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Paradigm Shifts in Document Management
Introduction
Causes of paradigm shifts
Reactions to preserve the existing paradigm
The future of document management
Information acquisition
Final remarks

von Dr. Ulrich Kampffmeyer
Profil_Kampffmeyer
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Introduction
Before you can address the question of ”paradigm shifts in document management”, you must first consider the individual components of this title more closely and arrive at definitions: What is a ”paradigm”, what is a ”paradigm shift”, what is a ”document”, and what is ”document management” - has there actually been a ”paradigm shift in document management”?
Paradigm
The original definition of paradigm
The term ”paradigm” originally came from the Greek and means an ”example”. The term ”paradigm” generally means a structure presented as an example or a pattern. In linguistics, a paradigm is an example indicating the declination of a noun or conjugation of a verb or even linguistic units between which a choice is to be made in a particular context (e.g.: He is standing here, there, up there, down there).
The concept of paradigm in the philosophy of science
T.S. Kuhn introduced the concept of a paradigm into the philosophy of science to describe a constellation of beliefs, values and methods which are shared and accepted by the practitioners of a particular branch of science. In a particular area of science, a paradigm comprises the general theoretical assumptions and laws on which the theories of these paradigms are based. Newtonian mechanics or Einstein's approach to physics are examples of scientific paradigms.
The concept of paradigm shift
Thomas Kuhn characterized the dynamics of science as a cyclic process:

Normal situation-> crisis -> revolution -> installation of a new paradigm -> normal situation
->…

Processes can undermine a paradigm and precipitate a crisis. As a result, mechanisms to preserve the existing paradigm come into effect. A profusion of theories are then produced in this area of science. If a paradigm cannot be saved, it will be replaced by a new paradigm as a result of a scientific revolution.
The economy also has comparable development cycles which make it possible to transfer the concept of a paradigm shift to this area. A prerequisite for a paradigm is, however, a closed, self-contained entity which uses its own methods and considers itself to be an independent branch or discipline with respect to the ”outside world”.
Documents
The conventional concept of a document
The concept of a document often denotes a text on paper but also has a connotation of legality. Certificates, contracts and business letters are referred to as documents in this sense. In Germany, for example, the legal character of documents is further underlined by the stipulations of the Handelsgesetzbuch, the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch and other regulations.
In the English-speaking world, at least in the field of electronic data processing, the term ”document” has other connotations. Even the famous appendage ”.DOC” shows that these are texts which have been created on a text processing system. American suppliers of document management systems simply handle all files on an electronic system as ”documents”.
Even today, many potential customers think of document management systems as a means of scanning in existing paper documents. Because of the archiving of list output and other data from operative systems, this conception has changed little. Only when files from office applications were stored was the concept of ”document” generalized to electronic documents with arbitrary contents.
Documents on an electronic system could be almost anything ...
Today, the contents of electronic documents could be practically anything:
Files, facsimiles, list output, digitized speech, digitized videos, frozen frames, protocol data or any combination of these
Basically, anything on an edp system that is a file or a well-defined component of a file in a structured or unstructured form and which, at a particular point in time, can be considered to be an authentic entity, consistent both from the point of view of content and formally, is a document. Electronic documents have to meet stringent requirements as data can be modified in a variety of ways on edp systems. They must precisely reproduce the status, composition, form and content which they had at the time of their intentional creation. Dynamic links, automatic updates in documents, modification of the context, composition of documents from separate components, the dependence of formats and run-time environments and other factors mean that systems for administrating documents of this kind have to meet special requirements.
Many suppliers, therefore, back a special form of electronic document. Not only is the content stored simply as a file, but also a document object which contains all the descriptive features and management information necessary for finding the document, restoring contexts and reproduction.
This approach has already been adopted in the past in standards such as ODA/ODIF or DFR, but these standards could not establish themselves on the market however. In SGML, the field of structured text documents has a standard which, thanks to HTML, is currently experiencing a renaissance. Last but not least, object-oriented software development environments are reviving the idea of the self-descriptive, self-contained document object.
Electronic documents and digital signatures
Digital signatures endow the concept of a document with a special quality.
The digital signature is a security standard for the exchange of electronic documents and guarantees the authenticity of the sender and the integrity of the contents of an electronic document. A digital signature is intended to have the same legal force as the signature on a paper document. In Germany, the ”Signaturgesetz” (Signature Law) has created a basic legal framework for one digital signature. The Signature Law, however, does not preclude the use of other methods for digital signatures.
The digital signature defined in the Signature Law is generated with a private key which is known only to the key owner and a public key which is managed by certification bodies and is then attached to an electronic document. The sender signs and encrypts electronic documents with his private key which is stored on a chip card. The recipient only has access to the public key but can open and read the document. He also receives information about the sender and about the authenticity of the document contents.
The public key can, therefore, be used to check a signature and any modification to the signed document is obvious immediately. The public key is certified by authorized bodies. Certification bodies store the data which is required to identify the owners of private keys. It is, therefore, possible to discover the identity of the owner of a private key via the certification body.
Italy too has implemented an approach which is similar to the German Signature Law. This law puts digital signatures and conventional signatures on the same legal footing. This law contains only enabling legislation and regulations - there are no technical descriptions of the procedure and consequently no certification. In Europe, other approaches are at present being adopted by countries such as France and Great Britain, etc. Attempts are being made to harmonize these approaches within the European Union, the German approach being used as the basis. The OECD has published eight basic principles relating to digital signatures and the UN has developed a ”model law” to promote the standardization of further international activity in this area.
