Getting it Right: Distributed and Mobile Document Capture

Distributed and Mobile Document Capture carries with it a very similar paradigm shift that the FedEx overnight delivery service and the facsimile machine had in the 70s, 80s and 90s.  The rise, proliferation and ever increasing bandwidth of the internet, along with new hardware devices such as multi-function printers (MFPs), desktop-personal use scanners, digital senders, tablets PCs and smartphones make it possible to capture documents at the point-of-origination, or “the first mile”, a phrase coined by Kofax.  Despite all of the innovative technology available today for implementing distributed and mobile document capture, there is a lot more to it than the common marketing slogans of, ”Put your paper in the automatic-feeder, push the button and walk-away.”  In reality, “Getting it Right” takes a great deal more fore-thought, planning, execution and on-going support to make the usability simple for end-users while ensuring the end-to-end process is fast, secure and visible to those who handle exceptions and/or need self-service access to the documents. Continue reading

I Am Not a Fan of the Cliché

I am not a fan of the cliché “Best Business Practices”. It is a very over used term and seems to imply there is some magic solution out there that will make everything better. The truth be known, best business practice is leveraging knowledge gained through experience at someone else’s expense. Why would you reinvent the wheel if someone has already figured it out? You wouldn’t. Many times I see companies selling software to customers for the sake of selling something, only to have it sit on a shelf and collect dust.

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Busyness is killing Business

People seem to be busier than they ever have been. One result we have experienced due to the decrease in hiring over the last few years is that employees are taking on more work and working longer hours. Some people are doing the work of two people.
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Rock, Paper, Scissors

rock paper scissorsAs the Fourth of July approaches, we reflect on the formation of our government and the fact that the 3 branches of government are co-equal, as laid out in the first three Articles of the Constitution and several amendments.  If you think of Capture, Content Management Repository and Business Process Management (BPM) they are the three pillars of successful ECM in the enterprise.  Having one without the other does not give the enterprise the full benefit and ROI the technologies have to offer.

Sometimes explaining the value of utilizing all three of these to customers can be challenging.  So, here’s a fun and simple way to think about it:  The concept is best illustrated by the game, “Rock, Paper, Scissors“, which is a game everyone knows.  Depending on circumstances, each application has a chance to provide more ROI than another one, but without one the other cannot truly provide processes efficiencies.  Just like our government and if any one branch vetos or stops a bill.
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Are you “Powered by ILINX?”

Organizations are realizing more and more every day the need to reduce paper, automate labor-intense processes and eliminate duplicate tasks. Since we all know time is money, this is important now more than ever. But how do you choose the right technology to assist with this? We hear quite frequently that users are comfortable working within their line-of-business systems and that bringing in a large, complicated content management system will only confuse them. My response to this is, “Are you Powered by ILINX?”

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Utopia ECM

Utopia ECM (Enterprise Content Management) can be defined many different ways.  My definition is when the ECM system is so intertwined with the business process and business software applications that one really can’t exist without the others.  The users of the systems don’t even think about the fact that they are using ECM technology. Here are some examples:

  1. The sales rep submitting an expense report and scanning their receipts into an electronic workflow, doesn’t even think of the technology that they are using to start a business process.
  2. Traveling executives can retrieve, review and approve invoices and expenses from their laptop computer in a hotel room anywhere there is an internet connection.
  3. The employee on the order fulfillment line pulls up the supporting documents for the order details and instructions directly from their business application, but the source of documents were really from an integrated ECM system.

Remember how things like this used to happen without imaging, document management, workflow and system integration?
This concept of Utopia ECM became very apparent to me recently in an upgrade and migration project for an existing customer who is moving from an antiquated ECM application to ILINX.  It made me actually stop and wonder how they went from the simple concept of creating an electronic file cabinet, to a system that is virtually integrated into every department and many of their business processes throughout the company.  What I found out is that they took things one step at a time and have been sticklers about the following: 1) You get what you plan for, not what you pay for and 2) select vendor/supplier partners who have your best interests at heart.  The rest is just details.

Utopia ECM, isn’t that what we all want for our businesses?

John Smetana
VP, ILINX ECM Sales
ImageSource, Inc.

Invoke Change

Recently, I had an opportunity to visit a former colleague that I hadn’t seen in almost 15 years. This individual works for a company that happens to be one of the top 5 hospitality organizations in the US. I can remember, like it was yesterday, having just graduated from school and being granted the opportunity to work as an operations analyst for this company. At this capacity, I was responsible for reviewing a multitude of business units, tasked with seeking areas for operational efficiencies and cost containment (an assignment that is not too different from my role today). Recalling how convoluted some of their paper processes had been at the time of my employment is what prompted the recent consultation with my friend. Today, I work as a sales consultant for ImageSource (www.imagesourceinc.com), a major ECM solution integrator and software manufacturer. I felt that, with my current knowledge, I might be of use to them. After all, I have helped numerous organizations with similar problems.

