Electronic Document Management:
Challenges and Opportunities for Information Systems Managers
|By:||Ralph H. Sprague, Jr.|
|College of Business Administration|
|2404 Maile Way|
Harnessing information technology to manage documents is one of the most
important challenges facing I/S managers in this decade. It is important
because most of the valuable information in organizations is in the form
of documents such as business forms, reports, letters, memos, policy statements,
contracts, agreements, etc. Moreover, most of the important business processes
in organizations are based on, or driven by, document flows. Electronic
Document Management (EDM) promises major productivity and performance increases
by applying new technology to documents and document processing.
The purposes of this paper are to show the value of new technology for managing
documents, to illustrate the variety of ways this value can be realized,
to develop some structure for understanding this rapidly evolving field,
and to suggest some actions I/S managers can take now to prepare for this
revolution in information management. The paper argues that the I/S Department,
as the developers and managers of the technical infrastructure for EDM,
will be in a position to lead this evolution as major change agents as they
did in the EDP and MIS eras, but some specific actions will be needed to
assume this leadership role.
The first section of the paper explores the scope and importance of EDM
in more detail, and illustrates how it expands our view of information management.
The next three sections are designed to help structure the field by approaching
it from three perspectives: technologies that are making EDM possible, the
application areas in which business value are being realized, and the roles
and responsibilities of several departments that will be involved in developing
EDM. A final section suggests what I/S managers can do now to begin preparing
for this major advancement in information management.
KEYWORDS: Document Management, Document Processing, I/S Management
ISRL Categories: CA14, DA06, DA07, DB05, EF02, HA6-12, HA14.
For the most part, Computer systems have handled facts organized into data
records. Far more valuable and important to organizations are the concepts
and ideas contained in documents. Reports drawn from the computerized database
fill important roles in status assessment and control, but frequently they
must be accompanied by a memo or text report which explains and interprets
the computer report. Indeed, in one study, CEO's rated computer reports
least valuable for decision making from among a set of communication mechanisms.
Meetings, phone conversations, news items, written memos, and noncomputerized
reports rated much higher. (McLeod and Jones 1987) Technology applied to
the handling of documents promises to improve these important forms of communication.
Until recently, however, technology for document processing has been mostly
limited to better and faster ways to generate, print, and transport text
documents. Now several trends and developments suggest that we are on the
verge of a major advance in computer based information management. Electronic
Document Management (EDM) is the application of new technology to save paper,
speed up communications, and increase the productivity of business processes.
From a broader perspective, EDM is a major expansion in the domain of information
management, and a concomitant increase in the responsibilities of I/S managers
A recent Gartner Group Strategic Analysis Report forecasts that by 1995
document management functions will become the most important service on
Local Area Networks after basic connectivity. (Popkin and Cushman 1993)
The report argues that a strong business case can be made for investing
in document management systems and the organizational leverage they provide.
Ninety-eight percent of computer users employ word processing on their computers.
Eighty to ninety percent of organizational information is in documents rather
than structured databases. Dominant as they are, these figures will increase.
More than a decade ago Swanson and Culnan recognized the importance of document-based
computer systems for management planning and control. (Swanson and Culnan
1978) They cited early references to its importance, but noted that "the
role of document-based information systems in management has been relatively
neglected." As a result of their study, they suggested that "there
is some reason to believe that document-based systems may at last find their
way into contemporary MIS thinking".
Unfortunately, their view proved to be optimistic. Although there has been
continual progress in applying technology to documents, the majority of
computer accessible information is still in data records, and the majority
of document information is still on paper. But now. a strong combination
of business forces and major technology developments may finally make it
possible to apply technology to documents in a productive way.
Advances in handling information in documents are being driven by several
forces in the business environment, and enabled by new technology developments.
The business forces include the drive for increased quality on which to
base global competitiveness, and the need for increased productivity to
conserve scarce resources. Technology developments enabling these advances
include digital image processing, large capacity storage, hypertext, multi-media
documents, high bandwidth communication channels, electronic printing, electronic
mail and fax, and improved techniques for information and text retrieval.
These technologies are proving valuable for applications such as workflow
management, communication between and within organizations, training and
education, records management, and internal reporting.
The objectives of this paper are three fold. First is to establish a vision
of the scope and potential impact of EDM in organizations, and the implications
of these developments for I/S managers and executives. A second objective
is to develop an understanding of the technologies that are enabling new
ways of handling and processing documents and how these new technologies
will be integrated into an expanded I/S infrastructure. These rapidly evolving
technologies make possible functions that were previously infeasible, so
they will force us to think about information and documents differently.
A third objective is to provide some structure to guide the journey toward
the EDM vision.
The first section of the paper explores the scope and importance of EDM
in more detail, and illustrates how it expands our view of information management.
The next three sections are designed to help structure this field by approaching
it from three perspectives:
A final section suggests what I/S managers can do now to begin preparing
for this major advancement in information management.
- The technology - What technology is needed? What is available?
- The application areas - What gets accomplished? What is the business
- The roles and responsibilities - How will we organize to manage
EDM? What are the roles and responsibilities of the several departments
that support documents.
SCOPE AND IMPACT OF EDM
Definition and Scope
A document can be described as a unit of "recorded information structured
for human consumption." (Levien 1989) It is recorded and stored, so
a speech or conversation for which no transcript is prepared is not a document.
This definition accommodates "documents" dating back to cuneform
inscriptions on clay tablets; what has changed lately are the ways the information
is represented, and the ways the documents are processed. Information previously
represented primarily by text is now also represented by graphical symbols,
images, photographs, audio, video, and animation. Documents previously created
and stored on paper are now digitally created, stored, transported and displayed.
This definition also accommodates a wide variety of documents used in organizations.