As the identity of the sender of a document with a digital signature is only indirectly guaranteed - a situation comparable with the misuse of EC cards and the card owner denying the removal of funds from his account - the ”digital identity” of a document encompasses procedures with which a card owner himself can identify himself using his card, e.g. by examining his finger prints, or similar features, which are can also be stored as a private key on the card.
Files with digital signatures are increasingly being accepted as originals - they are on their way to being recognized by the law. This means that contracts can be completed without paper originals, orders made and other business conducted. The digital original is, therefore, a decisive breakthrough for document management. New user groups are opened up and new storage and management requirements for these documents have to be met. Restrictions of the past when a scanned facsimile or the reconstruction of an electronically generated letter from the data could only be treated as a copy of the original, have been overcome by documents with digital signatures which represent entirely authentic originals. When the legal and technical uncertainties that still exist have been removed, the digitally signed document will become the principal foundation of E-commerce on the Internet.
Document management in the wider sense
A number of implications for the concept of document management flow from the definition of ”document”, given previously. Today, it is the term used for the whole range of DMS (Document Management System, EDM Electronic Document Management) suppliers and their numerous solutions.
With the increasing overlap and integration of the different document management technologies, the term is also being applied to other systems and their interaction as well as to classic document management. These other systems are:
Document imaging Scanning, displaying, printing, and managing facsimile documents
Electronic archiving Archiving data, images and/or list output, with database-supported access, remote storage, auditability
Document management in the narrower sense Management of files or file documents in electronic systems with control mechanisms for version management, composite documents or check in or check out
E-forms Electronic forms for the entry, display, publishing, and management of variable information
Output management Creation, management and print output for professional printing
Office communication/office suites Individual modules like word processing, spreadsheets, graphics, databases, calendars, mail, and fax, with active control by the user
Groupware Cooperative working, database-supported data and file administration, replication, group functions such as calendar and mail, linkage and integration of individual components
Workflow Structured processes, status and action monitoring, rule-based control, CI and NCI document processing, controlled forwarding of documents and procedures
There is almost no limit to terms such as ”multi-media databases”, ”document warehouses” or ”knowledge management” which can be added to the list. However, delimitation and classification are becoming increasingly difficult due to the creativity of the product and marketing managers.
Terms like ”document management” or ”workflow” which are the habitual choice of suppliers no longer create any interest. They are clichés which have actually taken on negative connotations to some extent; they are associated with large, complex and expensive projects. On the other hand, they mean nothing to a broad range of new potential users. Major companies have now reached the stage where they think that they have enough information about this topic. This is also shown by a drop in interest for congresses and seminars, for example. However, it must be stated that frequently neither of the user groups that have been outlined has a clear idea of the implications of the use of document management. The organizational dimension, implementation in the company, is usually underestimated or even ignored.
In the past, the document management sector, every supplier, put a lot into informing - you could even say educating - potential users. This investment is, however, being nullified to an ever greater extent by a plethora of differing terms and definitions, by the lack of any clear delimitation from other topics and in the emergence of new, interesting trends such as the Internet. Describing existing technologies with new buzz words like ”integrated document management”, ”enterprise document management” or ”knowledge management” will not work. The products must meet the requirements which are becoming more exacting and a coherent image must be presented on the market.
A paradigm shift in document management?
The crucial question is: Are the developments on the document management market so crucial, so radical, that the use of the term paradigm shift is justified?
To answer this question, we must first take a brief look at the history of document management. First of all came special solutions - such as the use of digital optical disks which could only be written to once - which were not compatible with conventional magnetic-disk-oriented operating systems. The development of optical filing started in the early 80s. Systems which introduced uncoded information, and scanned facsimiles into the system worlds which were previously purely data-oriented were a parallel development. This created the discipline of ”imaging”. FileNET was the first to go a step further and turned imaging into workflow by routing and distributing uncoded information.
Special applications such as electronic archiving, COLD, forms processing, OCR/ICR and others developed from the approaches of the 80s. The 90s saw the emergence of ”classic document management”, the handling of files from file systems, ad-hoc workflow to compensate for the inadequacies of conventional E-mail, and solutions such as groupware. At first, all these approaches were stand-alone applications for special tasks. They provided solutions for problems which conventional operating systems and operative systems like business applications could not handle. Using the tools for these products, independent, specific applications were then developed with the objective of managing, using, visualizing and storing data and documents. Frequently, however, they ran parallel to applications in which data and documents were generated and processed. If common usage of information was required, existing applications of this kind would have to be integrated to an ever greater extent.
Technological innovations of recent years like the Internet and the integration of document management functions into operating systems, business application software and tool boxes mean that document management system manufacturers now have to take difficult decisions crucial to the survival of products, companies and an independent document management sector. On the one hand, document management products have reached maturity, but on the other hand their independent existence is under threat from new trends and developments.
Reason enough to be thinking in terms of paradigm shifts.
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Causes of paradigm shifts
If you follow Thomas Kuhn’s approach, the causes of a paradigm shift do not always occur in the sequence ”normal situation - crisis - revolution - installation of a new paradigm - normal situation”. This sequence from science applies to processes of change that are intrinsic to a system.
With our paradigm shift in the world of document management, it is primarily external causes which play a decisive role. In this case, the events ”crisis” and ”revolution” coincide. The crisis arises because too many suppliers do the same thing with their products - in a market with long-term consequences such as the storage of information for decades - a high decision risk for the potential user. In contrast with the situation with operating systems, with large business applications or with office applications, where a handful of major suppliers are relied on for a certain measure of product reliability and future product availability, the number of suppliers of document management products is simply too great. Even the totality of all developers of all DMS suppliers does not reach the potential which is provided by major software companies for the further development of products. Anyone who continues to just specialize in electronic archiving, is by definition hanging a mill stone around his own neck, as the availability of data and documents is to be guaranteed for decades.
