Corporate collapses and chicanery and the pressure of public-sector information disclosure laws appear to have pushed demand for better control of information through document management and records management systems.
Less certain economic environments and the need to respond to competitive changes have also contributed to a continuing drive for better tools to collect business information for analysis and forecasting - another facet of productive use of business data after its transactional phase, says Chris Lynch, Australasian manager of Hummingbird, a specialist in the field.
Hummingbird has launched an "enterprise" version of its product suite seeking to link document and records management with other forms of information management in corporations and government agencies.
Lynch foresees an upswing of 20%, "maybe even as much as 35%", for document and records management business in New Zealand over the next year.
Businesses and government agencies are showing particular interest in getting control of email, where, according to Gartner, 35% of corporate information lurks.
"Freedom of information [law] is a big driver with government agencies", he says.
The latest version of Hummingbird's management software provides a drag-and-drop interface enabling users to file emails quickly for later text searches, though the categorisation capabilities for emails are not as sophisticated as those of the complete document and records management system.
"There is nothing startlingly new in the technology," Lynch says; its major foundations are XML and J2EE ("the everyone-but-Microsoft standard"). Hummingbird Enterprise necessarily has strong links with Microsoft office applications, he adds. And, yes, there is a Linux version.
A good document and records management system should provide the capability to search multiple repositories simultaneously, Lynch says. With concurrent access to the same repositories by multiple users, the system provides an important tool for co-working.
The software can only provide the capability to file emails and other documents; the control as to whether to file the material must rest in the hands of the user, Lynch says. The user knows the significance of a document better than a record management team does.
Preventing a user secreting material is not a task of the software tool, he says; "that comes back to [organisational] culture. There must be rules and standards that say you always file this kind of document".
Hummingbird Enterprise can extract information both from structured formats such as CRM and ERP records, and from unstructured documents. It also includes an extract, transform and load (ETL) capability to convert information for inclusion in data warehouses and datamarts.
It provides automatic categorisation of documents in accordance with a taxonomy defined by the user organisation. "It's not 100% accurate, but a good way there", Lynch says.
A document might, for example, be filed under "mining", subcategory "copper", sub-category "safety". A "mining" search will present the next-level subcategories including "copper", enabling the search to be quickly narrowed down.