The application of technology for processing even the more traditional documents
in this list is making a major change in what documents are and can accomplish
in organizations. A definition more oriented to technology comes from BYTE
magazine. (Michalski 1991): "A document is a snapshot of some set of
information that can
- Contracts and Agreements
- Drawings, Blueprints, Photographs
- Email and Voicemail Messages
- Manuals and Handbooks
- Video Clips
- Business Forms
- Script and visuals from presentations
- Computer Printouts
- Transcripts from meetings
- News Items and Articles
Another perspective suggests that a document is the "unit record"
of conceptual information. A data record contains the attributes of an entity
such as an employee in a personnel system or a part number in an inventory
system; a document contains the information necessary to represent a concept
or idea. Although most documents currently contain a cluster or set of these
"concept nodes," future documents may be composed of a network
or web of linked conceptual unit records. These "chunks" or "bundles"
of information will have attributes that make them more useful and human
than traditional data records. Context, tone, richness of representation
media, and flexibility of structure will make the information in documents
more consumable and accessible to humans. This perspective strengthens the
understanding that document management is an expanded form of information
- incorporate many complex information types;
- exist in multiple places across a network;
- depend on other documents for information;
- change on the fly (as subordinate documents are updated);
- have an intricate structure, or complex data types such as full-motion
video and voice annotations; and
- be accessed and modified by many people simultaneously (if they have
permission to do so)."
In spite of these broad definitions, the dominant connotation of a document
is relatively structured and formal information, primarily text, printed
on paper. Therefore the scope of Electronic Document Management must encompass
the use of technology to handle paper documents or their electronic equivalent.
Older technologies for document handling include micrographics, computer
output microfilm (COM), and automated records center applications. A newer
technology is digital image processing which represents a page of a paper
document with a digital image of that page.
Increasingly, however, EDM will emphasize electronic documents and their
management. An electronic document uses a variety of symbols and media to
represent a set of ideas and concepts. In addition to traditional letters
and numbers (text), an electronic document may contain graphical symbols,
photographs and other images, voice, video clips, and animation. This clustered
set of symbols can be stored, retrieved, and presented electronically as
a "compound document". For example, an internal report on a product
improvement may present, on a computer screen, the text explaining the feature,
a photograph, an engineering diagram, a voice notation from the product
designer, and a video clip of the product in use. Figure 1 shows the conceptual
structure of a such a compound document. This is a richer, enhanced definition
of what we have traditionally called a document. EDM requires us to expand
our connotation of this old and comfortable word.
Figure 1. Structure of a Compound Document
The use of the term EDM in this paper encompasses both of the interpretations
given above. Thus, the scope and definition of EDM can be defined as follows.
- Electronic: the use of modern information technologies.
- Document: a set of information pertaining to a topic, structured
for human comprehension, represented by a variety of symbols, stored and
handled as a unit.
- Management: creation, storage, organization, transmission, retrieval,
manipulation, update, and eventual disposition of documents to fulfill an
Business Value from Documents
Document management can generate business value in two ways. First, for
some industries such as publishing companies, documents are a direct source
of revenue as a product, or as support for a product. Second, for all organizations
in all industries, electronic document management can improve the information
management tasks that are needed to manage, control, and operate the organization.
In the first category, publishing companies produce books, magazines, newspapers,
and other formal documents as products. Document processing facilities,
procedures, and technologies are their "factory". Less obvious
publishers are lawyers, insurance companies, consulting firms, and many
government agencies for which the primary manifestation of their product
or service is a document. Here again, electronic document management will
improve the quality of their product or service and reduce the costs of
producing it in the same way a modern factory does for a manufacturing firm.
For some industries, documents are not the primary product, but they generate
revenue by supporting the product. Examples include the owners manual for
an automobile or major appliance, the reference manual for a software product
(often in electronic rather than paper form), and a pharmaceutical firm's
application to the government for new drug.
In the second category, the value of document management to support organizational
performance can be grouped in three general categories -- as a mechanism
for organizational communication (especially for concepts and ideas), as
a vehicle for business process, and as a major component of organizational
These general areas of use and value of documents illustrate why documents
are so pervasive and fundamental to an organization. Figure 2 shows some
additional roles and purposes for documents with an example of each.
- Improved management and communication of concepts and ideas.
A major value of EDM derives from its ability to expand the scope of information
management from facts in the form of data records and databases, to concepts
and ideas which are generally captured, stored, and communicated in the
form of documents. EDM technology can thus improve the efficiency and effectiveness
of documents in their role as a primary mechanism for storing and communicating
concepts and ideas within and between organizations (and their groups and
individuals). This set of benefits directly supports the expected structure
of future organizations which are likely to be flatter, heavily based on
teams, geographically distributed, and more dependent on their ability to
handle rich and varied information.
- Upgraded, "reengineered" basic business processes.
Most organizations have a substantial set of "paperwork" systems
that have been resistant to computerization, at least partly because they
are based on documents rather than (or in addition to) data records. Evolving
EDM technologies will support more of these applications. Real benefit will
result, not just from automating these processes, but from rethinking or
reengineering them to take advantage of the advanced technology. (Kind and
Eppendahl 1992) Several of these efforts suggest that the most effective
reengineering approaches are document based or document driven. (McDonnell
and Somerville 1991) In a recent project to reengineer one of six major
business processes, Xerox identified 263 subprocesses with 2300 links connecting
them A full 2070 of the links, or 92%, were documents.
- Leveraging Organizational Memory. Documents form a important
part of organizational memory, and EDM can improve the ability of the organization
to utilize it. In the short run, major value derives from merely storing
paper documents in electronic form. In the long run, EDM will provide the
means to access and analyze organizational memory to improve productivity
In summary, the overall potential impact of applying technology to document
management is significant. Because documents contain concepts and ideas,
EDM promises to advance the management of conceptual information in organizations.
