Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Press Release: Athento to present a 2014 Smart Document Management solution that’s even smarter

Miami, December 24, 2013: Athento, the smart document management software, is presenting some of its new features for 2014.

The Athento team does not want to end the year without sending its clients and users its warmest wishes for a prosperous new year in 2014. The management team would also like to share some of the new features that you’ll see in the product in 2014.

At the start of the new year, the company will publish the product roadmap, which includes (among other improvements) a more compact interface which will provide all of the capture and document management modules in a more integrated fashion.

This year, we’ll see more of the things that the team has been working on during the second half of 2013, and which will soon be ready to see the light. Victor Sánchez, the Head of R&D, says of the product: “We’ve succeeded in getting documents stored in Athento to be more than just files and metadata. They’re now entities with their own meaning, which contemplate the relationships between users and other documents. This is part of understanding documents; and, for businesses, this means more power and flexibility when it comes time to defining document modules.”

Athento’s capture features will also continue to evolve in 2014. In order to do this, the company has brought on two experts in the optical recognition field who will join a team of experts specializing in classification algorithms and document management, in general. As José Luis de la Rosa, the company’s CEO, says of the company: “The efforts we will make in 2014 will focus on making Athento smarter and smarter, which we understand is the only way of providing a real solution to businesses who, day after day, have to deal with complex volumes of documentation and for whom traditional ECM solutions haven’t offered a complete solution”.

About Athento:
Athento Smart Document Management incorporates leading-edge technology such as Machine Learning, Semantics and Image Processing to automate processes related to work on documents. Athento helps businesses automate processes related to the capture, management, storage and delivery of documents. With Athento, a company can get the traditional functionality offered by a document management system, as well as all the functionality of a capture system; and, with modules, also cover needs of delivery, storage and BPM. For businesses, this means a significant reduction of costs and a global document management system that’s robust and integrated within their IT systems.
Athento is used by business such as the DIA Group and Leroy Merlin.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Season's Greetings, from Athento

"Christmas is not an eternal event at all, but a piece of one's home that one carries in one's heart".
Freya Stark


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Enterprise Content Management and the Management of Life Cycles in Document (Part 2)

In the first part of this post we explained concepts such as “The life cycle of documents”, “Enterprise Content Management” and “The Phases of ECM.” 

Today, we’re going to concern ourselves with the problematic nature, for businesses, of covering the entire life cycle of documents.  
In almost each and every one of the phases of the life cycle of content, there are one or more disciplines (and a series of software tools and technologies) that help with the management of all of this unstructured information.

Life cycle stage Disciplines and  software subsystems
Capture Capture
Manage Document Management
Web Content Management
Digital Asset Management
Email Management - Mailroom
Business Process Management
Store File systems
Data Warehouse
Preserve Electronic Records Management
Deliver Organization and access to information
Enterprise Search

As you can see in the previous table, in order to cover the entire life cycle of content in an organization, many software subsystems are used. This is a complex reality which usually requires a large amount of investment in technological infrastructure and which presents the enormous difficulty of being able to integrate all of these systems to get real use out of the information in documents. 

This graphic from the AIIM shows us how all of these software sub-systems fit together in a global system of Enterprise Content Management: 

AIIM - ECM Roadmap


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Business Process Management, Document Management and Document Capture

I wanted to begin this post by thanking our partner Digitex for sharing their experience with Athento with us yesterday, and by thanking the dozens of participants who joined us yesterday, in spite of the mixup with the time. It’s always a joy to see how Athento’s webinars fill up.

Right: let’s get to the subject at hand. Today, I’d like to share the presentation that we used in yesterday’s webinar. For those of you who weren’t with us, I’ll provide you with a quick summary of the case study that we presented yesterday. 

Client: Insurance and Work Safety Administrators, Colombia. 

In accordance with the Colombian labor system, a company like this mainly focuses on:

  • Affiliating workers to the Work Safety System.
  • Collect the contributions of workers in the System.
  • Guarantees that affiliated workers will be able to access health care services.
  • Carry out workplace safety and accident prevention programs.
Businesses in Colombia then select an insurance company that offers these programs, and pay the insurers to cover the health needs of their workers when there are work-related incidents. That means that any worker who suffers an accident or illness related to work has his or her medical expenses covered by this kind of insurance company.
These insurers, however, don’t provide health services directly: they work with a network of health care providers who provide services related to:

  • providing medical, surgical and therapeutic assistance
  • hospital stays
  • dental care
  • supplying medication
  • diagnostic services, etc.
So, to sum up, a worker who’s covered by one of these insurance companies and who has an accident goes to a clinic that’s authorized by his insurer and receives the necessary medical treatment.

These health care facilities certainly don’t work for free: after the worker receives treatment, the facility then generates an invoice to be paid by the insurer.

Problem: A large number of invoices need to be processed, and there needs to be guarantees that the invoiced amounts for the insurance company meet certain pre-established fees. This involves arduous, expensive manual labor; the idea was to automate the process.

Solution:  Design a system that unites document management, capture and account auditing. The Digitex Group, experts in Business Process Management, designed a system that worked in the following way: 

  1. Digitizing invoices: Invoices can either be medical or for services.
  2. Data Extraction: Athento’s capture module extracts the necessary information (service provider, amounts, etc.) from the invoices.
  3. Sending data to Auditing application: Using web services, the capture application is connected to the Auditing application, to incorporate the invoices, and the data extracted from them. 
  4. Auditing, approval for payment or withheld: The Auditing application developed by Digitex is in charge of applying rules to decide if the companies providing services are charging the correct amounts. If so, payment is approved. If not, “withholding” documents are generated that show the justifications for, and explain the reasons why, payment was rejected.
As this process is taking place, invoices are stored for safekeeping in Athento’s document management module.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Infographic: The Universe of File Sync and File Sharing

Good day, everyone!

