Document Management Strategies

Devisingand implementing a document management strategy is essential if yourorganization uses large amounts of unstructured information. Exampleorganizations include the professional services, such as consultants, legalfirms, or health care providers. Other industries that deal with large volumesof unstructured documents include pharmaceutical firms, insurance companies,and chemical manufacturers. In many industries, such as pharmaceuticals,document management solutions are required by government regulators. In others,document management solutions are necessary to ensure that critical informationis readily available.

Documentmanagement is not one single technology. It’s several technologies that arecombined to manage unstructured corporate information. Document managementsolutions include computer output to laser disk (COLD), imaging and opticalcharacter recognition (OCR) engines, workflow repositories, and documentmanagement repositories. This proliferation of related technologies requires anintegrated approach to document management, or integrated document management(IDM).

After yearsof steady growth, the IDM market is poised to take off, primarily as the resultof several converging trends. The first is the ability to post enterprisedocuments to the Web and make them available within an organization, as well asbetween organizations. The second is the recognition that data warehouses anddata marts only bring half the organization’s information to users who requireit. Organizations have a host of corporate data that is stored in documents --not in relational databases -- such as correspondence, proposals, proceduremanuals, engineering diagrams, spreadsheets, and the like. Many organizationsrecognize the need to develop a document management strategy that will allowthem to leverage the institutional knowledge captured in these documents. Thethird trend is the availability of multimedia repositories that can bringseveral formats together into a single locale, and can be searched by a searchengine. The fourth trend is the appearance of enterprise information portals.An enterprise portal provides the infrastructure for a Web-based user to accessthe document repository and locate documents of interest. Another key attributeis that users can personalize search criteria, limiting the amount ofinformation delivered to them, plus they can publish/subscribe to documentcategories to share information with other users.

Don’t fallinto the trap of thinking that document management and workflow are the same --they are not. Workflow is software that manages a repeatable business process,involving actors and actions. Document management, on the other hand, managesthe storage and retrieval of unstructured text. Given this distinction,however, there are limited workflow scenarios, such as expense report approval,where tracking the current location and status of a document is important.

Assumingyour company recognizes the need for a document management solution, what arethe steps you should take?

First,survey your existing infrastructure to establish a current baseline. If yourenvironment is like most, there is probably a plethora of various file serverscontaining tens of thousands of documents. Without a centralized repository ofinformation, it’s virtually impossible for a user to locate a document, unlessthey happen to have access to the specific server and directory containing thatdocument.

Once youhave an understanding about your current environment, then you should envisionthe ideal target environment. In many instances, this will involve acentralized or distributed repository. You need to consider several importantissues: which documents should go into the repository, who will have theauthority to update or purge the repository, and who will have access todocuments. The security ramifications can become especially important if yourorganization wants to share documents with users outside the corporatefirewall, such as with a key supplier.

Afterdetermining your requirements you’re ready to deal with the vendor community.You should survey the key market players and issue a short, but comprehensive,request for proposal to no more than four or five vendors. Pick the two bestresponses and invite the vendors to come in and configure a demonstrationproject that you can show to senior management.

Once you’veselected a vendor, then the real work begins. Don’t underestimate the work ofinstalling, configuring, and rolling out a comprehensive enterprise solution.And don’t forget to allocate budget for a team to manage the repository onceits been established. --Robert Craig isvice president of marketing at Viador Inc. (Burlington, Mass.), and a formerdirector at the Hurwitz Group Inc. Contact him at