Because most of the activities of information workers at managerial and
professional levels deal with concepts and ideas, EDM promises improved
support and productivity improvement at these levels. Because documents
are a major vehicle for exchanging information in business processes, EDM
promises to make a major contribution to process redesign and improvement
efforts. Finally, with documents forming a major part of organizational
memory, EDM will support enhanced utilization of that resource.
|To record or to "document" contracts and agreements
||employment contracts, maintenance agreements, consulting contracts,
purchase agreements, leases, mortgages, loans,etc.|
record policies, standards, and procedures ||procedure manuals, standards
specifications, instruction handbooks, executive memos and letters that
state corporate policy, etc.|
|To represent a view of reality
at a point in time (reports and plans) ||status reports, problem
analyses, operational, reports, staff recomendations, budgets, strategic
|To create an image or impression ||annual
reports, marketing brochures, TV or radio commercials, etc.|
generate revenue as a product ||a book for sale by a publisher, a
report by a consulting firm to be sold to its client, a news item from a
wire service, a reference from a bibliographic service, etc.|
support revenue by adding value to a product ||a user's manual for
a car or appliance or a software product, a warrantee form, a catalog, a
discount coupon for the next purchase, etc.|
|To act as
a mechanism for communication and interacton among people and groups ||memos,
letters, presentations, email, messages, minutes of meetings, etc.|
|To act as a vehicle for organizational process ||orders,
invoices, approval letters, most business forms, etc.|
provide a discipline for capture and articulation of concepts and ideas
||nearly all the kinds af documents that carry concept and ideas.
Table 1. Roles Documents Play
In the short run, EDM will be useful in dealing with the "paper problem."
Many organizations are literally drowning in paper. A study by records managers
estimates that there are 318 billion paper documents on file, with 92 billion
new pages added each year. Computers print 775 billion pages each year.
In 1990, these new documents required 3.1 million tons of paper. (Allerding
1992) Business forms are a large portion of this paperwork. A research firm
estimates that U.S. companies spend more than $6 billion every year on preprinted
forms, and throw away more than $2 billion, and they spend from $94 to $120
billion per year to distribute, store, and process forms. (Skapinker 1991)
Although EDM technologies have already begun to have an impact on this problem,
it is unlikely that merely replacing paper with an electronic equivalent
will yield lasting productivity improvement. Major productivity improvements
will require radical organizational change as we abandon decades-old processes
designed around paper documents. There is now widespread agreement that
traditional work processes and practices must be redesigned or "reengineered",
taking advantages of new technological capabilities, in order to reap true
productivity increases. (Hammer 1990) (Davenport 1993) (Gleckman 1993)
However, the "paperless organization" is not a realistic idea
in the foreseeable future. Paper has too many advantages and technology
too many limitations to expect complete elimination of paper any time soon.
It is likely, however, that the primary role of paper will change. Rather
than serving mainly as the storage medium for documents, paper will act
primarily as an interface medium. The official "original" document
will exist in electronic form, to be printed when and where it is needed.
The paper "copy" is used and discarded (recycled), and printed
again later if needed.
In the long run, continuous productivity improvement leads to an enterprise
view of reengineering. (Hammer 1993) The ability to use technology to manage
all organizational information, in documents as well as data records, will
support or enable the changes in organizational structure that are forecast
by organizational theorists. Galbraith suggested that organizations are
literally information processing systems. (Galbraith 1979) Viewing organizations
as sets of information processing units which need to interact and communicate,
illustrates the importance of the communication media.
While Galbraith stressed the role of information processing in reducing
uncertainty, later work added another major function -- to reduce ambiguity
and equivocality. (Daft and Lengel 1986) This work led to a consideration
of additional important attributes of information and communication media
within organizations. (Daft and others 1987) EDM applies technology to enable
traditional mechanisms such as documents, to employ richer media, a richer
structure, and therefore to support organizational communication and information
processing more effectively. (Meier and Sprague 1993)
In summary, the primary driving forces for EDM are the business need for
productivity improvement in the short run, and improved organizational effectiveness
in the long run. But this organizational revolution will require a systems
revolution driven by a paradigm shift in information management and the
use of technology to implement it.
Opportunities and Challenges
Managing this revolution will be one of the most important challenges facing
I/S executives in the rest of this decade. It will be important and challenging
for several reasons.
The "bottom line" is that organizations need improved productivity
and enhanced performance. EDM promises to leverage new technologies to generate
these productivity and performance improvements, but realizing these benefits
will present major challenges and opportunities, especially for I/S managers.
- The short term benefit potential from EDM applications is impressive.
The well- publicized experience of USAA Insurance showed that a combination
of imaging and workflow improvements can save millions of dollars a year
while improving customer service. (Plesums and Bartels 1990) (Elam and Sviokla
1990) Before the new system was installed, storage space for active files
required 39,000 square feet and inactive files required 80,000 boxes in
a warehouse. With the new system, total storage requirements for the equivalent
on optical disks were reduced to about 100 square feet. (Lasher and others
1991) In fact, there seem to be significant cost displacement opportunities
from EDM applications, the likes of which have not been seen since the early
days of data processing. I/S managers may again have the luxury of clear
cost-benefit justification for some systems projects.
- Technologies are evolving rapidly, but unevenly in several separate
but related areas. If these emerging technologies are adopted individually
for specific applications without a plan for integrating them eventually,
the result will be the separate "islands of automation" that characterized
the early years of data processing. There has been some success in integrating
dissimilar systems after they have been built, (Hale and others 1989) but
EDM applications will prove pervasive enough to cut across nearly all organizational
- I/S executives have the perspective to view EDM as more than just a
set of incremental applications in office systems or records management.
It is rather an expansion of the scope of information management. The corporate
database has been viewed as the primary information resource for the organization.
But the ideas, opinions, and judgments contained in memos and reports often
drive the organization. News items, analysis, and other written reports
from outside the organization influence the strategic thinking of managers
and executives as much as, or more than, an analysis of the corporate database.