This means that the DMS sector is simply running after the major trends - in the case of integration projects, it is customer-driven, when it is adapting to operating systems, standard applications and platforms, it is other software companies that are calling the tune. This continuous pressure from the customer and the competition is one of the factors that causes the crisis of the existing paradigm. There are only isolated signs of a revolution originating in the document management sector itself that will provide the impetus to make a leap forward. It seems rather as if the innovations and independent features of the DMS sector are being used by others and that the store of distinguishing features which define the sector is continually being diminished. Even though the products are becoming even more reliable, even more multi-faceted and rich in functions - breakthroughs which could secure survival as an independent sector are few and far between. There are plenty of opportunities: for example, E-commerce, documents with digital signatures, the combination of information from a wide variety of sources to obtain knowledge management solutions or opening up the content of uncoded documents. Only when terms like ”document warehouse”, ”management information system” and ”knowledge management” can be backed up with practical products, can a new paradigm be established. In economics, the situation differs from that in science as the end of a paradigm shift process can also result in the complete disappearance of a paradigm as an independent entity - not necessarily the appearance of a new paradigm.
At present, there are three factors determining the paradigm shift which are especially important for the document management sector:
User requirements are changing
When document management solutions were overcoming technical inadequacies in software and hardware systems that were already in use, and it was also possible to obtain competitive advantages from the one-off use of a technology of this kind, island solutions were acceptable. An electronic archive could operate independently alongside groupware or alongside an operative host application.
The time of island solutions is nearing its end.
Nowadays, the user does not want to constantly change between windows to find information. He is no longer willing to click through confusing file trees which, in the final analysis, merely represent an inadequate, monolithic paper store. The user does not want to have to think all the time ”Is this message an E-mail in the E-mail directory or is it a fax on the fax server or has it come from the Internet and is now in my Compuserve download directory - and where is the reply: in the secretary’s directory, in the entry cache or already in the project directory under protocol annexes?” The idea of a standardized in-basket for mail with an automatic document database system in the background is now arousing considerably more interest than the questions ”How do I scan a document into an imaging system” or ”Now do I store on TrueWORM or SoftWORM”. Basically, the user does not want any additional, let alone any separate systems. Access to the correct document should be automated if at all possible and should be performed in its usual software environment from an E-mail program, a text processing program, a business application or from an office automation system.
In this context, two concepts, ”enabling” and ”engine”, are playing a more and more significant role.
As far as enabling at the client level is concerned, only the document management functionality is integrated into an existing software interface. The existing software environment can now handle, search for and find documents, display, classify, send and print them out. By importing from the enabling module, a document can be processed further.
The ”engine” on the other hand is on the server, or rather at the service level. It is a service which other applications use to manage and to store documents. Basically, the user is not aware of it and can keep within his usual environment. If an engine of this kind is to be used, the availability of standardized interfaces is of critical importance.
Even if enabling and engines provide the user with documents in the environment that he is familiar with, one of the most important user requirements is not met - a facility for finding documents. Everyone is talking about search engines, but what the user really needs is an intelligent ”find engine” which will help him find even ”mislaid” documents, will help him to link features and contents and adapt to his way of working. The development trend for databases is increasingly tending to constrict intelligent document management. Neither conventional SQL databases nor conventional full-text databases will be able to meet requirements. As the document management sector generally uses retrieval systems from third-source manufacturers - a few exceptions prove the rule - again, it would seem that the necessary breakthrough is more likely to occur outside the existing paradigm of document management.
The requirements of the user exert a permanent pressure on the manufacturers of document management software. As this pressure always exists, it cannot be equated with the ”revolution” of the Kuhnian paradigm shift. In turn, customer requirements are changes, only an imitation of technological revolutions, which occur outside the paradigm of document management. In this case, the suppliers are frequently addressing only the effects of the revolution and not its causes.
Internet technology is revolutionizing document management
The true revolution for document management is the Internet.
IBM mastered and controlled the first paradigm of electronic data processing. Centralized systems also permitted the exchange of information in closed user groups for the first time. However, the technology had no provisions for document management. On the other hand, it did provide the stimulus for a few innovative companies to develop new solutions.
The first paradigm shift in edp technology was the PC which began to supersede mainframes in the 80s, free users from the restrictions of character-oriented terminals and, networked as client/server solutions, created a gigantic market for the subsequent software industry. It made graphical user interfaces and the plethora of software products with which we are now familiar possible - not to mention the games industry. There is no doubt who the winner of this era was: Bill Gates. The PC and its technological possibilities has made its mark on the document management industry. PC networking laid the foundations for workflow, groupware and classic document management as we know it today.
The second major paradigm shift that had a comparable, if not greater, global effect was the Internet. The Internet democratized information - it can be accessed any time anywhere on the globe. This aspect is more important than the role of the browser. Although the browser provides a standard user interface - as long as one supplier does not have overall control of the market - the development of browsers, and so the various ways in which information is presented, will readily go in different directions. Even though the Internet is a free, unstructured, networked and distributed infrastructure, it has given birth to a new latent trend - recentralization.
Not only did the Internet shock directly affect Microsoft, it also hit the document management sector. ”A free browser to view documents? - No, that’s impossible, our full-function document imaging viewer client costs $ 1000 per workstation”. It was not too long ago that statements like these were being made.
