NIH plugs ImageWorld at imaging show

ATLANTA - On the floor here at the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) trade show, the National Institutes of Health booth was easy to miss. Tucked into the middle of the second-to-last aisle of the expansive Georgia World Congress Center, it was dwarfed by big-spending vendors who claimed prime space and wielded microphones and blaring speakers near the floor center.

Traffic to the black-and-yellow booth has been light. Perhaps a handful of potential federal government customers have found their way there. But NIH's attendance at AIIM '99 was an experiment. It was the first large, predominantly commercial show at which the agency tried to promote its ImageWorld contracts.

"We were not exactly expecting an overwhelming amount of government people," said Elmer Sembly, outreach and education director with the NIH Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC). "We're getting some name branding here. Since this is the biggest imaging show, we thought we'd start off with this."

Besides, he said, the conference sessions occurring in conjunction with the show offer "a lot of great information" about the state of imaging, document management and workflow technologies. "That's an area where we need to come up to speed," Sembly said.

NIH has aggressively marketed its three governmentwide contracts - Chief Information Officer Solutions and Partners, Electronic Computer Store II and ImageWorld - but sales from ImageWorld have lagged behind the others. Sembly attributes the problem to lingering unfamiliarity among agencies with the technologies classified under the imaging label.

Nevertheless, AIIM believes government agencies are a fast-growing market for imaging systems because they generate and process so much paper. Federal government attendance at AIIM's annual exhibition varies according to where it is held. This year, Jeff Arcuri, AIIM senior vice president for marketing and events, estimated that about 10 percent of nearly 40,000 attendees at the show were from federal, state and local agencies.

Ironically, no ImageWorld vendors chose to staff the NIH booth. Sembly said those vendors have "typically not been as aggressive" as their colleagues on other contracts, although some firms that hold ImageWorld contracts, including DocuLabs Inc. and Unisys Corp., had their own booths at the show.

Instead, three ECS II vendors, Native American Systems Inc., MicroAge Federal and Macroland, made the trip. Marcella Martin, contract manager with NAS, said she attended because "it made sense to be here and be known in imaging." The company has a contract with the Navajo nation to scan all of its tribal documents.

Bob Boyce, senior account manager with MicroAge, said he decided to attend partly to scope out products he can pitch to potential federal customers who want to buy World Wide Web-enabled document management systems.

The vendors and Sembly are not sure of the extent to which booth traffic was hurt by the fact that AIIM did not include it in the list of government exhibitors in its initial run of the show directory. Arcuri noted that NIH should have been included in an addendum to the program along with other changes, and he said the booth was listed on AIIM's Web site.

Sembly said it will take about a month for NITAAC to assess whether exhibiting at the show was worthwhile. Vendors did contribute to the cost of renting space for the booth. Sembly declined to reveal how much NIH paid for the spot.

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