Vanguard Adds Graphical Workflow Features to IBM i Imaging Solution
September 7, 2010 Alex Woodie
Switching from paper to electronic documents has emerged as one of the fastest and easiest ways for companies to save money during the current recession. Vanguard Systems, which develops IBM i-based document imaging and management systems, is one of the vendors serving this growing market. The company recently launched a new release of its imaging system, IMS/21, which should allow customers to get even more out of their electronic documents, the vendor says.
The IMS/21 document imaging system is designed to save customers time and money by converting paper-based documents into electronic documents, which are cheaper to store and easier to retrieve than paper-based documents. The suite, which Vanguard started developing in the 1990s, integrates document capture with other document-related functionality, including archiving, workflow, retrieval, and backup capabilities.
Many IMS/21 customers use the product’s “linking” capability to tie documents to IBM i business applications. This requires some extra configuration, but may be worth it if employees are required to routinely pull up lots of documents. In addition to storing IBM i spool files, IMS/21 also works as a clearinghouse for customers’ PC documents, such as PDFs and MS Word docs, as well as faxes. The software also connects with Elite Forms, the IBM i forms management product obtained in Vanguard’s 2007 acquisition of Elite Documents.
In April, Vanguard unveiled IMS/21 Version 7.0, which it says is the “most significant version” of the product in its history. What makes the new version so significant? The most compelling new feature in IMS/21 7.0 is undoubtedly the new Vanguard Dashboard.
A Dashboard for Your Work
The Web-based Vanguard Dashboard product provides a graphical homepage, if you will, that shows each user what tasks they need to do, and which they can customize to their liking.
The most important widget on each user’s Dashboard will be the workbasket, which lists their tasks. Various filters in the workbasket grid should help employees use their time effectively, such as making sure that high-dollar-amount payment vouchers don’t sit for too long before being approved. The capability to drill down into actual documents from the workbasket or other graphical depictions of jobs that Vanguard provides should be a real boon to productivity, the company hopes.
Users can populate their Dashboards with other widgets, such as one that resembles a speedometer and shows how many active jobs are in their workflow pipeline. There’s also a classic pie chart that shows how many Accounts Payable vouchers are open. Users can arrange the widgets on their Dashboards by simply dragging and dropping them into place.
Vanguard says the new Dashboard will also enable users to “mine” for data in their documents. For example, the filter could enable users to view all invoices for over half a million dollars. This provides some rudimentary business intelligence capabilities.
Also, the capability to assign tasks to others and to leave comments in a “discussion thread” stored in the workflow system will allow employees to communicate more effectively, and to stay better connected regarding work events and customer situations. (Social media might be the second coming of the Web, but Facebook doesn’t address customer problems or run the payroll, the last time this reporter checked).
Other IMS/21 7.0 Enhancements
A new browser-based document and image viewer is also included in version 7.0. This viewer brings new searching capabilities, including batch search and “fast” searching. Users can also use the new Web client to mark up their documents with annotations, add watermarks or timestamps, or even redact sensitive data, such as Social Security numbers. Users can read PDFs and Word docs directly in the new Web client. (Most documents are stored and pulled up as PDFs in IMS/21.)
Administrators also get into the graphical game with a new Web-based dashboard in version 7.0. Vanguard says the new dashboard almost eliminates the need for admins to use 5250 screens to administer the product; the next release, version 7.1, will completely eliminate the need for the old green screens, the company says.
The integration between IMS/21 and EliteForms has been bolstered in version 7.0. This will have the effect of eliminating the need for PC servers, and simplify the use of the products, the vendor says. This release also brings new server-based e-mail and faxing capabilities, as well as batch e-mail and faxing capabilities.
Security has also been bolstered in several respects. For starters, Vanguard now offers encryption for stored documents. And user profiles can now belong to more than one user group, which will help to simplify security from an administrative perspective. rnVanguard, which did not respond to requests for additional information prior to this newsletter’s deadline, also did some work with .NET with this release. (The company sells Windows and IBM i versions of IMS/21). A .NET-based software development kit allows customers to build their own custom IMS/21 applications. This release also supports Microsoft Windows 7. For more info, see www.vansystems.com.