Accessing a standard document management system with a browser is something that almost any supplier can now do. The challenge is elsewhere. The Internet also saw the creation of a new document concept, networked pages with moving graphics, links and, depending on the environment and user attitude, with different representations. The concept of a static document as exemplified by scanned facsimiles, was of no interest to the creators of the World Wide Web. They focused on content and not on form. Thinking about how easy the information on the Internet was to change made the legal expert’s hair stand on end. At present, it is almost impossible to imagine that these documents could provide legal proof or be used as a legal document. If the legislature had problems with scanned documents, they are now facing a much greater challenge.
The Internet has also seen the creation of new ways of capturing information, ”crawlers”, ”spiders”, ”agents”, ”self-optimizing search engines”. These systems were developed to help cope with the chaos caused by an overwhelming supply of information. They differ fundamentally from the beautifully ordered structures of document management solutions where the management systems knows at any time the location and status of a document. Internet search engine approaches are only haltingly finding their way into conventional DMS products. True Internet document management systems, whether it be Intranet or Extranet, are however unthinkable without new approaches of this kind to capturing information.
Essentially, the Internet is the Kuhnian revolution which is causing the paradigm shift in today’s document management sector. As it is not yet clear who will emerge victorious from this era which is only just beginning, the document management industry still has a sufficiently large playing field to compete on.
Document management becomes part of the infrastructure
Apart from the continual pressure from customers and the competition, apart from the technological and intellectual revolution that is the Internet, there is a third force which will determine the future development of the document management industry. It is not as obvious as the Internet, a true innovation. You could say that document management is being taken over by stealth.
Document management is losing more and more of its unique selling points (USPs).
A example to illustrate three important aspects of this takeover.
Integration of document management functionality into operating systems
At the start of their development, as has already been outlined above, the document management sector based their existence on being able to put ”difficult document types” like faxes onto edp systems or digital optical storage media, which by their very nature were not compatible with the dynamic, magnetic-disk-oriented operating systems. Many of these functions have now already been transferred to operating systems or additional standard services. On the client there are free viewers for the documents and hierarchical storage management systems (HSM), also managing jukeboxes with write once optical memory, are integrated on the server side. New services like resource directories solve the problem of independent, user management facilities which also have to be maintained.
As the inadequacies of hierarchical file managers are no secret and conventional directory structures are already becoming a problem in smaller organizations because they do not provide a clear overview, it seems likely that, in the short-term, the basic technologies of document management such as database-supported management, virtual directories in which multiple visualization of a document is possible in spite of single storage and mechanisms like check-in or check-out, will soon be found again in an environment which is like an operating system. Although these solutions will not be capable of satisfying all the requirements of major users who now use classic professional document management systems, a large number of users will back the standard products as they are practically being given away in the price of the package together with the operating system from the leading software suppliers. It is only a question of time before programs like Outlook, in combination with Back-Office-Services or Lotus Notes Domino, develop into a complete document management system in the narrower sense - and also provide the advantages of a general functionality that is thought of in wider terms. This puts great pressure on suppliers who have made this market segment their only specialization.
In the future, the same will apply to E-mail. Today, it is usually still the case that when a message is sent, it is no longer possible to exert any control over what happens to the content of the message or the attached documents. Future versions of E-mail will be more like current ad-hoc workflow products. In this case too, initially only simple tools which do not meet the special requirements of true process control should be expected. However, they will exert a considerable pressure on the suppliers of straight workflow tools due to the ongoing integration with other office applications, ”delivery in the same box” as the basic software and their wide distribution.
Integration into business applications
While the standard functions which have been integrated into the operating system or back-office threaten only the ”simple solution” market, the danger for professional, large-scale solutions in the field of classic document management in the narrower sense, and for the workflow suppliers is from large software system providers, whether they are called SAP, BAAN, IBM, Computer Associates or something else. Their software systems are applications which manage and process the critical business data of companies. They provide the interface of habitual use for most office workers. Only functionality that permits document display or that allows documents to be passed on to subsystems for storage or to be called from subsystems must be added on to these products. Most of today’s applications already have document management and workflow functionality - even if these concepts are not mentioned explicitly in advertising brochures. Because of the competition to push rivals’ large, standard software applications from the market, these suppliers are integrating the whole range of document management functionality to an ever greater extent.
It is, therefore, becoming increasingly difficult for DMS suppliers, say, to establish a parallel workflow system alongside an operative system of that kind if all critical data, the work procedures or the central user management are implemented in the business application system. This only succeeds if the users employ other platforms or environments which are to be integrated by workflow or groupware in addition to the operative business or legacy application.
Database systems
There is a further challenge from suppliers of databases and special search engines. Today, databases are used by the document management sector to manage documents in separate repository or library systems via pointers. These are referred to as index or reference databases. The main arguments for using this architecture were the large quantity of data and documents that often needed to be stored, the scalability of the servers and the high cost of magnetic disk storage.
Databases are now capable of storing even documents in their own structure and the reorganization, scaling and performance problems associated with these systems are not far from being solved, be it by means of new software strategies or simply through the availability of more powerful hardware. When dynamic documents, which are still subject to modification and are even generated digitally in the software applications, are managed, they play an increasingly more important role. It does not matter whether they are used as a stand-alone system or as a groupware component like Lotus Notes. This development has already led to a differentiation of the concept of an archive system. One now refers to a dynamic store and a static long-term archive. Only when large quantities of data, distributed solutions and the previously referred to class of archive systems are involved, will the reference database architectures remain significant in the long-term. As far as dynamic stores are concerned, the databases themselves take over the management of documents. As the DMS sector is largely dependent on management and search engines of this kind from third-source suppliers, the market threat comes from the partner one has selected oneself.
