Business Process Automation relies on two technology
groups to automate the processes, Enterprise Content Management and
Business Process Management. Performance Improvement has a
thorough understanding of both of these technology groups. We
help businesses and government in identifying the most appropriate group
needed to automate process-centric change based on process improvement
initiative. The following defines each of these technology groups for
better understanding of their evolution and core functionality:
Enterprise Content Management (ECM)
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AIIM defines Enterprise Content Management
(ECM) as the technologies used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and
deliver content and documents related to organizational processes. ECM
tools and strategies allow the management of an organization's
unstructured information, wherever that information exists. Source: AIIM
The ECM market is an evolution of
Document Imaging. Document Imaging began as a technology that could
digitize paper documents, index them, store them on optical disk, where
they could be queried by an end-user and viewed on a computer monitor.
The next phase in this market was the creation of
Computer Output to Laser Disk/Electronic Reports Management (COLD/ERM).
Computer reports were already in digital format therefore these reports
could be automatically captured, indexed and written to optical disk.
This same scenario fit the documents that were created by office
automation software, e.g., word processing, spreadsheets, etc. These
documents are digital, as well, allowing them to be captured as electronic
documents and archived to a document imaging system, eliminating the need
to scan them. However, automatically indexing these documents, beyond the
standard metadata that is captured when they are created or updated, is
not as automated as indexing a computer report. Managing the documents
created by office automation software is often called
Electronic Document Management (EDM) one of the key features of EDM is
the library functionality that is associated with these documents.
As COLD/ERM and EDM were evolving Document Imaging was being broken
into components that could be integrated to optimize the usage of a
Document Imaging System. The components of the DI system were Capture,
the digitization and indexing of the documents, Viewing, the ability to
view multiple document types and annotate them, and Archive, and the
capability to store images to different media to optimize retrieval.
Document Capture module became one of the most innovative, today’s ECM
products have the capability to automatically index documents by
extracting data from the document using ground-breaking technology.
Initially, these systems were storage and retrieval system. But the
majority of these documents are part of a Business Process. End-users
were questioning why they were manually routing these documents through a
business process and capturing them electronically at the end of the
process for storage and retrieval purposes. This launched the
Workflow industry - the ability to route these documents
electronically through a business process.
With the proliferation of E-mail came the ability of our
customers and partners to send us documents electronically. E-mail became
the defacto way to distribute documents. Many of these e-mails contain
documents that are critical to the operation of your business thus
E-mail Archive for timely retrieval is strategically important to
organizations. Due to recent legal and regulatory rulings they must be
managed as every other legal document. Fortunately, they are in a digital
format and can be captured and indexed in the same manner as the office
automation documents. Let’s not forget the documents that are being
generated on the Internet, i.e., Web Content. These documents fall under
the Electronic Document Management umbrella.
This evolution provided companies with the ability to capture documents
in an electronic format that is best suited for their long term use. These
initial systems were information silos that had to be searched
individually because the documents were all stored in different formats,
e.g., TIFF, JPEG, ASCII, PDF, EBSIC, Metacode, AFP, etc., which required
proprietary storage and image viewers.
Although, these documents are in an electronic format
rather than paper many of them represent legal records and therefore a
Records Management program is required for their retention and
In summary, ECM is the integration of these
technologies into an ECM Suite that provides the ability to capture,
manage, store, preserve and deliver the information contained in these
Buyer Beware: The marketing departments of
ECM vendors not only create the latest “buzz words” to differentiate
themselves in the market, they also try to position their product as being
the latest and greatest technology. Many vendors lack some of the basic
functionality that is required to implement an ECM solution, e.g., a
common viewer that not only views all document formats but also provides
common functionality and usage, standard library functionality, the
ability to capture graphical computer output, etc. A through analysis of
your business requirements is vital to determine your needs and the long
term success of an ECM system.
Management (BPM) is the ability to have end-to-end visibility and control
over all parts of a long-lived, multi-step information request or
transaction that spans multiple applications and people in one or more
companies. Business process management means harnessing and enhancing the
value of business processes however large or small, wherever they reside
within the extended enterprise, and whomever they involve. Source: BitMap
The BPM market is a result of the evolution of both
Enterprise Application Integration (including
XML and Workflow technology
Application integration (sometimes called enterprise
application integration or EAI) is the process of bringing data or a
function from one application program together with that of another
application program. Where these programs already exist, the process is
sometimes realized by using middleware, either packaged by a vendor or
written on a custom basis. An common challenge for an enterprise is to
integrate an existing (or legacy) program with a new program or with a Web
service program of another company.
In general, for new applications, the use of
object-oriented programming and actual or de facto standard development
tools and interfaces (such as Java or .NET) will help ensure that new
application programs can be easily integrated with those that may be
needed in the future. The Extensible Markup Language (XML) promises to serve as a tool for exchanging
data among disparate programs in a standard way.
