Ensure Job Security With ECM Customization
This integrator used custom workflow development expertise to entrench itself with a nonprofit community foundation and earn more than $70,000 in add-on revenue.
VARs and integrators are the face of technology for many of their clients. As such, many VARs have taken the fall for what are really vendor shortcomings. While you may have no control over vendor product development, you can rest assured you will be the one faced with the prospect of lost business if you sold one of your clients a product that doesn't keep pace with technology advancements. How can you protect yourself against unfair blame and retaliation? L.R. Hines Consulting, Inc. proves it's by offering your clients business value above and beyond the products being resold. In this integrator's case, the primary value it offers comes in the form of custom workflow development.
Line-Of-Business Integrations Outweigh Image Viewer Weaknesses
In 2003, L.R. Hines installed an EDM (electronic document management) system to help the Marin Community Foundation (MCF) in its mission to help improve the quality of life in Marin County, CA through philanthropic contributions. As the largest nonprofit community foundation in California, MCF is inundated with paper in the form of grants, grant applications, and donations. The EDM system L.R. Hines initially installed fulfilled many of MCF's paper management needs, but it had one major drawback.
"The original EDM system didn't come equipped with an image viewer," says Lonnie Hines, president of L.R. Hines Consulting, Inc. "In other words, in order to view a file in its native format, the end user had to have the specific application the file was saved in installed on their computer." For example, if an end user had Microsoft Word installed on their computer, they could view a file stored as a Word document. If they didn't, they wouldn't be able to open the file. As a result, MCF spent countless hours converting all files into standard TIFF images.
This weakness in the EDM software caused MCF to seek a new solution, but the foundation wanted to stick with L.R. Hines to develop the new solution because of the custom integration work the VAR built into the original system. "We integrated the original EDM software with MCF's core foundation management software called Foundation Power," says Hines. "These integrations allowed users to access grant, donation, and other documents stored in the EDM system directly from the account record in Foundation Power. MCF wanted to buy the new EDM system from us because we already developed these integrations and had expertise and familiarity with their system. To get the solution elsewhere, they felt they would have had to retrain another vendor on their system."
Customized Workflow Applications Improve ECM Efficiency
L.R. Hines recommended ViewWise by Computhink as the new ECM (enterprise content management) platform for MCF. "ViewWise has an image viewer that supports over 300 different file types, allowing users to view files in their native format regardless of whether or not the application is installed," says Hines. "Furthermore, ViewWise had a user interface that mimicked the file cabinet, filing drawer, and folder structure of MCF's physical filing environment. MCF felt this would be an intuitive program for its users to learn because of this."
L.R. Hines modified the integrations it built into Foundation Power to work with ViewWise. In addition, the integrator designed some custom automated workflow applications that enabled MCF to get more efficiency out of the system. One application generated a bar-coded cover sheet when an individual applied for a grant online. Applicants are prompted to print out this cover sheet, place it on top of their application form, and fax it to MCF. The bar code on the cover sheet contains the number of the record in Foundation Power the incoming application is associated with. The workflow L.R. Hines designed automatically stores the incoming fax in ViewWise and links the document with the corresponding record in Foundation Power.
Another workflow application L.R. Hines developed for MCF is a virtual filing room. MCF has thousands of electronic folders created in ViewWise to store and manage its document images. The sheer process of browsing through all of these folders to find the correct one to store a certain file in was a time-consuming and error-prone process. L.R. Hines developed an application that allows users to dump incoming files into one virtual filing folder. The application automatically connects to Foundation Power and, based on one input number (e.g. the donor number or fund number), the application identifies other key index fields for the document, populates these index fields, and files the document image in the appropriate ViewWise folder automatically.
The new solution L.R. Hines developed resulted in more than $70,000 of additional software and custom service revenue for the integrator. Furthermore, it provides L.R. Hines with a strong reference in the nonprofit foundation community. It just goes to show what potential pitfalls a strong value-added service offering can help you overcome.