Defense Department Enlists Next Generation Document Imaging

Defense Department Enlists Next Generation Document Imaging

By Jon William Toigo


Department of Defense officials no longer view document imaging systems simply as a means to eliminate bulk paper storage. U.S. military leaders today want to leverage imaging technology to improve work processes agencywide.

To capitalize on the Defense Department imaging technology market, valued at $255 million in 1998, systems integrators will need to move from selling point solutions to delivering complete solutions that improve work flow efficiency and help facilitate cultural changes within agencies, according to Herbert Schantz, principal consultant and analyst with HOS Associates of Sterling, Va.

Only a handful of integrators have the skills, experience and resources to tackle next-generation document management projects, Schantz said. They include Advanced Communication Systems Inc., Fairfax, Va.; Computer Sciences Corp., El Segundo, Calif.; Electronic Data Systems Corp., Plano, Texas; IBM Corp.; Armonk, N.Y.; Lockheed Martin Corp., Bethesda, Md.; Northrop Grumman Corp., Los Angeles; and TRW Inc., Cleveland.

Many of the federal government's document imaging undertaken in the past two years were straightforward efforts to replace bulk paper files with electronic storage, Schantz said. This "low-hanging fruit" for imaging technology solution providers is disappearing, he said.

The next wave of projects will focus on changing work processes and culture to create an integrated digital environment that provides access to information to everyone who needs it, he said.

The stakes are high, with the total federal market for imaging technology valued at $1.1 billion in 1998. Plus, the market will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 7 percent for five years, reaching $1.6 billion in 2003, according to Kevin Plexico, vice president of Input, a Vienna, Va., market research firm.

Document imaging has become a commodity service, but integrators can excel in the market by providing value-added services, said John Finnegan, vice president of information services at Semcor, a subsidiary of Advanced Communication Systems based in Mount Laurel, N.J.

"That is the way with most defense contracts and imaging. If there is a document imaging requirement, you can either hire some resources or subcontract out the work. The value add is expertise in the subject matter and with the client," Finnegan said. "It is also very important to have a deep understanding of technology and the ability to match the solution to the existing infrastructure at the client site."

Within the last year, Semcor has completed two contracts for the Defense Department centered on the deployment of imaging systems. The first involved the implementation of a Document Information Management System for the Naval Air Warfare Center in Patuxent River, Md. The center supports research, development, test, evaluation, engineering and fleet support of Navy and Marine Corps aircraft and trainers.

The project dates back to 1994, when Semcor was brought in as a subcontractor to AERA Inc. of Arlington, Va., to deliver a turnkey document management system in anticipation of a base closure. The Trenton Naval Air Propulsion Center in New Jersey was moving to the Patuxent River facility, Finnegan said.

"They needed an electronic document management solution to replace a warehouse full of paper documents. They wanted to get off paper, and lacked the storage space at the new facility in any case for the more than 40 years of technical manuals, engine specifications, engine test plans, project documentation and propulsion [documents]," he said.

The first phase of the project involved categorizing and cataloging more than 1 million pages of documentation. Documents then were scanned by another subcontractor, converted to text using optical character recognition technology, indexed and recorded onto magneto-optical platters. The contract was worth about $500,000 to Semcor.

The Document Information Management System (DIMS) generated a follow-on contract for Semcor in 1997, when the Naval Air Warfare Center tapped the company to provide ongoing maintenance and upgrades through 2000.

The three-year contract generates about $100,000 per year and has seen the implementation of a new browser support capability for the client-server DIMS application.

"DIMS gets quite a bit of use from personnel involved in naval air testing," Finnegan said. "It is a lot less labor-intensive to search these records online, within the Naval Air Warfare Center or via the Web interface than to search through paper." About 250 end users now are able to access the application via the Web, he said.

Concurrent with this project, Semcor also was selected in 1997 to provide a document imaging solution for the F-14 Program Office of the Naval Air Systems Command, also at Patuxent River and part of the Naval Air Warfare Center.

The 18-month project, valued at $250,000, entailed scanning, storing and indexing F-14 program documents previously maintained by Grumman Aircraft. It was awarded to Semcor as a task order under a five-year, $72 million contract the company has with the Naval Air Systems Command to provide systems engineering, software development, logistics and management support.

The availability of funding was not the sole reason Semcor was chosen to perform the work, Finnegan said. While the project entailed electronic processing of "palettes of paper documentation from Grumman," more than imaging system expertise was required to deliver the product: a 22 CD library of technical documentation to support the maintenance of F-14 system software and hardware, he said.

"We have been supporting the F-14 program since 1982, and [we] had a depth of knowledge about the information we were handling and about the program that enabled us to identify what documents to retain," Finnegan said.

Familiarity with the subject matter is key to building a document image repository, but applications for electronic document management go far beyond "pure archival uses," said Paul Lissy, business development manager for the public sector operations business unit of Xerox Corp., McLean, Va. Older document management projects were predicated on a simple value proposition, he said.

