Highlights of AIIM 2017 Conference
So, what did we see?
One of the most popular questions I still get related to AIIM Conferences is “did you see anything interesting?” This harkens back to AIIM events of old, when it was more about the expo and less about the conference, and plenty of vendors used the event to debut new products and technologies. Who can forget Kodak’s “Jam the Scanner” promotion in the late 1990s, when it introduced its workhorse 3500 production scanner—offering a then cutting-edge free digital camera to anyone who could come up with a set of pages that could gum up the works. Or how about the extravagant “Walk in the Park” exhibit by a company that wanted to make a big splash in the industry but practically disappeared from the market a few years later? Hyland, of course, was another small company that made a big splash with a baseball stadium-themed exhibit in the late 1990s and eventually grew to match its ambitions.
Anyhow, the conference today is not really about rolling out whiz-bang technology with outsized promotions, but that doesn’t mean vendors aren’t there promoting their products and messages. Following is a round-up of some of the conversations we had at the event last week.
Reinvested in SharePoint
For the first time in a long time, Microsoft was an AIIM sponsor. This may have something to do with Ian Story, an AIIM board member, joining the company last year from IBM’s ECM business unit. According to Story, Microsoft’s presence at AIIM reflects a renewed focus on ECM for the ISV’s SharePoint product line.
This certainly jives with what Mike Alsup of Gimmal Group had told us in an earlier interview discussing his company’s acquisition of RecordLion. Alsup, whose company is focused on developing ECM applications on top of SharePoint, said to expect the announcement of new ECM-related capabilities in SharePoint in the near future. He stated that SharePoint’s close ties to Office 365 represent the “global scaling of ECM.”
Story did not dispute this point of view, as he said to expect a lot of ECM focus in future releases of SharePoint. He indicated that Jeff Teper’s being named corporate VP for OneDrive + SharePoint in 2015 has a lot to do with Microsoft’s current increased SharePoint focus. “Jeff had been in charge of SharePoint from its inception, but when Satya [Nadella] was named CEO, he had close ties with Jeff and put him in charge of corporate strategy,” said Story. “Now Jeff is back in charge of SharePoint.”
As a product used by more than 200,000 organizations worldwide and supported by a community of more than 50,000 partners, SharePoint now has a $10 billion solutions ecosystem tied to it. Microsoft has certainly made some missteps, like telling the market at one point that it was going to cease releases of on premises versions of SharePoint before doing an about face and coming out with SharePoint Server 2016. Moves like this created enough FUD that for a while many people, myself included, thought that EFSS systems like Box and Dropbox were going to emerge as the next generation of SharePoint. Now, however, it seems that Microsoft’s focus on integrating Office 365, SharePoint, and OneDrive could, in fact, marginalize the rest of the EFSS market.
Hyland’s new SaaS offering
Historically Hyland has always been a Microsoft partner, building its technology to “operate successfully in Microsoft environments.” There is even integration between Hyland’s OnBase platform and SharePoint, but Hyland doesn’t seem to have any plans to abandon its own repository system in favor of utilizing SharePoint. And last year’s release of ShareBase, an EFSS service, sets up Hyland at least somewhat in competition with OneDrive.
Also, ShareBase, OnBase Cloud, and AirBase, a recently announced cloud document management application targeting the SMB market, all sit on Hyland’s own cloud—as opposed to Microsoft’s Azure or Amazon Web Service, the two most popular platforms for ISVs looking to host cloud applications. “We now have 12 data centers across the globe, which, in addition to providing faster response times through localized hosting, enables us to host users’ data in a specific country if regulations call for that,” explained Alexa Marinos, head of corporate communications at Hyland.
Glenn Gibson, director of product marketing, explained that the Hyland Cloud is purpose-built for ECM applications. “It’s built on a model designed to sustain a lot of document-driven activity,” he said. “If users are uploading and downloading a lot of content, there shouldn’t be any bandwidth throttling. Going with a public cloud wouldn’t have offered us as much control over the data or the cost.”
Historically, Hyland has made OnBase available as a private cloud offering and has been seeing growth in that area of its business. At last fall’s CommunityLIVE event, however, SVP of Corporate Strategy & Product Brenda Kirk shared Hyland’s plans to launch a SaaS ECM product with basic document management capabilities hosted in a true multi-tenant environment [see DIR 9/23/16]. The result is AirBase, which Hyland announced last month.
“OnBase is the same product both on premises and in the cloud,” explained Gibson. “It started out as an SMB application—an alternative to the enterprise focused software that dominated the market at the time. However, as we’ve moved up the value chain, the OnBase platform has become very extensive. This allows us to have a stronger presence in the larger enterprise. But, because all our components run natively, within a single platform, OnBase can be a bit complex for some smaller applications. In addition, it’s never been the cheapest solution on the market.
