Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Distributed Capture Best Practices

The distributed document capture market, despite having been discussed for a very long time, is still very immature. This is my conclusion after doing quite a bit of research on this market over the past couple months. Is there a best practices for distributed capture? I haven't found anything definitive published on the topic.

So, first off, what is distributed capture? Well, it's basically truncating-or electronifying paper documents as far up the workflow chain as possible. This means that if loan applications, for example, are filled out at a branch office of a bank, they are going to be scanned there and sent digitally to loan processing center for approval and archiving. The advantages are that
1. distributed capture can reduce the time it takes to get the paper forms to the loan processing center,
2. it can save money on courier charges if the paper forms were being overnighted,
3. it can reduce the number of documents lost in transit as well as increase security around the transfer of the documents,
4. and it can put data entry related to the loans into the hands of the customer service rep at the branch, who is going to be more invested in the loan than a data entry operator at loan processing center.

Yes, all of these can be advantages, but there are some disadvantages too. For example, do you want your mid-level salaried knowledge workers, like loan officers, doing scanning and data entry when they could be producing more loans?

I guess the reason I haven't really seen a definitive best practices on distributed document capture is because there are so many diverse approaches to it, and to me, this is the sign of an immature market. I think I talked with four vendors in the past two weeks, all of which are promoting and selling distributed capture, but all who are doing it very different ways. Daybreak ICS, for example, uses a client server approach with a universal client for document scanners and customized release scripts from its server into ECM applications. eCopy also has customized release scripts, or "Connectors," as well as a universal interface, but its interface is primarily used on MFPs. Oracle, which acquired Web capture pioneer Captovation in the the spring, has a Web-based client with dedicated release scripts. ImageTag picks up images from a watched folder and files them based on data assigned to a bar-coded tag applied to the document before it's scanned.

All these different approaches lead to different workflows associated with distributed capture. All these vendors have had success, of course, but perhaps one reason the market has not caught fire the way many people are projecting, is because there is no standardized best practices. In other words, there's too much solutions providing/customization going on in the distributed capture space and not enough product sales.

I think some sort of flow-chart/questionnaire for end users with multiple sites is in order.
Any thoughts on this?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Documentum 6.5

EMC has hit a couple of ECM market hot spots with the latest release of its Documentum ECM platform. Documentum 6.5, which was announced this morning, features improved user interfaces, as well as upgraded transcational content management capabilities.

The two major improvements directly related to document imaging applciations are an improved user interface for the TaskSpace transctional content management (TCM) client and a new Documentum High-Volume Server module.

The High-Volume Server is designed specifically for imaging-intensive applications like transactional content processing and archiving. Basically, it's designed to streamline meta data management to reduce database footprints related to objects like images and e-mails and as a result, improve performance.

"Let's say you're archiving e-mails," explained Andrea Leggett, a senior product marketing manager for EMC. "You don't necessarily need version control and a lot of meta data fields for those files. With Documentum 6.5, we've created a lightweight object model to more efficiently store those files within the High-Volume Server. This can dramatically reduce a user's database footprint and impact their software licensing in a positive way. It helps streamline and optimize file storage and lowers the amount of resources needed to support objects.

"It's also important to note that even though a user might not be utilizing all its object meta data in the High-Volume Server environment, that meta data is not erased. If the users needs to go back and get it for another process downstream, it is still available."

Leggett sees three use cases for the High-Volume Server. "The first is transactional content management, the second is archiving, and the third is being able to efficiently migrate content from other repositories into Documentum," she said.

TaskSpace TCM Client Improvements
Documentum first introduced its TaskSpace TCM client last year with Documentum 6.0. The new version incorporates some of the ease-of-use concepts that are prevelent throughout the release of Documentum 6.5. EMC is actually touting Documentum 6.5 as featuring "Web 2.0" capabilties. "We've embraced some of the consumer technologies that are out in the market and worked on ways to bring them into the enterprise," said Leggett.

One of the Web 2.0 examples that Leggett shared with us was the incorporation of technology similar to an iPod's Cover Flow interface for reviewing documents. "Because users are already comfortable with that interface through their consumer applications, it makes for a smoother adpotion in the enterprise," she said. "For knowledge workers, we've estianmated our improved UI can create a 25-37% improvement in the efficiency in which users can click through content."

Specific to TaskSapce, EMC has introduced integrated high-fidelity forms and monitoring capabilties into the client. "Through the same dashboard used to access transactional content, a user can now also design high-fidelity forms and set up customized monitoring processes," said Chris Preston, senior director, content management and archiving, for EMC.

The high-fidelity forms capability is brand new and enables Documentum 6.5 users to better design electronic forms that have the same look and feel as their paper forms. EMC has also incorporated 2-D bar code capabilities for forms that need to be printed signed and captured. Task-based monitoring has always been available with TaskSpace, but with the new version the design environment is accessible through the standard UI.

"TaskSpace was created as a great out-of-the-box tool for working with transactional documents," said Preston. "We've now added some more rapid application development tools to TaskSpace that will enable our customers to more quickly customize their interfaces."

EMC making the right moves to maintain position as market leader
Overall, we'd say that EMC continues to make great progress in its efforts to maintain its leadership position in the ECM market. Documentum began life years ago as a specialist in electronic document management, but has come a long way in the past five years in the imaging/TCM space, which, thanks to compliance concerns and the realization that paper problems need to be addressed because they aren't going away, has emerged as an important piece of the ECM equation.

EMC's acquisition of Documentum a few years back has really helped accelerate the evolution of the Documentum product line, by providing the company with resources to make strategic acquisitions like the Captiva purchase, as well invest more heavily in internal development. We are very impressed with EMC's stratetic view of the market and the dynamic stategy it has taken to address the evolving and emerging needs of customers, especially at the enterprise level.