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Reactions to preserve the existing paradigm
Naturally, no discipline simply ”folds” under a threatening crisis or revolution. This also applies to the document management sector. Initially, its reaction is drawn from within the existing paradigm, before it gets to grips with a ”leap forwards”. The attitude of the sector can be gauged from the large number of articles that have been published. To quote just one example, this can be seen in share prospectuses from suppliers who have recently ventured onto the stock exchange. All the statements about the growth and direction of these companies are confined to the existing paradigm - new approaches that would break the mold are expressed in terms of buzz words which conceal the lack of current products and vision of any kind. This applies not only to the suppliers that have been referred to, but also to many others. Under these circumstances, it is sometimes easier for companies which are not solely fixated on document management as the existing diversification provides a greater potential for future developments. Innovation itself, or in Kuhnian terms ”revolution”, is brought about by small, new companies which are not held back by the inertia of large enterprises or by the ”baggage” of existing solutions.
How successful suppliers react to the paradigm shift? We will now discuss four important aspects:
Standards
Standards often stipulate the lowest common denominator or the ”state of the art”. When they are completed, they are frequently overtaken by new developments. DMS standards like ODMA were only finally accepted because they were backed by Microsoft, a leading software supplier - naturally without stopping its own proprietary developments for a standard of this kind. A standard like the one relating to TIFF compression for group 4 faxes could only establish itself because every fax machine in the world operates on this principle. Standardization was effected by the telecommunication industry and not by the document management sector. The implementation of the sector’s own standards, for example the WfMC Workflow Management Coalition or the DMA Document Management Alliance is under threat before they have even been completed. For the same functionality, simple, Internet-based standards like JFLOW or SWAP are being created on topics such as workflow. They do not have the same depth or comfort as the ”major standards”, but do, however, increase the pressure on standardization bodies to not only finally complete their work at long last but also to address new technological developments. At present, it is not easy for the standardization bodies for the document management sector to embrace such independent aspirations of that kind again. Even the creation of codes of practice that stipulate how, say, documents should be archived or exchanged contribute to the consolidation of the existing paradigm.
When it standardizes its products - of critical importance for further modularization and interoperability - the sector exposes itself to pressure from the large software suppliers. SAP has no problems pushing through a proprietary standard like Archivelink. Platform suppliers like Microsoft or IBM/Lotus will always tailor their products and interfaces to suit their own requirements - they will take no interest in the requirements of ”subordinate subsystems” such as electronic archiving. Standards therefore ”cut both ways” for the document management sector - on the one hand they can impede technological progress but on the other they are essential for survival as they at least ensure inclusion as a service or module in larger solutions.
Standards are also an indication that document management actually exists as an independent phenomenon or paradigm. For the document management industry, they are analogous to the independent methods of a science.
Convergence of functionality and technologies
One reaction to the pressure of competition, customer requirements and the new technologies is to enhance the functionality of products. If there were once specialized solutions for list output archiving, facsimile archiving, records management, document management in the narrower sense, workflow etc., the characteristics of these products have now merged and are even supplemented by functions from office communication.
On the one hand, this occurs through the further development of existing products. The functionality of workflow is enhanced with archiving and document management, E-forms develops into workflow, workflow integrates archiving, archives are enhanced with multi-media functionality etc. The aim is to support the whole life-cycle of documents, the acquisition, processing and representation of all forms of documents, data and objects. Also included is the consideration of all imaginable checking, forwarding and control functionality. Functions which were previously independent applications, like say fax, E-mail, text-data integration, text template management, groupware functionality and so on. Increasingly, functionality of this kind is being directly integrated into DMS products - unfortunately it is sometimes ”rediscovered”, instead of existing, widely-available products being used. The latent reasons for this development are, say, fundamental strategies like ”only one incoming mail basket ” for all types of application and document from conventional E-mail through Internet, fax and voice-mail to production workflow.
An extension of this strategy is the creation of ”suites”, in other words combining existing products to form a single product. Then they only have a single client not one for each subapplication. There is just one user management facility which is used across the board for Workflow, Archiv, COLD and DMS. Suites are an approach particularly favored by large suppliers like IBM or FileNET, but also by newcomers on the market such as PcDOCS. Other suppliers prefer to buy in modules and products to extend their own portfolio. However, these approaches are often difficult to implement. This is especially so when products with different architectures and approaches to use are to be combined. Frequently, therefore, these suites do not have the character of self-contained products - instead they must first of all be combined by integrating and combining a variety of modules to create a solution which is again individual in character.
The prospectuses of suppliers are now overflowing with add-on modules, add-on functionality and options. Increasingly, the user is deprived of a clear overview and the standards to make an assessment, as products are becoming more and more similar as far as function range is concerned. The suitability of the implementation partner and his experience- ”soft decision-criteria” -are becoming more important than straight product functionality. The future-proofness, modularity, migration-proofness and simplicity of maintenance of products are gaining in importance as yardsticks.
Product diversification
At first glance, the trend towards product diversification seems to run counter to product convergence. At present, a variety of strategies can be observed on the market.
Specialized engines and services
Some suppliers are going increasingly for specialized services like workflow engines or archive-system servers which can be integrated into other applications. Using standardized interfaces, they perform specialized tasks so that the manufacturer of a standard application does not have to do the programming himself. They are a response to the pressure exerted by business software packages and, in the meantime, have covered the whole sector for standardized application software packages.
Component ware, tools and kits
Other suppliers back the programming of highly specialized functions and modules which are integrated directly into applications. Now, modules of this kind are to be found in almost all products from document management software suppliers. There is hardly a supplier of a ”major product” who still programs the drivers for jukeboxes and scanners or image enhancement algorithms themselves. The manufacturers of these tools, on the one hand, cover the requirements of the document management sector itself but on the other have expanded their business into all areas of software development a longtime ago.
