. We’ve seen dramatic shifts elsewhere, such as the eResident scheme in Estonia. All paper records of identity such as passports, driving licenses, and a dozen more are now under one digital scheme. With that Digital Id you can set up a business in Estonia, conduct banking, deal with tax and never touch any paper, and you don’t even have to live there. Even the border permits paperless entry using your mobile phone.

Here’s another. In shipping the biggest transformation since containers is document control! 80% of the costs in shipping relate to delays caused by documents being wrong / badly prepared. Loads of time is lost stuck in ports whilst the authorities get the paperwork they need and check it all out, this can run into many weeks and impacts the whole supply chain. Shifting that into a digital process with independently verifiable document validity and audit trail means the difference between thriving and going out of business.

Why are they doing it? It’s easy, cheaper, faster and more secure. Why didn’t they do it before now? It was very difficult, expensive and slow to implement.

There appear to be five main components behind this IM revolution:

  1. Blockchain – an immutable record for authenticity spanning companies and firewalls
  2. Artifical Intelligence, inc. machine learning & deep learning
  3. Robotics – for the automation of processes, not big metal robots
  4. Internet of Things – or how to connect vast amounts of real-time data & manage it
  5. Cloud – drawing on huge storage & compute power as and when you need it

The pace is staggering. Old limitations are vanishing. For example, folks wonder if Microsoft SharePoint can hold ‘enough’ information for them. Hey, how does 30 Trillion Objects sound? Enough? IBM bought Box and we see Microsoft using 1,000 engineers to extend OneDrive. This is not your father’s File Share, for example people are building workflows and ECM-style function using Box. People want all their stuff however and wherever they need it; mobile, cloud, whatever.

There is also hazard in the new world of IM. Organisations will be using AI where it will not be possible to unpick all the inputs, data and decision making process. The computer may indeed say no, but you might not know why. Processes such as mortgage applications, tenders, and parole judgements are already becoming highly mechanised and automated. That will only increase. Business have to know that they are using the right information. It must be accurate and trusted. For critical situations such as automated surgery Humans will still be in the decision making loop (or, Human in the loop, HITL – to use an awful phrase). We wouldn’t want an algorithm to determine if we live or die.

This shift in smart tech is likely to disrupt the thing that kept the world of IM and business apart. The IM folks would try to get everyone to classify things and put them in special places. The business folks, and all right-thinking people hate doing that. So the IM world got full of people who could manage the information stores, record keeping and other necessary but dull things. As it turns out this can get very interesting and challenging if you happen to be National Archive (NARA, U.S.) and must work out how to preserve U.S. records in a world of emails, encryption and Twitter.

The result is that tech can come to the rescue and liberate businesses from the chores associated with information, and also change the focus of IM to be all about adding extra value to the business and not have to worry so much about governance.

A simple example of this is Microsoft Delve, powered by Graph. It will remind you what you’re working on, show you where it is and also be able to bring you information in context; such as the files you may need for a meeting you’re about to attend.

The ability to use insight based on information is startling. I heard that Netflix have been using deeply tuned & modified trailers for shows, based on the tastes of each individual viewer & their preferences. Imagine that, no standard trailer it just builds a trailer for you.

What we are seeing is that ‘IT’ is no longer in control and its usual mode of working with the business is quite broken. Developments that took years and cost millions such as ‘next best action’ advice for customer management can now be achieved with Chatbots on an almost plug-and-play basis. IM and IT skills needs to evolve fast to meet the new business opportunities. However, there is now a training fallacy – by the time you have trained a new person in a discipline it may be out of date. Example, applications for law degrees are collapsing. By the time you become a lawyer you won’t be needed.

An interesting point at the London session, “Agility rhymes with stability”. To be agile a business needs to have solid platforms, information & processes, enabling rapid solution design and deployment.

It has never been easier to change vendor as the tools and open connectors have improved so rapidly. Organisational culture and behaviour is likely to be the biggest brake on business improvement.

We can’t end a blog without mentioning GDPR, though in some ways I wish we could.

GDPR & Information Liabilities

You may not expect this, but a firm who stores archive boxes for your business will not know what is in your boxes, and your business may not understand what is in all your boxes either; but this does not stop both companies being legally liable for the content.

The big issue for business with GDPR will be culture and behaviour. People and businesses have to change mind-set and priorities; IT and IM alone will not save them – in fact, it can make it too easy to do ‘inadvisable’ things. Mind you, if we switched to a model where your personal data was held by you in a system based on Blockchain, with you controlling permissions then you could get back the control that has gone missing as vendors play with your details.

In conclusion, what might we take away from this? Well, the Association of Intelligent Information Management ‘AIIM’ makes the following comments, and if you would like a translation for any of it just ask me.

