Choices, Choices Everywhere for Imaging

By John Phillips posted 03-16-2011 15:55


When was the last time you attended an AIIM International or ARMA International Conference and could actually make all of the events that you needed to attend or get together with all of the people you wanted to meet? Our conferences these days are so well managed, planned, and stocked with intellectual goodies that it is usually frustrating to try to cram it all in. So last November when faced with this dilemma again for the ARMA conference, and needing for both business and educational reasons to talk to vendors, I decided to just concentrate for a couple of days on the vendors and their exhibits. I had never done this before in 30 years of conferences.

Wow! Not only did I get an incredible volume of one-on-one information downloads, there were many local technical presentations as well, right in the vendor exhibit area. All for the price of travel and some meals! And many of the “meals” actually occurred in the Expo area. I definitely did miss attending some of the more rewarding educational presentation sessions. But I did not miss trying to race around and stretch myself thin between geographically distant educational sessions and welcomed being able to concentrate on the task that was at hand – obtaining a lot of information on current imaging system technology offerings.

Most specifically I was there to converse with vendors like Kodak, Wicks and Wilson, ibml, Perceptive Software, LaserFiche, and KnowlegeLake for whom document imaging is a major focus of excellence, as well as companies like EMC,  IBM, and Open Text where imaging system solutions  are often intended to enhance and complement their other diverse products. What amazed me was the diversity of solutions choices we now have available in the software arena. I also experienced a renewed lesson in the importance of having clarity of focus regarding eventual system needs so that the wheat can be separated from the chaff early. All software solutions have an area of accomplishment where they excel in certain functionality. However, the terminology used to promote product features can be very confusing.

For instance, when does a document scanning system become a “document archiving” system? Or when does a document workflow system become an “e-Discovery support system”? Or when does an electronic content management system become a “legal hold and email archiving software”? What specific functionality does each vendor really have and how does that match an organization’s precise needs rather than their “wants” or “nice-to-haves”. Vendor websites can become just another Internet infomercial. Only a one-to-one discourse with a vendor where they can demonstrate both the “bells and whistles” and the “nuts and bolts” will really answer these complex and convoluted questions.  A professional conference vendor show is undoubtedly the best place to begin your software shopping.

The growing sophistication and capabilities of our options for software and hardware technologies continues to amaze me. But do we need a carpenter’s hammer or a nail gun? A crosscut handsaw or a logger’s chain saw? Requirements Definition can be the Cornucopia of business benefits from which software solutions emerge or, seemingly in some cases, the root of all (implementation) evil. We need to remember as the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland once said, “… if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will do.” Attending a conference is a great way to plan where you are going and what it will take to get you there.

I am looking forward to AIIM’s info360 in March!

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