Is Y2K Driving a New Form Factor?

With companies increasingly focused on wringing efficiencies out of the way they handle documents, this area is ripe for the introduction of new technologies. That's why the Year 2000 crisis represents a prime opportunity for many companies to make the shift to digital formats.

Crisis or no crisis, the overall document management market is expected to boom over the next few years, tripling in size by the year 2003. Annual revenues among document management vendors will increase from $13.2 billion in 1998 to $41.6 billion in 2003, predicts James Popkin, VP and research fellow with Gartner Group (Stamford, Conn.). This equates to a compounded annual growth rate of 26 percent, led by demand for integrated systems (growing at a rate of 76 percent), and document component management (63 percent).

Business processes that are being automated through document technologies include records/archival management, accounts payable/receivable, customer care and human resources.

This burgeoning market represents new opportunities for AS/400 managers that manage documents on a day-to-day basis. For one, operations can be dramatically streamlined by shifting from preprinted, multipart business forms to electronic forms and overlays, says Mark Firmin, VP of sales and marketing at Formula One Systems Inc. (Duluth, Ga.). Y2K solutions are forcing some of these changes. "There is little forms flexibility in the typical legacy environment since the basic technology is optimized for high speed production of large-scale management reports," he notes.

In addition, many companies are moving toward bar coding, particularly in inventory, distribution, transportation and manufacturing applications. Electronic forms solutions lend themselves well to the bar-coding process for several reasons, Firmin relates. These include flexibility, the ability to print on demand, quality of image, and ease of production. "The data is already in the file, so no additional coding is required," he says.

Electronic documents also provide an easy transition to electronic commerce, Firmin adds. Conventional EDI applications normally require conformity in forms and formats, while the new generation of Web-enabled EDI products enable companies engaging in e-commerce to present and receive data as they wish. "All that is required is to create a form overlay and massage the data by highlighting it and dragging it to whatever position is desired," Firmin says. "Electronic forms provide a cost-effective, relatively simple mechanism for managing e-commerce activities."

There is a growing convergence between core document technologies and the development of emerging technologies such as e-commerce, knowledge management, and Web content management, Gartner's Popkin agrees. This reinforces the importance and need for organizations to implement document technologies across the enterprise. "Document technologies are anchoring many of the up-and-coming applications such as E-commerce and knowledge management," notes John Mancini, president of AIIM International (Silver Spring, Md.), which co-sponsored the Gartner study.

However, while Y2K may drive changes, it also could represent a bump in the road for the proliferation of document management technologies. The Gartner study finds that Y2K compliance has superseded document management as a key issue, jumping from third place behind Internet/extranet and document management in last year's survey. Interestingly, many IT managers gave document management a higher priority ranking than e-commerce initiatives in the latest ranking.

The most frequent technologies being planned for implementation in 1999 are Web content management (29 percent), workflow (28 percent), and integrated document management (25 percent). Areas ranking low on the priority list for this year include film-based imaging (60 percent will not implement), knowledge management applications (53 percent) and e-commerce applications (49 percent). These more innovative applications may see more deployments once Y2K has passed, says Popkin.