As they are easy to integrate, say as VBX modules, Applets or libraries, they make it possible to rapidly ”cobble together” a solution using rudimentary resources. Professional suppliers are often confronted with ”garage solutions” of this kind and have a difficult time arguing the case for their professional solutions which have taken years to develop and arguing against these ”quick fixes”. Basically, any professional user, the ”power user”, can nowadays install components of this kind in his programs himself. However, entrusting the knowledge base of the company and company documents to solutions of that kind is more than questionable.
Standard products ”off-the-shelf”
Several producers of DMS software products back standard solutions which are as easy as possible to install, do not require any adaptation and which can be marketed in large volumes via retailers and other partners. The objective is to maximize market share. Frequently, the problem with products like this is that they will run on only a few platforms, are difficult to integrate into existing environments and usually have scaling problems. Usually, they are typical island solutions, independent products with their own clients for a defined purpose. Although this is not the objective of the suppliers, effective quality assurance and software development management, simple installation by third parties that are frequently unknown, the variety of possible configurations, software environments that are already existing at the client’s site and numerous other factors give the product a degree of closure to guarantee stability, availability and data security.
This type of product, often originating from medium-sized companies, will be under threat if very large software suppliers decide to enter this market or if the range of functionality in the operating system and basic software range becomes so great that that no additional, independent software is required.
High-performance or production systems
However, most of the sector is focused on high-end business. There is a marked differentiation between the low end with its standard products and business which tends to be more integration-oriented. The latter has its sights on major users where, from the outset, document management has to be integrated into software systems that are already in use. A typical feature is production workflow which can be used to implement complete sets of business applications. Or the list output and data archives of millions of transactions and thousands of reports in computer centers. As far as functionality, security and maturity are concerned, these systems are optimal.
With solutions of this kind, only a tiny fraction of income is earned from software licenses. Approximately 90% is project and integration costs. This type of business however assumes that stable basic products can be created separately from application development. When product development and application development become entwined, not only does dependency on the system and idea world of a few major customers threaten, but there is also a negative effect on both branches in relation to version management and further product development. Even marketing through partners can come to grief if an approach of that kind is adopted - whenever the ”beautiful, large projects” have to be implemented by the software producer himself.
Market consolidation
A further reaction to the ”crisis” and the ”revolution” in relation to the paradigm of document management is increasing market consolidation. There are a number of variations - not least in relation to the product strategies that were described previously. Consolidation concentrates power, splits the market and rounds off product portfolios.
Company takeovers and mergers
The round of company takeovers continues. The most prominent merger of the year was that of Fulcrum and PcDOCS. Takeovers have a variety of objectives. Firstly, the strengthening of development and marketing resources - the market for programmers and system consultants in the DMS sector has almost been swept clean. Secondly, the aim of combining products to create new offers. A third not unimportant aspect is to increase the customer base and market presence.
Company takeovers do not always have to be successful. The risk of failure is particularly great when companies with different cultures and national background are brought together. This is exemplified, for example, by a case from the storage system sector, the failed merger of ATG, France and Cygnet, USA. Other suppliers of DMS solutions have had, and continue to have, integration problems too. Not only does this affect employees but also the products that are to be integrated into new solutions.
Capitalization on the share market
Currently, many DMS suppliers are raising the necessary capital for company takeovers by going to the stock exchange. The objective of the majority of companies is to reach an adequate size to ensure that they survive the ongoing market purge. The strategy of taking sales abroad and creating subsidiaries to guarantee the high expenditures for the preliminary finance of an international business is also part of the approach. In Germany and the USA, the trend for stock exchange floatations continues unabated.
Partnerships
The producers of software have a strong preference for cooperation with system integrators who implement projects on the basis of products. It is only in this way that they can finance their own development and obtain a satisfactory market share. Winning over sales and integration partners is therefore currently one of the most important tasks for product suppliers. It will be difficult for companies which are only now coming up with a product to find suitable system integrators. As there are still only a few functional differences, the integrators who have invested heavily in training their employees, and who often are already capable of placing solutions with their customers, will only change over to a new product if there are problems with the old one or if the new product had such distinctive unique selling points that it would open up new groups of purchasers.
Reducing the number of suppliers and range of products
Even today, there are signs that many existing own software solutions are disappearing from the market. Former software producers are going over to the integrators’ camp. In spite of the plethora of brand names, the number of independent products is going down because many suppliers have OEM versions in their program - the software is simply offered under another name. In spite of the stream of new suppliers, the market is concentrated on a few products which have a long-term chance of seeing off the competition thanks to their professionalism, interfaces, good marketing and an adequate installation basis. This concentration is, amongst other things, an indication that the DMS market is mature.
As well as its positive effects, the market purge also makes potential customers insecure: ”Which product will survive?” This question can never be answered with enough certainty, particularly when arguments for a 30 year storage period for documents are proposed. This can affect both large and small suppliers. The question must, therefore, be reformulated: ”Which products have an architecture, interfaces and information storage that is so open that you can migrate at a later date to other systems without any problems ”.
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The future of document management
In view of the plethora of changes within the framework of the paradigm shift that has been sketched, you could be left with the impression that there are nothing but problems in the document management sector. This is not the case.
The professional products are stabile and mature. They are economic to use. They increase user efficiency and competitive advantages. There are sectors where business survival already depends on the use of these technologies - the only thing to be decided is the system variant.
One must ask in what direction will the sector develop, will it present as unified an image as it does today?, which paradigm will replace the one that now exists?
On this topic a few thoughts about the challenges which the document management industry - and the user - will have to face in the coming years.
The boom in 2000
The DMS sector is preparing for the great boom.