We’ve been very busy trying to fulfill a promise. Do you remember how, a few months back, we began a study on applications such as Box, Dropbox or Google Drive? We promised to share the results of the study in an infographic format, and today, we can say that it’s been worth the wait.

The results:

With this study, we’ve learned facts such as these:

  • Users prefer to use these applications to store their work documents (95%), though a large number of the people who were polled also use them to store personal files. (77%).
  • The main reason why information workers use these applications is that “it allows them to access their documents from any device” (87.18%).
Regarding use of these applications, compared to ECM software:

  • If their businesses obtained an ECM system, 64% of these users would continue to use File-Sync and File-Sharing applications.
  • Only 7% say that, in that case, they’d stop using them.
Are these applications mature enough for the enterprise market (to meet the needs of businesses)?

  • 79.5% believe that using these applications would create organization problems.
  • 53.85% worry about the safety of their information when they use these systems.
Information workers still expect a lot more from these applications:

  • Some 64% would like it if these applications would automatically classify their documents. (Good news: Athento with Dropbox already does that!)
  • More than half of respondents would like these applications to give them more information about their documents and that they could be synchronized with their ECM systems.
 So, without further ado, let’s move to the infographic. If you’re having problems seeing the infographic from the blog page, you can also see it by clicking here


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Improvements in automatic extraction of barcodes and other codes

Athento continues to evolve, day by day, with new improvements and new functionalities.

This time, we’ve incorporated automatic extraction of bar codes, QR codes, and many other types of codes commonly found in documents.

This way, when you upload a new document to Athento, all of the codes contained in the document will be identified and the metadata extracted (“Codes” section). This identification happens without having to tell Athento where the codes appear. The system simply searches for any code present within the document.

Automatic extraction of codes

In previous versions of Athento, when we wanted to extract the information encrypted in a bar code, we had to previously define where the code appeared in the associated model.

Defining the extraction template during the creation of the model

Nonetheless, in this case, automatic extraction conducts the process without needing any models. In other words, any time there’s a code in a document, it’ll get extracted.

However, if we want the information in this code to be a piece of metadata whose information we can export, we do need to define it in the model.  The good thing about having these two ways is that if there’s already a model that’s been associated with the uploaded document, the data associated with the barcodes, QR codes and other types of codes will be extracted by both methods, allowing the user to compare and contrast the information.

Automatic extraction + Extraction using the model

To try the new functionality, try our online demo!
In the Athento User Guide, you’ll find more information about automatic data extraction using codes.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Coding in ECM: in danger of dying out?

As I was surfing the web the other day, I came across a really interesting post written by Susanth Kurunthil, a consultant working in Enterprise Content Management (ECM), who has fifteen years of experience working with technologies like Filenet, Alfresco, SharePoint, Kofax and Captiva. The title of the post was pretty striking:

"ECM – don’t need developers anymore.” 

The title compelled me to read the post. How could this guy SAY that? That’s the first thing I thought. Kurunthil’s position is that the ECM market is heading towards a scenario where developers aren’t wanted on staff – not because of having an ECM solution that covers the business’s needs, but because what companies want are flexible, powerful applications that can be configured (and not by writing code): that’s the way the tool should cover the business’s needs.

Truth is, this trend isn’t only limited to ECM. It’s called specialization, and it means each business dedicating itself to its core business: the areas in which businesses excel. After all, if we’re a bank, why do we need five developers working on an ECM application that I can purchase, and have fewer complications?

I think that that’s the point Kurunthil is trying to make, although he goes further than that. Kurunthil is saying that this type of “team of developers” is becoming an extinct species. And not only do the developers know it, they react to the threat, as a result.

To provide an example, Kurunthil tells the story of a large petroleum company in the Middle East. The company had a team of developers building the company’s ECM solution, which was based on a well-known ECM platform, themselves. What the team did was to fill the original solution with a load of patches; and, naturally, it didn’t take long for the other users in the company to realize that the platform was a nightmare to use. Users had to carry out too much manual work, the application was always failing and it became a pain the neck for the rest of the staff.

The IT director at the time brought in a project manager who had a ton of experience and who could make everyone’s lives a lot easier. True to form, the project manager was a wizard and, within a year, had created a complete document management system which would solve the petroleum company’s headaches. Not only that: the engineer had a five-year road map for the ECM completely planned!

And they all lived happily ever after…everyone but, of course, the team of developers, who saw their heads on the chopping block. They didn’t just stand there, twiddling their thumbs: they convinced the IT director to axe the project manager, saying that it wasn’t necessary to have that many people, and they could do it all themselves. And that, my friends, is how a brilliant framework planned and implemented by the project manager, which made the users in the company happy, ended up in the dump.

Personally, I don’t believe that all stories have to have endings that are that sad, or that anywhere there are developers, things work that badly. What I do agree with is that, more and more, businesses are demanding applications that don’t involve long, tortuous implementations. They’re demanding the exact opposite: out of the box applications that work well.

What do you folks think?


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Enterprise Content Management and the Management of Content Life Cycle (Part 1)

Today, we’re going to get into a conceptual debate and explain a bit more about the main concepts on which the ECM universe is founded. 

