Engineering Integrated Document Management
Software developer SpatiaX Infosystems wins utility and government customers by providing universal access to documents through integration with CAD (computer-aided design) and GIS (geographic information system) applications.
These days imaging VARs often find that it isn't a question of whether a customer has a content management system, but how many disparate content solutions are spread across the enterprise. Software developer SpatiaX Infosystems (Lafayette, LA) has a utility customer with operations in three states that has experienced multiple levels of consolidation. Some of the acquired companies had document management; others didn't. Of those that did, there were a number of departmental and enterprise solutions.
The utility company realized it couldn't operate as a group of separate business units. Employees had to be able to interact, and management needed visibility into all operations. "The utility company was looking for an effective means of communication," says Lloyd Charlier, president of SpatiaX. "They standardized on Panagon from FileNet as a content management platform, but it just didn't make sense for everybody. In the end, the company wanted to get data from one business unit to another with the least amount of hassle." Because of the distributed nature of its business, the utility wanted users to securely find and view necessary documents of all formats over the Internet without the native software.
In searching for a solution, the utility company discovered ViewCafé, a Java-based universal image viewer from Spicer Corp. (Kitchener, Ontario). After evaluating the utility's overall needs, Spicer recommended SpatiaX, which OEMs ViewCafé in its software products. "Because Spicer doesn't support document management out-of-the-box, they point customers in our direction when contacted about a need we can fill," says Charlier. Partnering with a local integrator, SpatiaX provided a demonstration and an evaluation copy of the software. A month later, the utility wrote the first of several purchase orders.
Integration, Ease Of Use Prompt Additional Purchases
What set SpatiaX apart was its out-of-the-box ability to integrate engineering drawings, such as those generated through AutoCAD and MicroStation, in the document management system. Using SpatiaX' sxCAD for AutoCAD and sxCAD for MicroStation software packages, engineers can store and retrieve their CAD documents directly to or from the Panagon desktop. In addition to insuring universal access, it also extends document management functions such as versioning, archival, and backup to the CAD files. One of the challenges of standardizing on a document management platform is retraining employees. However, the SpatiaX products allow users to continue to work within familiar applications. "Whatever you can do in CAD, we have a document management equivalent," comments Charlier. "We don't replace; we augment whatever is already there, so there is no change in learned behavior." For example, there is no extra step to index the CAD drawings. Standard CAD templates require users to complete attributed data such as the title block. An administrator can define how these attributes are used to automatically populate the Panagon index.
To answer the need for communication and collaboration across the enterprise, the utility company implemented SpatiaX' sxMARKUP-Web. SpatiaX OEMs Spicer's ViewCafé, which supports markup and print capabilities. Automated workflows can be triggered based on the annotations and markups. sxMARKUP-Web is integrated into a FileNet Panagon IDM Web Services interface. When a document is opened, ViewCafé is launched automatically, making it irrelevant to the user which application was used to generate the file in question.
The utility company's initial purchases included 75 user licenses for the CAD integration products and 100 concurrent user licenses for the Web-based markup solution. Additional purchases are expected during the summer of 2003. The products were integrated over a three-week period to avoid disruption and currently provide access to about 1.5 million documents.
Government, especially at the county level, has been another key vertical for SpatiaX' applications, which also integrate with GIS (geographic information system) applications. "Government is a heavy user of GIS, and they are trying to find a way to get their arms around the documents generated in the various departments," says Charlier. "GIS becomes the way they share these documents with each other." For example, a tax assessor could locate a parcel through the GIS to access records, while public works employees could use the same solution to determine when maintenance was last performed on traffic lights. The discovery and navigation of information through a spatial interface, rather than a query interface, is far more usable for most people. SpatiaX' sxGIS and sxPORTAL solutions make this possible through their respective map-driven, point-and-click interfaces. SpatiaX plans on making this same spatial relationship capability available for users of CAD data through extensions to its sxCAD solutions.