"There was too much paper, people were running out of space. But the solution stopped there, because it was considered too expensive to take paper away and to go completely digital," Lissy said.

That has changed over the past two years, and more Defense Department contracts are focusing on employing electronic imaging and document management to provide improvements to business processes, Lissy said.

In 1997, Xerox was awarded a contract worth about $750,000 to deliver a document management and distribution system for the Defense Automated Printing Service facility at Fort Hood near Killeen, Texas. Xerox was teamed with prime contractor Sytel Inc. of Bethesda, Md., on the project.

"DAPS is the Kinko copier for DoD," with more than 250 shops at military installations around the country, Lissy said. The printing service operated a warehouse of Army forms and publications at Fort Hood that "required 20 soldiers per year in man-hour equivalents to operate." This estimate included the nine-person warehouse staff and the time and personnel that were involved in the document distribution.

Lissy said the mission was simple: Eliminate the warehouse and improve productivity. In the contract with Sytel and Xerox, the Defense Automated Printing Service did its own scanning and indexing of 2,200 documents ranging in length from one page to 400 pages, Lissy said. "Back-file image scanning work is not a highly technical job anymore," he said.

What was different about the Xerox approach, according to Chris Kelly, senior manager with Xerox Professional Services, was the company did not just scan and store the documents; it converted them. Paper forms were converted to word processing documents, HTML forms and Adobe portable document format files.

"We enabled a new method for distributing documentation to end users," Kelly said.

The new system, which went live in December 1998, eliminated the preponderance of paper documents at Fort Hood's warehouse, cutting the amount of space for stored documents from 27,000 square feet to 9,000 square feet, and reduced staff costs by half.

"There are still some documents that remain in the collection," Kelly said. "For example, we haven't come up with an electronic replacement for a repair tag that has a little bit of wire through an eye at one end."

The Fort Hood document imaging project not only lowered costs and saved storage space, but also improved efficiency. While the solution "was fairly standard from a document management perspective, it was different from the perspective of what is thought of as document imaging," Kelly said.

Rather than scanning document images and storing them to a repository for retrieval, significantly greater functionality was delivered with the solution.

The system is deployed on an NT server that runs Microsoft's Internet Information Server and SQL database server. Software from Documentum Inc., Pleasanton, Calif.; JetForm Corp., Ottawa; Xerox and several custom applications provided by the integrator enable the distribution of documents via the World Wide Web to browsers, printers, faxes and other output devices.

Lenny Hayhurst, detachment director for the Defense Automated Printing Service at Fort Hood, said the document distribution options in the new system provide "new ways to jump through hoops to provide whatever the soldier needs. Every DAPS installation has virtually the same issues of an expensive, centralized document warehouse. This solution is replicable, and has already saved an estimated $500,000 per year at Fort Hood," he said.

The DAPS document management solution's real value at Fort Hood, however, has been to help the troops, Lissy said.

For example, an Army captain in Bosnia last December was able to receive a replacement part for an Apache helicopter within two days instead of two weeks thanks to the new system, Lissy said.

The captain ordered the part using an electronic form accessed through the Fort Hood intranet using a Web browser and a secure communications link. Previously, the officer would have had to obtain the proper part requisition form and transmit the completed form to the proper logistics command, which would locate and ship the part.

Work flow efficiency improvements like this are what excites the Department of Defense about electronic imaging technology, Schantz said.

"Document management systems have the potential to connect creators of documents with end users of the documents much more efficiently," Lissy said. "That way, they can get a clearer idea of exactly how the document is used.

"While this project was oriented toward distribution work flow refinement, it also provides a means to improve the document creation work flow. Ultimately, you will be able to add digitized voice and video to the same information repository," Lissy said.

Xerox may have the opportunity to explore other uses for the technology soon. The Defense Automated Printing Service recently was included in an external audit and review overseen by the Office of Management and Budget. Based on the review, OMB is considering outsourcing the functions provided by the printing service. If that happens, requests for proposals will be let by the Defense Department over the next 18 months, Lissy said.

Potentially, it is a win-win scenario for the integrator. If the system is retained under internal Defense Automated Printing Service administration, Xerox may be selected to replicate the solution across other printing service facilities.

If the decision is made to outsource the DAPS document management and distribution system at Fort Hood, Xerox may be in a position, based on its intimate familiarity with the application, to bid the outsourcing contract successfully, company and government officials said.

Ultimately, new document imaging and management systems must do more, Lissy said. "They will increasingly need to yield productivity improvements, enable the reuse of information and provide support for business process refinement," he said.

Integrators with imaging technology expertise hoping to win Defense Department business must set their sights higher than the traditional scan-store-index model and address other components of an integrated digital environment, Schantz said.

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