Growing Interest in XML Seen at AIIM Conference on Content and Records Management

March 24, 2004

Dale Waldt

Jacob Javits Center, NYC, March 12, 2004

The AIIM CMS conference and exposition was held in conjunction with the OnDemand conference from March 8 to 10 in New York City. Record attendance at both the exposition and the conference itself was reported by organizers, AIIM International and CAP Ventures. More than 33,000 people from around the world participated in the show, which focuses on document and records management processes and technology, with a growing undercurrent of XML related topics.

The conference and exposition featured keynotes from renowned business leaders, many of educational conference sessions special-interest tutorials, partner networking, industry-specific solution centers, technology demonstrations, and even a charitable program using technologies showcased at the event to create 7,000 books for New York City public schools. In addition, a comprehensive exhibit hall featuring almost 500 suppliers provided qualified buyers with access to the latest technological advances in information management.

Compared with previous years, this show was both larger and had more XML presence than ever before. It is indicative of a growing trend of increased focus on XML and related technologies and systems in shows dedicated to vertical industry markets. XML has become a buzzword and key selling point in a sector that has historically looked at its information as records and office documents, even microfiche and COM (Computer Output Microfiche).

Attendees had access to keynote addresses from distinguished speakers such as Seth Godin, former Yahoo vice president of marketing, best-selling author, and entrepreneur; Tom Peters, leading management guru; Paul Macek, chief enterprise architect of T. Rowe Price Investment Technologies; and Anne Mulcahy, chairman and chief executive officer of Xerox. As the opening-day keynote, Mulcahy drew a standing-room-only crowd of approximately 2,600. Mulcahy discussed the need to transform work processes to drive new growth and productivity, as well as smart document management and the intersection of technology and services.

Where does XML fit into his vertical space? First, the membership of AIIM has begun to convert their many standards for information interchange to XML formats. These address metadata describing records and documents, as well as some common data structures used for interchange between business partners and departments. Second, there is an increased demand that tools and systems be able to manage XML data or at least export and interchange the information in XML formats.

Additionally, the JDF (Job Definition Format) Workflow Tours were new to the event. JDF, a new industry standard , is playing an increasingly important role in the digital printing and automated production market. The workflow tours demonstrated industry vendors integrating multiple products to create an automated workflow using the JDF standard.

The exposition floor was very large. About 450 exhibitors occupied the entire Javits floor. The space nearly equally divided between the AIIM and the OnDemand shows, with XML interest and awareness heavily weighted to the AIIM side.

In terms of XML awareness, AIIM had three or four types of exhibitors. Some focused on transaction or document processing (receipts, orders, invoices, etc.). These largely dealt with scanned images, OCR to capture text information elements, and hardware. Their interest in XML technology and standards is somewhat limited in this subgroup. They profess a need to export structured data but do not currently espouse support of any specific interchange formats or metadata formats. These folks are in the early stages of adoption of XML and can see the need for structured export and interchange and metadata standards, especially for graphic records.

Another group focuses on document conversion. Many in this sector already use web and XML technology for both data structures and software integration. Many of these position themselves as web portal vendors and use HTML, WebDAV, XML, and other approaches to managing web content. Some even claim to support single source publishing to the web, mobile devices, and print (not publishing per se, more akin to reporting). Some espouse native internal XML and XSLT for transformation to any other output or interchange format, others use HTML as their internal format and may have some metadata. Some of these vendors are newcomers to the XML community, while other are well known to us.

A third group focuses on regulatory compliance and litigation support. They tended to work in several key vertical areas rather than focus on any one. Many mentioned banking, pharmaceutical, military, financial services, legal records, healthcare, and other highly regulated or complicated information processes. They are really offering a horizontal service (XML content and process management) with specialized applications of their tools for specific vertical applications. These folks face some unusual challenges. They need to present data to regulatory agencies in the agency specified format, while supporting internal processes that might involve unstructured (Microsoft Word) editing. There is a lot of interest in tapping into the underlying XML support in the Microsoft tools rather than requiring their customers to use more expensive and less common XML clients. They focus on process and workflow systems, regulatory compliance, and their product descriptions tend to emphasize less the technology used and more about the compliance achieved. They describe themselves as service providers and consultants, not solution providers. They are very keen on regulatory interchange standards, metadata standards, data transformation, and content management. They also tend top be very active in their vertical industry associations committees for specific vocabularies and interchange standards.

On the OnDemand side of the show there were paper suppliers, imaging device manufacturers (Xerox, Ikon, HP, Kodak), some services groups (Kinko's), and a few content management portals similar to the ones described above. The focus of OnDemand is largely on devices, software, and services for imaging, and the paper and supplies needed to feed these processes, so there were few reasons why XML was important to this side of the house. Even so, there is an increased awareness by vendors of XML and how it may be useful in job description specification, and even device configuration and messaging. The focus of the customers on this side of the show was not on XML or underlying technology, but rather on imaging quality and efficiency.

As a long time AIIM attendee, I was pleasantly surprised by the maturity of the interest in using XML technology within the supply chains represented at the show. XML has become essential in many sectors beyond its original core publishing and web audiences. AIIM shows anther reason to believe XML has gone mainstream.