XML (Extensible Markup Language) is a flexible way to
create common information formats and share both the format and the data
on the World Wide Web, intranets, and elsewhere. For example, computer
makers might agree on a standard or common way to describe the information
about a computer product (processor speed, memory size, and so forth) and
then describe the product information format with XML. Such a standard way
of describing data would enable a user to send an intelligent agent (a
program) to each computer maker's Web site, gather data, and then make a
valid comparison. XML can be used by any individual or group of
individuals or companies that wants to share information in a consistent
Workflow, the predecessor of BPM, was initially designed to
automatically route documents to individuals through a predefined
process. The initial workflow products were designed for human
intervention to allow individuals to work with digital documents. These
systems were developed by the large imaging vendors as an extension of
their high-end document imaging products. These workflow products had
software that allowed the process to be defined through scripts and
required complex integration efforts to allow these workers to work with
information from multiple systems. Although these systems were designed
to process documents, to their credit, most were process centric and were
built on the principle that to change the way work flows through an
organization should not require programming or technical expertise. They
also had audit trails that allowed reporting on history of the document
flow and specific metrics.
As Workflow systems evolved scripting gave way to
proprietary graphical flow charts, rules engines, and and Enterprise
Application Integration (EIA) adapters to integrate with popular ERP
and CRM systems. Thick clients were replaced with multi-tier architecture
based on CORBA or .NET. A couple products even added simulation in order
to test the defined flow for bottlenecks and cost details. This is the
foundation of today’s BPM products that gave birth to the concept of
Straight Through Processing (STP). STP is the ability to complete a
process with no human intervention.
Today’s BPM Suites combine modeling, simulation,
bidirectional exchange of performance information, EAI adapters,
intelligent forms, and complex rules engines.
Buyer Beware: There is
tremendous confusion in the Business Process Management market. Vendors
with collaborate tools and document centric routing products are touting
themselves as having process management software. All Business Process
Management Suites contain workflow and collaboration capabilities. Not
all workflow and collaboration products have BPM capabilities. A through
analysis of your business requirements is vital to the selection of the
correct BPM systems and its long term success.
Document Imaging is the scanning, indexing and
archiving of paper documents to storage media where it can be accessed by
an authorized user. Initially, images were stored on Optical Disk as
magnetic disk storage costs have reduced in cost it has replaced optical
as the preferred archive media for application that do not require the
documents to be stored on a media that cannot be altered.
Document images system provides multiple benefits:
reduce lost and missing documents, reduce floor space, provide access to
workers without leaving their workstation, multiple people can view the
same document simultaneously, etc.
Document imaging is the father of ECM and has
generated multiple technologies that now comprise the document imaging,
e.g., document capture/forms processing, document viewers, document
The core document imaging system provides the ability
to index documents, albeit, there are multiple approaches to address this,
e.g., folder, document, or page centric as well as using full text
search. Security and ease of use are also part of the core document
Careful analyses of your requirements are essential
to selecting the proper system and avoiding a costly replacement in the
Computer Reports are documents that are generated by
application data, they provide information that is intended for human
interaction. These computer reports can be generated by a variety of
business applications, e.g., general ledger, billing, statements,
invoices, inventory, etc., and can be intended for both internal and
external use. These reports can either be line items or page oriented.
Line item reports, i.e., green-bar paper, are generally intended for
internal use. Conversely page oriented reports are normally documents
that are distributed to customers or business partners, i.e., invoices,
statements, etc. Since page oriented reports are intended for external
use they often contain graphics to enhance their appearance. This could
be a simple as changing font sizes, colors or styles from line to line, to
as complicated as containing multi-color graphics. Graphical reports
require a printer that can print the graphics that are imbedded in the
COLD/ERM products capture this computer generated
data and archive it to a storage media where it can be accessed by
authorized users. When this data is retrieved to their computer monitor
by the authorized user it appears exactly as if were a printed document,
although some products provide the ability to repurpose this information
so it can be viewed differently, used to create alternative reports or
used for data mining.
Hundreds of thousand of COLD/ERM systems have been
installed to reduce the cost to distribute and access the information that
is contained in them. Today COLD/ERM is generally considered a
commodity, however, careful analysis of the uses of this information is
required to optimize its value and avoid a unwanted conversion to another
system in the future.
Commonly know as Document Management its terminology
has become synonymous with Document Imaging. Document Management,
however, began as its own industry to manage the millions of documents
that were being generated by office automation application, e.g.,
Microsoft Office, WordPerfect Office, etc. Document Management
applications provide version control, check-in/check-out and other library
functionality to manage these electronic documents.
