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With DMA spec V 1.0 complete, next challenge is to promote it

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

There is no question that today the vast majority of an organization's documents and records are decentralized throughout the organization. In an effort to improve business functions, operational or business units have driven the acquisition of technology, largely unconcerned about impact on the organization as a whole. Yet now even departments that were previously content to operate autonomously are realizing the benefits of a more cross-organizational view to document and knowledge management.

The paper-to-electronic hurdle has been cleared by these departments and they are beginning to understand that the next goal of cross-organizational document access can be key to even greater gains: shortened time to market, creation of new products and services and more effective meeting of regulatory requirements. Yet achieving cross-enterprise document management is a complex challenge.

"While many organizations recognize the strategic benefits of sharing information across the enterprise, there aren't many approaches that can support this," according to Candace Emery, head of records management at Bank of Canada (Ottawa). "The only real choice organizations have had to date is to mandate or promote the adoption of a single enterprisewide document management product." Even this approach isn't very practical, because it takes time to develop a consensus on enterprise requirements, and individual business units need to leverage DM technologies quickly if they are to improve their business processes. More importantly, given the different types of business needs and cultures within most organizations, a single "one-size-fits-all" solution probably doesn't even exist.

That's where the DMA comes in. With its V 1.0 just approved, the DMA standard is a specification for vendor-independent cross-repository interoperability, regardless of platform, network and even foreign language.

"With regard to global companies with numerous document repositories, the DMA standard directly addresses the ability to search simultaneously across various vendors' repositories from a single client application," according to Benton Ong, senior principal scientist for Boeing (Seattle). "This interoperability specification also protects a company's investment by ensuring that document management systems can be easily integrated regardless of the vendor."

As difficult as it is for private corporations to dictate a single vendor's proprietary product throughout, it is completely insufficient as it extends its electronic business beyond its corporate boundaries to suppliers, customers and distributors--particularly in multinational business environments. It is just this requirement to extend document interoperability beyond the enterprise and around the globe that drove multinationals like Boeing and GM (Detroit) to be among the early DMA user members who advised the document management vendors on requirements for the standard.

The requirement for interoperability is not limited to just the private sector. "CIOs from most government agencies are wrestling with the document interoperability problem," said Dan Schneider, a computer specialist at the U.S. Department of Justice (Washington). "The DMA's achievement has generated considerable interest, although its widespread use in the federal government may have to wait until agencies are over the Year 2000 hurdle.

Guided by overall government impetus, Revenue Canada (Ottawa) has developed what it calls its Integrated Document Management Strategy. This is designed to elevate the understanding of the document life cycle and all its components and also enable departments and agencies to recognize the major considerations necessary for satisfying their requirements. This strategy is comprised of such components as document management, records management, workflow, capture and presentation, and is positioned with complementary services such as Internet, E-mail, x.400 and x.500. "The interoperability challenge is a key part of the need to establish a suitable process for the overall life-cycle of documents and all that EDM entails," according to Richard Diment, manager of document management systems at Revenue Canada. Revenue Canada is looking at the DMA specification and Diment said that the DMA may well play a role with other standards in this middleware strategy, making it more robust. Furthermore, he said, "When a systems integrator demonstrates it has been able to integrate disparate vendors' DMA-compliant products, it will be an important proof statement of the DMA."

This proof of interoperability is exactly what the DMA plans to show at the AIIM Standards at Work Pavilion, including DMA-compliant products and prototypes from Eastman Software (www.eastmansoftware.com), FileNet (www.filenet.com), Hyland Software (www.onbase.com), Napersoft (www.napersoft.com) and Xerox (www.xerox.com). In fact, it is a pivotal component in the DMA's recent membership recruitment drive, focusing on demonstrating the seamless ease of interoperability created with DMA to attract additional members from both the user and vendor communities.

With the hard work of developing, documenting and testing the V 1.0 spec complete, the DMA must now turn its attention to the equally hard work of promoting it. While many market-leading vendors are committed to offering DMA-compliant products and the list of DMA vendor members is growing, user demand will be key to compelling the middle-tier and smaller EDM vendors to DMA compliance. According to Schneider, "Vendors aren't going to invest in the DMA if they believe they can lock whole enterprises into their, proprietary products."

From this point forward, users must vote with their checkbooks by demanding DMA compliance through their RFPs and by driving the evolution of requirements through the DMA process.


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