Friday, October 5, 2012

Document Management is about PEOPLE, not DOCUMENTS

We have been in the ECM/Document Management/Document Capture space for quite some time, so much time that the word "startup" will not apply to us very soon.
In all this time, our strong & devoted team of engineers have developed apps for ECM and document management using things like the CMIS standard, NoSQL, several sorts of Semantic Web technology, Syntax patterns for keyword extraction on documents, Neural Networks, OCR, Digital Signature, improvements on Lucene for indexing and search, Business Process Management (JBPM from JBoss and others) and for ECM suites like Alfresco or Nuxeo. All flavors of Databases like PostgreSQL, MySQL, Oracle, SQL Server or  IBM's DB2.
We have beaten proposals from OpenText, IBM FileNet and DataCap ECM products, huge technology consulting firms with offices in more than 20 countries. And scaled into half a million projects from under 1K at our first days.

So our team has done much, it has done plenty. Many late hours at our office. Many weekends of coding, that are now showing off in Athento.

And just the other day I was thinking about a comment of an engineer:
"The contracts need to be a higher resolution or the system won't be able to perform the OCR correctly and hence the capture of relevant keywords"

And of course, this was a correct statement.

So our document input needs documents that are higher quality right? Documents that are, let's say, 300 dpi (dots per inch).


Well, wrong.

It's never about the documents. 

It's never about the facts of our product, or our technology. It's never about the horsepower of the car, be it 100CV or 300CV. It's about if the customer likes the horsepower or not. If it's relevant to somebody, then you have a product. Not the other way around, you don't create a product and expect it to be relevant.

And you don't adapt users to your product. You adapt your product to users, or you create a vertical to better answer the needs of a smaller group of users.

Technology is never about technology itself. Technology is always about people, and intelligent document management is nowhere different.

It's about facilitating people's work. It's about going the extra mile, and making somebody's life a little easier.

 The fact that you are making software FOR THEM is actually an intimate way of communicating with some people (the users). The login window we designed will be the everyday door to their work. You have been there, creating that window, those fields. They go there every morning and log into the system.

Because software is never an end in itself, It's got to do something FOR SOMEBODY. And it is the "somebody" that rules our kingdom, the center of our Universe.

So instead of "Athento can manage over 7 million documents" we can say "Some happy customer of ours was able to use over 7 million documents with our system, and work faster".
Instead of "We need documents that are 300 dpi or more for our OCR to work" we need to think "It's easier for us to give you results if documents are 300 dpi or more, but if not, hey we'll take the challenge, and we are engineers, we'll find a way to solve your problem and make you happy".
Instead of "our system does not integrate with SAP right now" It's more about "how important would be for YOU to have our system integrated with SAP, and then, how much could you wait, pay, to have this delivered to solve your problem?".

Because if we loose this focus, we have no focus at all.

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  1. Good point. I like the title and your analysis illustrates why the people side of document management is so important. Too often it is forgotten until a problem comes up.

  2. As someone who has been in the document capture and document management space for over a decade now, I couldn't agree more. Over the years I have sold and implemented solutions from dozens of different software companies. Each solution was different and unique but one thing they all had in common.....they solved some business workflow problem for the 'customer'. The success of each of these solutions is measured by the 'end user'. Did it accomplish what the customer wanted?

    All too often it is easy to get bogged down by all the technical details and 'how to's', when in reality the only question to ask is; Does the solution accomplish what the customer wants to accomplish?

  3. Glen, Lee,

    Thanks for your feedback, much appreciated.