Document management service providers meet customer demands and support new technology to survive.
By Cassandra Carnes
The face of communications is changing. Whether it is internal, business-to-business, or business to consumer, the availability of advanced technology allows collaboration and accessibility to be on the forefront of all digital document communications. With security and privacy issues in mind, it’s still unclear which trends will permeate.
Based on estimates by a number of analyst firms, Dennis Amorosano, senior director, solutions marketing and business support, Imaging Systems Group, Canon U.S.A., Inc. notes that the document management sector grows nearly 20 percent annually. "In some cases it is difficult to pin down the exact number because document management is such a broad category," he continues. "Regardless, this is clearly a growth market and an area of significant interest for customers both large and small."
The electronic document management (EDM) industry dates back nearly 30 years. "Despite EDM longevity and maturity, most EDM implementations remain superficial to the extent that they are departmental rather than enterprise-wide solutions," suggests Jim Thumma, VP of sales and marketing, Optical Image Technology, Inc.
He explains that economic conditions force businesses to examine what they pay for software, and help find more cost-effective solutions that offer advanced functionality. This is a trend he expects to continue. "Vendors that offer strong and affordable enterprise-class solutions will be best suited to meet growing demands," says Thumma. Adding that vendors who partner with clients to continually meet new expectations are the ones that will prevail.
"With the adoption of content/document management systems more common and the creation of structured content standards—such as the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) standard—JustSystems believes the industry is moving towards managing components of content rather than monolithic documents," says Pen Clark, director of marketing, JustSystems Canada, Inc.
Ken Burns, industry communications manager, Hyland Software, agrees with the push away from document management’s focus on documents, since transactions are increasingly more collaborative and electronic. "Content is being created in more formats from more places than ever. On top of this, business are now expected to work at the speed of their customers’ requests," says Burns.
Organizations need to automate processes, transforming the meaning of document management into a more meaningful term. "Something along the lines of ‘transactional and content’ management," suggests Burns.
"We’re intending to move document management from simply the capture and management of images of paper into the management of information that paper represents," notes John Gonzalez, director, product management and business development, Xerox DocuShare. He explains that a lot of document management systems in place today focus on converting documents into a digital format and making that image available to share. "We’re looking at ways to make the authoring of the document by information creators, then used directly to information consumers," he adds.
New—or re-branded and emerging—technologies, such as cloud computing, collaboration, email, Microsoft SharePoint, outsourcing, regulatory compliance, and Web 2.0, have a definite effect on the future of document management. We polled industry experts and document management service providers on each of these trends to see where they fit in a business’ document workflow.
Cloud computing is one area gaining attention. "For some organizations, cloud or hosted solutions are an excellent way to gain functionality that otherwise may not be feasible," explains Clark. "Upcoming solutions such as Google Wave appear to help general business users capitalize on this trend. However, organizations with sophisticated content requirements may find that in-house tools can be better tailored to their needs," he adds.
Thumma notes that Cloud Computing has existed for years under varied names. "Each time a new name emerged, people take a fresh look at the technology. It will continue to grow, but the majority of people will run systems in their own private clouds in the short term," he says.
The ability for multiple people, departments, even companies to review, edit, and react to real-time changes on an electronic document maybe the answer to a number of issues. However, even if implemented and used properly, the ability to collaborate on documents can lead to a lot of confusion.
Thumma acknowledges the talk surrounding the trend, but notes that the discussion is not focused in the appropriate direction. "There is little talk about making collaboration work effectively across the entire enterprise," he explains. "Collaboration is challenging enough within a department, and far more difficult across an entire organization. The real challenge in collaboration is not the technology; it’s going beyond the technology and enhancing working environments and processes so systems can deliver a higher return on investment," he says.
There is an increasing trend with collaboration within a document rather than just collaboration on a document shares Gonzalez. "At the same time that collaboration is not necessarily the center of where the money is made within an organization. The collaborative authoring piece is really part of a much larger piece of a content management puzzle. The money- or profit-centric point of collaboration happens when transactional documents—communications used to initiate a business transaction or complete a business transaction—need to be shared and approved among very specific people in an organization. All of this leads to the need for business processes around the collaboration," he says.
