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Congratulations… you’ve decided to “go paperless” and establish a digital archive to store your financial, medical, pharmaceutical, HR, legal, or other critical unstructured document type. That’s a good decision that also lets you get rid of file cabinets! Nice.

Digital archive solutions, a.k.a. Electronic Content Management (ECM) systems, aren’t that new. They’ve been around for quite a while; some are even approaching end-of-life* status. Digital archives using current technology can store data and let you retrieve the documents by searching document content or even metadata tags. The good ones also have “hooks” (i.e., API’s) that allow the archive to present data via portals and websites in a way that’s transparent to the user.

At some point, every user needs to share documents from an archive with someone who doesn’t have archive access. But these systems designed to eliminate hardcopy documents are rarely good at printing (naturally). That’s where LRS comes in.

Content Navigator Print Bundling Plug-In: What is It?

Many organizations use the Content Navigator solution, which is IBM’s universal front end for their electronic archive products. The LRS output management integration for IBM Content Navigator provides advanced output management for documents accessed through this versatile IBM component. Documents returned from search results in Content Navigator can be sent to a queue where they can be bundled, then converted to print-ready and/or electronically readable formats. All of this happens using intuitive printing, conversion and processing instructions. This dramatically enhances the user experience along with productivity.

Why You Should Use It

As an administrator, there is one requirement that you may will absolutely run into. It’s the need for users to deliver one or more archived documents without a negative experience. What do I mean?

Let’s take a real-life example of a pharmaceutical company involved in a drug study. A regulatory agency calls up and requests the company send them 15 copies of all documents relating to clinical trials. Say a user at the company does an archive search that retrieves seventeen (17) related documents. Each needs to be printed, or emailed, or faxed, or somehow delivered as a single deliverable. In a typical archiving system environment, they would need to handle each document separately. This is not really a problem at all if it is one or two documents, but seventeen? That’s burdensome, especially if the documents need to be delivered as a single bundle. They will need to print fifteen copies of each of the seventeen documents!

Think of what this means in terms of user actions: find document, select document, select print, select copies, select duplex/simplex, select color/mono, add a watermark or a barcode (if that’s even possible). They may even have to physically bundle the documents together. You are now in a new status with your users. They don’t like you, because you make their life difficult.

Now let’s consider how we solve this. LRS has been asked by more than one of our customers for a solution to this very requirement. In one case, the customer’s requirement involved IBM Content Navigator, which uses an open standard called CMIS. The CMIS standard defines an abstraction layer for controlling diverse document management systems and repositories using web protocols. The result is that Content Navigator can be used as the client interface even for other non-IBM content management systems (and there are a lot of them). My colleague Sebastien Provost from our LRS office in Paris has considerable experience with CMIS integration. I asked him about CMIS, and here is what he said.

CMIS, a "Babel Fish" for ECM

All Electronic Content Management Systems (ECMs) deal with the same basic functions: store documents, index them, handle security, allow collaborative work, provide workflows, provide versioning, etc.

But they all have different implementations of these functions and obviously have totally incompatible APIs and SDKs to communicate with the external world, making integration with other products incompatible from one ECM system to another.

CMIS stands for Content Management Interoperability Services, an open standard that appeared a bit more than a decade ago to simplify these communication issues.

It consists of a set of actions and protocols provided through web services, allowing an interface with any ECM system and the execution of all basic document processing actions regardless of the ECM product accessed.

The CMIS standard is now widely supported by most ECM products on the market (Documentum, OpenText, IBM FileNet, Alfresco, SAP HANA Cloud Platform Documentation, and more). It is also implemented by many business tools (Adobe Drive, LibreOffice, WordPress, etc.)

The previously-mentioned customer already owned our LRS output management solution and asked if we could help integrate it with their ECM. As in most cases, the answer was yes.

How We Did It

Content Navigator is rich in its ability to integrate with other solutions and to provide API hooks. Likewise, LRS solutions and people are rich in the ability to solve problems. We were able to leverage specific expertise within LRS’s European and US operations to build a world-class solution. Here is what we came up with:

Adding documents to the print queue

Looking at the Content Navigator Interface above, you will see that the LRS Plug-In is a transparent addition to the interface (see the blue icon in the grey task bar on the left?). A user can add the results of past searches to the LRS print queue, creating a kind of “shopping cart” of documents to be bundled and delivered.

When all of the necessary documents are added to the “cart,” the user can then focus on the results and select their preferred output and features. In the background, the LRS solution will efficiently assemble them into a single document bundle.

LRS integrated print queue with collected documents

One additional technical requirement any ECM plugin must resolve is handling the numerous file formats stored in the ECM. How do you print multiple documents in various formats at the same time? One way would be to take short-cuts like printing all the documents through the client OS print subsystem. In other words, make the user open each document and print it via a printer on their desktop.

This “could work” for viewable formats like those created by Microsoft Office, Open Office, PDF, XPS, JPEG, GIF, BMP, PNG, TIFF, RTF, XPS, HTML, XML and on and on... It might seem like an easy solution, but the everyday consequences of this approach are less than optimal. The user would have to print each document separately, which is especially troublesome if the documents are very large.

Unfortunately, you cannot easily use this method if you need to bypass the desktop and route large files directly from the ECM to the LRS processing server. Plus, there are other documents that are not going to work using that method because they are already formatted into printer-ready data streams. In other words, if they are not viewable on the desktop, the user can’t print them. For instance, there are a lot of documents still stored in older formats like AFP, LCDS, or more modern types like PostScript, PCL, Prescribe, or SAP native output (OTF/GOF). The archived documents might even be stored in a compressed (zip) file.

How Does the Plugin Work?

What is this LRS integrated print queue and how does it work? It begins with an external plugin created by LRS that integrates into the Content Navigator user interface. The technical aspects of the solution are transparent to the user. They are unknowingly leveraging the power and extensibility of LRS output management from within the powerful and versatile IBM Content Navigator screen. This means that users can print multiple documents from the repository all at once. They can also create custom conversions; think of the LRS solution here as a very powerful transformation engine where lots of different document types can go in and any desired data stream will come out. No matter how many, how big, or what kind, all of the pieces can be bundled together into one large document.

How LRS integrates into the IBM Content Navigator framework

You May Have Questions

“What different types of documents can be handled? Can there be different sizes and different orientations all in the same bundle of documents? What if the documents are huge?” No worries. We can take it from here.
Do you want to add security features to the document? Do you want to re-number it? Add identifying barcodes? Stop worrying, we have it covered.

One of the advantages of this solution is that if you are already an LRS customer, you probably already own the foundational components. This solution will simply build on your existing solution and leverage all the work you have already done.

Not an LRS customer? Well, this is a solution that you will not regret adopting. You will find that you will be able to solve many, if not all, of your sticky output requirements with the tools that you already have. Contact LRS and we’ll help you learn how.

* Migrating existing electronic archives to LRS electronic archives is something that LRS is particularly good at doing. We have a global team that specifically does electronic archive migration from legacy or missing solutions to a new LRS solution. They have seen it all, done it all and have always been successful.

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