The challenge is not to redirect efforts away from managing data toward
managing documents, but to recognize that electronic document management
is the next natural step in the evolution of information management. The
information resources of an organization include data and documents, and
the I/S manager is in the best position to manage this expanded set of information
in a coordinated way.
- Because EDM is an expanded domain of information management, and because
the technology for implementing it is sophisticated and rapidly evolving,
the responsibility for developing the technology infrastructure will likely
accrue to the I/S department. The I/S executive is in the best position
serve as the chief architect of the EDM "revolution". But there
are several well established departments and functions for which document
processing has been a primary mission in the past. These departments will
have to work closely together, probably under I/S leadership, even though
they have had different objectives and perspectives.
EDM From Three Perspectives
The above discussion suggests that the topic of EDM is huge, pervasive,
important, and technology-intensive, with significant potential value to
organizations. It would be valuable to have some structure to begin working
toward this potential. There are three perspectives which can be used to
organize this effort.
The next three sections of the paper explore these perspectives. Technology
is first because it is proving to be the facilitating force. The second
section explores a variety of application areas for which EDM is valuable,
beginning with a case example that illustrates the variety of departments
in which applications might evolve. The third section examines the roles
and responsibilities of the several departments that must work together
on a coordinated EDM effort.
- Technology -- What are the technologies which will make EDM possible,
and how can they be assimilated into the organization's I/S infrastructure?
- Benefits-- What are the application areas for which documents
are mission- critical, and what is the plan for implementing them so that
they are integrated?
- Responsibilities - What are the roles and responsibilities of
the organization's departments and functions for which EDM will be strategic?
TECHNOLOGIES FOR DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT
The rapid developments in EDM are partly the result of advances in basic
technology infrastructure. These underlying, enabling technologies improve
the handling of information in any form, but several have attributes that
support document processing and management. These enabling technologies
can be organized in five major categories.
Stronger desktop workstations.
Powerful desktop computers based on RISC technology are equipped with large,
high resolution color screens. These workstations permit the display of
documents, a full page or two at a time, delivering (and capturing) non-text
media such as voice, video, and animation. (Herr and Rosebush 1991)
High capacity storage media hold the large volume of bits required for multi-media
documents. The capacity of magnetic media (hard disks and diskettes) in
workstations and file servers has been increasing rapidly but is still barely
adequate. Optical storage media such as CD/ROMs and laserdisks, perhaps
in clusters called jukeboxes, provide orders of magnitude increases in storage
capacity. (Harvey 1990) Holographic storage devices increase the amount
of readily available storage capacity by several more orders of magnitude
(Baran 1991)(Yam 1993)
Networks will interconnect the workstations of most, if not all information
workers, within and between organizations. These connections have increasingly
high bandwidth to transmit the large volume of data contained in electronic
documents and forms. Relevant technologies include FDDI, broadband ISDN,
and Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM). (Sproull and Kiesler 1991)
User friendly software.
The continued growth of graphic user interfaces (GUI), is enabling the multitude
of people who handle paper documents, many of whom are not yet computer
literate, to deal more easily with documents on computers. (Seymour 1989)
Even for experienced computer users, however, interface software must continue
to advance so users can move beyond managing hundreds of files, to managing
thousands of documents on the desktop workstation. Two examples are the
Information Visualization project at Xerox PARC, (Card and others 1991)
(Clarkson 1992) and the Piles Interface at Apple. (Mander and others 1992)
Client/Server operating systems and network management systems are increasingly
document oriented. In fact, new operating systems shift focus from the application
to the document. They are also Object Oriented. This approach or paradigm
is gaining popularity for improved software design, and for the design of
operating systems. (Rymer 1989) It is also the approach used by most of
the work on compound documents. (Stewart 1992)
Document Management Technologies
In addition to the underlying technology infrastructure, there is a set
of technologies aimed directly at handling documents. Often called document
"middleware", these technologies provide the functionality for
the processing and management of documents, both electronic and paper. There
are actually two sublayers in document middleware: functions for document
processing, and functions for document management. Summarized below is the
set of document processing technologies, organized by the major steps
in a document life cycle, and the document management functions which
together form the document technology infrastructure.
Capture and Creation.
These are basically technologies to digitize information. For documents
already on paper, hardware and software digitizes an image of a page, and
then electronically handles that image. Scanners capture the image while
algorithms convert it to digital form, frequently with compression to save
storage space. (Daniels 1993) (Wallace 1992) (Datapro 1991) After a document
page is scanned and digitized, it can be further analyzed to recognize the
characters. Current software can capture full text in editable form in a
variety of fonts, sizes, and formats. Extensions of these pattern recognition
techniques can recognize voice, some images, and patterns in graphics, animation,
and video. (O'Gorman and Rangachar 1992)
Other technologies for creation of documents include a wide variety of word
processing and graphic software, joint (and group) authoring tools, version
control and access control software. Digital cameras, audio capture boards,
and computer graphics systems which produce animation are used for digitizing
Storage and Organization.
Several technologies determine how documents are stored and organized. The
primary developments are the compound document architecture, distributed
storage management software, the integration of documents and databases,
Compound Document Architecture. Such an architecture is required
for the different objects that make up a compound document to be handled
together. In several implementations, the compound document consists of
objects (e.g. a text object, a graphics object, a spreadsheet object, a
digital photograph object) which may be stored on different devices, brought
together logically through the use of pointers. Several vendors are working
on different definitions of a compound document, although the Compound Document
Architecture (CDA) from Digital Equipment claims over 200 compliant applications
from 50 vendors. (Williams 1993) (Travis 1990)
Distributed Storage. Documents are stored on local PC hard drives,
servers (including large capacity document servers), mainframes, and large
repositories. A recent survey by the Gartner Group found that 80% of the
documents stored in a PC networked environment are stored on the local hard
drives, not on the server. (Popkin and Cushman 1993) This underscores the
importance of distributed document management software to provide organization
and access to this valuable resource.