The first fundamental concept to understand is that of the content life cycle. Documents and other content/digital assets have a life cycle within organizations. This life cycle begins when new documents are created or received, and ends when they are finally destroyed or permanently stored. A life cycle tends to be defined as the different states of publication of a document’s content, although it’s really a deeper concept that also involves the way in which users interact with the content (if it’s only retained for legal requirements, if it’s being consulted on a regular basis, or, in contrast, if the document is still active, etc.) 

Proper management of content over all the phases guarantees proper storage of the business’s information, and the capabilities of companies to exploit this information. 
The discipline that works with this life cycle is called Enterprise Content Management (ECM), a discipline which takes in many other disciplines that, traditionally, have been chosen separately for managing digital business content in each one of its phases. These phases are known as Capture, Manage, Store, Preserve and Deliver: 

*Poster ECM-101 / AIIM - Bryant Duhon

Capture: Addresses how documents get into the information system. You can call the capture “smart” when information is obtained automatically from the documents going into the system.  

Manage: Means the movement and the circulation of the documents, as well as being able to use the information contained in them.

Store: This phase refers to where the documents or digital content are stored, and our ability to get them back. 

Preserve: Conserving and keeping the digital content over the long term. 

Deliver: This phase works with the integration of the ECM system with the other business applications or the business’s entire information system. These are the available mechanisms to get the content to the people who need it, through the appropriate channels. 

In the next post, we’ll see how each one of these disciplines uses different software tools, as well as the use of an endless number of different technologies. 


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Changes in the Capture Life Cycle in Athento

In document management, we typically use the term “life cycle” of a document to talk about those states that a document can go through, from the moment it’s generated right up until it’s been totally processed.

Up until now, in our Capture module, there were two possible available states in in the life cycle of a document: “Reviewing” and “Validated”. Now, you can also put a document into a “Recorded” state. 

Let’s take a brief look at what each of those states mean:

This state shows that the document has been uploaded to the system, it has been processed and its metadata have been extracted, but it still hasn’t been manually revised by a person. 

When a document appears as “Validated” in Athento, that means that a person has accessed the document, has confirmed that the extracted data are correct, and has validated it manually (the “Validate Document” button). 

This third state represents something more abstract. It’s the state in which a document, after being validated in Athento, has moved on to another process.

Depending on the needs of each business or organization, the “Recorded” state could mean a number of things: 

  • Archive documents in paper once they’ve been validated in Athento 
  • Eliminate documents on paper
  • Carry out other operation(s) with documents validated in Athento 
  • Carry out other operation(s) with documents validated in Athento, from another application, using Athento’s web services
  • Other operations 

Athento’s web services allow you to perform any operation with your documents, as we’ve mentioned in one of the previous points. However, they also allow us to process the states of life cycles of documents in such a way that the entire process, after the validation, can be done from any application that we connect to Athento.

Aside from the logical advantage of using life cycles in document management, searches by facets in Athento allows us to search all of our documents that have been Validated, that are Reviewing, or which have been Recorded, according to the needs for searches at every moment. 

You can see an example in this video:

New "Recorded" state of the cycle of life of documents in Athento from Athento on Vimeo. Share

Monday, November 18, 2013

Recognizing handwritten letters: the state of the art with ICR technologies

Today, we’re going to talk a bit about one type of document capture technology: Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) technology. ICR software which has been created to convert handwritten letters into text that can be recognized and read by computers.

This technology isn’t as advanced as OCR technology – it has a lot of problems and the results aren’t as accurate. The degree of difficulty in reading words that are written by hand isn’t even something that humans are good at mastering: when was the last time you tried to make out the content of a doctor’s prescription?

Nonetheless, this technology looks like it’s moving forward. Some companies such as Parascript are talking about ICR systems being able to read up to 95% of handwritten texts, with an error rate of about 2%. 

But what have been the developments of solutions when it comes time to read handwritten characters in documents and convert them into digital information? 

  1. The first solution that came to the minds of humans was to have people read digitized information on paper and then put it into the computer themselves. This system is still being used in government organizations, hospitals, banks, educational institutions, etc. It goes without saying that because this solution is manual, it’s also expensive; but it solves an even greater problem – recovering information – for businesses. 
  2. Next, we started using boxes in documents to force people to write in a specific space, as you can see in the example below:
    This was because the ICR technology that was available at the time couldn’t recognize the characters if they were touching each other. 
  3. After that, the idea of printing documents in "drop-out ink" (pastel colors, most of which would block reading by OCR) came along. With this, it became possible to make the ICR only read handwritten characters without added noise. According to Imerge Consulting, this solution alone could eliminate 60% of the workers dedicated to data entry. Up until now, ICRs worked by identifying letters one by one (box by box), but what’s being looked for in the industry is a “criteria of usability” at the field level (or, put another way, that the complete word or sentence is correct and makes sense).
  4. Truth is, we don’t live in a world where people always write inside the lines. That’s why ICR technologies have been reinforced over the past few years for freely-written text. Since the letters aren’t constricted within boxes, we face an endless number of additional problems; for example, what happens when the width of the letters varies, or the letters touch or overlap, etc. New algorithms are currently being used, some of which compare the handwritten characters against an immense database of images, analyzing the parts, linguistic patterns, etc. With all of this, results still aren’t as good as those obtained by using OCR. Those defending the use of OCR affirm that whatever accuracy rate reached still translates into reduced labor costs. What’s certain is that aspects like the reading of cursive written, still don’t have a solution that could fix them. 


Friday, November 15, 2013

Which operating systems can you run Athento on? [FAQs]

Our friend Alberto Lara has asked us a question: specifically, he’d like to know one thing about Athento: Can it be used on Windows and Linux?

