Open Document Management Application Program Interface
The Open Document Management Application Program Interface (ODMA) is an industry standard
interface for document management that standardises communications between desktop applications
and server-based document management systems.
In modern day business there are very few processes that do not involve the transfer of data
from one point to another, whether it is vital information such as a customer order or something
as simple as a memo. If this data cannot be reach its destination the process cannot be successful.
The problem, however, lies in the fact that even the smallest enterprises make use of several
different applications, none of which speak quite the same language. Imagine an office staffed
by exclusively English, French, Urdu and Japanese speaking staff and you’ll have some idea of
document management problems you can find within a typical enterprise.
To ensure that vital business information can pass between applications, it is vital that
there be some sort of common interface – a translation device that can allow applications
to understand each other’s data formats and successfully access their documents. The Open
Document Management API is such an interface.
History of ODMA
Before ODMA was accepted as an industry standard there were enormous difficulties associated
with the integration of applications and document management systems. Without a standard API,
DMS vendors were required to write separate integration code for each of the client applications
Conversely, applications that were not supported by DMS systems had to write their own
integration code for each DMS. This mass of integration codes each came with their own bugs
and reliability issues, limiting the flow of information within enterprises and causing a
massive headache for software developers.
To solve these problems, a group of vendors formed the ODMA Consortium in an effort to create
a high-level industry wide standard that provided vendor-independent integration between the
majority of desktop applications and DMS systems. The objectives of the ODMA were as follows:
To integrate DMS systems and desktop applications seamlessly so that DMS services appeared to
users as if they were part of the application.
To reduce the burden on application vendors to provide support for multiple DMS systems.
To reduce the burden on DMS vendors to provide support for applications.
To the reduce the complexity and effort required to install and manage DMS systems.
Applications of ODMA
Use of ODMA in DMS systems and desktop applications has led to an ease of use in document
management the never before existed.
* Application Integration
The largest benefit of ODMA is the increased flexibility of enterprise document management.
Before a common standard existed, applications were required to be hard-coded into the DMS
system, making system set-up a time consuming and costly process.
The ODMA standard allowed enterprises to quickly connect many different applications into a
DMS system with little hassle. This offered both the flexibility to rapidly upgrade and modify
IT infrastructure and the ability to quickly transfer data between disparate applications.
* Platform Independent Display
In addition to this, the ODMA standard allows integration within the documents themselves.
ODMA enables DMS systems and applications can easily manage a document written in Microsoft
Word that contains an Excel spreadsheet and a number of images within a single document.
Before ODMA this capability would have required hard coding for MS Word, Excel and an image
display application, which would have made the management of the document far too complex to
* Platform Independent Editing
Even more impressive is the fact that ODMA-enabled applications can not only access documents
created in third party applications, but they can also modify them. For example, Microsoft Word
can access and modify documents saved in MS-DOS text, Rich Text, Unicode, WordPerfect and HTML,
among others. Once the editing is complete it is possible to save the document in either its
original format or in any other supported format.
In a Nutshell
The ODMA standard interface offers benefits on two fronts. Initially, the interface allows
enterprises to create and manage document management systems and the IT infrastructure in
general at lower costs and using fewer man-hours.
Additionally, the interface continues to save time and money by smoothing the flow of
documents throughout the enterprise, allowing users to access data without the need to switch
ODMA was among the first attempts to integrate applications, and it paved the way for a
number of other open standards that have further revolutionised document management, such as WebDAV.