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Replacing an Outdated Document Management System

It is hard – when you look back in time – to work out when electronic Document Management Systems (DMS) became popular. Some say that user-friendly systems arrived in the early 90s. I’d say at the turn of the century DMS became all the rage. The early pioneers were basic – by today’s standard – and suitably expensive. That expense will carry through  to today for those who still run and pay software maintenance for those early DMS purchases. Unless otherwise negotiated, annual software maintenance on a set of licenses is calculated as a percentage of the original purchase price. Typically 20 if not 25%.

Market Consolidation

A steady vendor consolidation process (through acquisitions) has left many once pioneers in limbo. What is left of those is guaranteed maintenance, but little in the way of product enhancements and progress. Most vendors focus on a single primary offering. Effort will be focused on the one product that they perceive as the most commercially promising.

Long story short, This leaves many customers with installations of products that are either outdated, in maintenance-only mode or end-of-life. What to do? The sophistication of Google Search will deliver millions of answers. This is mine:

From Document Management to ECM and Content Services

The last 20 years brought about the steady advance from original document management capabilities, such as:

  • Import or upload of documents
  • Document indexing or metadata
  • Search and retrieval with grouping, sorting and filtering of results
  • Granular, user-based security

Over time capabilities became more sophisticated:

  • Document import automation
  • Basic workflow
  • Imaging, such as converting scanned images to readable and searchable document formats, along with image enhancements. Typically achieved with clever optical character recognition (OCR) engines
  • Integration with scanners
  • Integration with other desktop applications such as Microsoft Office and Outlook
  • Export and transfer of documents and meta data to other systems
Enterprise Content Management – ECM

Along the way new pioneers recognised that there is more to the business of documents than just the passive management of them. Enterprise Content Management (ECM) became the new buzz. Broadly speaking ECM is concerned with the entire lifecycle of information, including documents, electronic forms and their associated meta data and content. It deals with the processes and tools to effectively capture, organise, store and make accessible to employees and knowledge workers the documents and their associated data. An ECM system manages how that information flows through an organisation.

Workflow – The heart of an ECM system

During its lifecycle information is approved, acted upon, routed and consumed by many knowledge workers. Whether they are invoices, CVs, applications, contracts or other types, decisions and actions must be taken with regard to those documents. A good workflow engine is what orchestrates the complex life-cycle of a document. Below are a few of the most critical capabilities of a workflow engine:

  • Route documents and information to a worker or queue
  • Execute routing rules depending on the type of document or the value of its meta data fields
  • Validate information contained in a document against data held elsewhere in the organisation
  • Notify users of that information
  • Approval or rejection of documents
  • Define retention periods of information covered by legislation
  • Compose and deliver new documents from templates and data held in the ECM system and elsewhere.

Given those capabilities it is no surprise that more and more organisations replace an ageing document management system with an content management system.

To be continued … by Steffen