"Documents cross so many desks that keeping track of them is no longer the domain of a single business unit or department," says Bobby Balachandran, president/CEO, Exterro, Inc. He explains that what was once the responsibility of IT, records management, or legal departments, is now a pain point for many businesses, particularly those dealing with high volumes of documents—both hardcopy and electronic. "The need for collaboration in such an environment cannot be overstated," he adds.
Email is widely recognized as an essential communication method for every person and business. With the amount of emails continuously growing, it is also a core concern when it comes to access, management, and archival. While some solutions integrate with email applications for storage and retrieval purposes, it is an area document management software providers are working to better control. "Email is one of the most difficult to manage electronically stored documents. The high volumes of email that most companies deal with—each employee, on average, sends between 60 and 200 emails per day—requires a comprehensive and thorough management system, as well as sound policies to govern email retention and destruction," says Balachandran.
Microsoft SharePoint is a unique solution that many organizations utilize to aid in the management of everyday business processes. It is an integrated suite of server capabilities that help improve organizational effectiveness by providing comprehensive content management and enterprise search, accelerating shared business processes, and facilitating information share. SharePoint Server 2007 supports all intranet, extranet, and Web applications across an enterprise with an integrated platform. "Microsoft SharePoint is likely to have one of the biggest influences on the direction of this industry given its pervasiveness in the marketplace," shares Amorosano.
Many businesses utilize the functionality of SharePoint, leading to the development of third-party document and content management integration. An announcement by Kodak and 5280 Solutions at the Microsoft SharePoint 2009 Conference in Las Vegas, NV illustrates leading integration opportunities and highlights the growing importance of document capture to organizations. The integration of KODAK Capture Pro Software, v 2.0 and 5280 Solutions’ DYNAMIC FILER Software is designed to help businesses improve how they use Microsoft SharePoint Server to reduce the amount of paper documents in an information-dependent environment. DYNAMIC FILER Software is frequently used for streamlining accounts payable, expense reporting, human resources, and government records. These core business tasks are areas where SharePoint Server-driven IT investments lead to savings and increased productivity. KODAK capture products offer features such as one-touch scanning, searchable PDF conversion, and barcode identification help improve functionality for end users.
"We view SharePoint as a key enabler for organizations that are looking to implement document or content management solutions," says Clark. The company created its XmetaL tool to help SharePoint users bring DITA to their implementation and begin to realize the benefits of XML.
Hyland Software’s Burns explains that while SharePoint is a dominant collaborative tool, the challenge is for organizations to distinguish it from document management as a way to structure content and processes. "This has and will continue to present a growth opportunity for document management vendors to show their strengths when paired with SharePoint. Things like complex workflows, automated records retention, and complete records management used with SharePoint’s collaboration abilities make document management much more attractive," he says.
Ken Neal, director, corporate communications, Océ Business Services, expects to see at least two trends emerge in the next two years. One, that organizations will outsource additional document management activities. And two, an increase in the implementation of document imaging solutions. The company released an industry survey, Meeting the Challenge: How Organizations are Implementing Document Management Strategies to Help Drive Business in a Tough Economy, which backs these theories.
"Many survey respondents—74 percent—indicated that their organization is outsourcing at least one to five key document management activities—document imaging, enterprise-wide print/copy, mail and shipping, records management, and fleet management. However, 33 percent of these companies plan to outsource additional document processing functions over the next 12 to 24 months," says Neal. "Of the five document management activities, document imaging had the strongest effect across a broad range of business goals and plans. Respondents report that document imaging has the greatest impact on lowering cost and improving operational performance," he adds.
