In discussions with a client recently, we evaluated “out of the box” document management applications with more transactional applications. This post will discuss and compare different document management paradigms and how they compare for transactional document management.
Transactional = High Volume
For our client, transactional was a financial services application where a high volume of documents needed to be stored and acted upon to make business decisions as well as manage compliance. Some of the unique requirements included:
- High Volume of Documents – fax, image, in bound emails and other documents
- High Volume of Folders – literally thousands of client folders containing these documents
- Intelligent Folders – folders had attributes like client number, client name, date, type of folder. These attributes needed to be placed on every document within the folder.
- Folder Notes – Record of all the activity that occurs within the folder. In the paper world these notes were written on the folder itself.
- Document Viewing – Client wanted to be able to quickly view one or multiple documents.
The client originally reviewed a solution with leveraging Documentum Webtop. Some of the issues included:
- Cabinet/Folder Navigation – we have traditionally recommended against a large or deep folder structure for navigation as it can suffer from performance. Opening a Cabinet or Folder that contains thousands of subfolders can take significant time.
- Folder Logic – adding the ability to have intelligence in the folder was somewhat limited but would take some customization.
- Folder Notes – the client was contemplating using the folder object attribute but we struggled with identifying a document.
- Launching of viewing window – client was concerned about managing multiple browser windows that would be launched often and inability to keep multiple windows open and organized.
Review of Solutions for Transactional
For traditional content management, solutions often fall into the following areas:
- Librarian – Documentum Webtop falls here as does other offerings from vendors. Typically these solutions are “one size fits all” where navigation of folders is in some type of file system metaphore. These solutions can suffer from “feature creep” where vendors like to make every possible action into either drop downs or document actions resulted in a somewhat blotted interface.
- Collaboration – SharePoint falls into more of this paradigm where focus of the interface is on groups of people working together on documents. Document management functions are there but not as apparent as in the librarian application.
- Transactional – Coming from the image world, these types of interfaces are frequently built rather than bought as the functionality can be very focused in regards to how to quickly display documents and navigation quickly to the subfolder based on business rules.
High Performance Interface – Our Experience with Transactional
The client initially came to us based on a review of our transactional offering – HPI. Some of our lessons learned that have been reflected in the interface for others considering building with other tools include:
- Inbox/Search but no Folder Navigation – Early on, the sheer number of folders pushed us away from having any folder navigation but focused on quick access to a sub folder. For example, in an accounts payable scenario, user might search on a vendor and quickly see all the subfolders. The client would not want to navigate to the Accounts Payable Cabinet only to see thousands of subfolders. An efficient search was much more beneficial than any navigation.
- In Browser Viewing – We wanted to keep the viewing within the one browser screen as transactional users typically have another browser/window open for a data driven application. This could include policy, underwriting, accounts payable, accounts receivable or a variety of other applications. The interface allowed the users to view one or multiple images within a single browser window or launch a separate browser window for a separate monitor.
- Folder Notes – We built HPI with a “note” object for folder notes. This has turned out to be invaluable for storing the activity in the folder but not have the document accessible as a document for viewing natively or manipulating. Keeping it off the folder object provides a ton of flexibility.
- Outbound Email – The ability to send an email from the folder and have it stored automatically within the folder notes was a huge benefit for a variety of applications (underwriting, engineering…). Previously users would use their own email application and organize their “sent” folders.
- PDF Renditions – The interface focuses on having all documents converted to PDF to provide one high-performance viewing format for transactional content. By keeping to one general format for viewing, the amount of windows launching and delay to open up applications (ex: Word, Excel…) were minimized.
While the above are features in HPI, they could easily relate to custom built applications as well. If you have any experience you want to share, please comment below.