Happy Birthday to: The Digital - Instantly Available - Networked Electronic Document9 Oct, 2001 By: Lester Anderson imageSource
Happy Birthday to: The Digital - Instantly Available - Networked Electronic Document
the past few columns, we have been talking about solutions, digital documents,
and documents on the network. Let’s step back and see how the digital office
operates today and how this all evolved in the short period of the past twenty
has been a dramatic change—truly a revolution. Since we (dealers,
manufacturers, and customers) were all very busy but were intimately involved in
the revolution, it is time to reflect on what has happened since 1981.
Change—Things Stay The Same
in its simplest form, the network cable has replaced the interoffice envelope.
The inbox is replaced by an e-mail account and document repository.
there is still a need to do business and run an office in a manner similar to
what was done before this electronic transformation. Viewing on a screen has
certainly not made printers obsolete.
are an essential part of business information and therefore are an essential
part of this communications infrastructure. Documents have changed the nature of
networks, and networks have changed the nature of documents.
business today, the general term document has become a description of something
that most probably has spent some or all of its life in digital form. This is a
relatively new phenomenon, brought on by a combination of advances in technology
as well as changes in expectation level of the business consumer of documents.
There is no question that information for business is increasing exponentially,
and that document acquisition, distribution, and storage have become major
issues in today’s office environment.
the digital document workflow coexists with the massive data flow that is the
office environment. The growth of e-mail and e-mail attachments has changed the
methods of distribution of documents and increased the number of people who
receive copies of documents. The document is a data object on the network. The
evolution of shared disk space document repositories has changed the way
documents are accessed within an organization and often shared securely outside
way people work and their expectation level has also changed. Being on the road
no longer means being isolated from communications and without document access.
Remote offices, including home offices, have network access comparable to
workers in the physical office building.
of immediate information is only twenty years old. It started in 1981 with two
product/service offerings that forever changed the expectation level of
documents and digital information. However, the advances since have been at an
1981, Federal Express introduced the Overnight Letter. It is true that Telex and
facsimile communications existed before, but they were specialized, often used
in international communications, and not considered part of the normal office
routine. A letter going from California to New York was probably sent airmail
and would arrive in a couple of days. In a very short time, the expectation
level of paper documents was reset to overnight availability. Document creation
was still the typewriter (usually an IBM Selectric), or if created in the typing
pool on a dedicated word processing system.
1981, IBM introduced the Personal Computer. It is true that Apple, Radio Shack,
Commodore, and Osborne (to name a few) had introduced commercial (assembled, not
sold as a kit) computers starting in 1977, but it was IBM’s introduction, that
gave credibility to the small computer system. The IBM PC gave the user
immediate access to programs and data that the computer had locally. Most
computing power in corporations at that time was in mainframes that batch
processed information, often overnight. It was usual that a customer record
update would not be available on the system until the batch was processed during
the second or third shift in the computer room. The main business applications
sold by IBM for the PC were spreadsheet, word processing, and accounting
programs. Since printers were dot matrix, the spreadsheet, and accounting
software applications fit naturally, but the word processing application took a
little longer to achieve acceptance.
March of 1983, IBM introduced the XT (eXTended), which came with 128K (not Meg)
of memory, a floppy disk with 360K capacity and a hard disk of 10 MegaBytes (not
GigaBytes) of storage. With a color monitor and basic dot matrix printer, this
sold for $6700.
Apple Macintosh was introduced with a fanfare and the historic 1984 Super Bowl
commercial, but it wasn’t until 1985 that the Macintosh became a document
device with the launch of the LaserWriter. The average office worker could
produce (publish) on desktop documents that previously came only from printing
production facilities. This was at a price ¾
the costs of the first laser printers were in the $7,000 range.
progress of Digital Document Workflow accelerated in the 1990s. In 1990 PCs
started to catch up in digital document creation when Microsoft introduced
Windows 3.0, the first fully functional Microsoft windows graphical user
interface for the PC.
we all know that the network document workflow marketplace has exploded. The
Internet has become a business necessity and a household term. Just as in the
late 1980’s, a business was not real without a fax number; now, a business is
not real without a web site or at least e-mail access.
copier manufacturer has released a line of digital multifunction products that
have achieved widespread market acceptance. Scanning has become more commonplace
on the network. Every printer manufacturer has added speed, models with
finishing capability, and often models with copying capabilities. Print output
vendors have released software to attach, monitor and manage their products on
the network. Network software vendors have acknowledged the need for print
output management and have offered products to satisfy those needs.
term network can mean many things. Historically, it was an internal, protected,
closed loop for information and device sharing. Today, many organizations have
abandoned the private loop, and have established a virtual network using the
Internet and telephone communications to link remote offices as well as workers
on the road.
have changed networks by adding to the network’s role and responsibilities.
Adding documents to the network brings a list of challenges to the network
designer and administrator. The number and size of the files may overload the
capacities and this is one of the reasons why network storage is growing at over
50% every year. Additional software for locating and correlating information
must be deployed. Access requirements must be increased both locally and
remotely. Document oriented devices, scanners, MFP, and printers must be
monitored and their traffic controlled. Documents distributed on a network
require wide area printing and distribution systems.
Workflow starts with the acquisition of a digital document. This may be
internally created by a knowledge worker or team, an internal application
program, transformed from a paper document, or received in digital form from a
source outside the organization.
document flow onto the network is then touched or affected by many different
software applications. Some of them are device specific to enable the proper
transport of the document to an output device--it should be in the most
effective form and location appropriate for the purpose of the document. Some
manage transport, while others manage temporary and permanent storage of the
workflow and all the elements involved have generated the term Solutions as the
prime deliverable to the customer. In its simplest form, solution was designed
to mean we are selling you more than a box. The knowledgeable customers are
demanding more—true solutions. The customers understand that a true solution
includes the product, the implementation, ongoing support and upgrades as
network environments change, as well as the availability of a consulting service
to fill the gaps in the customer resources.
years is not a long time in business, but look at the way technology and service
offerings have changed the way businesses look at documents. We will never go
back—just continue to go forward with more technology and process driven
every change, there is opportunity for those who grasp it. Many have made
fortunes on the changes described in this article. There are many more fortunes
to be made, and every dealer can and should participate. The formula is simple.
First, your organization must understand (and embrace) the changes in documents
over these past twenty years. Second, you must work with (and educate) your
customers to understand where they are and how they cope with these changes.
Finally, you craft a plan to on how you help your customers solve their
challenges today and how to partner in the future to help them manage the
business, manage the change, and manage the evolution.
more information on this article, contact Lester Anderson at 973-857-1891 or
email him at Les_Anderson@capv.com.