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

The productivity benefits are immediate and unambiguous, says Roger Gergi, Open Text's sales director for the Middle East and most of Africa.

"In terms of added value, it of course enhances and increases productivity. It shortens all approval cycles and improves efficiency, while simultaneously reducing hardware and software costs. Online collaboration tools can also help you save money", says Gergi.

If you don’t have a lifecycle around your content, how do you know which content you’re going to get rid of – and how to retrieve it?

Johni Jabbor, regional sales manager at Forefront Technologies, says that companies should be wary of short term thinking when considering the hardware perspective.

"When going for document imaging, they want to scan, say, 10 million documents within ‘x' period of time. That's it - they don't care what will happen after the project is finished, but just want to pay the minimum amount of money to do the job. We always tell the client, though, that once they finish their backlog, they still have documents being generated every day. You always have to consider the daily scanner collection, along with the backlog conversion," he says.

Many companies have systems in place that, while not officially titled so, are generally analogous to a document management system. Vaghele suggests that companies use these extant platforms as springboards to future expansion.

"How do you become more strategic with your document management system, what are its limitations and why do you need to extend that solution? It may be that you have a perfectly good system, but now need to publish information onto the web. What we suggest and recommend based upon our experience and from a strategic perspective is - there's no point buying a system today to solve today's issue, when tomorrow you have to extend that out to do something else. That's the fundamental point: If your content needs to be used in more than one place, you need to handle it in more than one way," he explains.

Enterprises have traditionally approached such projects from the technology side, rather than considering the business case. But as Gale points out, this is an attitude that needs to change.

"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 - that's undoubtedly the type of things that is pushing people. In the past, people have gone too far into the backend of the process - ‘what do I need to buy' - rather than ‘what do I need to improve my business.' If people just try to buy the technology, it probably won't fit - that's when frustrations arise, and CIOs end up spending a large amount of their time. Do you want to deal with the firefighting when the user has a problem, or do you want to deal with the front end, the actual business analysis?" he asks.

Another factor to consider is the potential lifecycle of the documents, says Vaghele: "Most organisations will store documents for just the exact period of time that they have to, maybe archive it for a few years afterward and then delete it. If you don't have a lifecycle around your content, how do you know which content you're going to get rid of - and equally, how are you going to retrieve this information? This comes down to good metadata and categorisation, as well as a good search tool."

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