I hope this gives you some food for thought. If you want to discuss any of these themes or find out who could solve specific problems you can contact me via LinkedIn, Twitter or mail me at neale.stidolph@sword-group.com

Further information:

AIIM will be publishing findings from the ELC shortly. For more details see http://www.aiim.org/elc

Some of the speakers:

Robert Kahn, Founder and President, Corporation for National Research Initiatives – Credited as one of the Fathers of the Internet

Laurence Brewer, Chief Records Officer, National Archive (NARA, U.S.)

Henry Sienkiewicz – CEO of OTS; The Art of Cyber Conflict (book), and expert in security

Fact Based Analysis: Alan Pelz-Sharpe – Industry Analyst, Deep Analysis www.deep-analysis.net

D.C. Expert panel: Emerging and Disruptive Technologies – Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning

The Future of Information Management

Martyn Christian, Founder, UNDRSTND Group

John Newton, Co-Founder and CTO, Alfresco

‘Capture 2.0’ – Harvey Spencer, HSA

Theo Priestley, VP - Global Evangelist, SAP

London Expert panel: Emerging and Disruptive Technologies – Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning

By Steven Black

Nearly all organisations are going to move to Windows 10. Like it or not, the current operating systems we run will fall out of support, vendors will upgrade their applications, hardware manufacturers will no longer write drivers, and the Windows 10 train will take you aboard. Along the way you’ll gain a lot of features that will help with security and tighten up control of information.

Remember the last desktop upgrade project you did? Anyone who has done one never forgets it. The optimism at the start, then week after week having to negotiate schedules, upgrade desktops and laptops, resolve user problems after the upgrade, and the long tail at the end when it takes almost as long to do the remaining 5% of folks as it did for the previous 95%. It’s hardly surprising desktop migrations are viewed as a tricky and expensive things to do.

I wish I could say it will all be different for Windows 10 but – it depends. It depends on whether you upgrade, or opt for the traditional “wipe and load” when deploying Windows 10. By upgrading, you are only changing the underlying operating system; all of the applications and user profile settings remain as they were. This obviously means less disruption to the user as the upgrade time is less than a wipe and load and they lose none of their applications or profile customisations.

However, for upgrading, the fly, or more like flies, in the soup are that your applications have to be Windows 10 compatible or fixable by using shims, and any third party disk encryption software can be suitably configured to allow the upgrade to get past the first reboot.

To find out if your applications are compatible one of the best routes is to use the free Microsoft OMS Upgrade Readiness tool. This deploys an agent to your workstation estate which then reports application information back to the OMS cloud service. This in turn analyses the application data and, from its large knowledge base, tells you if your applications are compatible, compatible with shims, incompatible or unknown. This helps a lot in planning a Windows 10 deployment as you can quickly identify the machines that are potential upgrade candidates.

For disk encryption products it’s very much a matter of asking each vendor if or how they can allow the upgrade. Some, such as Symantec, provide guidance on how to upgrade. Others, such as PGP Desktop, will stop an upgrade before it begins. Decryption is always an option, but is impractical in the context of an enterprise deployment as it takes hours and may breach your security policy if carried out.

The success rate of upgrades is also a factor. In the field we have seen success rates of 90% or more on Windows 7 and 8.1 machines with relatively standard hardware and software configurations. The further you deviate away from standard the rate drops, as hardware drivers and unknown or incompatible applications prevent the upgrade.

Opting to upgrade is a sensible option if you want to minimise business disruption, have very few incompatible applications that are not in mainstream use, and can work around third party disk encryption to allow the upgrade to proceed. It does mandate testing beforehand to prove the consistency and reliability of the process, but this is true for wipe and load scenarios too.

This is part one of a series where we will bring you our experiences of deploying Windows 10 in the wild. I hope it has been useful – you can contact me on the email address below.


Steven Black

Principal Consultant



The widely reported chaos that has been caused by the WannaCrypt malware is being spread via an SMB1 vulnerability. The following Microsoft blog post, written in September 2016, provides background information on SMB1 and why you should no longer be using it:


If you haven’t already done so then please take a look at the Microsoft mitigation guidance for dealing with WannaCrypt in the following post:


Our recommended short-term and mid-to-long term actions are outlined below.