These library functions have become a commodity and
are built into the office automation suites. However, these documents
often become part of the document archive and must be integrated with
other “fixed content” documents, images and COLD/ERM in order to be
retrieved from a common electronic file folder and manipulated in a
standard viewer with other documents. This functionality is not supported
by the office automation software that is currently available. Content
management vendors provide various ways to archive and manage these
documents. Some vendors archive them as “fixed content” and treat them
the same as other fixed content documents. Other vendors provide a link
to the office automation application that authored the document and launch
the office automation software to view the document. Careful analysis of
how your organization uses its documents is critical in order to decide
the best way for you to archive these documents.
The proliferation of E-mail and the Electronic
Documents they contain has added a new dimension that requires careful
attention must be paid to the archive, retrieval and retention of
Electronic Documents. Recent decisions by courts and regulatory agencies
have document the fact that you not only have to retain these documents
but you must be able to produce them or you may be fined or imprisoned.
There are three main alternatives available, use your
e-mail system as a document archive, archive all of the e-mail or
selectively archive critical e-mails. A careful analysis of your e-mail
documents usage is imperative to make an informative decision on which
method is best suited for your organization.
Document capture, which was originally bundled as
part of document imaging product, has become its own technology. Document
capture was originally separated from the core document imaging product to
improve performance. Now the core functionality of the document capture
product has become its ability to quickly index documents. Document
indexing is clearly the most labor intensive task involved in committing
document images or electronic documents to a document imaging system.
Since most of the indexing information is on the source document itself or
in another application within the same company, document capture software
integrates multiple technologies to automate this process.
Documents can be classified into three categories,
unstructured, semi-structured forms and structured forms. If a document
capture system can identify a form a specific area(s) on that form can be
targeted to look for indexing criteria and use software to capture this
information directly from the document itself. This technology is either
a barcode, machine typed characters that can be read using Optical
Character Recognition (OCR) software or handwritten information that can
be captured using Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) software. If
we only have one form to index it is relatively easy to identify the
area(s) on the document to capture the index information. However, in
application like Mortgage Loans or Accounts Payable these forms change
frequently. These applications require Forms Recognition software to
identify the forms so the indexing coordinates can be identified.
Regardless, if you have structured forms,
semi-structured forms or unstructured documents, a through analysis of
your documents by a professional that understands this technology is
imperative in order to make an informed decision on your capture
The number of e-mails a company receives each day is
growing at an unprecedented rate. Many of these e-mails contain documents
that are critical to the operation of your business. These documents must
be processed the same as other documents that enter through your
mailroom. They are also legal documents that must be retained the same as
any legal document. Since they are legal documents they must also be able
to be accessed in a timely manner. This new way of document delivery has
created a document management dilemma.
Corporations have several options on how to retain
and access these documents, e.g., they can print them and file them in a
folder, they can archive them to an ECM product – which creates options as
to whether to archive all documents or just selected documents, they can
use their e-mail product as the archive, etc., etc. The options seem to
be endless, but the fact an organized system must be implemented has
already been decided by the courts and regulatory bodies.
Implementing an E-mail archive system can be
complicated due to the varying options that are available. It is
imperative to have a through analysis performed by a professional that not
only comprehends the multiple E-mail archive methods available but also
analyzing the business processes that will be utilizing these documents.
Failure to do so can result in implementing a partial solution that will
have to be replaced.
Records are the foundation of virtually every
transaction. Records are distinguished from documents by their legal
value. All Records are documents but not all documents are records.
Records Management software manages the lifecycle of these documents which
entails cataloging their retention requirements, assuring their accessed
in a timely manner and destroying them at the end of their lifecycle.
Records management was taken for granted until the
recent actions taken by regulatory agencies and our judicial system.
Today, just retaining legal documents is not enough, you must be able to
produce them in a timely manner.
Workflow is a term
used to describe the tasks, procedural steps, organizations or people
involved, required input and output information, and tools needed for each
step in a business process. Source: SearchCIO
Unfortunately this definition is not shared by everyone, In fact, ask
any number of people what their definition of workflow is and you will get
an equal amount of definitions. These definitions may vary from e-mailing
a document to a process participant, to having information move through an
entire process without any human intervention. Document capture software
vendors tout their ability to scan and index documents and then update the
document imaging product and possibly a line-of-business as workflow.
Routing documents from tasks to task is sometimes called ad-hoc workflow.
Performance Improvement believes a Workflow product should be rules
based not document centric. The entire process should be defined and any
timelines or deadlines identified. There must be procedures in place to
guaranty a work item completes the processes regardless if it takes
minutes or months to complete the process. Security must be established
so only authorized users can access the information they require and an
audit trail should document who accessed or modified the work item through
the entire process.
Implementing a workflow system can be complicated.
Since workflow products often automate processes that involve disparate
systems and disconnected documents. It is imperative to have professional
that not only competent in business processes analysis but all of the
technologies that are associated with improving them, e.g., ECM, EIA and
Workflow/BPM. Failure to do so can result in implanting a partial
solution that will often be replaced.