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Document Management Implementation

Network admins concerned about bandwidth needn't worry. Although pressure on some servers will increase as DM systems encrypt and decrypt documents and provide security, workflow, version control and auditing, once users access and load a document, it remains in memory on the local workstation until transferred back to the server. Hardware and IT staff costs should be minimal as well; the DM systems we examined in our RFI "Averting Document Disaster," work on a standard Intel architecture and are no more difficult to install and use than any other business app.

In addition, DM systems are integrated with familiar Windows applications, like Office and Explorer, a plus for end users. The bigger challenge comes in developing and disseminating a policy identifying documents as records. Once a policy is in place, the records manager or group must translate that to the DM system.

DM can be handled using a Windows client or via a browser. Fat clients are a benefit and a burden. You must install and maintain them, but the reward is integration on the desktop and support for Office applications. Checking documents in and out right from the desktop beats importing and exporting them through a Web browser. Also with a client, identifying a document as a record is easily accomplished by pull-down menus. You won't find any client support for open-source productivity suites like StarOffice in DM systems. If you use an alternative office suite, however, you can work with the DM system using a standard Web browser to check documents in and out. In that way, the systems are universal for various platforms and apps. As for security, at a minimum, ACLs (access-control lists) restrict access to individual files and folders, and audit controls apply to the same. Both are integrated with LDAP directories to identify and authenticate users.

If enterprises can't find a good business reason for DM, federal and state governments will give them one. Post-Enron, new laws and regulations, including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, aka SOX, are forcing enterprises to take document and records management seriously. Executives of public companies affected by SOX are accountable for their financial reports and audits. Even though SOX applies only to companies that trade securities on U.S. exchanges, private companies should pay attention: The SEC is not the only one fed up with corporate accounting fraud. Investors are looking to invest in only those enterprises with responsible directors and visible assets. And they would like to see credible reports of assets, liabilities, revenue, sales and the like.

So what's holding back those companies with no content systems? One hurdle is that one person's content is another's document and yet another's record. Adding to the confusion is the variety of vendor offerings--you'll find DM, ECM (enterprise content management) and RM (records-management) systems.

We consider content to be any information fixed in a tangible medium, whether paper or electronic. Under this broad definition, content can be a streaming-media file, a dynamic Web page, even e-mail. This is the focus of an ECM system, which aims to manage all formats, from e-mail to HTML to text files. If you need to get a grip on a variety of content, look to ECM systems from the likes of Documentum and Mobius.

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