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.

Multi-Function Peripherals: “How do you support large scale deployments?”

Large organizations will deploy thousands of multi-function peripheral (MFP) devices throughout the enterprise. These devices may be from one manufacturer or several, depending on budget, purchasing processes and authority:

In large organizations purchasing copiers and MFPs can happen in stages.  If well coordinated, one manufacturer/model will be standardized on through a competitive bidding process.  This is not always the case and often several purchases can be made over a budgetary cycle and from different groups or departments.  This can lead to multiple manufacturers/models being supported in different departments by the IT organization.  Each manufacturer and model will have its own software, APIs and configuration procedures required to deploy the devices.  Training programs will have to be created to support the many models and features that users will want to use.

Over a 2 – 5 year period the devices could be replaced with newer models that come bundled with new software, APIs and configuration procedures.  This creates a real challenge for enterprises looking to deploy MFPs on a large scale.  How do we best take advantage of the new features and configuration options?  How does IT manage the content that is being generated by these devices?

Many times MFPs are purchased as part of a generic copier or printer replacement initiative.  Consequently there is no unified, consistent mechanism for integrating them into the enterprise content capture infrastructure. If done well it could enable the enterprise to use of the MFP devices, faxes, and existing desktop scanners with a consistent, common interface for the user and allow for integration into backend content repository architecture.

Most of these organizations have standardized on ECM software platforms that enable the capture, indexing, storage, retrieval and retention of content both electronic and physical.  Production and Desktop scanning capabilities are being used in a controlled way to support capture of both structured and unstructured content.  But few have managed to merge the MFP technologies and capabilities with the current ECM platforms.

MFPs are simply not considered a platform due to the technology changing or being updated by manufactures each year.  One approach is to do it at the operator panel, but when the current device is retired the new model will likely require a new setup or custom software development using the new manufacturer’s API to achieve the same operator control.  A more long term and standardized approach would be to integrate a software platform that can standardize the collection of content from any MFP anytime anywhere.  Take the customized panel, APIs and software add-ons from the manufacturer out of the equation and provide a documented configuration to the new manufacturer/model when new devices are purchased and rolled out.  Create a specification in the bidding or RFP process that states here is how we need you to configure your MFP’s functions to integrate with our Enterprise MFP Capture platform.