Financial Management Software
Financial Management Software
Send old methods of data management up in smoke by implementing enterprisewide systems
By J.B. Miles
Special to GCN
That first soft rustle of papyrus so long ago'the sound of welcome to a new level of civilization'has crackled and roared into a din of information, consuming forests of paper and mountains of our time trying to manage it.
And despite the proliferation of electronic document management systems using computers, scanners and optical storage systems to help organize, archive and retrieve digitized information, humans generate some 2.7 billion sheets of paper daily.
This huge volume of information creates a problem that is the reverse of the one we once faced.
Before the electronic age, we had trouble finding the information we needed to make decisions.
Today, we have more information than we can handle.
Document management programs have been used mainly to collect and track documents for placement in large database repositories, where they could be checked in and out at the request of users. Such systems worked well enough'to a point.
'All too often, document management, workflow or imaging programs operated in isolation from one another. Problems arose when departments or workgroups used different document management programs and tried to exchange information.
When an unwieldy kludge of document management systems proved too expensive or too difficult to handle, or if they failed to perform up to expectations, the complaints were laid at the doorstep of the information systems department.
But such complaints ignored the root of the problem'that electronically moving data is not enough; changing the underlying workflow bottlenecks and Rube Goldberg routes that the data had to follow must be part of any solution.
Today's integrated, enterprisewide systems bring a variety of components to bear on a range of information management problems.
A typical document management program includes workflow, imaging, forms management, e-mail or Web messaging, computer output to laser disk (COLD) and other useful components.
The combination of features not only can manage the flood of paper forms, e-mail, graphics, Web downloads and other documents that come across our desks daily, it also helps us make sense of them.
This Buyers Guide features integrated, enterprise document management programs that run under Microsoft Windows and can be customized to meet general as well as specific line-of-business requirements.
A few have a track record of handling the financial requirements of any of these integrated programs in the accompanying chart probably can serve your needs.
Read on, check the chart and call a vendor for an idea of how a package can be optimized to meet your requirements.
Many end-to-end solutions integrate various functions of document management and are customizable enough to let users fill in the blanks themselves.
One caveat: No single approach to document management will serve everyone's needs; if you're looking for a silver bullet, especially in financial document management, disappointment awaits.
Most document management programs operate on the a-penny-saved-is-a-penny-earned principle.
''Although most government organizations aren't financial institutions, they can save thousands, even millions of dollars annually by using the same document management software programs that are helping banks and corporations better manage their assets.
One such implementation is the IRS' Record and Image Processing System (RIPS), a system for dealing with individuals who cannot pay their taxes and must negotiate a payment schedule or other compromise with the agency.
Jim Kennedy, chief of information services at the IRS' Austin Service Center in Texas, had three objectives in mind last year when he set up the award-winning RIPS:
' Give IRS case managers immediate access to correspondence from taxpayers who need to negotiate a settlement.
' Reduce the center's huge paper storage requirements.
' Make optimum use of the scanner and data storage equipment the center already owned.
Kennedy, in effect, developed his own financial document management program using software and hardware from three manufacturers. He selected Eastman Software Inc.'s Imaging and Workflow for Microsoft Windows NT subset for its basic document storage, management and retrieval ability.
To support the system's scanning and indexing process, he selected Kofax Image Products Inc.'s Ascent Capture software. High-speed scanners and optical storage systems from Eastman Kodak Co. helped convert paper images to electronic formats.
Kennedy accomplished all his RIPS goals. Each document pertinent to a taxpayer's case is indexed and instantly retrievable by the IRS case manager handling it.
The system is fast, efficient and cost-effective; it has greatly cut paper document storage requirements, he said.
'We were able to implement RIPS very quickly because we used our existing IT infrastructure [Windows NT] and vendor products that could readily leverage that structure,' Kennedy said.
Because the project is still a prototype, no precise savings can be computed, but IRS officials are impressed. The agency designated RIPS as the Center of Excellence for Records Management for the Austin Service Center.
Eastman Software's WorkManager Suite for Microsoft Exchange, formerly WorkFolder for Microsoft Exchange, is particularly well integrated and customizable. Workflow for Windows NT electronically monitors the flow of work in an organization by keeping track of it, determining where it should go next, and providing information and requirements necessary to complete each step.
WorkManager uses the Microsoft Exchange messaging system for sending and retrieving information across the enterprise. Imaging for Windows Professional Edition lets users electronically capture, view, annotate, reconstruct and distribute paper documents from scanned or faxed sources.More to handle
Eastman Software COLD heaps high-performance Windows server capabilities and hierarchical storage management onto the document management plate.
