Dan Schneider's Notes from AIIM '99 Conference and Exposition
(Association for Information and Image Management, International)

These notes reflect five days at AIIM '99, the world's largest conference and exposition for the document management and workflow industries, and include also the concurrent ANSI/AIIM Standards Week meetings, and meetings of the Coalitions hosted by AIIM. The most notable of the coalition activities are those of the Document Management Alliance (DMA).

Architecture and Integration were the major themes this year, along with Document Management (DM), Workflow (WF), Records Management (RM), and Knowledge Management (KM). Quantitatively, KM accounted for the largest change from 1998, while qualitatively the greatest advances were in architecture and integration. Architecture and Integration in AIIM are at the application level, focusing on the products and tools for building and operating a very wide variety of applications whose only common element is the involvement of "document" information. "Document" information is everything other than conventional formatted data.

Because of the enormous breadth and scope of documents, the annual AIIM Conference and Exposition draws from a wide cross-section of private and public-sector users and a wide cross-section of user professional staff. This year's conference drew an attendance of about 2500, up from 1998 and 1997. This was remarkable considering that most organizations are entering application freezes until January. The increased attendance is because organizations are looking ahead to the months after January as well as the need to reengineer paper-based business processes. These factors are driving a heightened interest in electronic recordkeeping and transaction authentication and non-repudiation, both of which were reflected strongly at AIIM '99.

A somewhat unexpected (by me) development this year was the very heavily-attended keynote session on Linux, and the overwhelming audience enthusiasm for Linux development as an alternative to Microsoft's NT. Normally, infrastructure is not a significant part of the annual AIIM gathering. This big keynote session was conducted as a panel moderated by a Wall Street Journal writer and comprising Linus Torvalds himself, together with a Microsoft product manager, a Linux expert from Compaq, and an independent industry analyst. If the audience was truly representative of the AIIM user community, Microsoft's assertions about the competitive threat of Linux are well-founded. I didn't record the session, but anyone interested in Linux would probably find it worthwhile to obtain and listen to the audiotape (or CD).

Workflow and its integration with DM and RM continues to be of major interest, with new, more powerful and sophisticated products being introduced almost weekly. They are combined with advances in imaging systems for both image capture and image presentation. The industry-wide Workflow Management Coalition (WfMC) has made substantial progress in refining its reference model and in formulating interoperability standards for WF products. The Technical Committee of the DMA gave a most impressive demonstration of DMA 1.0-based interoperability that started with a desktop-scanned document, followed a WF path, and ended with a printed page, using products from several different vendors. The DMA person from the corporate IT architecture group at General Motors gave several presentations on why the DMA effort is so important to GM. I was gratified to learn that FileNet will soon be releasing its DMA implementation for the Panagon repository. (I understand that the Panagon product is the vehicle for the DM architecture/integration in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's ADAMS project.)

The DMA is wrestling now with the challenges of interoperability standards for compound/structured documents and query-based retrieval. There is general vendor consensus on the direction for the latter, but there is considerable vendor difference of viewpoint on the object model to be adopted for the former. At the DMA Users meeting, it was proposed that AIIM sponsor a one or two day planning meeting for both users and vendors on the specific question of the object model for compound/structured documents. In this discussion, I raised the question of embedded hyperlinks as being of interest to many in the public sector. The firms with the greatest involvement in these two DMA extension areas have been Xerox, FileNet, Eastman Software, Hitachi, InfoNuovo, and Ricoh. As a result of the positive user reactions to the DMA sessions at AIIM '99, it is likely that Documentum will resume its active participation. PCDOCS has undergone much corporate upheaval over the past couple years, and its recent acquisition by Hummingbird leaves many unanswered questions, but I was pleased to learn that PCDOCS made an unpublished commitment for DMA 1.0 delivery to a Fortune 100 customer. (DOJ may wish to consider such commitment as a prerequisite to further PCDOCS acquisitions. This might help resolve some pending DM product issues.)

The DMA Advisory Council decided to adopt the model of the WfMC and become more global, with the establishment of Vice-Chair positions for Asia-Pacific and Europe. This is appropriate because of the strong Japanese interest and involvement, due at least in part to the practice of many Japanese enterprises to deliberately install the DM products of multiple vendors, which they want subsequently to be interoperable. The strong European interest in the DMA was expressed at the Users meeting by a senior IT architect from the London Insurance Market Network who discussed their new program for replacing decades-old paper-oriented business processes in the London reinsurance market with a state-of-the-art network interconnecting the electronic DM systems of the participating insurance companies.

