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The evolution of intranet document management

This article appears in the issue February 1998 [Volume 7, Issue 2]

Traditional document management is undergoing rapid evolution. Here's a guide to the stages, "From Jurassic Management to 2001: A Document Odyssey."

Intranet peephole. First, document management vendors thought they'd take care of this pesky little intranet thing by letting users view the documents in the corporate repository through a Web browser. It's amazing how long the industry thought that this was going to be an adequate response to the Web. Slime mold evolved faster than that.

Intranet poor relation. Then the Web browser version was enabled to do some of what the fat client could do. But it was designed for wimpy, effete users who didn't need to grasp the full-bodied manhood of the fat client. In short: Real men use thick clients.

Intranet twin. At last the browser versions were able to do everything--well, almost everything--that the fat client could. (Ask carefully before buying!)

Intranet star. Very quickly after that, the document management companies began featuring the Web version as the star. Documentum, for example, on a panel at Internet World said that it always leads with the Web client--quite a turnaround.

It's at this branching of the evolutionary tree that the traditional document management companies compete with document management systems that started off with Web-based clients (Open Text Livelink and Intra.Doc spring to mind).

Now a new geologic age begins. The fish begin to emerge from the primal broth, crawl on land and realize that if they don't evolve into landlubbing creatures, they're never going to know the joy of roasted marshmallows, tire tracks or mortgage payments. New species emerge, taking advantage of the vastly different environment.

Intranet groupware. But first, a different sort of fish crawls from the sea. Since intranets are a connective platform, it makes sense that connective applications like groupware will take advantage of them. But groupware traditionally hasn't understood what document management is about. Domino.Doc is learning, but its phylogeny may be repeating its ontogeny--that is, it may be adapting itself to life underwater instead of to the new world of dirt, clouds and El Nino. Time will tell.

Knowledge management? At long last a new species emerges, one that is able to take advantage of all that the new land offers. It understands that we have a new environment and a new way of working--we even have hyperlinked organizations. Will this next-generation, fully Web-evolved creature be a type of KM? To some extent, it's just a dispute over words because there is no debate that the world has changed and new creatures will emerge to exploit the new ecology. Those that don't adapt quickly enough will be mulch.

In short, this is an industry that needs lungs if it's going to have legs


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