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What’s in a Name?

4 Oct, 2013 By: HK Bain

Feeling overwhelmed by the numerous acronyms in use in our industry these days? You’re not alone. We use so many nicknames for the technologies we provide that it’s a veritable alphabet soup, and our use of this specialized lexicon may be confusing our customers and prospects. Though there is no “official definition” for many of these terms, here are my opinions.

Let’s tackle some of the most confusing terms to see what they mean for today’s dealers and VARs.

You may discover a hidden business opportunity. ECM and EDM, BPO and BPM, and even forms processing and eforms all help businesses to tackle the same challenge. Today’s businesses are dealing with an unprecedented glut of information, and it is quickly becoming overwhelming. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper annually,  and IDC explains that by 2020 the digital universe will be 44 times the size it was in 2009! . This is a problem because while content is increasing, IT budgets are down. There is no one to manage or secure this content. Businesses are counting on technology (and your expertise) to help them fill this gap.


Document management, knowledge management, big data, ECM (enterprise content management), EDM (electronic document management), ECDM (enterprise content and document management), ERM (electronic records management), and even imaging…

Having been in this industry since the 1990s, I’ve seen plenty of terms come and go to describe the digital technologies that assist businesses with creating a “paperless office.” Go back a few more years, and you and I would be talking about microfilm and microfiche! Though most businesses will never be truly paper-free, all companies can reduce their paper consumption, and there are good reasons for doing so. Nucleus Research, an analyst firm specializing in analyzing the financial return from technology investments found that ECM returns $6.12 for each $1.00 invested—a 612% ROI! 

For all intents and purposes EDM and ECM are the same; EDM is simply an older acronym that has fallen out of popular use. Likewise, ECDM and ERM are typically applied to the same core group of technologies. These products, from companies like Digitech Systems, Hyland, and EMC, organize and securely manage electronic files and paper records for an organization and make them available to users via keyword and full-text search. ECM can speed and simplify retrieval of critical data when it’s needed. ECM applications come in both software and cloud options, so users can choose which delivery method makes sense for their business.


BPO (business process outsourcing) and BPM (business process management), however, are not the same. BPO refers to the practice of businesses using a third party (an outsourcer) to perform specific practices like email or scanning. Although sometimes seen in a negative light due to the controversies involved in offshore outsourcing, BPO can be a viable strategy for resellers looking to extend their products and services and add new value for clients. For example, DataBank, a reseller headquartered in Pennsylvania has earned millions of dollars in new revenue by adding process solutions to the ECM technologies they offer. Chuck Bauer, Chief Executive Officer, recommends shifting your sales strategy. Stop selling technology to IT buyers and start offering solutions to business problems directly to executives. (*DataBank profiled in imageSource September issue).

On the other hand, BPM is sometimes referred to as workflow. BPM works with an ECM application to route electronic documents through business processes. For example, a paper invoice might be scanned and entered into the ECM system when it is received in the mailroom, or some ECM applications can recognize an electronic invoice received via email to kick off a workflow process. The ECM application would identify the company that sent the invoice and sort it into a queue of documents waiting for approval. Larger organizations might further sort by the dollar amount of the invoice, so that higher-level managers approve larger expenses while line managers approve the simple stuff. The system would route the invoice to each individual in the approval process and then to accounts payable to cut and mail a check. These electronic processes make businesses more efficient and can be a safeguard against crises. For example, Terrus Real Estate in Des Moines, IA is using PaperVision® Enterprise WorkFlow to route about 20,000 invoices annually. Thanks to this workflow technology, which works in conjunction with their ECM system, Terrus executives are saving 1,150 hours a year, and the company has seen a 30% improvement in AP/AR processing.

Forms Processing and eForms

So what is the difference between forms processing and eforms? Should you be selling either or both to your clientele? Forms processing systems classify electronic documents into content types and then use Optical Character Recognition or OCR (I know…yet another acronym!) to “read” the data contained in the forms. The system then inputs the information into the index terms used to identify that document when searching for information. For example, a doctor’s office might ask a new patient to fill out a medical history form on a tablet when they arrive for their appointment. The office could then process the patient history using forms processing, and would be able to locate that information in their ECM system by typing the patient’s name from the form into their search screen. Companies such as ReadSoft and ABBYY are commonly recognized as forms processing organizations.

What then is eForms? Companies like Formatta and frevvo provide eforms technology, which allow companies to create web-based versions of paper forms. The forms can be filled out online and are directly input into an ECM application. They can even be used to initiate a workflow process. Eforms skip the paper step by collecting information electronically right from the start. Both forms processing and eforms are high-value add-on technologies when you’re talking to a customer about ECM, because they extract document-based data and make it easier to find.


Stop thinking in terms of your product offerings, and start thinking about how your organization can help your customers solve their information overload. You may find you need to supplement a thin product lineup with eforms or BPM to really help customers pump up the business benefits from moving to ECM. Don’t be scared off by the crazy acronyms or the glut of technical terms. You can figure this out, and you’ll make more money when you help your prospects figure it out too!


Digitech Systems, Inc. enables businesses of any size to more effectively and securely manage, retrieve and store corporate information of any kind using either PaperVision Enterprise content management (ECM) software or the world’s most trusted cloud ECM service, ImageSilo. By significantly reducing the cost, Digitech Systems has moved ECM from a luxury convenience to an essential element for every well-managed business. Digitech Systems continues to raise the standard of excellence in the ECM sector, as evidenced by the numerous awards they have received including the InfoWorld 100, CRN’s Emerging Tech Dynamos and multiple Nucleus Research ROI Awards. In addition, Buyer’s Lab recognized PaperVision® Capture as the Outstanding Enterprise Capture Product for 2012. To learn more about the company’s software and services that deliver any document, anywhere, anytime, visit http://www.digitechsystems.com

About the Author: HK Bain

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