Vanguard Pushes Document Imaging Envelope

Document imaging has become increasingly commonplace in the AS/400 market, as the Internet provides easy access to graphics for a wide audience of users, and those users in turn have the high-powered desktops needed to manage graphical content.

Vanguard Systems (Media, Pa.) continues to feed the market's growing appetite for imaging technology with Release 6.0 of its IMS/21 document image processing solution for the AS/400. With Release 6.0, IMS/21 enables users to link scanned documents, faxes, IBM OfficeVision documents, spool files, word processing correspondence and PC graphics to AS/400 applications.

Vanguard has rewritten and upgraded the IMS/21 client code to 32-bit, enabling the product to run on Windows 95, 98 or Windows NT. This accomplished two goals for the product: IMS/21 is now TCP/IP enabled and backward-compatible with previous, 16-bit versions of the product.

"TCP/IP enabling the product did two things for us," says David Engberg, president of Vanguard Systems. "One, it made the product more open. While we don't necessarily support other platforms for the database, that is definitely a possibility available to us now.

"TCP/IP also gave us an addressing scheme where we can integrate with the AS/400 without any Client Access or any NetSoft router required," Engberg continues. "Because it's TCP/IP, [users] don't even need to have an AS/400 application running. We can now service people without AS/400 applications."

Without the need for Client Access or other kinds of IBM protocols on the PC to access the IMS/21 database, Vanguard's product will be able to service a variety of platforms in the future, according to Engberg.

Specific enhancements added to IMS/21 6.0 include: improved PC folio inquiry; zoom window; hand panning; image clean up, while scanning; the capability to re-order scanned pages within a document; personal folios; report distribution; LAN-attached 3995 support; the capability to verify after write to optical; multiple AS/400 environment support; the capability to combine pages for faxing; printer server API; Twain-compliant scanner support; and a technical support Web site for Vanguard customers.

"Advances in PC technology have changed the way users look at managing images and graphics over the Internet," Engberg points out. "Any PC you buy today is more than capable of processing an image, whereas five or six years ago that wasn't necessarily the case. I honestly feel [document image processing] is something about to become commonplace. It's not going to be something unique that people do anymore. It's going to be unique if you don't do it soon."

Just as significant as Release 6.0's enhancements is the product's capability to be integrated with Lotus Notes. IMS/21 works as a "pre-process, post-process or a parallel process to a Lotus Notes application," Engberg says. "This means IMS/21 can collect the images, and then at some point in time those images could be transferred to a Notes application."

In a pre-process capacity, for example, Lotus Notes could be used to set up a system for accounts payable invoice approval -- approving invoices before they get into the accounts payable system, according to Engberg. "The user could set up an application whereby the invoice is scanned in and attached to a Notes application," he says. "This attachment then becomes a copy of the invoice for all Notes users without the invoice actually being part of the system. A Notes application could then be created to determine an approval process for the invoice. At some point, the user could then write an interface that would automatically transfer the document's information to the IMS/21 system while at the same time filling out the user's accounts payable screen."

In a post-process capacity, IMS/21 could be used to collect images and work with the application software to forward those images to Lotus Notes, Engberg explains. In this way, IMS/21 provides a subset of the "vast amount of data you want to analyze and distribute using a Notes application," he says.

IMS/21 can be used with Lotus Notes in a parallel-process scenario if both Lotus Notes and line-of-business applications request access to a certain image, with both referencing the same folders simultaneously, according to Engberg. "This works along the same premise as a link to a Web page," he says. "This is much the same way you could do a hyperlink within an application to a Web page, except it would be a variable link to our program that would display a list of documents."

This integration with Lotus Notes becomes increasingly significant to the AS/400 market as IBM continues to promote running Lotus Domino on the AS/400 and de-emphasizes the use of tools like OfficeVision/400. IBM made an announcement on February 9 of this year stating OS/400 V4R4 is the last release of the operating system that will support OfficeVision/400 and OfficeVision JustMail for OS/400. IBM does not plan to enhance OV/400 or JustMail to support any future versions or releases of OS/400.

AS/400 customers are instead encouraged to migrate to Lotus Notes clients and the native AS/400 Domino server.