Athento is an application which has been developed in JAVA. As many of you know, JAVA is a multi-platform programming language, which means that its ability to operate isn’t tied to one specific operating system. 

When you download Athento from our web page, it gives you the chance to decide whether you want to work in Linux or with Windows, which are currently the most widely used operating systems around the world for development environments. In accordance with the operating system that you work with, you should choose one installation file or the other. The difference between them is that the libraries of managing image files is incorporated into the operating system, which means that you have a specific library for each operating system.

At a higher level, as users, you shouldn’t experience any difference between working with Athento in Windows or in Linux-based systems (like Debian or Red Hat).

Alberto, I hope that that’s answered your question.

I’d like to remind you of some links of interest around this topic:

Downloading the application
Installing the application in Linux
Installing the application in Windows


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Automatic Relations between documents in Athento

To make it quicker to access documentation, it’s often fundamental to be able to access one document from inside another document that it has a direct relationship with. In document managers, relations are built manually. Put simply, the system is shown which document is related to other document(s). In Athento, these relationships are built automatically when different documents contain the same piece of metadata that has the same value. For example, let’s suppose that in a school or educational center, the documents for each new student are stored: the student’s student card and a national identity number. For both types of documents, the master metadata type called “national identity number” is created in order to be extracted. Once Athento carries out data extraction on those documents, each time that Athento finds documents that coincide with the value of the piece of metadata called “national identity number”, the value lies in the system being able to associate documents which belong to the same file for the student.

Below, we’re going to see the example of various contracts which share the piece of metadata annotation, and how, from the “Relations” tab in Athento, you can see the documents in which the value of this piece of metadata coincide.

Documents automatically related in Athento from Athento on Vimeo. Share

Friday, November 8, 2013

The difference between version control and versioning

A couple of weeks ago, I received an interesting e-mail from the Real Story Group. The e-mail talked about the differences between these two terms, and even though they’re closely related, they mean two different things. Although the material from RSG deals more with Web Content Management applications (such as Drupal or Joomla), these concepts are also applicable to document management.

Version Control
For the people at RSG, “version control” means a collection of functionalities which knows ahead of time that the people who are working on that specific content will get in each others’ way. For example, when two people are working at the same time on a document, they’re continually writing over the content, in such a way that one person’s work is getting lost. Document managers and ECM (Enterprise Content Management) systems, just like WCMs, implement check-in and check-out functionalities: what they do is block the content or the documents when there’s a user working on it/them. In document management and ECM, however, version control goes a little further and allows for the user of a revision history for work performed on a document, its different versions, when previous versions had been recovered, etc. 

Versioning is the ability that an ECM, WCM or document manager gives to store and save different versions of the same content or document. The goal of this capability is to let us recover previous versions if we want them, for example, when we’ve made a mistake. Remember that the version of a document or digital content is a variation of a digital asset or its metadata: in other words, a new word means having an update, edit or change with respect to a previous version (or its metadata)

Normally, in document management, both the capabilities for versioning, as well as for version control, tend to be grouped within the terminology of “version control”. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Managing employee contract files with Athento

One of the areas in which businesses most need an efficient, powerful document manager the most is in human resources management. Activities surrounding personnel management, and, above all, anything related to hiring, tend to be document-intensive. What’s more, for large businesses with satellite offices but a centralized HR function (or for professional administrators with different clients), signing contracts, to give an example, can turn into a process which isn’t sufficiently efficient. If we’ve got someone working in Málaga, but we’ve got to bring each file for each worker down from Madrid, we’ve got to then sign it in Málaga and then send the contracts back to Madrid.

How to manage this process more efficiently:
The answer is simple: this process should be managed in digital format:

  1. Employees bring in documents: New employees need to bring in documents like national identity cards, social security registration numbers, etc. It should be possible to do this from various sources, such as by using e-mail, from a website, in paper format to be digitized, from third-party applications, etc. This way, what we need is to make all of the capabilities for capturing documents for our information systems more powerful. 
  2. Open a file for the new hire: To make sure that we’ve got everything for the employee’s work history, we should create a new file in our document manager, and this file will be in charge of storing all documentation provided by the worker. This file should be saved with all document management guarantees for a minimum of five years.
  3. Make the file accessible to the professional administrator or the client (depending on the case): In Spain, there are a lot of cases in businesses where everything concerning hiring a new employee is carried out by a professional administrator (who has his own business separate from the client’s business). These professional administrators need to consult the worker’s documentation. Or, in the case that we work for one of these professional managers, we need the client who employs the worker to have access to this documentation. Going back to the first scenario, any documents produced by the administrator will also have to be sent to the file.  
  4. Send the contracts ready to be signed to the person in charge:  The person in charge of hiring should be notified electronically each time there are new contracts to be signed. Additionally, this person should be able to see, at any time) which contracts have yet to be signed. 
  5. A digital signature from the employee: Digital signatures can be done using mobile devices.

What do we gain from this method of managing hiring processes?

  • Speed in carrying out the process
  • Reduced risk of losing associated documents
  • Reduced paper consumption
  • Guarantees that signed contracts are always up-to-date
  • Makes it much easier to recover information
  • Helps make it possible for all the people involved in the process to have the documentation that they need, at that moment, and without delays. 


Monday, November 4, 2013

Within the same tool (Athento), is it possible to configure and orchestrate workflows and not just integrate them with already-existing work flows? [FAQs]

This question comes to us from Francisco Nazario Santiago, who works in Mexico.

