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ECM, social software, mobile technology
and more at AIIM 2010

Room for large and niche players alike

Despite the mid-April eruption of Mt. Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland, the great majority of European-based exhibitors and conference attendees reached the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia to join their American counterparts for the 2010 AIIM Conference. A busy expo floor and capacity crowds at the keynotes and other sessions April 20 to 22 pointed to a recovering, if not completely recovered, economy. Highlights include:

Enterprise content management (ECM)—While a few large companies like Microsoft, EMC/Documentum, Open Text, IBM and Oracle continue to dominate the market (and were present in force on the expo floor), there is room for many niche players. That was the message from Alan Pelz-Sharpe, principal with the Real Story Group, who advises prospective users to consider some of the lesser known products along with the leaders, especially for specialized applications.

“Customers also talk a lot about how they have worked with a vendor,” says Pelz-Sharpe. “The ability to build a relationship, including having the vendor listen to their concerns, is as important as the technology.”

Social software—Sessions on social software were well attended and lively. Most of the ECM vendors have social software tools in place or are planning to introduce them in the near future. “Organizations are really struggling with this issue, trying to balance the potential of social networking outside of the firewall with applying enterprise social software for collaboration and knowledge sharing internally,” says Peggy Winton, VP of market access at AIIM. “They see the value of enhancing collaboration with blogs, wikis and social networking tools, but the majority have no policy for governing social content, which is a concern.

User age is a particularly strong factor in determining attitudes toward social networking; for example, nearly four times as many users in the 18 to 30 age group consider Twitter to be an important tool for rapid business response, compared to users over 45 years old.

Mobile technology—Mobility was evident both in capture and delivery of content. ABBYY introduced an application that creates a TIFF file from a mobile phone. Numerous ECM vendors have also introduced mobile content management capability. But challenges remain in making those applications truly functional.

“Information needs to be reformatted for the small screen,” says Lubor Ptacek, VP for product marketing at Open Text, “or users will struggle. In some cases, large images can be pre-rendered on a server to improve performance.” Ideal applications are simple—for example, a data entry form for entering business expenses or reporting hours worked.

SharePoint partners—The impact of SharePoint was evident in the number of vendors that participated in the SharePoint pavilion, offering products that extend the SharePoint platform beyond its out-of-box configuration. For example, software from NteliPath provides document imaging and search solutions. Its iPath:Search allows users to set up customized queries in a template format, as well as full text and metadata queries.

“Our next release will include support for FAST,” says Bisher Abaza, president and CEO of NteliPath. Its iPath:Imaging product includes scanning capability and storage extensions that allow large binary objects to be stored outside the SharePoint repository but still be managed by SharePoint.

Scanning/image capture—Users recognize the green value of electronic documents, but much paper remains. Scanning and image capture companies constituted one of the largest categories of vendors at AIIM. Some of the paper is inbound from customers and needs to be scanned, while some is outbound generated by companies that send customized letters or print reports and books. The OnDemand conference, co-located with AIIM, featured state-of-the-art production systems and wide-format printers.

E-discovery—Records management, ECM and search all converge in e-discovery, one of the most pressing business requirements that companies face today. Sessions focused on the importance of being prepared and the difficulty of managing emerging technologies such as mobile messaging. Vendors in this space usually pair their software offerings with subject matter experts who can support companies’ need for guidance in e-discovery.

Business process management (BPM)—BPM is improving productivity in mission-critical business activities such as invoice processing, as well as in the broader areas of content management (including Web content), records management and e-discovery. ActionBase integrates with Microsoft Office applications to address ad hoc unstructured processes. For example, tasks identified in notes from a business meeting, or in an e-mail, can be tracked and managed so they are visible at each step until completion.  

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