Integrating Documents and Databases. Making documents an integral
part of the information resources of an organization requires integration
of document collections and databases. So far, most approaches have been
to extend the database to accommodate documents, or vice versa. One approach
is to define a BLOB (binary large object) as part of a tuple in a relational
data base. (Shetler 1990) A column is defined as a large binary object which
can contain a document image or compound document in bit form. A document-centered
approach is to reference a data record or entity in the document. This cross
reference is used by the application to link the document with a data record.
These early approaches are helpful in the short run, but eventually we will
need an approach which integrates the data and document resources by their
content, instead of just linking documents and data records. (Gilbane June
1993) Developing these approaches promise to present major challenges to
researchers and practitioners. Organizing, cataloging, and retrieving concepts
in documents is likely to require an entirely different architectural approach
than those which have been used for facts in data records.
Hypertext. Software which implements a hypertext structure enables
non-linear access to the logical structure of text within a document, and
multiple cross references between documents. Hypermedia technology
provides the same functionality with multi-media or "compound"
documents. Hypercard by Apple, and Notecards by Xerox are examples of software
to support hyperstructure. (Conklin 1987) (Halasz 1988) (Bieber and Kimbrough
Retrieval and Synthesis.
Information retrieval selects documents from a collection according
to the presence or absence of keywords assigned by an indexer. Text retrieval
uses algorithms that eliminate the need for an assigned index. All content
bearing words are indexed. (Lundeen 1992) A further enhancement called concept
retrieval, uses thesauri and word co-occurence analysis to select documents
that use similar, but different words to represent a concept. (Chen and
others 1993) Queries can result in a list of selected documents ranked in
order of likely relevance. An extension of this approach allows automatic
synthesis or summarization of documents.
Transmission and Routing.
Email systems are moving beyond simple text messaging to become the primary
transport mechanism for electronic documents and forms. (Butler-Cox Foundation
1991) Object independence allows transmission of compound documents consisting
of a variety of objects (text, graphic, image, audio, video). Other functionality
required for business transport of electronic documents includes:
Other relevant technologies for routing include workflow management software,
access control mechanisms, and intelligent documents. Documents which are
"intelligent" or "smart" contain mechanisms to sense
who should receive them and in what form. The document literally sends and
displays itself to accomplish its purpose. "Active documents"
by Interleaf is an example. (Weinberger 1991) (Michalski 1991) (Beal 1991)
- authorization - assuring that the correct user is accessing the workstation
- authentication - assuring that the "digital signature" of
the user is valid
- encryption - coding and decoding documents for security
- filtering - automatically routing messages or documents according to
Print and Display.
Most documents will be printed at some time in their life cycle, so an important
technology is the wide variety of digital printers and copiers on the network.
These printers, along with text handling software, page layout languages,
and WYSIWYG displays (what you see is what you get) put high quality printed
output within reach of nearly everyone. Laser printers significantly reduce
the need for preprinted forms. Desktop printers permit distributed printing
of richly formatted documents. Xerox's new production publisher operates
on a network, accepts Postscript files, allows printed tab inserts, and
offers a variety of covers and binding. The result is a new form of distributed
printing and "print-on-demand" services that can print small or
large runs of complex documents at remote sites under the direction of a
workstation. Color copiers and printers also lead to an increased use of
color in printed documents. More than just an increase in attractiveness,
color is providing a major increase in the communication power of documents.
(Vienzenu 1988) (Shank and LaTarce 1990)
This network of printers requires a set of software to manage the distributed
printing. Print services on the network will include, for example, usage
and activity reports, downtime and repair reports (perhaps with automatic
diagnostics and repair calls, checks to be sure documents are being printed
on the most appropriate printer, automated job tickets, and an accounting
log. For documents that may not need to be printed, electronic display/delivery
takes the place of printing, but the lack of a truly universal standard
(other than ASCII) is slowing the growth of paperless publishing. (Gilbane
Document Management Functions.
The second sublayer of the document technology infrastructure consists of
document management functions that cut across the phases of document processing.
This set of functions is what enables managing documents as an information
resource rather than as a collection of files. These document management
This technology section can be summarized with the conceptual layered architectural
diagram shown in Figure 3. The lower level is the basic infrastructure and
the middle layer (with two sub-layers) is the document infrastructure that
is required for EDM. The top layer is the application layer, which shows
the four main areas of business value described earlier. A more detailed
set of application areas is described in the next section.
- Status Reporting - Who has a document? What is its recent activity?
- Access Control - Who "owns" it? Who can read it? Change it?
- Version Control - What is the current version? What previous versions
are still needed?
- Retention Management - What are the legal retention requirements? Corporate
policy requirements? How do we destroy paper and electronic versions?
- Disaster Recovery - How and where are backup copies kept? What are the
Figure 2. Technology Architecture for EDM
The second perspective which helps organize EDM is the applications which
generate value to the organization. The word "application" is
used here in the broad sense of benefit, impact, usage, and value, rather
than a specific program or system.
As technology and organizational processes evolve, EDM applications will
be developed in several areas, and for several purposes. To illustrate the
areas in which EDM can be applied, consider the case of a medium-sized manufacturing
firm that discovered several EDM applications evolving in separate areas.
These application areas, and the departments in which they evolved, are
summarized in Figure 4.
