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Driving the Automation Opportunity in Today's Digital Workgroup

4 Aug, 2003 By: CAP Ventures imageSource

Driving the Automation Opportunity in Today's Digital Workgroup

Document management
is a very broad concept and, as a system, it encompasses a number of often
discrete technologies. While digital document management can enable offices to
work with less paper, even today it is still a challenge for organizations to
create an efficient and completely digital paperless work environment. Paper is
a powerful medium, especially when it comes to viewing information, and its
legacy runs long and deep through human history. Nevertheless, digital
technologies enable an incredibly efficient physical means for distributing,
storing, and retrieving information. Today's document management solutions
address the needs of users as well as the strengths of digital and analog
document formats.

document management (DM) technologies were recognized as solutions to very
high-value, high-volume, dedicated applications. Today, suppliers are building
awareness around a variety of new DM solutions that address a broader range of
applications, which are also less capital-intensive than their predecessors.
Customers are also requesting simple integrated solutions that can be deployed
cost-efficiently and that can meet a variety of subtle document process needs in
workgroup environments.

As a process and a
general concept, document management has existed since the advent of the filing
cabinet. In general office environments, the process of managing digital
documents has typically followed a similar path to that of managing paper
documents. In office environments, analog and digital document management
processes have yielded similar and less than satisfactory results. Whether
stored in a filing cabinet or in a digital file folder, limits on how stored
documents can be indexed and organized have hampered workers' ability to find
the information they need in a timely manner. With significant frequency,
workers often forget what, where, and how the information was stored. An
additional problem arises from the fact that a single document can pertain to
multiple topics, and consequently should be accessible from multiple places, but
is not.

Due to limitations
in how documents have typically been stored, the ability to find them tends to
be dependent on the user rather than on the context of the content within the
document. In a document management environment that is user-dependent, the
information that users create, capture, process, and store often becomes lost
knowledge in a mapless and guideless sea of information. When workers leave an
organization, this lost information represents lost knowledge to an

While document
management technologies for office environments are still at an early stage of
development, customers are beginning to recognize that the full benefits of
their organizations' IT infrastructure are not being realized. As DM
technologies (including related network office equipment) mature, intuitive
applications will be developed to address several unmet needs in managing
routine office documents. Part of this opportunity will drive a new phase of
growth in the IT industry around appliance platforms and integrated document
management solutions for routine document processes in environments like large
workgroups as well as small and medium-sized organizations.

Unfortunately, like
the pendulum in a grandfather clock, interest in new technology tends to swing
heavily from side to side. When a new technology takes hold, the ensuing hype
can bill new products as a panacea to every problem that was not solved by the
preceding technology. In the case of document management, many have waited
impatiently for digital technologies to somehow eliminate the use of paper in
office environments. While they may not eliminate paper or paper-oriented
processes, digital document management technologies are improving rapidly, and
in very subtle ways they are making analog and digital documents more useful and
accessible to the average worker.

To build the proper
context around this study, we first need to look at the factors that are driving
developments in new DM technologies. These market developments are driving us to
test the belief that customer interest in document management solutions for
general office environments and routine document processes is increasing.

The Information
Explosion Businesses invested heavily in technology throughout the 1990s,
building networks, deploying e-mail and desktop communication tools, and
connecting their organizations to the Internet. Large technology initiatives
were undertaken to deploy ERP systems, which promised the automation of broad
back-end data processing activities. These systems were put in place to squeeze
costs from and improve productivity in existing mission-critical processes. Such
system deployments were extremely capital intensive and often required long lead
times before they were fully implemented.

Much of the
technology that has been deployed over the past 12 years has enabled
unprecedented access to information in numerous formats, accessible in many
cases from any location and at any time. This generation of networking
technology has allowed many disparate technologies to be connected and has
enabled knowledge workers to communicate more frequently and quickly, but not
necessarily more effectively.

Pervasive access to
digital technologies has also enabled users to create more information than
their audiences can consume, process, or manage, creating a literal overload of
information. This overcapacity is creating some negative implications for
knowledge workers that are struggling to stay focused and maximize the value of
using the information.