Short-term actions:
Deploy March 2017 Security Updates (these include the fix: MS17-010) for supported OSs (Vista, 7, 8.1, 10, Server 2008, 2008 R2, 2012, 2012 R2, 2016)

Deploy KB4012598 out-of-band update that MS have released for unsupported Oss (XP & Server 2003)
Update anti-virus definitions to detect current WannaCrypt strain
Deploy March Security Updates from all vendors (a wide range of related vulnerabilities were disclosed/fixed in March across the industry)

Mid-to-long term actions:
Enable Windows Firewall Inbound (MS default behaviour) on all devices
Block SMB (TCP 445) inbound on all endpoints, allow only connections from trusted IPs on servers that require it open
Decommission servers/appliances that require SMB1
Uninstall the SMB1 feature from Vista and Server 2008 and later servers/devices
Take and test regular data backups
Re-educate users on phishing attacks
Review and if necessary accelerate patching processes


Please get in touch if you have any questions or need additional support or guidance.

Contact neale.stidolph@sword-group.com

By Neale Stidolph, business development director

Time once again to head off to the AECC in Aberdeen, though snow on my car and icy wind reduce the appeal of the early start. Dropping by the office first at 0615 also helped get me in the mood. So, how will the oil & gas sector get stronger and more resilient? It seems a cooked breakfast is a decent start and a chance to chat with folks on my table, including Operators Marathon and Premier Oil, along with Exova – the materials testing specialists. Supply chain people very much in evidence.

Usual format, respected speakers and an opportunity to network. Attendance was good and plenty of senior industry people willing to discuss things. Speakers this time came from Rolls-Royce Marine, Nexen, Deloitte and Bibby Offshore. Good to get the perspective of Rolls-Royce as the Marine business has under intense economic pressure, much like the oil & gas sector. Repeated restructuring, cutbacks, layoffs and new goals have had many negative consequences but were done to ensure survival.

A common thread was that not enough forward thinking was done in the good times, forcing major business process reviews recently and a need for investment in working smarter and bringing through new technologies. The Rolls Marine division was turning over about £2bn in 2013 with plans for £6bn by 2020. Things changed hugely so is now around £1bn and loss-making. Redundancy levels hit 25% forcing people to perform multiple roles, but the ship is turning, quite literally. Rob Anthony of RR Marine acknowledged that the business has moved from a few huge orders to many smaller bids. That takes effort and must be done with fewer people. That new reality has to be accepted and embraced fast.

Mike Backus, VP of Operations for Nexen skipped slides altogether which is not so common, but does help by allowing a focus on what he said. Key messages he brought up were often echoed by the other speakers, such as;

This lead on to changes in supply chain thinking;

I see my fair share of tenders so appreciate that in the right conditions things can be different but still fair, save money, deliver greater value and speed things up. It’s about being pragmatic.

The points we moved on to looked at changes in business operations with anecdotes and examples provided by Nick Clark of Deloitte and Barry McLeod of Bibby Offshore (nice video by the way). The topics in summary were;

This reflects what many of us see every day, people taking a fresh look at how business is performed and stripping it back to essentials and automating as much as possible. Refined processes don’t always need technology but it sure can help in many cases.

I took away the thought that the resilience and strength will come from a fresh take on running day-to-day business activities from the big to the small. This will allow anti-inflationary methods that will keep cost under control by running smarter and leaner. To get there needs a number of interventions, changing how people think & behave – supporting that with practical and appropriate technology. Based on current market conditions the oil price is unlikely to shift high any time soon so it is vital to redesign some fundamentals in order to prosper, and indeed grow bigger and stronger by incorporating those businesses that didn’t adapt.

If you want to discuss any of these themes you can contact me via LinkedIn, Twitter or mail me at neale.stidolph@sword-group.com



by Diane Ogston, Service Delivery Manager

28th March 2017

On Monday we welcomed our first IT Apprentice to the group.

Arriving nice and early Kyle was taken through his induction to the Sword Group and then had a full 2 1/2 hour induction the QA apprentice scheme by his assigned tutor Alex.  QA are an award-winning provider, offering IT, developer, digital marketing, project management and business apprenticeships throughout England and Scotland.  A very thorough introduction was finished off with his first module assignment being set and a date and time agreed for the onsite assessment, so no hanging around then!

Kyle is located on a client site as a Service Desk Analyst, so after lunch we headed to site where an afternoon of site inductions and colleague introductions was ahead of him.  It's a lot for anyone's first day in the job, but I was impressed with the detail that QA went into and how Kyle took it all in his stride.

Having enrolled in the QA apprentice scheme,  for the next 2 years Kyle will complete various SQA modules mainly in the workplace with a small number incorporating offsite training with external vendors.   All of this as well as learning the day job!

Good luck and welcome to the team!

Information Management. If you don’t know what it is, should you care? Get it right and everything is easier and your organisation is more successful. Get it wrong and you miss out on efficiency and transformational opportunities, whilst adding risks to your business.

