Despite a general drift toward content management apps for handling document content on other platforms, the IBM i document-management market generally retains its traditional focus on managing doc content and delivery options.
Over the past few years, in the computer industry as a whole, there has been increasing confusion between the concepts of document management and content management. In an article on this topic in 2012, "Technology Focus: Document Management Searches for an Identity," several IBM i vendors expressed opinions that drew a line between those two product types. Content management was seen as primarily concerned with controlling content on Web sites, while document management in the IBM i market was seen as being largely concerned with capturing and storing paper and electronic documents and controlling associated workflows.
Whether it's the passage of time since then, or more simply a further shaking out of the market, a newer sampling of vendor opinion shows both continued confusion in some areas and growing clarity in others.
Document Management vs. Content Management
It's useful to first check out the standard definitions of document management and content management.
"The term 'document management' used to describe the desire to manage structured and unstructured documents within an organization," explains Ken Anderson, vice-president of sales and marketing for IntelliChief. "Structured documents would be documents that were generated internally that could be categorized in some way because the creator has control over the metadata used to define what that document was [or] even to group related documents together." He contrasts structured and unstructured documents with an example of a structured document being a car-insurance policy declaration and an unstructured document being a faxed police report about an incident involving a claim, which would be moved manually through an insurance claims process.
"Document management systems changed all that," Anderson continues. "Now everything related could be digitized as images and categorized whether they were structured or not. The document images could now take the place of paper and the business process could be managed within the document-management system itself."
Bill Galusha, consultant product marketing manager for EMC's Information Intelligence Group, a company that produces document management products for Windows only, offers a representative view of the difference between content and document management that's typical of the computer industry as a whole.
"Content management is much more than simply managing Web site content. It encompasses the ingestion and management of all types of content, including office documents, email, scanned images, video, voice, blogs, rich media, office files, and more…. When it comes to document management, capturing and transforming paper into digital information still remains extremely important to organizations. Paper is still a common medium for gathering information and communicating between businesses and customers. Managing and processing documents is an integral part to an organization's overall content management strategy," Galusha offered in a recent interview with MC Press Online.
IntelliChief's Anderson goes on to define digital asset management as a confusing third alternative.
"To a recognizable brand like Coca-Cola, for example, their logo isn't just content. It's a digital asset that might go through minute changes over time that need to be categorized and stored and perhaps even changed within the system."
It's Function over Form in the i Market
"There is clearly confusion surrounding the terms content management, document management, and output management," observes Frank Yacano, Symtrax's director of sales and marketing for the Americas. "It is content management that leads to some confusion since content is not limited to Web sites; it is also brochures and other documents."
"Vendors and analysts have certainly contributed to the confusion," agrees Anderson. "A printing solution might get described as a document-management system simply because it can take a copy of a structured form and store it as a PDF. Obviously, that's not a true document-management system, but it could get thrown in the same bucket."
If one surveys the actual products available in the IBM i market (see below), the products generally fall into two broad categories: document-management apps that include some content-management capabilities and output-management apps that include Web-delivery options. This gives rise to the idea that, within the i market at least, the clearer differentiation may be between the ways apps support business functions.
"Content-management solutions and document-management solutions, because they are engineered to solve different business problems, are different products with some crossover features that allow both products to solve some portion of the other's area," summarizes Anderson.
"We are in the output-management space," Symtrax's Yacano declares, "which today is mostly about documents. Web content is handled through other software more designed for that purpose."
Anderson points to the fact that, in many IBM shops, managing documents is more a function of supporting key business activities such as customer relationship management or enterprise resource planning, rather than managing documents or content per se.
"To the majority of our customers, their ERP/System of Record is core to their business, yet it's widely quoted that 70-plus percent of control processes are manual and 80 percent of content is unstructured. It's amazing how manual many business processes [remain], particularly in the back office." He cites the example of a company at which a customer calls in to check on an order receipt. Customer service has to check with sales to see if an order was printed and then check with order entry to see if the order was put in the system. "There are three departments who need to be contacted just to answer a simple question. And what if one of the people in one of those departments is out that day? [A document-management system] creates [a] collaboration in a way the ERP [system] cannot."
"Overwhelmingly, the IBM i is a business machine that's used for business transactions like manufacturing, insurance, distribution, etc.," Anderson summarizes. "Since that's the case, we see much more demand in helping customers streamline their back-office functions. This is the low-hanging fruit in squeezing out costs in departments like customer service and accounts payable."
The product listings below summarize available offerings for IBM i in the areas of document- and output-management. As always when looking for products or services, be sure to double-check the MC Press Online Buyer's Guide.
Document Management Solutions for IBM i
Document Management System is a suite of products that handles imaging, workflow, management, and distribution tasks for documents. It includes ACOM's EZContent Manager, which helps users build secure electronic document libraries; EZRetrieve, software that accesses documents across platforms from within any application; and EZeCabinet, which offers a unified repository for all enterprise documents and records.
