The enterprise paper chase gathers momentum

Research carried out for PeopleDoc on the top 400 UK companies by turnover demonstrated these blue chip organisations are...

Research carried out for PeopleDoc on the top 400 UK companies by turnover demonstrated these blue chip organisations are becoming aware not only of the benefits of electronic document management (eDM), but equally of its potential when embedded as an integral part of business applications.

Research carried out for PeopleDoc on the top 400 UK companies by turnover demonstrated these blue chip organisations are becoming aware not only of the benefits of electronic document management (eDM), but equally of its potential when embedded as an integral part of business applications. Indeed, practically 70 per cent of respondents believe eDM would be more effective if embedded, and some 30 per cent are already implementing imaging/document management solutions.

PeopleDoc develops/supports eDM component software for independent software vendors to enhance their business applications, to capture, manage, and exploit unstructured information. That's e-mails, documents, and voice records that may be currently wasted by being inaccessible within the application. The claim is that software vendors can present all relevant information to their users, so they can make informed decisions faster.

'There's a growing demand for embedded eDM, as companies wish to enhance their business applications to capture, manage, and exploit unstructured information,' says Royce Murphy, PeopleDoc's ceo. 'Also, existing user interfaces can be used.'

Examples of ISVs/Vars PeopleDoc works with are informAction, a Var for US company Action Technology, producing web applications/workflow, and TDOC Projects, an ISV in construction project management. PeopleDoc is a member of the SunAlliance partnership programme.

Meanwhile London law firm Masons Solicitors has selected 750 seats of iManage's content management software for firm-wide deployment, plus extra software for business-to-business applications, using the internet (an XML web based part of the system). Masons' aim is to improve client service. Documents will be published to client-specific extranets, with audit and security control remaining under iManage's system, embedded in Microsoft Office. Masons intends to roll out the software to offices in Europe and the Far East.

Internet-scale content management (that's web content management and document management) provider Documentum recently integrated IBM WebSphere application server with its products. The aim here is easier, faster, and more reliable deployment of web content. Prominent IBM platform Documentum customers include Astra Zeneca, Nokia, Dow Corning and Ford.

One customer had to search 85 Lotus Notes databases, 25-plus intranet sites, and a file server with 1,100 sub-directories to locate product information. A solution was implemented, based on Documentum's web-enabled document management server. Sales of products now take days instead of months.

Business Document Software UK, subsidiary of Paris based Business Document Company, provides document solutions for online real-time applications. Its PC based Edinat system 'features intuitive document design' and is, says md John Beaver, 'intended to sort out problems in call centres and billing environments'. Today over 50 large accounts, mostly in France, use the company's technology. Beaver is expecting to make a joint announcement in May/June concerning a large UK financial institution.

'We're after the financial sector initially - banks, building societies, insurance companies,' says Beaver. 'After that we'll target telecom and utilities. We're after those scenarios - eg call centres - where our software can provide immediate documentation per call, as well as records. Business documents are strategic documents defining a company's relationship with its customers, and include contracts, notices, correspondence, reminders, invoices, etc.'

CrossWorlds Software believes the need to integrate with existing enterprise applications is a crucial requirement for the success of e-business initiatives. Enterprise application integration (EAI) is another acronym to enter this part of the market. The company believes many document management systems were not built with today's enterprise demands in mind.

Edo Knowledge Management's senior technical consultant, Stuart Mail, considers document management is a crucial building block in the construction of modern knowledge management systems. The difference between the two disciplines, argues Mail, is the 'difference between technology and culture.

'Document management is basically an essential enabling tool that starts the whole knowledge management process,' says Mail. 'Used in isolation, document management as a solution can, and will, deliver some impressive and tangible business benefits. But problems with delivery, the cost, and implementation, and lengthy completion time-scales make it unacceptable. Without radically changing the work environment and business processes within an organisation, true knowledge sharing cannot begin to work.' Customers include Royal Mail, Arts Council, Surrey Police, Pfizer, and EDS

'The new generation of document management tools is designed with knowledge management in mind,' says Mail. 'They've expanded to include images, process management, the web, and digital documents, and have been scaled up to serve the enterprise, as opposed to a single department. They're compatible with intranet and internet, including browser clients, and support e-commerce.

'All data has a role in knowledge management, because gathering information for storage at the core of an organisation is the key to successfully pleasing customers, and operating efficiently,' says Mail.

Peregrine Systems is adding knowledge management into its infrastructure management software portfolio, following acquisition of Knowlix Corp (heavily into help desk and customer support centres).

Meanwhile, a report from analyst Ovum on integrated document management, maintains the technology is mission-critical for e-business. Organisations cannot embrace future strategies without document management, because 'knowledge management and e-business simply will not work on a platform of corporate chaos'.

'Investing in the right document management product is the first step to becoming a successful e-business,' says Alsn Pelz-Sharpe, Ovum analyst, and lead author of the report.

Another key technology for the area is XML, whose market can be sliced up into:

1.Generating/distributing documents on the web. Unlike HTML, XML also describes document content as well as structures, making navigation within the web easier and increasing the level of personalisation with information research.

2. E-commerce. With products labelled with XML tags by vendors, prospective buyers receive information about the articles they're seeking.

3 .E-business. While the internet has improved communication between companies, no great use can be grasped until a universal standard is found for data formats. Enter XML

4. Integration platform. Integrating heterogeneous systems - Forrester and Gartner estimate companies spend up to 40 per cent of IT budgets on integration.

A flexible approach and infrastructure, bringing in different technologies - such as document management - under the supervision of expert knowledge management consultants, is the route an increasing number of organisations take. The true worth of document management is only now becoming apparent. But how come filing cabinets are still so pervasive? l

UDV UK speeds payment

Leading spirits and wine company United Distillers & Vintners UK installed an ImageView document management system to provide credit control. Sales and distribution are based on AS/400e running JBA's ERP software, with EDI links to major supermarket and brewery chain customers. The problem was how to match proof-of-delivery dockets (PODs) with invoices when the customer calls to claim a case of whisky was missing from the invoiced delivery. A system was needed to scan the returned POD dockets and split-screen compare them with the original order and customer invoice.

David Strudwick, UDV's customer service analysis manager, says: 'We chose Pacific Solutions International - PacSol - not just because of AS/400 expertise, but because they were better prepared to customise ImageView to meet our current requirements and future internet-based objectives.'

PacSol initially installed its software on the AS/400e with two Bell & Howell scanners, Kofax data capture cards and 20 Gb IBM optical disk storage library with 16 worm - write-once-read-many - disks.

'The internet is central to future plans,' says Strudwick. 'Not only will customers be able to select and order products over a private internet or extranet, but ImageView's database will enable customers to track their own orders and view PODs to confirm orders, delivery dockets and invoices are in accord."

UDV is to upgrade to the latest version of ImageView which incorporates PacSol's Java based image, report and document browser, plus Kofax's latest document, data and internet scanning software. UDV will then be able to implement a document management system using internet, intranet, and extranet connectivity between AS/400s plus any NT, Unix or Linux platforms customers may be running. It'll also enable remote scanning and document download via the internet from UDV and its customers' offices/warehouses anywhere in the UK.

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