The news is full of organisations from public sector to finance and industrial, to service businesses, either telling of amazing advances and new players or tales of woe from data loss, safety issues or costs dragging people down. Two things to note; firstly, keep out of trouble, secondly, use your information to work smarter and do things that were not possible even a few years ago.

The direction of travel is clearer and the pace of change is increasing. People want less friction in their business activities and they want to move from reacting to situations, to getting in front of things and deploying decision automation.

There is historical baggage to consider but if we don’t think more freely about information challenges then others will and whole businesses can vanish in record quick time. In the digitally transformed world there is no such thing as ‘too big to fail’.

Every year a large tribe of Information Management professionals from around the globe gather in the U.S. organised by AIIM. From its origins in 1943 AIIM has seen many changes in the forms of information and how it is governed and consumed, from Microfiche to social information and data lakes. The AIIM17 conference was held in Orlando, Florida from March 14th to 16th. I attended the conference preceded by the AIIM board meeting on March 13th. For those who weren’t able to attend I have distilled some observations and would encourage you to participate in this information community, particularly as it offers a lot of independent thought leadership.

AIIM now stands for the ‘Association of Intelligent Information Management’, which highlights the shift in perception from record keeping to a community who help organisations derive maximum value from the information they handle. This is a subtle but important shift. Information managers have tended to be downplayed by organisations and seen as administrators. Whilst that function is vital to control risk and meet compliance needs it does not reflect the enormous additional value that IM professionals can help unlock.

Microsoft now reflect this in their mission statement “Our mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more”, it’s not about putting computers on desks any more. It is good to have computers and information but to state the obvious, what really counts is what you do with it.  The table below presented by AIIM shows the nature of information system evolution.

Information is transforming all our lives and the boundaries are blurring between individuals and corporations, between work and social. Corporate systems have struggled to match the agility of social systems and are losing value, hindering companies.

Gartner recently announced that the term AIIM coined ‘Enterprise Content Management’ or ECM is now dead. This term is too associated with large centralised and rigid systems, often with excess features and controls and an inability to adapt to new information demands and use cases. That is not to say the ECM concept has no place, there are many use cases where very structured information with high regulatory and governance needs exist. What the community is now saying is that this alone is not enough and that other capabilities need to wrap around that, or replace it. The new discussions are centred on ‘Content Services’ to provide coherence across many systems.

This change in the market has been demonstrated by some vendor consolidations, such as OpenText acquiring Dell EMC’s Enterprise Content Division, including Documentum. Microsoft is accelerating developments in SharePoint that bake in features that used to require custom development. The landscape is shifting, and the pace increasing. However, businesses are less likely to spend time on architecture, designing and building solutions. They want to try out ideas, confirm they add value and then get them into production fast. This more fluid approach can provide great tactical results but can cause long-term or serious issues. Businesses really need to have a well thought out high-level information architecture to avoid some major pitfalls (such as data loss, wrong analysis, fines, and brand damage).

Businesses are feeling torn between finding their own solutions or asking traditional ‘IT’. Increasingly they are moving ahead independently, selecting and using software as a service, with many examples from CRM to HR and Finance. People increasingly use apps like Box, Dropbox and Evernote to supplement their information management needs and make life easier. They are also demanding more insight from information; dashboards, trends, analytics and decision automation. This presents a number of challenges. New legislation such as GDPR is going to compel organisations to demonstrate their control of information.

The message coming from AIIM and its community of practitioners and vendors is that there is no technical magic bullet. So what is the recommendation? It is to get informed. Information Management professionals can navigate the challenges and make organisations more effective, and in some cases transforming them entirely from old business models. Understanding your information needs allows you to map out a suitable information architecture, making the best of what you have, adding what you need, making connections and surfacing your information more easily so you can do more with it.

As if to highlight the way things are taking off, we were lucky enough to witness the launch of the Spacex Falcon9 transporting the Echostar XXIII broadcast satellite to orbit. It’s an obvious analogy but information and analytics are taking off too, with big obstacles to avoid but great prizes to those who take advantage and get smart.

AIIM can help as an independent community of 153,000 people, publishing many industry watch papers, research, events and training through certified information professional programs (www.aiim.org). If you are in Europe you may wish to attend the AIIM UK Forum on 21st June, held in London (www.aiimforum.co.uk). Sword can help you work more productively with your information as part of a process described as digital transformation.

My thoughts boils down to this:

  1. Understand and control the information you have
  2. Don’t let things damage it, or let it leak out
  3. Use that information to be more effective in what you do (tactical improvements)
  4. Be radical and make a transformational leap forward (strategic shift)

If you want to discuss any of these themes you can contact me via LinkedIn, Twitter or mail me at neale.stidolph@sword-group.com or @nealestidolph

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