This case illustrates that the EDM approach and technology are turning up
in several application areas. Generally, the departments which install them
are not aware of the developments in the other areas. These "first
generation" EDM applications generate business value by improving customer
service, revising business processes, speeding the distribution of documents,
reducing storage costs or improving access to documents. They are different
enough in structure, purpose, and users, that they are separately developed,
but they use similar technologies and approaches. Imaging, for example,
is a technology used in several of the applications. A document server with
multi-media storage and a strong search engine is needed for several. And
the concept of "just in time" (printing, learning, forms processing)
pervades the design philosophy in all areas. Without some planning in the
development of these applications and their extensions, however, incompatibilities
will limit the effectiveness of the applications in all areas.
|Records Management ||An imaging system for archival
storage and access to legal and tax documents. Replaced an aging microfilm
system. Implemented on a network to elimate physical shipment of paper documents
among several offices in different cities. |
||An extended version of a CAD/CAM system to use imaging to manage the
blueprints and engineering diagrams. |
Management ||An imaging system to support the hiring process. Candidate's
resumes are scanned into the the system when they apply, then circulated
in image form among the many people involved in the hiring process.
|Systems and Procedures ||A plan to improve the process
of printing and distributing the procedure manuals to secretaries and administrative
Currently- manuals printed centrally and mailed to all users; revised yearly
with interim modification sheets.
Phase I - Print manuals over the network on high speed remote printers at
each major site (distributed printing).
Phase II - Allow secretaries and administrative assistants to print sections
of the manual on their local printer as needed(print on demand).
Phase III - Add retreival and reference capability so users can access relevant
parts of the manual online as needed.
||A new system for publishing and distributing owner's manuals, repair
manuals, product descriptions, and products specifications. In the past
these have always been printed on paper and mailed to customers, distributors,
and sales personnel. Recently they began distributing them on CD/ROM.
|Administrative Services ||Development of a work flow
system utilizing electronic forms for such tasks as office supply orders
from stores, check requisitions, internal office equipment orders, telephone
change requests, etc. A new version of the system will include some features
such as authorization,encryption, and signature verification that will permit
the use of electronic forms for larger and more important processes also.
|Training and Education || |
A plan to evolve the process of teaching administrative assitants and secretaries.
Currently a classroom course, based heavily on the procedures manual, which
uses multi-media presentation materials to explain the steps in these procedures
and show the forms that must be used.
Phase I - Convert the multi-media course to a Computer-Based Training course
for use on a work station instead of in the classroom.
Phase II - Structure the software so each procedure module can be accessed
as needed rather than as part of an entire course.
Phase III - Use real forms instead of just sample forms as part of the course
material. These forms can be filled in on the work station and sent over
email so that the system becomes a real workflow system that actually performs
the tasks. Access to reference material and training/education are additional
built in features.
Table 2. Case Example
Document Management Application Areas
A taxonomy of application areas will assist the planning for integration
of applications over time. This section describes some of the application
areas that are particularly susceptible to EDM. They are generic functions
in organizations that:
EDM applications which generate value in supporting the organization can
be organized into seven generic categories.
- depend on the document as the primary mechanism for getting the work
- are susceptible to emerging document technologies, and
- have proven business value resulting from the application of EDM technologies
- Improving the publishing process
- Supporting Organizational Processes
- Supporting Communication Among People and Groups
- Improving Access to External Information
- Creating and Maintaining Documentation
- Maintaining Corporate Records
- Promoting Training and Education
Improving the Publication Process. Technology is enabling a major
restructure of the process of publishing and distributing paper documents.
For those organizations which produce documents as a product or as support
for a product, this change is reengineering their document production processes.
The stages of the traditional process, designed primarily for high volume
and high quality documents is shown in Figure 5. The document is created,
generally with the use of electronic tools, and a photographic plate is
made for an offset printing press. The offset press requires long print
runs to amortize the extensive set-up costs. Thus, a large quantity of documents
is produced and stored in a warehouse, then shipped to their destination
when they are required.
This process has several inefficiencies. The offset presses are large, expensive,
and use toxic chemicals. The infrequent long print runs require storage
of documents which become obsolete between runs. And transportation is an
inordinately large part of the total cost of the process. In fact, R & R
Donnelly, the country's largest publisher, estimates that 60% of the total
cost of delivering these documents is in storage and transportation.
Figure 4 shows the steps in the revised publishing/distribution process
using newer technologies. Documents are stored electronically, shipped over
a network, and printed when and where they are needed. The major benefits
result from the reduction of obsolescence (revisions are made frequently
to the electronically stored version), elimination of warehouse costs, and
reduction or elimination of delivery time.
Figure 3. Traditional Prublishing Process
Figure 4. Reengineered Publishing Process
Supporting Organizational Processes - Documents are the vehicle
or mechanism through which most processes in organizations are accomplished.
Typical examples include processing a claim in an insurance company, hiring
a new employee, or making a large expenditure. The documents are primarily
forms, which flow through the organization carrying information, and accumulating
input and approval from a sequence of people. These "workflow systems"
are still heavily based on the physical circulation of paper forms in most
The use of technology to support these processes generates significant value
in reduced physical space for the handling of forms, faster routing of forms
(especially over geographical distances) and managing/tracking of forms
flow and overall workload. Two new trends in organizations are increasing
the importance of these workflow systems: quality improvement processes
and process reengineering, both of which tend to be heavily dependent on
In addition to transaction-oriented business processes which can be improved
with EDM, many organizations are finding that documents are important to
management processes of reporting, control, decision making, and problem
solving. (Stanat 1988) Several executive information systems (EIS), now
supply documents to supplement the more traditional data-based reports.
Organizations with a custom developed EIS are also adding so-called "soft"
information, in the form of documents. (Watson and others 1993)
Supporting Communication Among People and Groups - The purpose of
applications in this area is to facilitate communication among people, and
groups of people, in organizations. In the broadest sense, all EDM applications
support this function, but included here are specific systems to support
the transfer of information among people across time and space. Communication
can take place without documents, of course. The conversation in the hall,
a phone call, a video conference, a presentation -- all are communication
events that do not necessarily require a document. However, if the concepts,
ideas, and information are to be communicated over time, they must be captured
in a document. If they are to be communicated over distance, without voice
or video connection, they must be captured in a document. Even when communication
takes place between people at the same time and in the same place, a document
might be used to improve the articulation or formation of the concepts.
