Document management - where is it headed?

The Australian conference and exhibition of the Assocation for Information and Image Management (AIIM), organised by AIIM Australasia, was held in Canberra last October. The keynote address was delivered by John Mancini, the president of AIIM International. Gerard Knapp reports.

Document management - where is it headed?

John F Mancini, the president of AIIM International, kicked off his keynote address to the Australian conference in tongue-in-cheek fashion. Given the somewhat speculative nature of its title: The document management industry - where is it headed? Mr Mancini qualified his predictions by quoting some notable clangers in years gone by (see breakout boxes).

This approach may have been inspired by his trials of arriving in Canberra for the two-day conference and exhibition. After successfully leaving the US airport on his second attempt, after his now-former travel agent neglected to acquire his visa on the first, his plane made an unscheduled stop in Fiji and his luggage was left behind.

The unscheduled stop also meant that he missed his transfer to Canberra from Sydney. He finally arrived in the nation's capital, 30 hours after leaving the US, with no luggage and a conference to front the following day.

Fortunately, he made it to a Canberra clothing store just before closing time and was kitted out in attire that could be described as "country gentleman", quite a novelty for the former industry lobbyist from Washington DC.

Nonetheless, he remained in surprisingly good spirits and delivered a keynote speech that addressed the major issues that are influencing the role of document management.


In attempting to define the nature of the document management industry, Mr Mancini recognised that it was constantly changing.

Even the humble document is no longer what it once was. According to Mr Mancini: "A document is now a a formatted container and a distribution mechanism".

In identifying the document management industry industry, Mr Mancini outlined what he called the "four Cs".

"Collection", being the process of scanning, OCR, ICR and gathering information;

"Communication", which referred to the electronic distribution of documents, including voice and text, as well as the printing of finished documents;

"Collaboration", being the application of workflow and groupware to make use of these documents across an enterprise, and

"Corporate Memory", being the storage of images and text as microfilm, databases, COLD, offline and online storage.

Each "C" was linked to the other and all were under constant change, affected by a variety of factors ranging from memory pricing through to telecommunications charges.

On current estimates, the document management industry is estimated to be worth US$6.5 billion per annum and growing at 31% per year, with the imaging component growing at 17% per annum.


Meanwhile, a recent survey carrried out by AIIM in the US indicated healthy growth for workflow applications. In the survey, respondents were asked 'Will any future application include workflow?' to which 65% said yes, no said 28% and nine per cent were undecided.

Mr Mancini sees a vital role for workflow, particularly in the area of customer service. He said "Complex technology challenges lie behind even seemingly simple processes."

In the customer service area, he gave an example of making a call to a sales office. "By the time your call reaches an agent, the system has often:

n picked up your phone number;

n asked for credit card or account number using a keypad;

n looked up your record in a database;

n identified you as good customer or deadbeat;

n tried to respond automatically via voice response;

n decided which queue you belong in, and

n interpreted information it has about you."

Mr Mancini said such a system had obvious advantages for any customer-driven organisation, which could use this enhanced and automated service in its overall marketing plans. It also generated many complex issues relating to document management, workflow and privacy issues before it could be successfully implemented.

Two key points highlighted were the growth of the internet and the consolidation of major industry players during the past 12 months, such as Wang & Sigma and FileNet acquiring Watermark, Saros and Greenbar.

At the same time, there was now a strong user demand for integration among products.

He said the internet explosion had seen some 230,000 web sites set up as of July 1996 and the prediction of 120 million active internet users by 2000 (source: Matthew Gray, MIT) with the Web estimated to be a US$200-800 billion market by 2000 due to the growth of electronic commerce

The integration of electronic documents with the web is another area of huge potential. The growth of electronic commerce will lead to global opportunities for many companies which adopt a vertical strategy to their documents and the web.

Mr Mancini provided an example of the dangers of integrating the internet with any document management strategy that is not properly detailed.

"One story to illustrate critical importance of linking your internet strategy with your document management strategy is of a large multinational corporation, which received higher than normal orders for a product. It couldn't fulfill demand because a critical bolt vendor couldn't supply extra bolts needed.

"So the manufacturer decided to seek a second supplier on the internet. The company opened limited access to its intranet so it could publish the bolt spec to prospective new suppliers. It found one and got the bolts. Unfortunately, they were the wrong size. Not because the supplier didn't meet the spec, but because the wrong spec was published. The company had to pay for the bolts that were useless and still could meet the needs of its customers."

In this instance, the imperfections in the company's document management strategy resulted in further expense and lost orders.

Plan ahead

"So what's a user to do?" Mr Mancini continued.

His advice was based on the following points.

1. Keep your ear to the ground. Know what your competitors are doing; ask vendors and analysts what your competitors are doing.

2. Go to trade shows and conferences, but learn to separate the hype from the reality.

3. Fall in love with the solution; not the technology (technologies are changing everyday).

4. Remember that ROI doesn't just mean saving money; it means making money. Understand your company's business to maximize return.

5. Read something besides technology magazines. Understanding whether or not you are in a dead industry or one where growth is tremendous will go a long way to deciding what kinds of solutions you need. You won't get a sense of that by reading ComputerWorld or even InformationWeek. Also read airplane magazines; you'll probably learn what your next project will be from there.

6. Assume baseline technologies will change every year. Make your platform choices and infrastructure investments short-term oriented. (Lease vs. buy?) Also don't forget the basics. Database and networking problems are the bane of most document management systems implementors, pick wisely.

7. The year 2000 problem is not just for old software, beware of the new programs as well.

8. Personnel turnover in this industry is becoming increasingly problematic. Be creative about how you compensate and motivate your technical staff. Don't be afraid to treat them differently but treat them fairly equally. Know your country's immigration and labour laws and understand how you can use them to your advantage (this does not mean abuse and circumvent the law but know what your employment alternatives are). Programming and technical resources do not always have to come from the country you are based in.

9. Multi-phase projects are key to success but phases should not be more than six months. Project management skills are even more important in a speedy environment; in this business the details do matter so having all the bases covered is important.