Whither Document Sciences?

EMC Document Sciences and Documentum integration

EMC has satisfactorily complete another acquisition, that of Document Sciences, which has become an independent business unit inside EMC, called EMC Document Sciences, (in)conveniently acronymised as EDS. Since that acronym is already spoken for it isn’t being used. (We’ll use EMC-DS to avoid excessive typing.)

Nasser Barghouti is VP and CTO for EMC-DS and explained that Document Sciences’ product xPression is like ‘mail merge on steroids’. It is used for the customisation and personalisation of mass customer communications with hierarchically-organised document components including standard paragraphs, particular clauses, signatures and so forth, with settable rules dictating how documents should be dynamically constructed according to a customer’s service or product choice, geography, age, gender or any other recorded aspect. Examples include insurance policies, personalized marketing materials, financial reports and statements, and correspondence.

You could do this extremely tediously and in an error-prone fashion with Microsoft Word for a 250,000 person mail-out, but it might take you a year whereas xPression will take an hour. xPression has plug-ins so that its base dynamic document templates can be authored in Microsoft Word, Adobe InDesign or Adobe Dreamweaver; A dynamic template is then used to generate many personalized instaces of multi-channel communications, not restricted to paper-based communications.

These plug-ins enable xPression to function as a natural and integrated extension of InDesign, Dreamweaver or Word.

Document Sciences was an offshoot of the Xerox Technology Venture establishment, as was Documentum, and became independent in 1991, and went public in 1996. It become financially independent from Xerox at the beginning of this century. A relationship with EMC started in 2005.

A first product was Compuset for mainframe use. This evolved into Autograph for Unix and Windows servers in the mid-nineties, with xPression being designed as a service-oriented architecture in 2001. It uses a completely distributed design and is based on Java Enterprise Edition, web services and XML.

Barghouti said: “When we developed xPression we bet on XML taking off. We also bet on a big shift from paper to electronic communications using HTML, email and PDF. We also thought Adobe (InDesign) would take the market lead from Quark.” That’s been proved right as Adobe’s Creative Suite now has about 70 percent of the market it and Quark compete to supply.

One of xPression’s biggest value is the hierarchy of content objects: paragraphs; phrases; rules; etc. can be shared across many templates. Barghouti said: “You can very quickly create a new template for a new circumstance that requires a mass customer or client communication.”

SaaS

EMC-DS has partnered with service provides, including some of the world’s largest print services bureaus, to offer xPression services on a hosted basis. SaaS (software as a service) is, according to Barghouti: “something we’re interested in. SaaS xPression could appeal to smaller enterprises on a pay-as-you-go model, based on how many documents they create. It’s a possible model for SMB companies and could be ongoing, recurring revenue.”

There appear to be obvious potential synergies with the Mozy backup service based on EMC’s Fortress infrastructure.

Roadmap

There will be even tighter integration with Documentum D6 than what already exisits to provide integrated management of unstructured information content. Barghouti said: “We had a poor man’s content management system. Now we’ll use a real content management system; Documentum.”

A benefit of this is that individual disparate content silos can be unified under Documentum and higher consistency gained in the use of document content types such as tag lines, logos and contract clauses.

Barghouti said that another natural point of integration with Documentum was archiving: “We can archive every communication with customers.” Thirdly Documentum’s workflow engine can be used. Customers will no longer have to construct ad hoc business processes with document content creation as a component part. This idea became a reality with version D6 of Documentum. The big shift to web services in that release makes it a much easier integration.

Barghouti’s concept is that EMC can now offer management of content throughout a complete customer lifecycle, from capture through Captiva, storage in the Documentum repository, amendement, re-use and creation with EMC DS, archival of that back in the repository which completes the cycle.

Incidentally, Chris Blaik, EMC’s head of content management and archive marketing in EMEA, said the Captiva acquisition has been one of EMC’s most successful purchases from a revenue-earning standpoint.

ROI

A recession may be coming. What about customers’ return on investment (ROI)? Barghouti mentioned a major US financial institution in the credit business which implemented xPression in 2003. At that time its cost per (paper-based) communication was 44 cents. By 2007 with a changeover to electronic communications and the retirement of legacy products plus full EMC DS use the cost per communication was 1 cent and the company had saved $20 million.

So that looks good; big cost savings for enterprises and potential cost-avoidance or containment for SMBs who could use a SaaS xPression delivery method. For EMC, Documentum can now be presented as the natural content repository to be used with EMC DS, with both combining to substantially strengthen EMC’s enterprise content management offer – ECM2 perhaps, where content lives.

But remember, don’t shorten EMC Document Sciences to EDS; it’s confusing and inconsistent, two unwanted attributes of communication that xPression is designed to root out.

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