While regulatory compliance is not a trend, but rather strict mandates set on organizations to ensure consumer safety and protection, document management providers must consider its importance in software development. "After the collapse of the financial markets, many new regulations on both the federal and state levels were anticipated. In fact, many regulatory agencies have recently re-evaluated their regulatory profiles and resolved to tighten the regulatory ropes," says Balachandran. He explains that enterprises and their compliance officers must incorporate processes that encompass these regulations in their daily workflows. "That’s why it is so important that companies implement software solutions that allow for notifications and acknowledgements from employees as to their sweeping compliance obligations—from simple legal holds to SEC-mandated trading blackout periods," he adds.
Vendor transparency—in both private and public sectors—is now a term with stronger meaning due to the recent spotlight on the banking industry. "Organizations are subsequently placing more importance on tracking and reporting everything they do, while also maintaining compliance with applicable standards and regulations," says Burns. "This accountability factor continues to grow as the government and overseeing regulatory bodies focus even more on standards."
Burns offers the example of the recovery audit contractor (RAC) in heathcare. The government hired a private group of contractors to audit healthcare organizations’ use of Medicare funds. Because the audits consume valuable time and limited resources, they look at technology to alleviate some of the burden. Hyland Software partnered with a group of current customers to develop a solution based on its OnBase technology to better manage the RAC process. "This way the providers can use a document management solution to track the claims and other information from the RACs so they can spend more time focusing on patient care," he adds.
"All of these technologies will continue to mold the landscape of document management," predicts James True, VP business development, Cabinet NG, Inc. He suggests avoiding systems that do not offer transparency and support of current and future technology as it develops.
The next-generation of the Internet brings with it blogs, wikis, and social networking opportunities enterprises never had to face in the past. Also known as Web 2.0, these Web-based technologies are worth mentioning in terms of document management. "Web 2.0 is used more and more by individual employees and companies as part of daily business operations. As a result, if only from a compliance perspective, those pieces of communication will need to be tracked and archived as records," comments Burns. "In fact, I think we’ll see a few legal cases of Web 2.0 communications coming back to bite companies. From there, many others will take precautionary steps to prevent it from happening to them. Technologies like document management should be one of the first places they look—especially if they already have it in place," he suggests.
OIT’s Thumma notes that enterprise Web 2.0 adoption is among the youngest generation of workers, and managers should be aware of whether or not their staff and clients can adapt to the technology. As it becomes increasingly important Web 2.0 needs to be positioned as a potential for improved communications, not just as play.
What to Consider
A document management software providers’ openness and grasp of the aforementioned trends and new technologies is an important consideration when evaluating an organization’s document management needs. In addition, the accessibility, such as a software as a service (SaaS) option, weigh in as an important consideration depending on a company’s IT capabilities and business workflow structure.
Software integration capabilities is of growing importance. "A comprehensive system should integrate with e-discovery software solutions of all types—as well as integrate with legal hold systems in order to lock down and transfer documents during litigation. Document management systems should also be able to integrate with older, paper-based systems, and have the capability to manage both electronic and paper documents going forward," says Exterro’s Balachandran.
"Businesses should be careful not to bite off more than they can chew with respect to document management," says Canon’s Amorosano. He notes that by nature document management systems are challenging to implement since they generate in worker behavior and business processes. "Start with discreet projects and perfect implementation activities prior to expanding across the organization," he suggests.
When looking to outsource document management processes, Océ’s Neal suggests organizations should ask potential service providers how they can specifically help reduce costs, increase productivity, manage document risks, and enhance business performance.
New Trends, More Productivity
Since data is the driving factor behind almost every organization, the management of the data—whether it derives from a hardcopy, a blog, and email, or created online with internal document creation—is integral to success and growth. Document management is increasingly hard to define, as content is generated and observed as more than one piece—and more of the data that is behind it. Document management providers are looking at the technology, and ensuring their solutions account for emerging trends, new compliance regulations, and support for a diverse range of document types.
"There is a push to move paper to digital. There is still a lot of paper out there, and our customers need help with making the conversion from paper to digital in terms of business processes. I think we’ll see a number of products focused on helping customers make the transition from paper to digital. Document management will continue to be a strong activity for years to come," says Xerox’s Gonzalez. dps