maging systems are frequently growing out of federal business-process reengineering schemes in which agencies radically restructure work methods in order to yield quantum leaps in performance. Government organizations are discovering that imaging products can speed or even eliminate the number of steps required to complete transactions-whether it be processing claims, filing records or other common business tasks.
But imaging systems are only as effective as the management software used to run them. Data scanned in willy-nilly can be lost forever in electronic filing cabinets. The key is to go beyond sequential scan-and-retrieve operations to more sophisticated applications in which several business processes are done simultaneously. Instead of merely depositing scanned correspondence into archival databases, for instance, agencies can use software programs to route documents to appropriate locations-even Web sites-and track responses.
Several types of management software exists. Modeling and simulation programs from companies such as CACI International, Gensym Corp. and Texas Instruments help analyze existing and proposed business processes so that imaging systems can be designed efficiently. Critical paths and bottlenecks are identified, thus reducing many of the risks associated with business redesigns.
Workflow software from companies such as IBM, FileNet and Wang automatically routes imaging documents via paths identified by simulation programs. Processes are closely monitored and users are notified of any problems-e-mail not being sent because the server is down, for example.
Document-management software is a less-sophisticated version of workflow software. Programs from companies such as Caere Corp., Doxsys and Interleaf organize imaging documents into electronic files, but usually do not automatically route them to various destinations. Some of these products are capable of integrating different file formats. Software from PC DeskGate, for instance, collects everything from text files and Internet pages to scanned photos and places them in single electronic folders.
Yet another category, forms software, is used to convert paper forms to electronic forms, link them to databases and then route them to designated parties. The products, from companies such as Jetform Corp., Novell and Symantec, have built-in security features so that forms cannot be altered while in transit.
The image-management market is still evolving, with many companies merging products and technologies. Workflow tools are being incorporated into forms software while imaging capability is being added to more general software programs. Both Kodak and Wang, for instance, have merged their imaging and workflow products. And Lotus Development Corp. recently integrated its imaging software into Lotus Notes, a popular groupware program. Consolidation efforts such as these should help reduce prices and introduce more technology standards for image management.