“At the same time, we’ve recognized that there is tremendous opportunity within smaller and medium sized organizations with simple document management requirements. There were multiple ways we could have addressed this; we decided to apply our 25 years of ECM experience to create a simple, rapidly deployable, cloud-first solution. By taking advantage of new architectures and technologies that did not exist 25 years ago when OnBase was first designed, we feel we have really created something modern and more affordable for smaller organizations.”
Functionality included in AirBase includes the ability to classify and group documents based on meta data, access through Web browsers, and document routing. “It’s really about providing simple document management functionality,” said Gibson. “And once users have installed the system, they should be able to set up new applications within it themselves.”
AirBase is currently being brought to market exclusively through Hyland’s extensive reseller channel. “While the applications may be simple, the target audience is organizations just beginning to add document and records management and workflows into their organizations,” said Gibson. “We think they could benefit from the experience of our partners.”
Gibson noted that a lot of the ideas behind AirBase, in fact, stemmed from conversations that Hyland had with its partners. “Just last month, we had a leadership forum at which we gathered executives from our channel to cover topics like best practices and innovation,” he said. “A big part of the conversation was around AirBase. We got some feedback and discussed things like training and how to sell it.”
Licensing for AirBase is based on a per user model with end user prices ultimately determined by the resellers. There are currently no third-party integrations with AirBase, but Gibson noted that is something “on the table for discussion.” There have also been discussions about MFP integration to better serve some of Hyland’s hardware vendor partners.
For more info: http://bit.ly/AirBasePR
RecordLion expands Gimmal’s reach
Speaking of M&A, as we mentioned earlier, we caught up with Mike Alsup, senior VP and founder of Gimmal Group, which recently acquired RecordLion. Gimmal specializes in developing records management and content services on top of SharePoint. Gimmal and RecordLion have both developed their own records management software.
RecordLion was founded in 2013 by Chris Caplinger, who was a co-founder of KnowledegeLake and formerly its CTO. Similar to Gimmal, KnowledgeLake has historically specialized in developing software and services around SharePoint, although KnowledgeLake recently expanded its focus [see DIR 9/2/16]. With the acquisition of RecordLion, Caplinger now joins Gimmal as its VP of engineering.
“One of RecordLion’s initial initiatives was building records management software that enabled KnowledgeLake to compete better against Gimmal,” said Alsup. “There is currently an OEM agreement in place between the two companies. The primary difference between our RM software and theirs is the way RecordLion’s solution is built–it enables users to put policies in place on documents in shared drives, as well as those in SharePoint. In the market, we had discovered that customers were interested in being able to put policies in place without having to first bring their documents into SharePoint.”
The RecordLion acquisition came a couple months after Gimmal announced that Rubicon Technology Partners had made a significant investment in Gimmal. Rubicon specializes in investing in smaller enterprise software companies. With the investment, Mark Johnson joined Gimmal as president. He had formerly served as COO and CFO of Personify Corp., which develops association management software and is also a Rubicon portfolio company.
“Working with Rubicon, we feel we have a viable avenue for launching a SharePoint ECM consolidation play,” said Alsup. “As far as we are concerned, if Open Text can do it, we should be able to do it for a quarter of the cost with the assumption that our customers already have SharePoint.”
Gimmal’s focus is to be able to build more solutions on top of SharePoint. “If you look at the large ECM players like Documentum and Open Text, what they have really built are governance solutions,” said Alsup. “But, we’ve found that nobody in the market really cares about that. They care about building A/P solutions with governance around invoices, or contract management and HR solutions that also have governance.
“We have built those kinds of solutions and can run them in SharePoint integrated with SAP. We have also done integrations with Oracle FS and PeopleSoft. For the mid-market, we have done integrations with JD Edwards and PeopleSoft. RecordLion is a mid-market play.”
According to Alsup, Gimmal’s acquisition strategy is focused on adding “more solutions to provision.” “In addition, we are looking at capture and classification technology to help our customers more effectively get their documents into SharePoint and our solutions,” he said.
Alsup was honored at the conference with an AIIM Award of Merit, one of only 46 information management professionals to have received that designation in the 65 years since it was first presented. Alsup has a long and distinguished career in the industry, having founded three successful ECM companies. He has been involved with AIIM for more than 35 years, including serving on the board of directors for five years. Alsup is based in the Houston, Texas area.