Managing review/approval workflows
Within Athento’s capture module, workflows aren’t managed as such: that’s done in the ECM module. The capture module is in charge of being that entry point for documents,  whether it’s done via capture of e-mails, monitoring folders, uploading documents from the platform itself, capture from Dropbox, capture from an ECM system, etc. – to the document management system and to obtain relevant information from them. In other words, once documents are captured, classified and their data has been obtained, the documents can be sent to an electronic document management system, which could be Athento’s very own ECM module, or that of any other repository (SharePoint, Alfresco, Nuxeo, OpenText, etc.)

From the ECM system, workflows can be configured. In the case of Athento ECM, it’s possible to configure revision workflows or approval workflows from the platform’s own interface.

Work flows can be parallel or serial (put another way, various people can review the document at the same time without needing to consider the order in which they do it) or sequential reviews in which one person can’t review a document unless another person has reviewed it before.

As a default, without any kind of parameterization and without additional costs, users of Athento ECM can use this functionality.

Business workflows
These work flows are adapted to the specific needs of your business. Normally, they are complex work flows, which include multiple decision paths and diverse people involved in the process.

These workflows require modeling of the flow and, afterwards, being included in the ECM tool. They have to be studied, analyzed and put into action. Athento’s applications are built on a development framework that considers the design and implementation of these work flows. Specifically, at its heart, Athento allows for the use of a high-level service called "Athento Workflow". This service permits users to work with workflows in  JBPM5 and Drools, which permit users to define tasks, activities, rules and phases of work flows that can be completely customized. For more information about what users can do with Athento, you can read the post that talks about integration with Drools. it’s also possible to work with flows with Athento and Bonita.

Although Athento ECM already comes prepared to manage work with complex workflows, these types of workflows require some parameterizing and adjustments to reflect the client’s particular situation. That’s why they don’t come included in the default version, and require separate billable hours of development. 


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Athento's capabilities for integration and interoperability [FAQs]

Today, we’ll continue answering some of the questions that our users have sent us.

1. Is it possible to make calls from a .net application to Athento to obtain information that could be used in the application?

This was the question posed to us by our friend José Ángel Pereiras from Header in Barcelona.

José Ángel: the answer is yes. There’s a collection of web services provided by Athento, which are independent from the application that’s being called. Currently, these web services following the REST architecture and have been developed with RESTful (Restlet), the framework for JAVA. Basically, REST allows users to manage and transport resources using HTTP (on the web). In the near future, we will show you how to use Athento's SOAP web services.

Let me just say that we owe you a video that explains how those soon-to-be-developed web services for Athento will work. For now, I’ll explain it using a screen image.

To explore how these web services work, we’re going to use Google’s REST client, which is called POSTMAN.

The service that we’re going to call is:

This web service helps us upload documents to the capture program (for example, from other applications). Since it’s a POST service, the parameters won’t be shown in the URL. To send a file to Athento, we’re going to need to indicate several parameters:

  • file: the name the file’s been saved as
  • title: the title of the document as it should be known in Athento
  • fileName: the name of the file
  • mimeType: what type of file it is
  • requestId: this number can be used to identify the operation

While in POSTMAN, we indicate the URL that calls the web service, the parameters and the method. Once that’s all been indicated, click on “Send” so that the call to Athento can be started.

In the lower part of the POSTMAN screen, you’ll see the response to the call to the web service. In this case, Athento informs us that the upload has been completed (OK) and returns the ID number of the document which Athento has saved in its internal repository.

With this case, we’ve seen how to upload documents. However, there are also services that help you get data from documents – for example:

With this web service, we can indicate a word that we know that a document contains, and request that Athento return the physical coordinates of where that word appears in the document.

This web service helps us obtain the document type and the metadata extracted by Athento.

We’re working on having a more complex API that would permit more complex interactions with Athento from any application.

NB: To use Athento web services, you must first be authenticated on the platform as an Administrator. You can check which web services are available by clicking on:


For more information on how to try out web services for Athento, visit our Documentation Center.
Discover how a smart document capture process works.download it

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

How can I work with SharePoint 2013 and Athento ECM Mobile?

Some of you already know about Athento’s mobile applications. Today, we’re going to talk about Athento ECM Mobile, which is an application which allows users to access the repositories that support CMIS.

A client has asked us the following question regarding the application:

How do I add a SharePoint 2013 server to Athento Mobile?

Step 1: Make SharePoint accessible

Working from a SharePoint Server 2013 console:

Add-PSSnapin Microsoft.Sharepoint.Powershell 
Get-SPWebApplication -IncludeCentralAdministration 

This will permit us to get the URL for SharePoint Central Administration. You should open this URL in a web browser and, from this page, you need to click on: Application Management >>Alternate Access Mappings >> Edit Public URLs.

In the "Alternate Access Mapping Collection" option, choose the site that you want to access, and under "Public URLs", select the URL that accesses the server: (http://servidor or https://servidor) as the "Default".

Step 2: Activate Authentication

You’ll need to go back to the "SharePoint Central Administration" option and enter into the “Security” option. Once there, click on "Specify authentication providers >> Default". From there, you’ll be able to conduct the basic authentication.

Step 3: Activate use of CMIS

In "Site Settings", go to "Site actions>>Manage Features" and click on “Activate CMIS”.

Step  4: Add the Sharepoint 2013 server to Athento ECM Mobile

Click on the “+Add Server” option on your mobile application.

Next, you’ll see a form that helps you configure your access to the repository. You’ll have to provide the following data:

  • Server name: The name used to identify the repository in Athento ECM Mobile.
  • User name: The user’s name in SharePoint
  • Password: The user’s password
  • CMIS URL: http://{sharepoint-server}/_vti_bin/cmis/rest?getRepositories.

