Paper chase

Document management has finally reached a state of technological maturity - but many pitfalls await regional customers who rush into buying a system. Imthishan Giado reports.

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By  Imthishan Giado Published  November 3, 2007

"As business leaders, we are all paid to make mistakes. Personally, I would rather pay to learn from somebody else's mistakes, which are a lot cheaper to fix in my organisation, than if I were to try and learn every single time," says Ben Gale, Xerox's general manager for sales and marketing MEA, referring to the difficulties involved in implementing document management systems within an enterprise.

While the theory underlying document management - converting physical documents into a digital form - is intrinsically simple, the issues that arise during the process are far from it.

What keeps the CIO of a bank awake at night – is it how many terabytes of storage he’s got? Maybe, but more likely it’s how he adds value to the business to enable his bank to be more effective in the market.

Past deployments have shown that companies tend to get caught up in the technology side of the equation - often ignoring the business side entirely - while alienating end users by imposing upon them an unfamiliar system without informing them of its importance or potential advantages. Without proper planning, implementing a document management system can lead a firm to the brink of disaster - over something as simple as paper.

Bhavesh Vaghele, Oracle's EMEA marketing director for content management , says regional firms are starting to think ahead: "People in the Middle East are learning from the mistakes mature countries have made over the last five to ten years and are starting to put the correct platforms in place from day one."

Part of the need for document management systems comes from the fact that the world is currently in a state of information overload.

"Information is growing and exploding exponentially and the key driver to that is e-mail - which most organisations use a hell of a lot of. People also tend to use it to share information - how many times have you received an attachment that was sent to multiple people? Documents and web pages are also certainly growing in terms of usage. Depending on which analyst you speak to, most suggest from 60% to 200% growth annually," says Vaghele.

With this vast amount of data threatening to overwhelm enterprises, the time is clearly ripe to implement document management. But every vendor issues the same warnings: there is no one size-fits-all solution. Don't rush out and buy a system, but take the time to thoroughly evaluate the business case and potential benefits first.

UVK Kumar, head of information technology at Doha Bank, urges firms not to focus solely on cost savings but also look at improving levels of customer service.

"The turnaround time of any internal back-office processing is enhanced by a document management system. Most come with workflow options, which can be very effective. The other advantage is that you can track the transaction - where it is, why it's pending and analyse it. If physical documents were flying around it would be very difficult to assess where the delay was. For example, if we look at credit or Electron card issuance; these now happen within 24 hours, where previously it would take two to three days," says Kumar.

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