This year saw also more sessions devoted either entirely or partially to RM. The presenters from the RM community seemed to me to know less than most IT people in their audience about the possible accomplishment of RM, although they spoke well about the basic principles of RM. Many DM product vendors are adding RM features to their products, some by integrating third-party products from such vendors as Tower, Provenance, or PSS Software, while others are building their own. By far the most substantive RM discussions took place in the C22 Standards Committee of Evidentiary Support for Electronic Information. That meeting brought together leading RM experts with ties to the legal and regulatory communities. A good portion of the session dealt with the impending finalization of the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA), the patchwork quilt of emerging state statutes that may be replaced with the UETA, some of the issues involved in electronic bearer instruments (which the mortgage community is ready to start implementing), and some of the remarkable emerging commercial products to provide evidentiary third-party authentication, confidentiality, non-repudiation, and secure archival retention. The C22 Committee's four-part Technical Report issued in 1992-94 was cited by OMB in its March 5 Notice on proposed guidance for implementation of the Government Paperwork Elimination Act. The committee anticipates issuing within a year a white paper on the changes of the last five years, followed by one or more Technical Reports containing new records management recommendations. These could prove to be as significant as the earlier TR-31 series that have been cited in so many venues and official pronouncements.

KM is a natural subject area for AIIM because of its obvious reliance on DM. Not only were several conference sessions focused on KM or aspects of it, but many vendors were introducing KM products. Those products seemed to focus on uniting DM with skills-inventory aspects of human relations (HR). Exploitation of skills and human knowledge expertise has been Lotus' KM orientation, and its marriage with DM is illustrated nicely in the new products from ByteQuest, a Canadian firm (www.bytequest.com). Meanwhile, Smead is expanding its already strong support for library management of paper-based and image-based repositories with the impending release of a product encompassing DM. Much the same picture is seen with almost all of the major imaging industry vendors. AIIM has chartered a study group on KM.

The integration theme is now extending strongly into e-mail, with most initiatives tied to Microsoft's Exchange mail product. Various vendors are marrying high-end collaborative groupware, DM, and/or RM with Exchange. The low-end is conceded to Microsoft in its Outlook and Office products. The focus of the high-end products is scalability, because organizations are increasingly looking for large-scale integrated solutions. An example of this e-mail integration is the recent commitment of the DHHS Office of the Secretary to install the new (1998) Eastman Software integration product.

Throughout this year's conference and exposition, the Web and more broadly, the Internet, were omnipresent as either product or strategy or both. Architecture and integration assume the use of the Internet (or internet technology in the form of intranets and extranets) for distributed system activities. The imaging vendors are designing products and services for distributed capture and display of documents. The earlier imperative of shipping documents to a central capture point is yielding to the cost-benefit tradeoffs in distributed capture, which has some interesting RM implications. Distributed document display has for some time been a focus of the printing community in addition to the DM community, but the Internet and Web give it additional emphasis. The DMA has been particularly attentive to accommodation with the emerging WebDAV specifications, and DMA-WebDAV integration was addressed explicitly in several sessions.

I was most pleased to be able to have some extensive discussions with the corporate IT architect from General Motors. He, in turn, has a strong relationship with the DMA member from Caterpillar, where some very rigorous RM activities are happening. The principal issue for both enterprises is the challenge of the appropriate treatment of electronic information that is not retained in managed recordkeeping repositories but is nevertheless discoverable in litigation. The challenge is quite similar to the FOIA challenge in government, but with consequences that are much more severe. GM participates also in the Black Forest Group (along with Shell and other global Fortune 100s), which may soon be updating its earlier requirements report that drove much of the DMA 1.0 specification.

Finally, it should be noted that ERP continues to play a major role in architecture and integration planning and strategy. More and more enterprises are implementing ERP products, with SAP being the most dominant vendor among several strong contenders. The AIIM vendors have given much attention to integrating their imaging products and services with the major ERP products. This enhances the appeal of the latter, leading to a win-win situation for the AIIM companies, the ERP companies, and their respective customers.

AIIM 2000 and AIIM 2001 will take place at the Javits Convention Center in New York City, with AIIM 2002 scheduled for the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Thereafter, the event will alternate between the two sites. In the immediate future, AIIM will be implementing an electronic collaboration vehicle for the development of standards committee documents, to replace the current listserv arrangements. The merger into AIIM of the European IMC association will strengthen AIIM's global perspective.

The foregoing should be tempered with the understanding that they are the observations of a single individual in a vast landscape for a very short period of time, and reflect my own interests. Other persons with different interests may have come away from AIIM '99 with different observations and conclusions.