Cash In On Integrated Imaging
Being stereotyped as "just a microfilm dealer" nearly cost Security MicroImaging Corp. lucrative digital imaging contracts until the integrator learned to capitalize on its varied expertise.
Sometimes even successful people can get caught up in negative stereotypes. For example, Bobby Czyz claimed World Boxing Association titles in cruiserweight and light heavyweight classes. Despite the acclaim he has won as an articulate boxing commentator, many people would still be surprised to know he is also a member of Mensa, an organization for individuals with IQ scores in the top 2% of the population. Just as athletes are often underestimated as scholars, integrators with expertise in microfilm are sometimes underestimated in their ability to provide digital imaging solutions. For instance, Security MicroImaging Corp. (Milwaukee) provides both microfilm and digital services, but it nearly lost a customer that underestimated its ability to provide digital imaging because it stereotyped the integrator as "just a microfilm dealer."
Security MicroImaging has offered microfilm solutions since 1969, and one of its longtime customers was Horicon State Bank (Horicon, WI), a seven-branch operation with more than $300 million in assets. "We have a long relationship with Horicon on the analog side, but when they decided to go digital, they didn't even consider us," says Tom Oberholtzer, Security MicroImaging's VP and strategic business manager. For 15 years, Security MicroImaging had provided microfilm services to Horicon State Bank. Each night, the bank would create check images on Eastman Kodak (Rochester, NY) microfilm as a disaster recovery backup of the day's business. "If a bank has a million dollars in deposits that day and the checks are lost and can't be reproduced, the bank is liable for that amount," comments Oberholtzer. Horicon also uses their microfilm record for check retrieval and research. Security MicroImaging realized an annuity stream from services as well as sales of media and film processing. In addition, Security MicroImaging's service bureau created a microfilm archive of crucial bank documents approximately twice a year.
In 1999, Horicon State Bank decided to implement a document imaging and workflow system to process loan documents. The bank contracted with their existing COLD (computer output to laser disk) vendor to install an OnBase content management solution from Hyland Software, Inc. (Westlake, OH) and a Bell & Howell (Chicago) Copiscan II 6338 workgroup scanner. Meanwhile, Security MicroImaging continued to enjoy a positive relationship with Horicon based only on their microfilm solution. After two years, bank officials admitted the OnBase system still wasn't working out as planned.
Ironically, Security MicroImaging is also an authorized OnBase reseller. "During one of our routine sales calls, we asked some specific questions about what was wrong," recalls Joe Rezell, Security MicroImaging's general manager of Chicago operations. "One of our salespeople sat down at one of their workstations and made a couple of changes - at no charge, of course. The bank saw an immediate improvement. At that moment they realized we could provide both digital and analog solutions." After securing the contract for ongoing maintenance of the OnBase solution, Security MicroImaging's engineers changed the configuration of the existing system, a process that took several months during off hours because the system was already live. "It is always harder to go in and clean up something someone else has done than to set up a system from scratch," notes Oberholtzer. "In a brand new system, you only have to deal with conversion from the old system and day-forward documents. In this case, there were lots of documents and data in the system that had to be corrected."
The success of this project gave Security MicroImaging the opportunity to demonstrate what a truly integrated content solution could encompass. Unlike many VARs, Security MicroImaging didn't ask the bank to give up their microfilm processes and can still provide and support the analog solution. It can also take those microfilm images and incorporate them into a document imaging solution using "bridge" technology such as that provided by Kodak's reference archiving products. Security MicroImaging provides banking solutions from Wausau Financial Systems (Wausau, WI) and hardware solutions such as scanners and mass storage through distributor NewWave Technologies, Inc. (Gaithersburg, MD). It also provides advanced content management and workflow and cutting-edge technologies such as unstructured forms processing. Furthermore, the integrator's service bureau can address any new, back file, or legacy conversion issues that might arise.
The ability to demonstrate digital imaging expertise has secured incremental sales for Security MicroImaging. To improve the indexing capabilities of Horicon State Bank's system, the VAR replaced the existing capture solution with Ascent Capture from Kofax Image Products, Inc. (Irvine, CA). Using a utility written by Security MicroImaging, an existing COLD archive is being converted to ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) files for transfer to OnBase, which also has report management capabilities. Though the existing software provided adequate functionality, Horicon State Bank realized the advantages of having all data available in a centralized application.
During 2003, Security MicroImaging plans to image-enable Horicon State Bank's core data processing solution, Phoenix System from London Bridge Group (Atlanta). When that project is completed, loan officers will be able to access supporting documents, such as loan applications and property photos, from links in the Phoenix System application. By mid-2004, Horicon State Bank also plans to image-enable its check sorter, which currently runs on Optima3 software from Wausau Financial Systems. When completed, electronic images of all checks will be captured as the checks are sorted.
Develop Market Awareness
The experience with Horicon State Bank encouraged Security MicroImaging to make a greater effort to ensure customers understand the value proposition of working with a solution provider who can be a one-stop shop for both analog and digital imaging needs. The competitor that initially secured the imaging deal had no experience in film, and Security MicroImaging believes this differentiator should be marketed as a strength, as the customer has to have only one provider touching critical data. "Digital imaging technologies have become easier to integrate with existing line-of-business applications, and the business reasons for implementing these systems have never been greater,"says Oberholtzer. "However, it is important to realize there will be applications within an organization where using microfilm, in conjunction with digital, makes the most sense. Digital helps you gain efficiencies in research and storage, while at the same time streamlining internal processes through the use of electronic workflow. Microfilm reduces or eliminates the need for data migration and is perfect for applications that demand a long-term, human readable reference media."
Microfilm has a life expectancy measured in centuries, and unlike digital images it doesn't have to be migrated to new media as technology changes.
Oberholtzer and Rezell confirm that many IT departments are hesitant about film-based imaging because they don't understand it and view it as low-tech. However, the emphasis on disaster recovery and regulatory compliance may change that perception.
"There's a perception in the industry that an analog company doesn't have the sophistication to be a good technology vendor," comments Bill Buerger, president of Security MicroImaging. "At Horicon, they've come to realize that just the opposite is true, and we're working harder to share that message with other customers and prospects."