Redefining Document Management For Better Movement & Access

Updated: Sep 23 2003, 05:30am hrs
Document management (DM) is rooted in the late 19th century concept of paperwork management that defined the physical control of recorded information or documents. The paper document was once the only means of conducting business and government activities. But when it started assuming voluminous proportions, business efficiency reduced considerably.

Document Technologies
The simplest of all document technologies is EDMS (Electronic Document Management System) or DMS. A typical DMS allows archiving of electronic files, retrieval and display of more than 200 popular file formats, production grade scanning of paper, acquisition through other modalities like fax/ e-mail, indexing or cataloguing, flexible search mechanisms, versioning, data exchange and distribution. Imaging is an important component of DMS and often begins with scanning. Image processing techniques have opened up new vistas for automation based on content recognition of paper-based documents.
Business process management (BPM) & workflow solutions automate business processes, in part or whole, during which documents, information or tasks are passed from one participant (human or machine) to another for action, according to a set of procedural rules.
Web content management is a concept that helps managing documents over the Internet environment. It extends business process directly on to a consumers desktop greatly enhancing customer loyalty and increasing cross-selling opportunities since the responses are quick.
Since the last decade, this problem has been further compounded by the co-existence, alongside paper, of electronic office documents such as Word, Excel, e-mail, PDF, HTML, etc. The definition of the term document itself has changed. It means different things to different people, depending upon the vertical segment they are looking at.

In fact, a document could be any discrete file or identifiable informational unit that can exist within a computer system. Access and distribution of the right information to the right people at the right time is now recognised as the most critical factor for business success. Document technologies such as document management system (DMS), imaging, workflow, business process management (BPM), record management, Web content management, knowledge management etc, are frontrunners in the enterprise software race. Rapid proliferation of these technologies is rendering traditional business practices obsolete, creating opportunities for corporates to re-engineer their business processes and capitalise on them. Be it superior customer care, capturing a bigger market share or reducing operational costs, the technologies have emerged to help companies develop new value propositions for their customers.

Studies have shown that three-fourths of a companys knowledge is stored as unstructured data in the form of documents. One of the major reasons why pure relational database management system (RDBMS)-based systems or ERP (enterprise resource planning) solutions fail to deliver the required information present in day-to-day office documents is because everything cannot be manually entered into the software system. Document technologies are therefore aimed at managing all kinds of information and imparting structure, organisation and accessibility to the archival store.

Another problem with conventional solutions is that despite 30 years of progress, todays systems still require an understanding of database contents in order to form queries that return meaningful results. Therefore, an information retrieval system is needed to fill the gap of an engine that searches meaningful contents from the archived document-base based on certain database indexes. DM technologies thus complement DBMS (database management systems).

BPM & workflow solutions, an advanced DM and exchange system, provides the capability to interpret information contained within the documents or data and thus automate business cycles in a pre-determined way. The solution is best applied in situations where information is derived from a variety of sources and there exists a well-established, multi-stage-processing environment. Web content management is another concept that is gaining momentum as enterprises are adding more and more functionality to their e-commerce sites. Content management tools improve an organisations ability to sell by placing the most effective or commercially relevant data in front of each consumer, dynamically. The new DM methods are practical and effective for both transactional and non-transactional document types.

According to a Gartner report, the most important reason for adopting DM is better movement and access of documents. However, different organisations have gained different benefits from the use of various document technologiesimproved productivity and ability to handle more business; increased revenues; reduced operational costs; better management control; reduced people-dependence; improved customer service; improved security; disaster recovery preparedness; and and improved competitive position in the market.

Many organisations have now deployed document applications since it is the only way to cope up with the growing volumes of documentation generated by re-invented processes. Business process outsourcing, banking, finance, insurance, telecom, health care, publishing, manufacturing, customer care, defence, e-commerce and e-governance are the core business segments that are taking full advantage of these technologies.

Document technologies continue to mature due to increased demand for user-centric systems, increased use of the Internet, availability of more computational power and widened industry acceptance of the standards.

The author is headR&D and imaging, Newgen Software Technologies Ltd