After attending AIIM Expo 2004, held March 8-10 in New York City, I came away with a strong sense that the IT spending freeze of the past couple of years may be thawing. As several vendor reps reported, many of the end users on the exhibit floor were seeking solutions for active projects. Unlike recent AIIM shows, where most attendees seemed to be scouting technologies only for projects not yet budgeted, this year's event brought out people prepared to spend real money within the next 3 to 9 months. While that's no doubt encouraging for vendors, distributors, and VARs, it's also encouraging for end users. Many end user organizations have been primed for a document and content management upgrade. Using aging systems and limited tool sets, many have struggled to capture and maintain their growing archives of images and other digital data.
Compliance Loosens The Purse Strings
Actually, the upsurge in attendees coming to the show prepared to make purchases should come as no surprise. The anxieties stirred by various regulatory compliance mandates issued over the past few years seem to have pushed many organizations to stop being investment holdouts. In many organizations, compliance-driven technology needs are emerging from more than one department or business unit. Combined, those pressures are breaking the locks on IT purses. As John Magee, VP of corporate product marketing for Documentum, told me, "Organizations are seeing the need for a common set of content management services across their corporate infrastructures. For instance, all of the various regulatory compliance standards — no matter which particular business processes they touch — require organizations to put in place measures to ensure retention, privacy, access, and retrieval."
Several of the vendors I met at the show announced products clearly designed to help with compliance-driven records management needs. Magee mentioned Compliance Manager, a new product from Documentum that administers the connections between compliance-based retention policies and an organization's overarching ILM (information lifecycle management) strategy. IMR announced the latest release of its Alchemy document management suite, which offers integrated document and records management capabilities. In addition to announcing Alchemy 8.0, IMR highlighted a compliance-driven version of its Mailstore e-mail archiving product. "Because Mailstore is built on our Alchemy platform, customers will be able to move from e-mail archiving to records management," said VP of Marketing Dan Lucarini. Lucarini also reported that Dell is marketing a compliance appliance that bundles Mailstore with UDO (ultra density optical)-based storage from Plasmon. Also foregrounding the need to put records management under the ECM (enterprise content management) umbrella was FileNet. Senior Product Marketing Manager Russ Gould pointed out that FileNet's Records Manager product is already designed to meet various retention and compliance standards. If the review and approval process for DoD 5015.2 unfolds as anticipated, FileNet's Records Manager should be officially compliant with that key records management standard by late summer 2004, if not sooner. FileNet will be seeing DoD 5015.2 certification this summer for its Records Manager suite.
Business Process Integration: A Key To ECM Success
Along with compliance, BPM (business process management) was another hot topic. Vendors demonstrated an awareness of how document imaging and content management systems must be tied to the overall flow of an organization's business processes. As Cliff Sink, president of document and records management software vendor TOWER Software, put it, "Because of compliance issues, records management is back in vogue. The question now is how to roll it out across the enterprise, especially to individual desktops in a large enterprise." According to FileNet's Gould, records management systems often don't have or aren't connected to business process management capabilities. "If you aren't coordinating BPM with ECM, you won't be able to avoid creating information silos across your enterprise," Gould warned.
The need for an integration of business processes with ECM technologies was echoed in my meeting with Hyland Software. The company's OnBase document management suite includes the kind of workflow tools required of a BPM strategy. Hyland President and CEO A.J. Hyland emphasized the importance of tying document management systems to various enterprise applications, allowing images to be shared across departments. "A company's HR or accounting staff, for instance, might be tracking issues that require retrieval of images originally generated for users of a CRM [customer relationship management] system," said Hyland. "If the CRM and document management systems are integrated, then the images won't be trapped in a departmental silo." As a demonstration of its efforts to facilitate cross-enterprise document access, Hyland Software announced a continued emphasis on a recently added OnBase module, Host Application Enabler. Designed to provide point-and-click accessibility at the Windows layer (supported by open API [application programming interface] integration at deeper levels), Host Application Enabler gives organizations the ability to "image enable" (as Hyland puts it) various enterprise applications. "The module enables line-of-business managers to bring ECM capabilities to their core business applications," Hyland said.
I was reminded of broader process and application integration needs when I met up with Greg Boyd. Boyd is president of Columbus, OH-based process re-engineering and workflow development company Results Engineering. I mentioned the heavy emphasis on retention and records management I had seen on the show floor. "Just because you have a software package doesn't mean you're compliant. It's not the software that's compliant; it's the process," Boyd said. "The bigger picture is process. Using records and document management technologies solely to meet retention requirements is an expense, while efforts to refine processes can lead to savings. Compliance is just a trigger for organizations to rethink their processes for collecting and managing the information they have to retain. When done properly, that rethinking can help an organization achieve major productivity gains."
Retention Requires Content 'Fixing'
As for the evolution of end users' attention to content retention issues, there are strong signs that urgency is already driving adoption. Just a year or two after EMC's announcement of its Centera solution for storing and managing fixed content, Roy Sanford, EMC's VP of markets and alliances, Centera Division, reported that the company has already sold more than 10 petabytes' worth of Centera storage. Despite the early and continued adoption of EMC's fixed content offering, Sanford believes the end user community still needs to understand some key distinctions about what fixed content storage is and what it isn't. "Content-addressed storage allows for active archiving as opposed to mere backup," he explained. "Content-addressed storage has a digital imprint, so the information remains portable regardless of its physical location. In contrast, WORM [write once read many] tape, for example, retains fixed content but not in the kind of active archive that supports the fluctuating use and value of data in an ILM scenario."
Archiving (Still) Starts With Capture
As for technologies for capturing content and digital data, the AIIM show revealed a heightened interest in pushing imaging and indexing processes closer and closer to the point of origin. At many organizations, that point of origin is the mailroom. In reviewing enhancements to its product line, document capture and imaging vendor Captiva Software emphasized Digital Mailroom and InputAccel for Invoices. In explaining the rationale behind the process-specific design of InputAccel for Invoices, Captiva President and CEO Reynolds Bish pointed out that end users tend to wear product selection blinders. According to Bish, they often base purchasing decisions on "Wow!" factors, such as increased OCR (optical character recognition) speeds and feeds. "Amazingly, end users still often obsess about the technology, not the solution," Bish told me. "They ask about OCR accuracy while ignoring whether the product is designed to address the particular business needs they're facing."
The front of the front end in the capture space — i.e. the scanner — was of course well represented at AIIM, with most scanner vendors announcing new products. I caught up with several of the key hardware vendors, as well as some of their software partners, on the evening cruise hosted by distributor NewWave Technologies, Inc. By that point, I had accumulated dozens of business cards from old friends and new acquaintances in the industry. Not surprisingly, I suddenly found myself taking a longer look at ScanSnap, a small personal scanning device Fujitsu brought on board for a promotion. Designed for low-volume desktop or mobile use, the scanner had me pondering a comment Fujitsu Product Manager Scott Francis had made during a demo earlier that day. "You really don't know you need it until you see what it can do," he suggested. Taking another look at the product — and its card-scanning attachment — while listing slightly port side due to the stack of cards filling my left coat pocket, I didn't have to work hard to imagine at least one need.
By Tom von Gunden, chief editor, Doc Management Online, Content Mgt Online, and IT Storage Online