Taking A Web-Based Solution To Your Customers
An Internet-based document storage and retrieval solution is just one of many services offered by ImageMax. The 20-company roll up also has expertise in document conversion and system integration.
Before your salespeople relegate these prospective customers to the "not a snowball's chance" file, there may be a way to sell them a document management solution. Instead of offering hardware and software integration, try selling a service. Scanning customers' documents and allowing them to access the information over the Internet may be easier to sell than an integrated document management system. However, when a customer is ready to take that next step, your company will be there to make it happen.
Moving beyond traditional integration and service bureau work is one way ImageMax is propelling itself into the future. The company was formed in 1997 as a result of a roll up of 20 companies that performed service bureau or integration work, or both. One company in the roll up, DocuTech, continues to develop a line of document and imaging software. The company also performs service bureau and integration work. ImageMax has about 1,000 employees at its 20 locations throughout the country. The company reported $64.6 million in gross sales in 1998. To enhance it's line of services, ImageMax has entered into new partnerships with large document management and print-on-demand companies.
ImageMax is also trying to tap into a new market with its Internet-enabled document management solution. Using Internet technology is not proprietary to ImageMax. In fact, most integrators or service bureaus should explore the option. Entry costs into the market are manageable. This makes the solution attractive to prospects that aren't quite ready to invest in an integrated document and image management system.
No Budget, No Problem
Once you've worked prospects to a point where they are interested in document management technology, the cost of a new system can often bring an end to the sales pitch. If the money is not budgeted, the sale will probably not take place. However, that does not mean the customer doesn't have a need for a new system. An Internet solution allows you to respond to that customer need while keeping the costs down.
The solution allows ImageMax to convert all the documents that a customer requires. The document conversion may be on a day-forward basis or include a backlog of documents. In either case, the documents are scanned at ImageMax and stored on a dedicated Web server. Typically, a RAID (redundant array of independent disks) system is used to store new documents that may be retrieved frequently. Older documents can be migrated and stored onto optical disk. The documents can be indexed in a variety of ways. Some of the more common index fields include account number, customer number, document type, and date.
Once the documents are stored at the integrator's site, customers can retrieve any of their documents from the desktop. "This Internet solution allows us to secure all the conversion work for a customer on an ongoing basis," states Mark Creglow, business unit manager at ImageMax. "Customers only need a browser to retrieve their documents, so it's a low-cost solution. Typically, it doesn't require the customer to invest in software. And, there is no cost in hardware or integration work." However, in addition to conversion costs, an integrator can also charge a flat rate, or charge by the document, for customer access to online documents.
Identifying The Right Customers
Certainly, an Internet-based solution is not going to address all the document management needs that customers have. But, it is a viable alternative for many companies. "This type of solution is not meant to be a replacement for a true document management system. But, for customers with certain applications and an appropriate number of documents, this solution is a good tool for integrators to have," comments Creglow.
A sample customer interested in this type of solution may be a small-to medium-sized manufacturer. On the shop floor, there may be specific protocol on how to package certain products so they can be shipped safely. When a new or rarely ordered product needs to be packed, employees will need to be refreshed on the proper procedure. Instead of rifling through a manual or file cabinet for the documentation, employees can use a Web browser on the shop floor.
Another department within the manufacturing plant may need to have access to safety records from the past year. These records can be accessed through a Web browser. Users can view the document or download it if they require. "We allow users to select the documents they want to download and store them in what we call a 'briefcase,'" says Creglow. "The documents are then zipped and downloaded to the desktop. This allows users to get offline quickly and begin using the documents."
Growing With Your Customer Base
The Internet solution is beneficial to both service bureau companies document management integrators. It lets both types of companies expand into new markets. And, in both cases, the expansion can be easily controlled. "The solution requires a pretty minimal investment from service bureaus or integrators," explains Creglow. "As the volume of documents increases, you only have to increase the amount of storage you have in place."
Creglow certainly doesn't see a current Internet solution that replaces a traditional document management system. "Traditional systems can have complex workflow capabilities. The systems also provide more security because all the information resides on a company's network as opposed to an off-site server," comments Creglow.
Another advantage of a traditional system is the speed of accessing documents. This allows larger volumes of documents to be accessed by users in a more timely manner. "I don't think an Internet solution will replace a traditional system, but you will see some crossover because of it," says Creglow. "The Internet will expand our market and bring potential new customers into the game."
Having A Solution At The Ready
Creglow marvels at the acceptance of Internet technology as compared to the acceptance of CD technology when it became a storage option. "When we went from microfilm to CD-ROM, customers had a lot of questions. People wanted to know exactly how it worked before they made an investment. Looking back now, you wonder what all the concern was about," recalls Creglow. "With the Internet, however, people have very few questions about how it works. They ask about speed and cost, but there are few questions about the technology itself. It is really amazing how far we have progressed."
Even when ImageMax is acting strictly as a service bureau for customers, Creglow says most ask how the Internet can help them in the future. "Everyone uses the Internet so often that the adoption of the technology will happen quickly and in a very big way," states Creglow. And, with customers more prone to integrating Internet applications, successful integrators must have a way to tap into this market.