We are in the middle of a document renaissance. Never before in human history have we had so many ways to communicate. We’ve gone from cave drawings to fax machines; from tribal legends to the
global village; from parchment to PC’s. Never before have humans reached so far or with such freedom to create, share and express information. With all this change, there has been one constant:
Throughout human history — whether with hieroglyphs or hyper-text — the document has been the constant aide of human communication. It was there with Moses at Mt. Sinai. It was there with the
Bard at Avon. It was there with Lincoln at Gettysburg.
Despite this lineage, the document has been overshadowed in the computer technology explosion. Most of our attention was on the sexier side of technology. But recently there has been a ground swell
of interest in the document. The document has become a hot topic at trade shows, conferences, and seminars. The increasing number of articles, white papers and web sites that focus on the strategic
use of documents reflect the fact that the document has regained popularity.
Technology, however, is not a cure-all. After all, communication is a human penchant. Primeval communication artistry — how to assemble and present information for human consumption — is still as
valuable today as it was at the Parthenon for Homer. Indeed, the allure of technology has, like a sirens song, stranded us against the rocks more than once. Finding our way to improvements,
efficiencies, and savings in these waters will require that we navigate with knowledge of not only how things work technically, but also with understanding of purpose, process and people involved.
We are relearning the fundamental role documents play in our communication — a bundle of information designed to be received, consumed and understood by humans. As technology guides us into an
epoch where people demand access to information directly (i.e., through computers, databases, and the internet) a successful marriage of documents and technology is critical. Modern organizations,
whose market in the new millennium is world wide and high-tech, now include an enterprise document strategy as part of their overall business plan.
For document professionals, that means our jobs are changing. We have new roles, new challenges, and new opportunities. Technology decisions are complicated, and exactly where the document fits is
far from certain. Our environment is in such a state of transformation, in fact, that answering the simple question: “What is a document?” is a matter of some debate.
Whatever the definition there never has been more challenge, and never more opportunity for success in the area of documents and communication. Technology advances have brought a wider scope for
both the document and the document professional. We need to take advantage of these expansions to remain competitive. At the same time we must attend to document systems using P.O.P. (plain old
paper) that are ripe for improvement and contain hidden treasures for those intrepid enough to explore.
As a result of this document renaissance, organizations will realign their communication, technology, and business practices. More and more, document professionals will be asked to guide technology
investments. We will be asked to implement technology systems and expected to translate high-tech advances into document strategies that result in real-world, bottom-line benefits. We face the
challenge of integrating document technology into corporate culture and organizational information flow.
Back from the times of Da Vinci, King John, and Pulitzer to the time of Jobs, Groves and Gates, the stalwart document has returned as our high-tech aide to human communication. Those of us in the
document profession must also go through a similar rebirth. We must retain old-world artistry and assimilate new technology if we hope to survive in the age of the document renaissance. © 1997
Kevin Craine, EDPP