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THE BUZZAIIM thoroughbreds

As we round the clubhouse turn and head down the AIIM Derby home stretch, which of the major industry players are battling to finish first in the eyes of customers? In order to handicap the stretch drive, we assayed some prominent pundits at their positions trackside. Not surprisingly, most agreed on the major contenders, but a couple also mentioned some dark horses.

Meta Group guru David Yockelson called the vendor race a dead heat between FileNet, Open Text and Documentum. He said he likes Open Text because its horizontal marketing strategy sets it apart from the more vertically oriented approaches of FileNet and Documentum. Yockelson said FileNet and Documentum would do well to emulate each other.

What does he mean by that? "Documentum needs to be more FileNet-like in that it needs a broader product portfolio," he said. "And FileNet needs to be more like Documentum in its marketing. Open Text is doing the best job of explaining why it is different."

Yockelson's dark horses? Eastman Software, if it can resolve the contradictions in its high- and low-end channel strategies, and IBM, which threatens from the services, not the product side.

Dan Elam, partner at IMERGE Consulting, placed Lava and Eastman alongside FileNet in a race for the finish. He said Documentum is a little off the pace because of its recent, less-than-stellar stock performance.

"FileNet is clicking on all cylinders," Elam noted, adding FileNet's Panagon Capture product will compete favorably with Cornerstone Imaging's InputAccel data capture system. Addressing Eastman, he said, "They have targeted some key FileNet VARs and taken them away. For the first time in eight years, our clients are asking us about Eastman."

Elam thought Lava was in trouble a few months back when they had some management turnover, but now, he said, they are back stronger than ever with lots of business in the pipeline. "They're back in focus and going after the document management market," he declared.

Ray Edwards, president of Lighthouse Consulting, picked a steady, but unspectacular steed as his top finisher. "In my humble opinion," he observed, "Optika is doing a lot better than a lot of people thought they would." Lauding the company's new eMedia product, Edwards added, "They are definitely not ready for the glue factory."

Fighting it out for second and third are Documentum and PC Docs. According to Edwards, Documentum "gets it" and is proving that by offering products that provide true knowledge management.

He said the biggest obstacle to PC Docs is overcoming the stereotype of a company that only competes strongly in the legal market, adding that Documentum faced a similar stereotype in the pharmaceutical marketplace but recast itself as a broad-based vendor.

So what are users interested in seeing at AIIM? In a word, said Yockelson, "infrastructure." Users want vendors to provide them with a total solution that includes links to ERP systems as well as document-focused applications.

In Elam's opinion, AIIM attendees are interested in learning more about the implications of ODMA as they expand the number and complexity of their applications. Elam said that scalability is another driving factor in the ODMA equation.

Edwards also gave a nod toward total solutions when queried about the desires of AIIM attendees. He said that while they are willing to "define" products to meet their needs, they want more functionality out of the box.

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