To help process and store more than 3.5 million personal tax returns each year, the New Jersey Division of Revenue recently installed FileNet Corp.'s Panagon IDM document management suite. The integrated IDM system lets the Division of Revenue respond to taxpayer inquiries immediately; the previous turnaround time was as much as three weeks.
|Tips for buyers|
Document management programs should be:
- Highly integrated and customizable
- Microsoft Windows NT'compatible
- Used across an entire enterprise
- Able to track documents throug their
- Able to manage a range of
document content, including e-mail,
databases, video clips, graphics
and word processing
- Able to handle information from
anywhere, including common
productivity tools such as Web
browsers, the Internet and intranets
- Able to manage information equally
well from servers across a network,
using Web browsers or via
messaging services such as Lotus
Notes or Microsoft Exchange
Use of Panagon IDM also cut by more than 50 percent the cost of processing a tax return.
As a result, the division has reduced or eliminated 450 seasonal jobs and decreased paper file storage costs by 50 percent.
Since the adoption of Panagon IDM and the subsequent reduction in paper handling at the Division of Revenue, the problem of lost, misfiled and missing documents has been all but eliminated, according to a FileNet spokesman.
FileNet's Panagon IDM is a family of four highly integrated components:
' Panagon IDM Desktop is intuitive client software that lets users access documents from across the enterprise via Windows Explorer or a Web browser. It integrates easily into all Windows environments as well as productivity applications such as Microsoft Office and Lotus Notes.
Visual Workflo is scalable workflow automation software that allows customization of work processes and information flow between different software apps.
' Panagon Report Manager is a high-performance client-server COLD product that enables storage, indexing, retrieval, viewing, printing, faxing or distribution of computer-generated output on magnetic disk.
' Panagon Capture is a set of configurable components for capturing virtually any document from scanned paper to e-mail, Hypertext Markup Language forms and audio and video clips, and makes them immediately available to users.
' Panagon IDM Services is a high-performance repository that integrates with IDM Desktop for managing all types of documents within one program.
Although its program objectives are unlike those of federal or state revenue collection agencies, NATO has similar reasons for using document management software.
It wants to save money by improving the efficiency of the organization's daily workflow and document storage facilities.
Toward this end, NATO recently selected integrated document management software from PC DOCS/Fulcrum, the Burlington, Mass., subsidiary of PC DOCS Group International Inc., for use at NATO's Brussels headquarters. PC DOCS/Fulcrum software is widely used by the United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom and other governments for financial and general document management.
NATO selected PC DOCS/Fulcrum's suite because of the software's careful integration of PowerDOCS, CyberDOCS and DOCS Routing components, said NATO project manager Lori MacRae.
Because PowerDOCS is tightly integrated with Windows and presents a familiar look and feel, users need no training to browse Windows document repositories.Audit away
It provides extensive search and retrieval capabilities as well as version control, audit trails, seven security levels and storage management. CyberDOCS provides full document management capability using a Web browser over an intranet, extranet or the Internet.
DOCS Routing's version control ensures that everyone is working from appropriate versions of a document, a feature NATO officials found attractive, MacRae said.
Integration is key. Keyfile Corp.'s new Keyfile Active Document Workspace builds on its Keyfile document management software and Keyflow automated workflow and is used primarily for developing electronic commerce applications.
With the new software, organizations can maintain all the features of full-scale enterprise document management, including check-in and check-out, multilevel version control, object-level security and search.
But the program's use of familiar Web browser and e-mail interfaces will appeal to many users, said Amie White, a senior analyst at market researchers International Data Corp. of Framingham, Mass.
Lotus Domino.Doc is a Web document management framework built on the company's Domino infrastructure to provide scalable and flexible document management across the enterprise.
It includes built-in components for managing a document's lifecycle, from idea through authoring, review, approval, distribution and archival, a Lotus spokeswoman said. Senior schemes
Older programs got their start in client-server network architectures and relied
heavily on proprietary e-mail messaging schemes. The trend among most newer document management vendors is to provide Web-based messaging.
Eastman Software, Keyfile and PC DOCS/Fulcrum include Web browser capabilities with their suites. Optika Imaging Systems Inc.'s eMedia is an entirely Web-based system for managing a full range of documents.
FEDTAX II from Federal Liaison Services Inc. of Dallas is a Web system that lets federal agencies use the Internet to electronically make payroll tax payments to the Treasury Department.
The system handles about $40 billion of Treasury's $1.1 trillion in annual collections.'Check it out at www.flspayrolltax.com.J.B. Miles writes about communications and computers from Carlsbad, Calif.