For more information: http://bit.ly/GimmalRL; http://bit.ly/GimmalRubicon; http://bit.ly/AlsupAIIMMerit
A neural net for capturing handwriting
Handwriting and handprint recognition has always been a challenge for our industry. Utilizing traditional recognition technologies, many have questioned whether high enough accuracy rates can be achieved to make implementation worth the investment. At AIIM, we saw a demo of a neural networking-based capture offering that takes a new approach to handprint and cursive capture.
Moonoia is a Belgium-based service bureau that is launching its own document capture software. It is a spinoff of the Belgium healthcare system and processes forms related to reimbursements. Many of these claims include handprinted information like the date, the code, the prescriber, and the total amount. Moonoia processes millions of these forms per year.
After initially using third-party capture software, Moonoia eventually developed docBang, a capture workflow suite that has enabled it to improve its efficiency. One module of docBang is docBrain. “docBrain is based on a neural net and it can run within DocBang or as a Web service outside of it,” explained Wim De Maerteleare, a capture industry veteran who is serving as business development executive for Moonoia.
De Maerteleare explained that docBrain actually leverages two separate neural nets. “One is used to generate handwriting and handprint samples,” he said. “Then, you run these results against a dictionary of the items you are looking to capture to train the second neural net, which actually does the recognition.”
He showed us examples of the fields being captured, and they are not from easy forms. Many of them fit the stereotype of “doctor’s handwriting.” “After applying some business rules on the back-end, about 70% of the forms we process are able to be passed straight through without any human intervention,” said De Maerteleare.
Moonoia is planning a formal launch of docBrain in April. It also has plans to release docBang as a product. “We will continue to operate as a service bureau, but we see software as the best avenue for increasing growth,” said De Maerteleare.
For more info: https://www.linkedin.com/company-beta/17960808/
Zia brings together Captricity and Ephesoft
Last time, we caught up with Captricity, CEO Kuang Chen told us his company was also leveraging neural networks to automate data capture [see DIR 5/27/16]. In addition, Captricity’s has a heritage in crowdsourcing, which has always given its cloud-based service an advantage in handprint and cursive recognition applications. At AIIM, we ran into Chris Lynch, Captricity’s VP of sales who was in the Zia Consulting booth.
Zia is an ECM integrator that specializes in Ephesoft and Alfresco systems. Zia is working with Captricity to complement Ephesoft’s Transact capture software. “Captricity helps us address documents that we could not previously— those that include handprint,” explained a Zia rep.
Lynch explained that Captricity is now hosting an instance of Transact on its cloud that Zia is leveraging in conjunction with the Captricity service. “We are running prototypes for a couple customers at the moment,” said Lynch.
Accusoft tools foundation for OnTask
There’s an old saying in business about “eating your own dogfood,” which refers to utilizing your own products. You might say Accusoft is not only adhering to that adage, it has also home grown the ingredients. That’s because, Accusoft is not only using its recently launched OnTask browser-based workflow automation internally, it built the cloud service leveraging the document imaging tools it is best known for.
“Document imaging and viewing is at the foundation of everything we do,” explained Tirrah Switzer, product marketing manager for Accusoft and OnTask, which has been launched as a separate brand. “The origins of OnTask involve taking our tools and using them to solve problems we were having internally with manually focused processes. These include time-off requests, for example, which needed to be printed, signed off on, and then manually submitted to HR.”
To automate this, Accusoft reached into its toolbox and utilized Web forms and process automation technology and developed some digital signature technology to add to the mix. “Previously, we didn’t have all those elements available in a single solution,” said Switzer. “OnTask also includes a dashboard that enables a manager to see data like how many forms have been completed, how many are in process, etc. There are e-mail communication options as well.”
OnTask supports dozens of file and image types. The forms can include options like drop-down menus and calendars. They can also be branded with the user’s logo. The signature incorporates a digital certificate that captures who signed, where, and when. OnTask is being hosted on AWS and is designed to be integrated with document management and CRM systems.
Initially at least, Accusoft will engage with OnTask users to set up their workflows. “We want to make sure we get customers on the right track out of the gate and that they are leveraging all the functionality they need to properly address their workflows,” said Switzer. “Our goal is to have a click-and-buy solution that someone like an HR director can make their own edits in.”
Pricing for OnTask starts out at less than $2,000 per year for an organization. “We are somewhat flexible in our pricing, but we are leaning toward a usage-based model,” said Switzer. “This means our customers will be charged each time someone completes a process within OnTask.”
Accusoft has been using OnTask internally since last summer, and the service was released for beta in Q4. It officially launched for GA on Feb. 28. “We see potential applications in areas like HR, finance, within sales teams, and within the business side of healthcare,” said Switzer.
For more information: http://bit.ly/ontaskAIIM