EZeDocs is an electronic-forms design and document-delivery system that helps users create invoices, purchase orders, reports, checks, forms, and other business documents without requiring pre-printed forms or custom programming. Documents produced can be printed or distributed electronically as fax or email messages.
Although designed primarily as a Web-portal solution, Nexus' focus is assembly and organization of business information gathered from documents and applications. Nexus includes a content-management application that handles all aspects of document storage and retrieval and supports document formats that include those of MS Office, Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF), and graphics.
XDMS is available for IBM i servers running AIX or Linux. It helps users manage, share, and distribute eXtensible Markup Language (XML) documents of any type with each other or across applications.
The iDocs suite is concentrated on helping users design and produce forms, checks, and documents from IBM i spooled output. Suite members help users format documents, filter and distribute them, and index and archive them in a Web-based repository.
IntelliChief is a document-management suite that offers forms processing, electronic forms creation, document search and retrieval, and doc printing. It supports document imaging and distribution that works with imaged docs, e-docs, faxes, and emails. It also includes a workflow engine that performs according to user-define rules, sends alerts for special documents, and generates an audit trail for all documents.
DTM is an XML-based system for incorporating information from databases into electronic documents for display and distribution via the Web, email, and fax. It also facilitates document generation and display between IBM i and MS Office applications.
Scriptura Engage is designed primarily for use in customer relationship–management scenarios. It provides centralized content storage, document creation, design and production of customer communications, and control of output processes. It also features security, regulatory compliance tools, and the ability to handle multiple languages and business logic in the same document template.
The inFusion suite of products, designed for use with IBM's Lotus Notes/Domino, includes inFusion eForms, which is a workflow solution for creating and routing of electronic forms, and PDF inFusion eReview, which supports online, real-time collaborative review of documents and graphics in files using the PDF format.
The ECM Suite offers content-management tools for the entire lifecycle of enterprise content. It includes features for records management, workflow processes, imaging, and intelligent storage management within a single enterprise repository.
Enterprise Workflow automates the handling of existing documents by managing and routing documents in a Web environment. It also lets users build workflows, enables control of user access, and generates audit trails of all activities.
WebDocs is a browser-based document-management system that lets users digitally manage, store, and distribute all business content. Available either as a licensed application or as a cloud-hosted service, WebDocs handles PC- and server-generated content, email, eforms, invoices, and other document types.
Output Management Applications for IBM i
Launcher/400 is an application for managing IBM i document flows and distributing them to PC users. Launcher/400 includes tools for designing new document flows, can distribute IBM i data to Windows directories or Microsoft applications, and routes outgoing documents via multiple channels.
Catapult lets users reformat, archive, and distribute IBM i spooled files or PC files to multiple recipients. Product options include file conversion to PDF or HTML, distribution via fax or email, addition of graphics, and exporting of documents to indexed Web files for later retrieval.
Monarch for EZ-Pickin's is a report data-mining application that helps users translate IBM i reports into interactive views, export report data to MS Office applications, and customize data extraction, summary, and display actions.
Spool-Explorer gives local or remote PC users direct access to IBM i spooled files for viewing, sharing, conversion to other file formats, and publishing to a secure Web portal.
DocAgentDE is a distribution application that translates printed documents into digital forms for distribution via fax, email, Web, and XML. It also provides archiving services, selective encryption of email attachments, and conversion of documents to PDF format. DocAgentDE is available as either a licensed application or a cloud-based service from the vendor.
DBXFlex is a database output–management solution that lets users select, extract, format, and analyze business information from multiple database files and then publish the results in PDF, MS Excel, or CSV output types.
ROBOT/Reports automates the report-related tasks of bundling, distribution, formatting, archiving, and viewing reports electronically on the IBM i. Users can choose between PC- and browser-based viewing options, as well as options that let them view, save, download, and annotate report documents.
LaserVault Reports archives and indexes computer reports from IBM i servers (and other platforms) and makes them available in a browser interface for retrieving, printing, faxing, and emailing.
Report2Web provides a Web-based application that handles content-management and document distribution of reports. It gathers data from existing reports and lets users change each report's content and presentation without programming. The product also provides security, search functions, and workflow options.
DeliverNow is a document automation solution that monitors, converts, and delivers reports, forms, and other documents from business applications on any platform. It can take reports from IBM i spooled files and AIX/Linux/Windows apps and convert them into a variety of file formats.
S4i Express is a browser-based document-delivery app that handles electronic forms, preprinted forms, spooled files, and server documents. It captures, separates, indexes, bundles, and delivers or archives reports and documents. Output formats include PDF, HTML, Excel, Word, and others.
Compleo is a document output-management suite for IBM i, designed primarily for ERP environments. Suite members include Compleo Archivor, which archives electronic documents for later retrieval; Compleo Designer, which converts ERP system outputs into business documents; Compleo Reviewer, which helps users manage document workflows via a browser; and Compleo Supervisor, which monitors document workflow and outputs.