Once you’ve filled in the form and clicked on “Accept”, the application will be ready to be used.

Next, we’ll show you a brief video of how Athento ECM Mobile works:

Athento ECM Mobile from Athento on Vimeo.
Discover how a smart document capture process works.download it

Monday, October 28, 2013

TIFF or PDF: Which output format should I choose for my document imaging projects?

In a previous post, we conducted an overview of the two leading output formats, TIFF and PDF and document capture. We already know that those are the two file formats that are the most used in document imaging project and their main characteristics. But when we scan a paper document, which is the best format for us to use?

There are a number of criteria to keep in mind:

  • Conservation:  PDF/A, thanks to the ISO 19005-1:2005 standard, is the best option when it comes time guarantee the longevity of the files subjected to document imaging. 
  • Size: Normal PDFs are a format that take up less space than TIFF files. That, however, changes with PDF/A: those files become larger because they have the source archives embedded in them. With PDF files of images, the size is going to depend on the compression used for the image contained in the PDF file. Regarding “searchable” PDFs, those are typically 10% bigger than the equivalent image. Conclusion: speaking generally, PDFs tend to be of a “lighter” format, but it’s also necessary to consider the class of PDF we’re going to be working with before we draw conclusions. 
  • Search capacity within content: The PDF comes out on top once more, since the TIFF format was created to store images, and not text. Microsoft has developed a searchable TIFF format, but we’re not talking about an industry standard. To be able to search for text within a TIFF image, we’ll need to have an OCR application and for the extracted text to be stored in another manner (a database or other file).
  • Security: Unlike the TIFF format, PDFs permit restricting access by using passwords and other mechanisms.
  • Multiplatforms: Both types are perfectly recognized by UNIX and Windows operating systems. 
  • Metadata: Both systems allow users to store metadata. However, the system behind PDF is more sophisticated, since it permits embedding metadata contained in PDF files in XML format.
  • Rich text: The winner, once again, is PDF: it allows you to include links, annotations, marks, labels and other elements in the file’s content. 
  • Accessibility: Unlike TIFF files, PDF files can be used with access technologies for people with special needs; for example, a screen reader can read a PDF; with TIFF, that isn’t possible. 
  • Quality of presentation and visualization: Both formats can produce these, but TIFF and image PDFs are subject to restrictions on the resolution of the image. In this case, a normal PDF is the best option. There are a number of applications to visualize both types, although the range is wider for PDFs. Regarding on-line visualization, neither of the two formats has native support for web browsers, although the majority of them already contain Adobe Reader to solve this issue. Regarding web browsers, the PDF format does offer the chance for web content optimization. 
Without a doubt, if we pay attention to all of these criteria, the format to go with is PDF. However, not all of these criteria have the same weight with all projects, which means that, in each case, analysis should be carried out. Even if we still decide PDF is the best option of all of them, we also have to decide at the same time which of the PDF formats best meets our needs. 

NB: A fair amount of the information contained in this post has been taken from the document called "TIFF versus PDF for Document Storage".
Discover how a smart document capture process works.download it

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Better output formats for document imaging

In document capture projects, whether they’re for conducting imaging of documents on paper or capture from mobile units, it’s important to choose a file format that, after the scanning of documents, allows us to save those documents with the highest quality and most information possible. With this in mind, we’ve got two winning formats:
  • TIFF (Tagged Information File Format): These files carry the .tif or .tiff suffixes. TIFF is a 27-year-old creation of Adobe that had the objective of creating a standardized format for document imaging. TIFF is probably the best option for preserving images for more than one reason (there are one or more pages, it supports all means of color coding and many algorithms for document compression), although it has one major drawback: the size of the files. Sharing images in TIFF format probably isn’t the best solution, but capture or document management solutions have options for converting .tiff files in easier-to-carry formats. 
  • PDF (Portable Document Format): The standard for open format, converted into an international standard by the ISO. It’s another one of Adobe’s inventions, and even though it’s a bit younger, it’s more widely used than TIFF is. In order to guarantee the survival and conservation of PDF documents, ISO32000 tells software developers who produce, read or operate with PDF files the characteristics that these files should have. PDF handles multi-page documents and its strongest point is that it allows users to visualize documents independently from the tech environment it was created in, or in which it’s being viewed (multiplatform). There are a lot of different classes of PDFs and the two most important groups are normal PDFs and image PDFs. True PDFs (“normal” PDFs) include formatted text and users can search within the content, or copy and paste text. The second group is image PDFs (Wrapped PDF), which consist of a PDF format that contains an image, generally in TIFF format. Because they’re images within a PDF format, you can’t search in the text or copy/paste text. In this category of PDFs, OCR software is vital for indexing file content, doing searches or extracting data. There’s also a third group called “Searchable” PDFs, which is an image PDF that can have a layer of text added to it. This layer is generated by an OCR motor and offers all of the possibilities that a normal PDF offers.  
In a future post, we’ll explain how to choose between the two formats; today, we just wanted to highlight the two formats that are most commonly used when it comes time to undertake a document imaging project.
Discover how a smart document capture process works.download it

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Do I have to change my document manager if all I want is Athento for document imaging? [FAQs]

Hey, everyone!

Given the large number of questions that we received during the webinar (especially the ones that didn’t get answered because of time limits), we’ve decided to create a new section of the blog that’s dedicated to anwering questions. From now on, the posts that you see with the [FAQs] marker will be dedicated to these types of entries.