The primary value of EDM applications in this category derives from the
richer communication offered by multimedia or compound documents, and the
reduced time needed for the electronic distribution of documents. An additional
value results from the sharing of documents among a group of people simultaneously,
coupled with the rapid feedback and interaction that ensues. The popularity
of Lotus NOTES to support a variety of organizational communication illustrates
this set of benefits.
Improving Access to External Information - The purpose of applications
in this area is to provide better access to external information resources.
Two general kinds of external resources are time-critical information (news)
and reference material. The documents include news wire items, newspapers,
periodicals, magazines, electronic bulletin board items, books, video tapes,
research reports, proceedings of conferences, etc. Traditionally performed
by a library, these applications are increasingly computer-based with on-line
card catalogs, direct user access to on-line text databases (e.g. DIALOG,
NEXUS), circulation of full text research papers, etc.
A major emerging document reference and access service is the wide area
information system (WAIS). (Kahle and Medlar 1991) It consists of a consortium
of Universities, government agencies, research institutes, and other organizations
to share access to the full text of a document collection through a client/server
network. Other document collections are available on the Internet. FTP,
Gopher, and Archie allow access and transfer of text files from servers
across the network. The World Wide Web is a multimedia, hypertext collection
of documents managed by the Center for European Nuclear Research (CERN)
in Switzerland. To access and explore the WWW collection, the National Center
for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) has developed Mosaic. NCSA Mosaic
is a distributed hypermedia system designed for information discovery and
retrieval on the global Internet. Mosaic provides a unified interface to
various protocols, data formats and information archives using powerful
methods for discovering, using and sharing information.
Creating and Maintaining Documentation - Another cluster of applications
in EDM involves the creation, maintenance and distribution of documentation.
The purpose of these applications is to maintain documents that contain
policies, procedures, reference material, product descriptions, etc. They
differ from records management applications which capture and store documents
for archival purposes, accessing them infrequently, usually by request from
an internal user. Documentation applications, on the other hand, maintain
the "current version" of documents which must be updated and accessed
frequently by a wide variety of requesters. Documents tend to be reports,
manuals, drawings, and reference material; they have been mostly text in
the past, but are increasingly multi-media. Examples include:
- Internal standards and procedures manuals.
- Engineering blueprints and diagrams, possibly created with a CAD/CAM
- Systems documentation (MIS) and operating manuals.
- Product documentation manuals and other product information, both for
internal users and customers.
Access to documentation can be provided in several ways. For internal users,
on-line access through a workstation is most common. For external users,
access to documentation improves customer service by providing answers to
customer queries or solving problems with the right reference material.
When access is provided to reference material, not on-line, but through
periodic distribution, these applications become "electronic publishing".
When the reference material goes beyond basic status reports or reference
material, it may become an "information product" of value to customers
or as a marketing tool usable by dealers or distributors.
The benefits of EDM for these applications are (1) quicker access to the
documents, (2) more efficiency in the search process, (3) simultaneous access
by several people to the most current version of the document, and (4) reduced
cost of printing and distributing documents.
Maintaining Corporate Records - Organizations must maintain official
documents and records concerning their obligations, agreements, and financial
performance, primarily to satisfy legal requirements. Traditionally the
responsibility of the Records Management Department, this application area
involves storage and retrieval of contracts, financial records, internal
reports, and other important corporate documents. These are "documents"
in the traditional sense, mostly text, mostly on paper. The role of EDM
applications in this area is to manage this set of official corporate records
by providing archival storage, and occasional retrieval. The methodologies,
approaches, and technologies have evolved from a tradition of library operations,
from an earlier emphasis on automated records center applications, micrographics
(film and fiche), and computer output microfilm (COM), to an emphasis today
on digital image processing. For records management and documentation applications,
a government initiative is becoming important. CALS (Computer-aided Acquisition
and Logistic Support) has been defined as a requirement for documentation
by the U. S. Government . (Carter and others 1989) Starting with the Defense
Department, it has been adopted by many other government agencies. (Zurier
1992) Eventually, it is likely that any organization with government business
will need to be CALS compliant.
For large records management applications, the savings from image processing
in storage space and ease of retrieval alone, are impressive. Other sources
of value from the application of technology to records management include:
Promoting Training and Education - The purpose of the applications
in this area is to teach or train people in an organization. The documents
are curricular training materials or reference materials, and the use of
multi-media documents, perhaps with hyperstructure, are proving to be extremely
effective. A primary characteristic of these applications is the continuous,
sequential interaction between the user and the information through the
learning process over time, rather than a specific search and retrieval
event to obtain a document.
- reduced misfiling of important documents
- quicker and more accurate retrieval
- better access and sharing over geographic distances
- better version control
- improved retention management
Training and education applications are good early examples of the use of
multi-media documents and hypertext. As mentioned earlier, hypertext is
the most promising approach to structuring conceptual information. The body
of knowledge to be learned or understood consists of "concept nodes"
which are linked or cross-referenced to form a "web" of ideas
and concepts. An excellent example is the Intermedia research project at
Brown University. (Yankelovich and others 1988)
Converging Application Areas
These categories of applications illustrate the benefit and value of EDM.
The good news is that there are many opportunities in many different areas.
But these applications use many common approaches and technologies, and,
as the earlier case example illustrates, it will be desirable for them to
converge eventually. If they have been developed separately, without a plan
to integrate them, it will be very difficult to reap the potential benefits.
ROLES AND RESPONSIBLILITES
Because of the pervasiveness of documents, all organizational units will
find it important to use technology for document management. There are,
however, several departments that have had primary responsibility for one
or more functions in document management. It is these "document support"
departments that will find it especially important to work together and
coordinate their efforts. It will become their responsibility to develop
the infrastructure needed to enable electronic document management. Thus,
the third perspective for structuring EDM is identifying and defining the
roles and responsibilities of these document support departments, so they
can accommodate the document processing needs of all other departments in
the organization. The primary document support departments are:
The result of these developments is that all the groups above will be facing
significant changes in their traditional work and responsibilities. In addition,
new ways of handling documents will affect the work practices of almost
everyone in an organization. The I/S Department, as the developer and manager
of the technical infrastructure for EDM, will be in a position to lead this
evolution and become the organization's major change agents as they have
been in the EDP and MIS eras. However, assuming this leadership role will
require the I/S department to take some specific steps, such as those described
- The I/S Department - The technology is advanced enough and pervasive
enough that the I/S function probably will be given the responsibility for
building the technical infrastructure of the organization to embrace it.
