PC Docs upgrades management suite

PC Docs Group International Inc. next week will announce an upgrade to its document management product suite that is designed to make accessing documents easier.

Version 3.0 for each of three products would enable users to run a PC Docs system across multiple servers, allow offline use of the system and provide more precise results when users search for documents in their agencies' repositories, according to the company.

Michael O'Connor Clarke, PC Docs' vice president of worldwide marketing, said the software would help customers "get document information and other forms of content under control."

"If you can't access the system, you can't get your work done," said Amie White, senior analyst with International Data Corp. "In order for people to get their jobs done, you need constant up time," she added, but document management applications have not been able to provide such guarantees.

Central to the upgrade is a new version of Docs Fusion, PC Docs' server software, which will be able to run concurrently on multiple servers - a technique borrowed from network management technology.

Gwyn Fisher, chief technology officer of the company, said this approach would protect customers from system crashes or slowdowns because of heavy traffic. "If you start a transaction with one machine, you should be able to continue on a different machine [if the first one becomes unavailable]. It's an acknowledgment that the world is a fragile place, but your application shouldn't be."

The updated PC Docs Microsoft Corp. Windows-based thin-client software, PowerDocs, uses replication techniques similar to those available in groupware packages to let users work offline and upload new information to a server when they are done. This new option, called "Solo," offers "a complete document management system on your desktop," Clarke said.

Rounding out the suite is the next version of DocsFulcrum, a customizable knowledge management tool for searching multiple document repositories, including World Wide Web servers and groupware databases. The upgrade adds PC Docs' new Enterprise Table of Contents, which helps categorize documents and deliver search results organized according to the context in which search terms are found in documents.

"The driving design goals of the three product releases are to make the systems truly enterprise-ready," Clarke said, thereby enabling customers to deploy them more easily in many locations for large numbers of users.

Document management software primarily provides version control and access control for documents as they are being created and distributed. As such, it has tended to be used for specific applications, not as a general-purpose information-management tool. Recently, vendors have been looking for ways to broaden their products' appeal by integrating workflow, records management and search engine technologies, but these solutions can be hard to manage and use.

John Paul Delay, the records officer for the Federal Trade Commission and head of the federal PC Docs User Group, said, "Customers welcome any improvement in PC Docs products as long as the solution reflects the federal customers' needs and is cost-effective."

He observed, however, that the upcoming releases "are primarily technical solutions. They do not necessarily address long-term implementation issues, for example records management, signature encryption and some of the workflow [and] document routing [needs]. Integration with the intra/Internet might be on that list."

White said the new versions tackle fundamental problems with how the products are designed and are a necessary step "in order to get them to a point where they can focus on the user experience."

Clarke said the products are scheduled to ship May 21.

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