Today, we’ll start with a really interesting question that Marisol Eduardo, from Stracon GyM in Peru, asked us:

Do I have to change my document manager if all I want is Athento for document imaging? 

The answer is no. Athento is smart document management, and that’s why our aim is to offer a solution that completely covers all the needs of ECM and document management in businesses. However, we understand that, for businesses, the complete document management system isn’t just implemented all at once. Rather, it grows according to the needs of the business. For example, not all companies need records management right from the very beginning; the need usually comes up some time in its existence.

So, what is it that Athento offers, exactly? 
  • Modules that are completely integrated and that cover distinct stages of life in our documents.
During the webinar, we first saw the part of Athento that provides smart capture and which can help a document imaging project to evolve. Later, we saw the document manager, in which we stored documents that have already been classified, with the metadata of the documents from which we’ve extracted information. Our document management functionality is the ECM module, which is optional and which only represents a small surcharge in the price of Athento. You can see the characteristics of our ECM module on our website.

But what if I’ve already got a document manager?
  • Athento can help you with your document imaging project without you needing to change your document manager. 
Most of the powerful document managers that are available on the market  (Alfresco, Nuxeo, SharePoint, OpenText, Documentum, etc.) have implemented the CMIS standard, which makes it possible to share information among various content management systems. Athento also has complete implementation of the standard, which allows it to operate among any of those document management programs. What’s more, Athento has its own API y web services, which increase its capacity to communicate with other systems.

Marisol, I hope that that answers your question in some detail, and that many other users find this information to be useful.
Discover how a smart document capture process works.download it

Monday, October 21, 2013

Athento beta 2.0 - first reactions

"I’ve taken a look at the product and, in my opinion, everything is really good. Specific fields, an clear interface with a high degree of usability (indispensible for every type of user to access it), the functionality appears to be fairly high; since it’s easy to understand, the product can be rapidly incorporated into any company’s work, whatever the company does. Regarding the document part, I’d like to highlight that I think it’s interesting to be able to use a “key words” field so that the user is the one to choose the fastest way to index his or her own documents, and, that way, make the documents easily recoverable. To sum up: Well done!"
Fátima Barquero Sánchez
Document Specialist at TVE (Spanish National Television)
LinkedIn profile
Discover how a smart document capture process works.download it

Monday, October 14, 2013

Data validation and the quality of information obtained in capture processes

Normally, when we talk about capture software, functionalities such as the classification of documents or extracting data from documents are the star features. This is normal, given that they’re the two functionalities which allow businesses to obtain information which would otherwise be inaccessible in their documents. 

The levels of precision provided by the results of these processes is subject to a number of factors which aren’t just limited by the power and quality of the software (the quality of the documents to be processed, for example.) In many cases, these documents are images that have been scanned from photocopies of photocopies, and their quality is so poor that even the human eye has problems trying to read the information. Under these conditions, machines and existing technologies can’t do much more than the human eye can. Not getting information, or getting imprecise information, means that the systems using this data are working with mistakes. In the case of invoices, for example, if the extracted data are incorrect (let’s suppose that the invoice total extracted is €500, when it should really be €600), our accounting software is going to process an incorrect amount. That’s where data validation – either manual or automatic - becomes important.

Validating the information obtained by the capture software is one way of guaranteeing the quality of the information before sending it on to feed other systems. 

Data Validation Options for Capture Software

  • Notification for those documents in which data extraction/classification falls below a set security level for accuracy: In other words, if the system isn’t 99% sure about the extraction or classification of a document, it will alert the user. 
  • Help with previewing the document: Being able to zoom in on the document as we’re checking it helps us to locate and identify data in scanned images. 
  • Manual validation: ability for users to correct incorrect data obtained by the system. 
  • Automatic validation: This options permits connections between the systems and databases in which information can be found that can corroborate corresponding data. Let’s say that the name of a patient has been extracted from a clinical report: the system can search for the patient’s name in the hospital’s computer system, checking that the data exists and checking other associated data, such as the patient’s social security number. 
In the case of Athento version 2.0, the system provides validation views for processed documents. These views allow users to correct wrong data, or data that could not be extracted. What’s more, the system also allows users to view the document with the help of zoom (a magnifying glass), so that those responsible for validating data can better see the data. 


Friday, October 11, 2013

Athento creates efficiency by managing more than 40,000 construction plans during the building of a subway system in one of Spain’s biggest cities

Silicon Valley,  October 10th, 2013:  Athento, the smart capture and document management software,  has helped the builders of the new subway system in the Spanish city of Malaga with the publication and distribution of more than 40,000 construction plans.

This month, Yerbabuena Software and the consortium of companies building the Metro de Malaga have made public Athento’s use as the document management system used during the construction of the Metro. The consortium that led the construction, known as UTE Metro Malaga, (made up of several of Spain’s most prominent construction firms, including FCC, Sando, Azvi, Comsa and Vera) have, since 2010, put their trust in Athento as the document management system. Once finished, the Metro will have sixteen kilometers of lines and will provide service to more than seventeen million passengers in its first year alone, thanks to investment in the project of more than €600 million.

Malaga, located in the south of Spain, is a tourist hot spot with substantial population growth predicted to be as strong as that of Madrid and Barcelona. That growth, and the need to have sustainable public transport, helped created a project started in 1999 to provide a subway system to this Spanish city.

The mega-project carried out by this Andalusian city required the coordination of more than 1,600 people, five separate work centers, and exhaustive quality control over the work plans. UTE Metro Málaga needed to count on the security of carrying work out with the most up-to-date plans, especially with the most recent versions of plans, since any element or adjustment that had not been included in the original set of plans would result in out-of-control costs. Since the plans were revised up to seven hundred times per day, working with the most recent set of construction documents was crucial.