I could not believe my eyes. I walked into the Shipping & Receiving Department to meet my friend, the Director of Procurement. To my surprise, they are still manually receiving goods from paper content, and then walking down the hall, down the stairs, and submitting this paper to the Finance Department. Upon receipt, the Finance Department manually enters the invoice data and cross references the content with the paper sent to them by Receiving. In darn near every major business unit I walked through, there were paper and files overflowing off of desks. I couldn’t stand it anymore and felt compelled to ask my old friend a question… ”Why are you doing it this way? With all of the technical innovations within the enterprise content management space available to you today, why not leverage one to streamline the processes here?” My buddy replied… ”I’ve been here for 30 years and that’s how we’ve always done it.”  Sadly, my dear friend was layed off just a few weeks ago.

This reminded me of an interesting story:

A very old traditional brewery decided to install a new canning line, so as to enable its beer products to be marketed through the supermarket sector. This represented a major change for the little company, and local dignitaries and past employees were invited to witness the first running of the new canning line, which was followed by a dinner banquet at the plant.

After the new line had been switched on successfully, and the formalities completed, the guests relaxed in small groups to chat and enjoy their dinner. In a quiet corner stood three men discussing trucks and transport and distribution, since one was the present distribution manager, and the other two were past holders of the post, having retired many years ago. The three men represented three generations of company distribution management, spanning over sixty years.

The present distribution manager confessed that his job was becoming more stressful because company policy required long deliveries to be made on Monday and Tuesday, short deliveries on Fridays, and all other deliveries mid-week.

“It’s so difficult to schedule things efficiently – heaven knows what we’ll do with these new cans and the tight demands of the supermarkets…”

The other two men nodded in agreement.

“It was the same in my day,” sympathized the present manager’s predecessor. “It always seemed strange to me that trucks returning early on Mondays and Tuesdays couldn’t be used for little local runs because the local deliveries had to be left until Friday…”

The third man nodded, and was thinking hard, struggling to recall the policy’s roots many years ago when he’d have been a junior in the dispatch department. After a pause, the third man smiled and then ventured a suggestion.

“I think I remember now,” he said. “It was the horses… During the Second World War fuel rationing was introduced. So, we mothballed the trucks and went back to using the horses. On Mondays, the horses were well-rested after the weekend – hence the long deliveries. By Friday, the horses were so tired that they could only handle the short local drops…”

Soon after the opening of the new canning line, the company changed its delivery policy.

There is a valuable lesson in this story for all of us.

I believe that it’s easy to fall into routine. Let’s challenge ourselves to question what we might do as individuals to better our companies. How can we invoke necessary change? Perhaps your company is trapped in a state of inefficiency (like many others), utilizing an archaic process. Given present economic conditions, it’s imperative that we remain competitive and relevant, or it could cost us our own jobs. 

The method that we may have used 30 years ago may not be the best one today. When was the last time you checked for movie times in the newspaper? Today, I use my IPhone. When was the last time you called your travel agent to book a flight? I just booked mine online this morning. Do you still keep Thomas Guide in your car? I use Google Maps.

Invoke change. Change keeps us relevant.

Ed Figueroa
Sr. ILINX Account Manager
ImageSource, Inc.
http://www.imagesourceinc.com

Knowledge is Power

At an increasing rate, I am getting asked the question “Is SharePoint a good fit for our business”?  I shouldn’t single out SharePoint as the question really is “What XYZ product would be best for my ECM needs?”  Before this question can even be considered, the business processes need to be understood.  Inputs, outputs, systems in place, and platform preferences are all very important to consider.  Is there a workflow process to be considered?  Where and when is data keyed into systems?  Is it keyed into multiple systems?

Talk to similar companies / organizations / departments that have gone through the process.  Go on site visits to see how companies are using technology to solve business problems.  Get educated.  Seek out your local AIIM chapter.  Go to relevant conferences that have a large congregation of people who are using solutions for content management.  Seek out systems integrators that have multiple offerings and address full end to end processes.

When information is gathered from the RFP process, it usually results in software manufacturers responding with one thing in mind – license revenue.  You shouldn’t worry about licenses or product until you have determined your end goal, efficiencies, and points of integration.   Also, keep it simple.  Successful projects don’t need to overly complex, long, and expensive – they need to solve a business problem.

