Document Management: New Technologies for the Information Services Manager

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 1 April 2000




Keary, M. (2000), "Document Management: New Technologies for the Information Services Manager", The Electronic Library, Vol. 18 No. 2, pp. 137-146.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This book is the product of a collaborative effort between a records manager (Megill) and an engineer (Schantz), to provide a primer that would help professionals to define and manage documents in the information age. The book sets out to show that document management will be the next methodology to change the work of the information services professional fundamentally. It acts as a guide to particular enabling technologies, which the information professional may use to bring traditional forms of documents into electronic format, in order to provide the information that customers need.

The authors designed the book for easy reading, so there is a natural progression of the contents. Part I begins with the evolution of document management from paper to the management of electronic files – text, spreadsheets and digital documents. The 1990s saw the development of document processing, led by the early electronic document management systems (EDMS) in the business environment. The work of traditional information service professionals – librarians, records managers and archivists – was left unchanged by this development. Similarly, attempts to introduce digital documentation in the 1980s to create the paperless office also failed. Today’s development, the compound document, combines text, digital, video and digital audio to create the virtual document, a basis for document management systems.

Document management is the convergence of document processing, imaging and information technologies. It encompasses everything to do with the creation, modification, storage and retrieval of documents (electronic, graphical and virtual). It also includes the needs of customers, the objectives related to the information content of documents (text, graphics, video and audio), and the workflow of the organisation. Document management is synonymous with information processing, and its technologies have the potential to enable information service professionals to become information managers. Workflow, or how information (documents) moves in a work process, is another facet. File management, as widely used in computer systems, is the essence of document management.

Forms are an easy way to organise and structure data, and are in use primarily as a bureaucratic function. Nevertheless, forms management now takes centre stage, as the purest type of document management, for managing data and making them serve an informational purpose. Archival documents are another important data source, and teach us about business value – with questions of cost and benefit; what to preserve; and what to destroy? Such documents represent the core of the corporate memory, normally the preserve of archivists and record managers, who make value judgements on each individual item. If there are fundamental changes to this role, principles or “rules of worth” are called for before automatic application can be introduced. The authors specify five of these rules. They also point out that the weakest links in electronic document management are indexing, searching and retrieving, so document managers may still have a role to determine what documents to keep and how to index them.

Part II deals with enabling technologies that assist in the management of electronic documents, and starts with scanners that use image technology. The authors’ forecast is that information will be stored in digital form, whether the original medium is paper, sound or a painting. The resulting digital information will then appear in multiple media – paper, microfilm, tape, disk, film, etc. Another well‐known technology, optical character recognition (OCR), first appeared in 1809 – patents for reading devices to aid the blind. It is only now that the recognologies – technologies that electronically recognise characters or text automatically – are used in various applications. Of particular interest are OCR and neural network recognology systems, as they are analogous to the human brain. They develop their own rules and can learn and relearn. However, they are unable to provide reasoning, so that the solution is quantitative and not qualitative. They are in use in the areas of data analysis, pattern recognition, data processing and electronic imaging.

The potential for dual OCR technologies looks good. When OCR neural networks mature and become compatible with current proven optical recognologies, we can expect to see the integration of OCR neural networks and topological OCR systems, in a single accurate high‐speed recognition system. These joint recognologies in an integrated electronic document management system (EDMS) will include all the technology functions related to scanning, indexing, modifying, processing, storing and retrieving of documents. These documents exist as electronic bit maps (images) until they are printed and become graphic documents. Thus, workflow‐enhanced EDMS have the potential to increase the productivity of the business work process by handling both documents and items.

The authors claim that the information era of work‐process automation, workflow software, imaging and recognologies is here, and in Part III they discuss various applications. The workflow of an organisation changes with the introduction of EDMS; this in turn affects the work process analysis of costs and benefits. The authors also provide a general methodology for a cost‐benefit analysis.

Part IV returns to the question of how information services professionals make documents more valuable for their users, and relates their highly skilled tasks with what EDMS are capable of. Take, for instance, the valuing of documents, a task normally done by archivists and records managers. They do this by assuring reliability (authenticity and secure access); use (understanding the needs of users and anticipating their interests); and provenance (to track the continuing use of original documents). In a document management system, this will need to be done at the designing or evaluation stage.

Another technique is document marking – or plain old‐fashioned indexing, but critical for finding electronic documents. Search engines are the way in which the World Wide Web has got around this problem, but each engine has its own capabilities and limitations. In addition, indexing facilitates retrieval through search and supports browsing facilities, but electronic document collections can only rely on design to bridge user needs and technology. There is rising interest in metadata – data about data, which defines a set of facts for application to a document electronically, and inserts them right into the document; (e.g., HTML “meta” tags). It promises to bring order to document collections, but the standards for metadata are still evolving, and many questions remain unanswered on how to assign them and in what form.

In part V the authors forecast a third wave where electronic document management systems are catalysts for business re‐engineering. Disparate professionals such as records managers, archivists, librarians, data administrators and information management professionals will find that their professional fields and daily activities are converging. This convergence is what drives the integration of technologies, and enables document management applications in high‐speed digital electronic document management systems.

What this book illustrates is that there is still a place for information services professionals in the world of EDMS. Skilled staff – trained indexers or document specialists – will be required to work with developers of search engines to mark documents and improve standards for producing metadata. Electronic documents have an advantage, in that they can be stored and delivered in many forms and formats, and delivered as a unit to the user. Plus, they have the benefits of increased efficiency and precision. However, they cannot provide the added value to documents that information professionals bring, without such requirements being built in.

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