Thanks to the dedicated work of the professionals working on the Metro, and the efficiency of the software, more than 40,000 work plans have been managed to date, and this management has been crucial in preventing execution errors in a project that, this year, will cost the city close to €600 million. The other great achievement of this project has been to centralize all the project information, which is used in five separate work centers. Added to this is the advantage of being able to access all of the documentation from any location on a 24/7 basis, from any device. 

Metro de Málaga’s staff are fully aware of the value of this project tool. According to José María Lara, Metro de Málaga’s Manager of Technical Planning, “Always having the latest version of our plans available and accessible to distinct users was of prime importance for the perfect execution and organization of the construction project. Athento let us do that”.

José Luis de la Rosa, CEO of Yerbabuena Software, also adds: “Yerbabuena Software is proud that Athento made its contribution to the construction of the city’s Metro system, and contributing to the quality and efficiency of projects that involve so many resources and people, like the Málaga Metro, is, without a doubt, very valuable to us.”

Athento is a smart capture and ECM software which can help organizations at all levels, and in all sectors, maintain control over their documents, guaranteeing the success of document imaging projects and automating processes thanks to the information that this software is able to obtain from documents from any company. 

About Yerbabuena Software, Inc.:
Yerbabuena Software is made up of a large group of document management software experts and currently has offices in Spain and Silicon Valley, California, in addition to important partnership agreements in countries such as Spain, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico. Its Athento product is in charge of managing documents in businesses such as the DIA group, BNP Paribas or Leroy Merlin.

Success Case: Athento helps the builders of the new subway system
Athento allows publication and distribution of more than 40,000 construction plans.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Workflows, BPM and Case Management

That businesses are interested in automating processes is nothing new. In fact, analyzing processes is a fairly well-developed field, full of terminology and concepts that, in many cases, tends to be used interchangeably when, in reality, we’re talking about different things. This is the case with these three terms: Workflows, BPM and Case Management. Let’s quickly define them from a technological point of view:

  • Workflows: Also known as “routing”. These are the most basic work flows and stand out not just for their simplicity (they are fairly linear), but also because the tasks that make up the process do not change. One example of this type of flow would be those related to revising and approving that come as part of ECM platforms and document management systems. Even though they’re simple, using these workflows can be very beneficial to businesses, which gain better control over their documentation and the information contained therein.

  • BPM: The initials for Business Process Management. These processes are known for being predictable, but they’re also far more complex than workflows. They don’t tend to be linear: they branch out into distinct paths, depending on certain conditions. This can mean better flexibility; for example, in the case that certain conditions are met, certain tasks within the process can be omitted, or the person in charge can vary the process according to different situations. Automating this type of process requires analyzing the process and, in many cases, re-engineering them. The main advantage of automating these process is, definitely, the improvement in the amount of time needed to resolve processes.

  • Case Management: This refers to processes that cannot be predicted. Generally, with these processes, there are usually one or more knowledge workers involved who have to make decisions about the best action to take, or even end up modifying the process, depending on the case. The decisions made by knowledge workers are subject to explicit guidelines, restrictions and might need the involvement of other people.

In each of the three cases, one of the fundamental elements involved in automating the process is counting on correct, specific information. As an example: automatic recognition of a type of document received in the email allows us to automatically initiate a revision work flow. Extracting the date of a complaint helps us put priority on documents that are going to go beyond the date for a response and extract the name of the client who is filing the complaint, or where the client is located; that helps us put the client in touch with a professional of some sort. All of this information is included in documents: the problem is that getting that information manually is a slow, costly process. Document capture software provides the solution to these problems, with its functionalities dedicated to extracting metadata, identifying and classifying documents.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Best practices: Four ways to reduce paper consumption at the office

Many professionals have given up on the war against paper. It’s true that we’ve spent too many years talking about paperless offices as they continue to be an elusive goal. Perhaps the best strategy is to go little by little, changing small things which allow our knowledge workers to carry out their digital work in a progressive manner:

  1. Take the concept of the paperless office to every level. Analyze where the documents are coming from or how the process could be done directly in a digital format. Don’t look at your business as a place (or places) with well-established physical boundaries: think that your business is anywhere where someone is working (such as your sales team or your distribution facility.)

  2. Carry out a conceptual definition of what your principal document types are and the information in them that interests you. What typically happens is that, for one document type (invoices, for example) you’re working with different metadata in each sub-type. With invoices, for example, you’re managing different data with each provider, although, theoretically, those invoices should all contain the same metadata. This makes it much more difficult for document imaging projects and data extraction, and, probably, that’ll reduce the amount of time for confirming information you won’t use after.

  3. Identify key processes where you can start. Don’t start out by trying to do everything at once. In a perfect world, we’d be working with paper documents today and not see one shred of paper in our facilities tomorrow. Start with those processes that give you a hard ROI: the ones where you’ll see tangible results, not just feelings or benefits that are hard to quantify when it comes to risk reduction. Gaining improvements in response time, for example, is a quantifiable benefit which can work wonders selling the idea throughout many departments.

  4. Clear, explicit policies. What should be printed? Up to how many copies? Establishing limits on documents, creating a storage plan (a list of documents that must be stored in paper format and the ones that can be stored digitally, how they’re going to be stored, etc.) These policies should involve the buy-in of the people who are to be in charge of making sure the policies are followed, as well as making all staff aware of the policies.