Now, many budgets and resources are being blocked by the millennium problem and there is also the introduction of the EURO in Europe. There are uncertainties in relation to strategic IT decisions - for example ”Do I fully back the Intranet?”, ”Is client/server the right solution?” ”Do I have to integrate host, C/S and Intranet?”, ”Do I go for object-oriented languages?”, ”Is Corba or COM+ the right middleware?” - it will be possible to arrive at a clearer assessment of all these questions in the near future. Consequently, there will be nothing to stand in the way of the introduction of archive, groupware, workflow and document management solutions.
Many companies want to participate in this boom and new companies with new products are continually jockeying for position. However, it is already clear that suppliers that have already established themselves and that have an adequate number of references and the appropriate experience, will win the race.
At present, the greatest risk for suppliers is the scarcity of qualified consultants, system integrators and application programmers - a decisive drawback for any new supplier in the market. Bottlenecks like those associated with SAP in recent years are in the offing. Recruitment from other companies and retraining cannot be the only response to the problem. A new pool of employees must be built up methodically. Universities and polytechnics are not able to satisfy the sector’s demand and ”output” of ”information managers”, a relatively new field of study which has a relatively strong focus on the DMS sector, is but ”a drop in the ocean””.
Knowledge management - the new paradigm?
Transforming today’s collections of information and documents into productive knowledge is the challenge that has to be met as the new millennium begins. Modern document management systems already manage in part all kinds of information - for example color images, video, speech, graphics, text, data, E-mails, host output, faxes etc. and so are a company’s ”store of knowledge”. Knowledge management for the purpose of handling and increasing company knowledge, however, goes far beyond the storage and organization of structured and unstructured information. Knowledge management not only means the application of new technologies to intelligently ”tap into” the content of documents, but also the involvement of users and processes.
Knowledge management is, therefore, much more than conventional document management or data warehousing. It encompasses more than just the contents of individual documents. An essential feature is that relationships between contents and their compression are taken into account. The solutions are getting nearer to the claims made for knowledge-based systems and expert systems of the early 80s.
A variety of definitions
As knowledge management describes a new type of software system, there is a wide range of definitions - some of which even contradict each other. The following examples will make this clear:
Gartner Group:
”Knowledge Management: A discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, evaluating and sharing all of an enterprise’s information assets. These assets may include databases, documents, policies and procedures, and previously uncaptured tacit expertise and experience in individual workers”.
CAP Ventures:
”Knowledge Management encompasses management strategies, methods, and technology for leveraging intellectual capital and know-how to achieve gains in human performance and competitiveness”.
Delphi:
”Knowledge is the information resident in people’s minds that is used for making decisions in unknown contexts. Knowledge management in turn, refers to the practices and technologies that facilitate the efficient creation and exchange of knowledge on an organization-wide level to enhance the quality of decision making.”
KM World Journal (Knowledge Management World):
”Knowledge Management: The strategic application of corporate and external information bases to discover transactionable knowledge that can be leveraged to improve business performance.”
PROJECT CONSULT:
”Knowledge management systems are software solutions providing features to create, capture, process, organize, store, control, retrieve, distribute, and reproduce any type of structured or unstructured digital information of an enterprise with the ability to provide in-time information with respect to purpose, description, content, structure, context, rules, and procedures for decision making and knowledge building tasks of any user of the system.”
Looking at these definitions, you have to concede that the majority of the systems placed on the market do not satisfy the requirements. The term ”knowledge management” is, therefore, often simply misused as a ”label”. Many users and suppliers do not understand that knowledge ”just isn’t out there somewhere” - it is the product of a number of complex processes.
Who occupies the concept of knowledge management?
The question is - does the document management sector have any chance at all of making the concept of knowledge management its own with its current products?
On the one hand, documents represent a new source for knowledge management systems - on the other they are frequently just more information to be added to the data compressed on expert systems, management information systems (MIS) or data warehouses. There are already initial solutions on the market - for example analysis tools and MIS solutions are combined with document management systems. In this case, however, the document management system is usually only the supplier of additional information.
The document management sector defines its concept of knowledge management as a collection of all its previous, different system types. To have integrated knowledge management, all information, no matter what the origin, must be acquired, administered and stored in an all encompassing manner. Company-wide knowledge and document management integrates the whole knowledge base and all of the company’s products and applications and allows authorized users access on a need-to-know basis.
Many aspects of knowledge management - but by no means all - have already been covered by existing solutions. Acquisition, management, distribution and other components belong to the standard delivery scope of modern DMS solutions. However, an area that is often deficient is that of new acquisition strategies which help the user to get the right information at the right time from his large archives. The standard functionality of conventional document management systems often already provides the basis for knowledge management solutions:
Retrieval functions, the common use of information and push strategies to filter information on the Web.
E-mail, routing, discussion databases, distributed document management and electronic archives as background storage.
Groupware functionalities which support cooperation and the common use of the knowledge base within the company or between different companies
Workflow forms the basis for the dissemination of knowledge via business processes and the best distribution and control methods.
Large suppliers like Microsoft, IBM, Lotus or Netscape are now building many basic elements for managing an organization’s documents or knowledge directly into their products. They are, therefore, already in competition with the traditional DMS suppliers. However, these solutions alone do not meet the requirements of a true knowledge management system - specific applications have to be added on.
Products which have been designed at the outset for knowledge management originate from new companies like BackWeb Technologies, CompassWare, DataChannel, GrapeWine, Intraspect, KnowledgeX, SageWare, Semio, Thinking Machines, WinCite, WisdomWare and others which are hardly known in Germany. Often their approach is based on Internet-compatible solutions. Until now, these companies have not been thought of as belonging to the DMS sector and it is unlikely that they will be pushed into the ”knowledge management pigeon-hole” defined by the current document management paradigm. Frequently, these new products are limited to subsectors of knowledge management and there is a focus on tools for improving the interworking of groups, intelligent agents, novel search engines, data-mining or data-mapping methods.
