It's the first week in April and the content management show AIIM 2003 is opening at the Javitz Center as a fresh layer of snow covers New York like a wet blanket. From just inside the convention center, the Jumbotron blares images of the war in Iraq as SARS warnings simultaneously scroll across the bottom of the screen. As one colleague commented, "All that's missing is the locusts."
And, somehow, AIIM 2003 looked and felt like the most successful trade show I had attended in the past 12 months - maybe longer. Exhibitors filled the Javitz Center, and an acceptable amount of end user/VAR attendees followed. (For the purpose of full disclosure, some exhibitors relayed to me that they expected heavier attendee traffic. But, they might have been hoping for the glory days of trade shows past.)
Why, in what is obviously a time of decline for large trade shows, was AIIM 2003 successful? To me, the answer is quite simple and contained in a few key points.
Keep Initial Installs Under Control
From automated forms processing to managing Web content to controlling digital assets, almost all enterprises require content management tools and solutions. Yet, most companies do not have them in place.
Unlike ERP (enterprise resource planning) and CRM (customer relationship management) solutions - which need to affect an entire enterprise to be successful - content management implementations typically start as departmental initiatives. HR (human resources) is tired of processing applications by hand, so character recognition technology is employed to process the forms. Unfortunately for many companies, that's as deep as the technology penetrates. The same can be said for a Web content management solution employed only by the marketing department. The rest of the enterprise has similar problems, but no such solution in place.
When content management solutions start small - in fact, it's because they start small - ROI is easier to measure and rollouts can happen in a phased approach. That's another check in the "pro" column in a time when you have neither the budget nor the inclination to get embroiled in a never-ending implementation.
Here's An Idea: Technologies That Work
The foundation technologies of content management (e.g. document scanning, imaging, indexing, recognition) are proven, and the applications on top continue to evolve and expand. For a trade show, this keeps past attendees coming back and makes potential new attendees take notice.
A few years back, applications were being hyped that allowed users to scan documents, recognize typewritten characters, and extract that data from the hard copy. At AIIM 2003, vendors were demonstrating how mailrooms could scan all incoming documents and have them intelligently routed to each user. That's a big advancement.
Similarly, document imaging has evolved from a grayscale application that required tons of data storage space to a cost-efficient method for capturing and saving color images. Online advancements have also led to distributed scanning applications and the decentralization of the in-house service bureau. Satellite offices now scan their own paperwork and instantly route digital images - no more FedEx packages.
In the marketing collateral, AIIM 2003 (co-located with ON DEMAND) was billed as the "world's largest global information technology event." I can't confirm that.
However, I can tell you that AIIM 2003 offered a slew of content management solutions that can be implemented incrementally to address real business problems. And, the products actually work. Unfortunately, it's a novel approach.