I don’t usually go to the doctor and ask for a prescription until the doctor has done a thorough diagnosis.

Thanks for listening.

Jeff Blissett
Senior Account Executive
ImageSource, Inc.
www.imagesourceinc.com

The Future Direction of ECM – Oracle 11g

Today I participated in a very interesting webinar today by Andy MacMillan, VP Product Management, Oracle, regarding the release of the much anticipated latest ECM offering from Oracle – 11g.   The speculation is over and it is upon us.  Contrary to popular buzz, they haven’t thrown the baby out with the bathwater and alienated their current clients of the previous IPM versions.  Yes, you can still use a SQL database.  The product is well thought out, clean, and is a true platform play for enterprise deployments.  It is refreshing to see a vendor make a stand against the lower tier, point solutions and talk about extensible architecture that can be used against multiple business processes and span applications.

The workflow / BPM might take a bit of time for clients to get their arms around, but I do believe, once they do, it will be embraced.  The concept of using the BPM platform for imaging across all applications should simplify the implementation of workflow and replication across multiple business processes much easier.  Also, the open integration to MANY line of business applications, in a loosely-coupled manner is a good change from the hard coded integration of the past.  This should make upgrades in the future much easier.

At first glance, and from what I have seen from our test lab, 11g is a complete solution, open and integrated, and a cost effective solution that is well thought out.  There will still be a period where the previous version makes sense to deploy from an experience and proven technology basis, but I’m confident that 11g will be a solid foundation for the future.

As mentioned, ImageSource has 11g installed in a test lab and has been putting it through the paces.  We will be helping clients determine the best strategy and timing for migrations.  We have already developed tools, such as ILINX Export to help in the migration of data.  Please let us know how we can help you in your go-forward strategy.

Stay current by monitoring the ImageSource website for helpful hints and information on our blogs and twitter posts. For more information, please take a look at www.oracle.com/goto/IPM  and also http://download.oracle.com/docs/cd/E15523_01/ecm.htm

Jeff Blissett
Senior Account Executive
ImageSource, Inc.

jeffb@imagesourceinc.com
www.imagesourceinc.com

  

How ECM Solutions can help Reduce Your Organization’s Cost and Carbon Footprint.

Happy New Year! Let’s go to work on Monday and save some trees and the environment! With the New Year upon us, it is a good time to review the way your organization manages its manual paper processes, i.e., Invoice Workflow, HR documentation, etc.

It has been my experience that once an organization has made the decision to investment into an Enterprise Content Management solution, they have significantly reduced the amount of manual processes, which in turn reduces cost and streamlines a once slow manual process. While this is a great thing and usually the main reason organizations make this investment, many have not considered the environmental benefit that an ECM solution can bring. I reflect back to the time that I worked in an office, that did not employ such technologies, and I remember all the paper that I used in order to share information. Did you know that the average American office worker is estimated to use a sheet of paper every 12 minutes—a ream per person every two and a half working weeks—and to dispose of 100-200 pounds of paper every year? Think about that statistic!  That is just one employee. Studies have also shown that the number of pages consumed in U.S. offices is growing by about 20% each year. This is huge when you think about this on a national and global scale. Because of this unnecessary paper creation, forests are being depleted and there is more pollution due to the creation and disposal of this paper. Over the years we have all gotten a little more conscious about recycling, however, only about 45% of the paper generated in the U.S. is recovered.

So with all of this said… what the solution is? One solution is to capture documentation when the document enters the organization. One can do this by using ILINX Capture to scan the document, once this is done the document no longer needs to be copied or recreated, it is now in electronic format. Better yet, if the document is email or faxed, ILINX can pull right from the source, electronically, and it never has to be printed at all, viola you have already saved a tree. That handles the capture aspect, but what about sharing information. Instead of a having a 200 page document copied five times to reviewed in a meeting, through ECM it can be easliy scanned an distributed electronically with our Image/Process Management Software. Now, I can write about many other bad habits that are due to not have having information electronically, but let’s talk about some real numbers. A Global Manufacture estimates an up to $10 billion cost reduction in the coming years through digitizing many of its processes. This company also has identified approximately $1.5 billion in potential cost-savings, WOW! A large Gas Company has saved 100 tons of paper and $320,000 through the use of making their processes electronic. A Global Aerospace company estimates savings of 8 million sheets of paper and $250,000 by digitizing one of its 100-page manuals.

So, when we all get back to the office from the holiday season, rethink what you do and what your organization does when it comes to collecting and sharing information. If you feel like you would like to learn more feel free to contact us ImageSource.

Happy New Year!