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Information acquisition
The discussion of the topics ”knowledge management” and ”databases” has already made it clear that the true challenge of the future is to make better and more intelligent use of the contents of documents. Considering the large volume of data and documents in archive and DMS solutions, this problem will not exactly be easy to solve.
Today, good OCR/ICR solutions for converting facsimiles to text which provide adequate detection quality already exist. In the future, however, speech, video, images etc. will be available as information sources. Novel types of document, say a ”screen dump” with the storage of a screen situation comprising a host window, displayed facsimile document, opened spreadsheet table and a personal video display for the customer which at this point can reply ”yes” to displayed conditions, require entirely different technologies - not only for storage but also for acquiring content.
The ”buzz word” associated with new acquisition and interpretation techniques is ”pattern recognition”. It is not yet very well known in the circle of classic suppliers of document management solutions. In the lab, a lot of work has already been done on detecting the contents of photos, identifying features in video, the interpretation of speech recordings and other topics. Information can be acquired and condensed in conjunction with novel databases and expert systems. The trend towards voice control of edp systems, multi-lingual use of information and the involvement of new groups of users who, in the future, will participate in market activity from their ”home-TV-PC”, conceals new challenges and undreamed of business potential. Until now, the document management industry has not seriously considered themes of this kind - however, they would be an essential component of the knowledge management paradigm.
Back to the source: recentralization
At present, document management systems are largely implemented as decentral and distributed solutions in client/server or Intranet environments. Usually, conventional host systems are only used as database servers for referencing documents that are held separately. In the future, there will be a strong recentralization of document collections. Gigantic archives will be maintained centrally and interrogated multilingually on a world-wide basis. When fast enough lines at reasonable prices become available, concepts such as the complete outsourcing of information acquisition and provision, ”pay per view” or the offer of central fallback and security solutions will shape the future.
In particular, companies which have their own line networks, communication equipment and computer centers will compete with the conventional DMS solutions that have already been installed for companies or users. This aspect of long-term customer integration is of great interest to all communication service providers. Both public content and collections internal to companies will be made available. Existing approaches like publishing on demand, information broadcast, digital mailing and others will be included in this general strategy.
New user groups
Typically, the present thinking about the concept of document management is in terms of business solutions within companies. Even today, this technology is being transferred to PC workstations in the home thanks to virtual workplaces. Document management in all its variants for ordering, acquiring and exchanging documents is being democratized. Document management functions will add control and provision techniques for large quantities of information on to the standard communication facilities of the Internet. It is less probable, however, that the majority of the new users will become familiar with these functions in the form of independent document management or workflow. It will be much more the case that functionality will be concealed in novel applications which will be capable of organizing even the workflow from empty freezers to special offers at the grocer’s.
The document management sector would, therefore, be wise to stake a claim on these new themes in good time with ”non-technological”, easy-to-understand terms and to develop their products further under the changed user requirements. The development of these applications is no longer forced by the edp or organization departments in companies but by the requirements of the consumer industry. Game-type multimedia user interfaces, functions that are simple and intuitive to use or voice control will determine the image of future applications.
An alternative paradigm: Will document management survive only as an organizational service?
Regardless of software and hardware development, the demand for organization of rational document management will still remain. The preparation and acquisition of information is becoming more and more important because of growing volumes of information and information overload. In this context, other new types of profession will be created. They will, however, not be able to compensate for the loss of office and administrative jobs that results from the optimization of processes and the improved utilization of information.
If document management is to be used effectively and economically - for example in relation to holistic, case-resolving office work, the automation of incoming mail or universal call center workstations which involve the collation of information from a wide range of sources - wide-ranging organizational and consultative tasks still remain - even if the discipline of document management should cease as an independent hardware and software sector (... improbable).
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Final remarks
To potential users
The previous analysis should have made it clear what changes the document management sector is being currently subjected to. Many of the trends and indicated possibilities are not yet available in the form of products - and this still may be the case for the next 10 years. The most important question which every user should now be asking himself is ”What is the significance of information for my company and how can I use it effectively ”. It may be that tried and tested solutions are more suitable than products which include ”the technologies of the future” at any price. However, when considering the use of a technology, it is important to include the possible future use of information - this is because an essential feature of the existing paradigm is that information can be kept for decades with reliable systems.
To the suppliers of document management systems
It is important that manufacturers of DMS products, software in particular, position themselves today - the market will be divided up in the next two years: ”Do I have the right strategy for a changing market, What is the best way to deal with competition?”, ”What are the future USPs of my product?”, ”Do I want to develop my product further, do I want to involve partners?”, or ”Do I want to stop may own development and buy in an engine and toolbox?”. You have to lean back, put day-to-day business on the back burner, forget about customers pressurizing you for a moment and look out into the wider world beyond the confines of your own field of activity.
This is particularly important for an industry, which
has proclaimed that it will intelligently acquire the data and documents which represent the knowledge of the company and make it available over long periods of time,
promises to provide solutions to improve business processes and so make methods of working more economical,
intends to introduce a new quality into the world of work by means of cooperative edp-supported systems,
is positioning itself as an independent discipline within the wider field of information technology, and
takes the paradigm shift seriously - not as a threat, but as the challenge of the future.
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Seitentitel: Artikel_Paradigm Shifts in DM, Zitierung: http://www.PROJECT-CONSULT.com/home.asp?SR=330
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