Document management vendors pursue standards

CHICAGO—Seeking to expand the market for their products, document management software companies plan to offer packages that meet newly proposed interoperability standards starting later this year, vendors reported at the Association for Information and Image Management trade show.

Vendors and industry analysts predict that if customers can mix and match document management applications according to their needs, they may deploy such products more widely. Users, including government agencies, have adapted document management software for a variety of applications, but today's proprietary packages do not allow them to share information with groups using other systems.

Over the past two years, vendors have pushed for standards as they realized their products were unlikely to meet the requirements of users throughout an agency or company, even though many offices in an organization want document management tools. "The idea that that system is going to come from any one vendor is unrealistic," said Eric Severson, vice president of Interleaf Inc.

Firms Demo Standards-Based Wares

Since last year, a 93-member AIIM-sponsored committee, the Document Management Alliance (DMA), has been writing interoperability specifications for the industry that are expected to be published this fall. At the AIIM conference, four vendors—Interleaf, XSoft, Vantage Technologies Inc. and Electronic Data Systems Corp.—demonstrated the first middleware application based on the proposed standards.

Interleaf, XSoft and EDS have ties to the federal imaging market. Interleaf products are available through the Defense Department's Integrated Computer-Aided Software Engineering pact, as is XSoft's InConcert workflow manager. EDS has a contract with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service to provide imaging solutions.

Carl Frappaolo, executive vice president of Delphi Consulting Group, Boston, said the suggested standards are likely to stick because the top firms in the document management industry have endorsed them.

"One of the key factors indicating the growth and evolution of a market is the development and acceptance of standards," added Linda Myers-Tierney, a senior consultant with International Data Corp. Delphi and IDC are DMA members.

The DMA middleware technology would be employed between the client application and multiple document repositories. Initially, this application would enable users to search, retrieve and view files from any document management database, while future versions would provide added capabilities.

The demo at AIIM linked client applications from Vantage and XSoft with document repositories from Interleaf and XSoft. A user searching two document repositories connected by DMA middleware would see the results of the query in the format supported by the client application.

So far only Interleaf is offering a DMA standards-based product. A new version of its Liaison applications programming interface, released during the AIIM show, is based on the DMA-proposed object model for describing and managing document files.

A few other vendors are expected to follow by year's end, but most are not likely to release standards-compliant products before 1997, according to Judy Kilpatrick, AIIM's vice president of standards and technical services.

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