XEROX’S SECRET WEAPON
XEROX’S SECRET WEAPON
2003-12-31 at 9:57:00 am #4392
Xerox’s Secret Weapon
DocuShare, the document management software from hardware giant Xerox (), Rochester, NY, is a low-cost tool for sharing documents, scanning to a Web-accessible repository and even updating project Web pages.
The product Has recently become more scalable and open, with a J2EE architecture and more powerful server support, and it’s acquired more extensive workflow and collaboration capabilities along with new developers’ tools. DocuShare’s biggest challenge is that it’s little known outside of being sold along with WorkCentre multifunction machines. “We think DocuShare is Xerox’s secret weapon, something the company needs to make into a public weapon,” says Karen Shegda, research director, knowledge workplace at Gartner, Stamford, CT.
With the 3.0 release of DocuShare earlier this year, the product was made more scalable, with a J2EE/Tomcat Servlet Engine that can run on Linux, Unix and Windows servers. The back-end server works with LDAP servers, Oracle and SQL databases, the SunONE Messaging Queue for notification and a Verity search engine.
“DocuShare became a true, robust document management product with the 3.0 release,” Shegda says.
One of DocuShare’s core attractions is its low cost, with 100-seat systems starting at less than $10,000. This gives you all the basics of document management: check-in and check-out, version control, audit trails, content indexing, integrations with Word and Outlook, and e-mail notification of new or revised documents. The core product comes with a file server, a relational database, a Web server, document routing, scanning and desktop integration. Xerox WorkCentres can be used as front-end capture devices to scan documents to DocuShare’s Web-accessible repository.
Bolstering the software’s enterprise credibility further, Xerox released DocuShare 3.1 in September, adding two modules on the corporate wish list. The first module is an Enterprise Workflow Suite based on technology licensed from Dralasoft (), Westminster, CO. The workflow module goes well beyond the basic routing available in DocuShare, offering a graphical workflow design interface, conditional loops, time-based events and workflow subroutines.
The second new module available with DocuShare 3.1 is Interact, a Web-based collaboration tool that lets users create shared Web pages with to-do lists, bulletin boards, project folders, documents, reports, meetings, threaded discussions and calendars. Interact pages can be used for managing projects and setting up meetings. They can be replicated and used as templates, so that a “collaboration space” created by one group or project team can be reused by another. Interact also provides a record of actions, attendees and events for auditing purposes.
Another enterprise-focused element added in version 3.1 is a DocuShare Developer Environment that in-house IT staff, VARs and systems integrators can use to customize and integrate. The toolkit includes connectors and extensions, such as a Kofax Ascent Capture-to-DocuShare release script.
DocuShare’s low cost and ease of use attracted the attention of decisionmakers at financial powerhouse Merrill Lynch, New York City, where the software is being used as a repository for product information for departments such as call center operations and human resources.
“We put this information out there with an audit trail and security rights, and [DocuShare] provides a single place for people to go and look for product information – they can find it and trust it,” says Chip Bowcock, IT manager.
Many of the documents are saved in HTML because of the fast response time. “You click on a document — you don’t have to load Word, you don’t have to load Adobe Reader,” Bowcock explains. “It’s native in the browser.”
Merrill Lynch’s DocuShare repository runs on a Solaris server and so far contains about 50,000 documents, many of which are on their sixtieth or seventieth version — contact lists, for example, get updated as frequently as once a week. Other documents, such as PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets, get revised frequently through product team collaboration.
Merrill Lynch is beginning to use DocuShare to create and update certain Web pages. “We did a lot of Web site consolidation a couple of years back because everybody had their own Web site and there were a lot of buried costs,” Bowcock notes. “We brought all those sites together, but we found that many user communities had a loss of autonomy. If they wanted to update a document, they had to go through a process of approval from people they never met.”
Merrill Lynch’s Web site now contains links to documents stored in DocuShare. When users need to update documents, they check them out of DocuShare, make changes, check them back in and the Web site is automatically updated.
“We’re seeing a true marriage between content management and document management, and I think it’s an intriguing concept,” Bowcock says. With DocuShare, users can distribute documents — such as employee newsletters and policy and procedure documents — to thousands of employees simply and without clogging traffic on the e-mail servers.
Bowcock expects that Merrill Lynch will deploy the 3.1 version of DocuShare in early 2004, and he’s looking forward to using the new developer tools to customize the product. With the toolkit in place, “the gloves are off, I can do whatever I want with it,” he says. He predicts that users will quickly take to the new Interact module, because it will let them use the DocuShare interface to create collaborative Web pages. “A subject matter expert will be able to go to a product page, click on a document link and edit the information right there,” Bowcock explains. “I think that will be a tremendous productivity gain.”
Overall, DocuShare is one of Bowcock’s favorite applications. “I’ve done very little from the technology side and it’s been tremendously successful,” he says. “You’ve got to like that.”
Competitors to DocuShare include Microsoft SharePoint, IBM Content Manager Express, Lotus Domino.doc and low-end implementations of Open Text Livelink and iManage. One differentiator for DocuShare against some of its competitors is its support for scanning and tight integration with Microsoft Office. Another is its scalability and platform agnosticism. A third differentiator is its answer to collaborative workspaces — a cross between document management and content management.
For simple, under-budget document management and collaboration, DocuShare’s key competitive strength is its low cost and ease of deployment, use and administration