Shon D. Mueller
Senior Account Executive
ImageSource, Inc.
www.imagesourceinc.com

 

Distributed Capture vs. Paper Processing

It’s obvious but no one wants to admit it. We walk past the rows of files cabinets and do not see them. We’ve always used paper to help us get our work done.  Why change? Because manual processing of paper is a huge productivity killer.

I find it hard to believe that a knowledge worker gets great joy out of retyping information into two or three internal systems or filing documents into those invisible filing cabinets or running files to all appropriate approvers in the work process (and then making a copy for each worker for their personal files.)  Snicker, snicker right?

Imaging isn’t new; scanning isn’t a sexy technology. But in tough economic times with workers faced with furlough days and the same work (if not more) to be completed, it is needs to be addressed. It doesn’t have to be difficult. With the onset of multi-functional devices (the copier, printer, fax and scanning machines) and distributed scanning products like ILINX Capture, the process has been simplified and the financial investment is very competitive.

Imagine the new work day; work is moved electronically to your desk (computer). The “electronic paperwork” is moved to the proper knowledge professional by the computer, not by a person. Time to process takes days instead of weeks. Reminders for work tasks are programmatic (say goodbye to the sticky notes on your computer display). Access to information is readily available at your computer.

Is there anything cool or sexy about managing content electronically? Yep, it’s a green technology. How many trees are cut annually for reams of paper (shipped in cardboard boxes) and file folders? How many copies are made each day so workers have access to information? How about the power consumption from the printers and copy machines? How many metal file cabinets sit in our landfills? You get my point….

You are valuable to your organization because of your expertise. Be a little selfish, choose to enhance your skill set. Inspire your organization to explore the reality of enterprise imaging (scanning) and work-flow products. Learn More at Nexus 2009 and Go Green!

Christie Whitney
Senior Account Executive
ImageSource, Inc.

Build vs. Buy

Over the course of my last 12 years in the Enterprise Content Management space, I have seen many progressions and changes.  When the industry was in its infancy stages, we relied on specialized PCI cards to drive the scanners at rated speeds, high resolution graphics cards to display clear images on a monitor, and every system installation needed holy water sprinkled on it to ensure that there weren’t any compatibility issues or conflicts with the operating system.  There were hundreds of software vendors that claimed to be the premier document imaging / document management / scanning / (whatever new term that AIIM came out with) system.  Systems were sold, installed, and many failed.  We have seen progressions where the hundreds of vendors have consolidated to a few leaders that are recognized as true ECM platforms.  We have seen Microsoft enter the market with SharePoint which has driven the need for a new wave of products and services to bridge the gaps in its functionality.  Along with these progressions and changes with the vendors, we have also seen how internal IT departments look at ECM.

In the beginning, there was many components, many moving parts, and technology that the IT staff wasn’t readily familiar with.  As the first and second generation systems were installed, the product sets matured where the IT staff technology professionals could be trained in a platform that was sustainable.  As this progressed software vendors could switch their focus from making the systems work in a rudimentary sense, and switch the focus to the development of features and functionality that led credence to aspects such as compliance, accountability, governance, and security.  The successful Tier 1 vendors (see Gartner report for leaders) now have scalable products that address all aspects of ECM – document imaging / document management / web content management / forms management / records management / workflow – Business Process Management.  With this, training is now readily available to equip any IT staff with the tools and resources to maintain and build upon systems where compliance, accountability, governance, and security are all part of the core.  Knowledge and education are now key determinants for success.

With this knowledge and education comes empowerment to the IT staff.  In the industry today, I am seeing an increasing number of corporate IT staffs choosing to forego their existing systems and internally build components that allow them to store, retrieve, maintain, and manage scanned images and data.   I understand that there are many talented programmers and systems architects in the workplace that are capable of building database management functionality and that can build user interfaces that allow for searching file structures.  What I don’t totally understand is the value to organizations when a top resource is consumed in developing a product / system and maintaining and supporting the product / system.  It has taken Oracle Stellent, IBM FileNET, EMC Documentum, OpenText (to name a few) each over 15 years to come up with a product offering that is stable and that meets 85% of most organization needs without customization.  Why reinvent the wheel when there are cost effective, proven solutions that can automate business processes that will show efficiencies and pay for themselves over time?  There are many technology focused companies that have invested multi-millions of dollars, and many years  in developing methodology and products.   I don’t know how an organization that is focused on their specific expertise – retail, manufacturing, healthcare, banking, can morph into a software development / systems delivery organization.

Build vs. Buy – no correct answer, but definitely worth discussing.

Feedback welcome.

Jeff Blissett
Senior Account Executive
ImageSource, Inc.
www.imagesourceinc.com

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