The challenge is that the fundamental structure and processing of conceptual
information in documents is quite different from that of facts in data records.
Moreover, the principles and techniques of document storage, classification,
indexing, retrieval, and retention are foreign to most I/S professionals.
- Records management - With its tradition in library science, Records
Management has strong experience in document management practices, with
particular emphasis on archiving and retention management. Therefore, technology
has been viewed mostly in terms of its ability to meet specific needs in
traditional areas such as storage and retrieval.
- Office management - Most office work is computerized to some
extent, but internal and external correspondence and reports still generate
large amounts of redundant and hard-to-access paper files. In the future,
these files will need increased cross referencing among departments, and
integration with the I/S databases.
- Library - External sources of information are increasingly available
in electronic form, with search and retrieval capability from large document
- Reprographics and Printing - Computer-based technology is becoming
dominant. New high speed printers and copiers are digital (not light- lens)
and contain more computer power than many mainframes. As a result, offset
printing presses may be an endangered species. Add a full line of networked
Postscript printers to supply distributed printing and print-on- demand
services, and central reprographics departments face an uncertain future.
- Training and Education - Increasingly based on multi-media documents
and courseware, training is done "just in time" at the desktop
as well as in more traditional classroom settings.
The previous sections of this paper have argued that EDM is a potentially
significant development in organizations, but that it will create some major
changes in the ways organizations process information and conduct business.
The technology is new, powerful, and rapidly evolving, but that rapid rate
of change will make it difficult to build a compatible technical infrastructure
to support document management.
This effort is justified, however, because there are applications in several
business areas that can benefit from EDM tools and techniques. Because these
early applications are springing up in diverse areas, there is a danger
that they will evolve separately although they benefit from being integrated.
Therefore, planning will be important to build an integrated document technology
infrastructure. In this process, several departments or organizational units
with a history of document management will need to work together, even though
they have different history, background, and perspectives.
The I/S department has the opportunity to play a leadership role in coordinating
the efforts of these user departments and document support departments,
in order to evolve the infrastructure and applications needed to support
EDM. Playing this leadership role may be more difficult than it has been
in the past. In this era of distributed systems and distributed responsibility
for systems initiative, I/S managers will need to educate a variety of user
departments and document handling departments, convincing them to cooperate
in the development of an EDM strategy and technology infrastructure. Here
are some steps that I/S managers can take now to prepare for these developments.
Form a "Document Council". Form a council consisting of
representatives from each of the document support departments identified
above which have been charged with managing some part of the document processing
cycle in the past Their first assignment would be to identify mission-critical
documents and work back to applications and departments that depend on them.
An initial set of applications will undoubtedly evolve from the members
of the group. They have probably been responsible for producing and managing
these documents in the past.
There will also be important applications which have been developed directly
by the user departments, so the group should develop a way to find important
applications of which they are not aware. Mechanisms for doing this include
examining the areas and examples mentioned earlier in this article, finding
examples in journals and trade publications, distributing surveys and questionnaires
in the organization, etc. The work of this group and the technology tracking
group described below should proceed in parallel, with periodic joint meetings
for coordination and status reporting.
Form a Document Technology Group.Assign the task of tracking and
forecasting the emerging document technologies to a small group with technical
proficiency in several areas. If there is an advanced technology group,
this assignment would probably fit into their charter. The assignment should
cover both the infrastructure technologies as well as document technologies.
Prioritize Applications. The application group, perhaps in consultation
with people who have been using the documents, should then prioritize the
applications by business value and technical feasibility. There might be
a difference in long and short range perspectives, so both should be considered.
The prioritization should also include consideration of fit or linkage between
applications, especially when two or more applications can use the same
technology or approach.
Develop an EDM Plan. As a result of their regular joint meetings,
the document council and the document technology group can jointly develop
a plan for adding the necessary technology to the infrastructure and developing
the applications. These applications might not be developed by the I/S department,
or even by the departments' represented in the group, but their development
and approximate time schedule should be included in the plan. As it is refined
and developed over time, this plan becomes an integrated EDM architecture
and a plan for implementing it.
Revise Responsibilities. By this time, it may become clear that some
of the roles and responsibilities of some departments may need to be revised.
The council can develop recommendations to management concerning these changes.
By performing this step last, any shifts in responsibilities will result
from discussions based on the evolution of the applications and technologies,
measured by business value. This will reduce the probability of a "turf
war" that could result from the changes in the way documents are managed.
The benefits of EDM will evolve as the technology and our ability to use
it evolve over the next several years. It is not too early, however, for
I/S managers to begin the planning processes to build the technology infrastructure
for document management, and to harness these new technologies to improve
the performance of their organizations.
The concepts and ideas in this paper evolved over the past several years
from a review of literature in several contributing disciplines and technologies,
and an analysis of more recent literature that is "converging"
into EDM. (Sprague 1990) These reviews led to a series of interviews with
over 100 managers, executives and professionals concerned with the development
of this topic. The interviews, conducted over the past two years, sought
information and opinion on the opportunities, importance, and "philosophy"
of EDM, as well as examples of current and potential applications. The categories
of business value, the conceptual technology architecture, the application
areas, and the suggested action plan evolved from these interviews. Early
versions of the paper were reviewed by CIOs who were members of the Dooley
Group, and the Xerox Executive Advisory Forum. Their contributions and suggestions
are acknowledged and appreciated.
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