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Knowledge transfer series: Work management through messaging

This article appears in the issue May 1998 [Volume 7, Issue 6]

In March, executives from Eastman Software (www.eastmansoftware.com) and Microsoft (www.microsoft.com) jointly announced two new work management products based on Microsoft Exchange that promise to make serious document management and workflow capabilities simply part of the enterprise messaging infrastructure. We spoke with Michael Loria, Eastman Software's VP of Worldwide Marketing, to understand how putting work management into the Microsoft platform will change the market, and why Eastman is pursuing this business strategy.

Q. Eastman Software has always been known for high-end production imaging and workflow. Why the new emphasis on Microsoft Exchange?

We're trying to drive work management technology into the mainstream in order to grow the market. Let's face it, all the vendors have built good stuff, and it works ... but the industry needs to be bigger than it is. Our success depends on growing work management into a mainstream market.

Q. How does basing it on Exchange do that?

As a business, work management has always struggled with three issues. The first is the platform. Client-server is great, it's robust, but trying to scale it to reach every desktop in the enterprise is much tougher than with messaging. We need to focus on increasing the reach of work management software, and we believe messaging is the ubiquitous platform we need for enterprise penetration.

The second issue is price. We're moving the price downward to drive the technology to a mass market. Exchange-based products are priced significantly lower than client-server. Some of that is cost-driven--because Exchange itself is providing key pieces of functionality--but much of it is simply a strategy to drive demand. Also, by leveraging the customer's existing infrastructure, lower total cost of ownership, including training, tools, and administration, becomes part of the price equation.

The third issue is the channel. The solution marketing model that work management has pursued historically does not work at the mainstream or enterprise level. We need a new strategy to reach a mass market. With the Work Management for Exchange products, we've now moved 100% to channel distribution, focusing on TechData (www.techdata.com) and Software Spectrum (www.softwarespectrum.com).

Q. How do users view it?

We've seen phenomenal interest in Exchange-based work management from companies talking to Eastman Software, many of whom have never been our customers before. And the interest is in deals with thousands of seats. When we were Wang Software (www.wang.com), we focused on client-server solutions and tools, and supported Unix and NT. Eastman Software is only Back Office: NT, Exchange, SQL Server. We're being evaluated not as a solution or a tool, but as a platform for building solutions. Certainly corporate MIS sees it that way. Eastman represents "work management for Back Office."

Q. Steve Ballmer of Microsoft was a big part of your launch event. Why is Microsoft so excited about this? Is it part of its strategy to beat Lotus?

Microsoft never said Exchange was a Notes-killer, but simply a collaboration platform built on a messaging infrastructure. Now Microsoft can point to Eastman Software and say, "like that." They're bringing us into many accounts.

Q. Don't all Microsoft partners say that?

It's a mindshare game. The Microsoft rep doesn't think about a long list of workflow and document management partners. We're extremely pleased with the attention we're getting from the Microsoft reps.

Q. Counting on Microsoft to carry you is really dancing close to the fire. Eventually they'll be putting more work management features in Exchange itself. Is that something you worry about?

Unlike some other Exchange partners, we're very happy to hear Microsoft talking about workflow and document management, and we're counting on them to make work management enhancements in the core platform. For example, take the new Routing Wizard in Exchange 5.5. It's not a threat. In fact, we wish they'd done it faster, and with more functionality. As for dancing close to the fire, we think of it as dancing close to the tornado. When the mass market becomes conscious of work management, it's going to move very quickly. We want to be there when the tornado hits, and we think we're better positioned for it than other document management and workflow vendors.

Q. When most other companies talk about enterprise infrastructure, they mean the Web. Eastman Software has been pretty quiet on the Web front. Do you see Exchange as an alternative to the Web, or complementary to it?

It's been simply a question of timing and focus. We wanted to get Exchange done first, because we want to be seen as "work management for BackOffice." The Web is next. We think the Web is very important, and you'll see us talk a lot about Web connections at AIIM.

Q. When Kodak (www.kodak.com) acquired Wang Software last year, the logical synergy seemed to revolve around imaging technology. But your new focus on collaborative work management is harder to connect to things Kodak obviously cares about. Are they trying to pull Eastman Software back to imaging?

Kodak is very supportive of our current direction and our effort to make work management mainstream. They haven't tried to pull Eastman Software in new directions at all. They're helping a bit in the COLD market, and we're jointly looking at some new issues in health imaging, but they pretty much leave us alone.


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