Although network
technologies including the Internet have enabled the connection of many
disparate technologies, most of these technologies do not communicate well
amongst each other. This issue of communication and interoperability is a core
driver behind the many standard bodies that currently operate in the technology
industry. Today, application developers have begun to focus more closely on the
processes and applications that their products enable once they are integrated
with other network systems. In the past, this was less commonly the case.
Nevertheless, as a sign of maturity, developers are listening to end-users and
creating applications that address more defined sets of document needs for
routine document processes. In the past, development efforts yielded more
features than cohesive and useful solutions.

Slow Technology
Investment The technology boom of the late 20th century gave way to the
well-publicized technology bust of the early 21st century. Having spent
trillions of dollars on computing technology throughout the prior decade,
organizations now find themselves suffering from a "spending hangover"
as prior investments have failed to live up to their potential. Prior software
purchases, having never been implemented or deployed, are now referred to as
"shelfware." Given the current economic climate, organizations are
focusing more on smaller technology initiatives that entail relatively low
initial capital investments and risks. These buying patterns lend well to
integrated, off-the-shelf products that provide out-of-the-box functionality
with minimal customization, but can also scale across an entire organization as

Shifting Focus to Workflow Processes As organizations look to maximize their
existing IT infrastructures, they will need to target the subtle routine
document workflow processes in the office, which tend to be overlooked when
identifying opportunities for productivity improvement. Most organizations
understand at some level that existing processes in general office environments
tend to be inefficient, wasteful, and unproductive and that they do not directly
harness the power of the network that drives other structured and dedicated
applications across the enterprise.

In general terms,
these applications can be defined under the umbrella of office document
management and workflow solutions. While document management solutions tend to
refer more specifically to the storage and retrieval of documents, workflow
solutions are concerned with how documents are created, shared, and consumed.
Workflow applications define the consistent steps and actions required to
complete a task or set of tasks. In this case, the applications allow creating,
sharing, consuming or processing documents.

The Office Document
Lifecycle: Mapping Document Workflow Processes Figure 1 provides an illustrated
map of the phases and processes involved in creating, sharing, processing, and
storing office documents. It is assumed that certain phases may be omitted for
specific types of documents.

The Office Document
Lifecycle, and the related workflow processes that make up each stage of the
document lifecycle value chain, provide a clearer picture of the process path
for creating, sharing, and consuming documents and how each phase links to the
next. As document management technologies increase in use and value, we expect
to see continued innovation in the software and hardware tools that tightly
integrate with and support routine document processes within various phases of
the office document lifecycle.

Within any one of
the links in the Office Document Lifecycle, opportunities exist for intuitive
solutions to alleviate a number of subtle but unproductive manual tasks that are
inherent to the process of managing documents. These tools can enable more
intelligent and automated workflows for document-driven communication. Such
applications improve or eliminate problems in document processes by providing
one or more of the following: o Lower production and/or distribution costs for
creating documents o More clearly targeted and effective information sharing and
distribution o Improved waste reduction, including a potential reduction in the
total amount of print produced o Reduced manual tasks and errors in data
transfer/entry o Efficient/automated deployment of new or enhanced capabilities
o Improving an organization's focus on customer needs by more easily accessing
and better understanding the knowledge being generated within the organization

Deeper in this value
chain lie other opportunities for developing and deploying integrated workflow
tools that manage parts of the creation, collaboration, storage/retrieval,
archiving, and distribution phases. These solution opportunities in particular
have links to device-centric solutions like those for scanning, but are
primarily standalone applications focused on structuring routine workflows for
office documents. While the device links between these lifecycle phases are
important, these phases represent a discrete and much larger opportunity for
automating workflow processes and improving productivity in the office. This
opportunity is just beginning to be defined at an application level, but the
Office Document Lifecycle provides an application map that can be followed in
targeting a variety of innovative and integrated office document management

This document has
been abstracted from the CAP Ventures research report entitled "Document
Management: Driving the Automation Opportunity in Today's Digital
Workgroup," which examines customer and end-user perspectives on the
development, purchase, deployment, and implementation of document management
systems. This report includes analysis of the end-user research gathered by CAP
Ventures via the Document Management in the Workgroup Web Survey, which was
conducted at the end of the fourth quarter of 2002. For more information about
this and other CAP Ventures white papers, contact Stewart MacDonald at
(781)-871-9000 or stewart_macdonald@capv.com.

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