Satisfy The Demand For Compliance
Recent regulations place strict requirements on how certain data is captured and stored. Do you possess the imaging and storage expertise to help your customers comply?
Publicly traded companies, financial institutions, and healthcare organizations have been aware of regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley, SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) 17a-4, and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) for years now, but many have put off investing in compliance strategies because these regulations weren't being enforced. Now that hefty fines and penalties are being issued for noncompliance, regulatory concerns have become a top priority among affected businesses.
VARs and systems integrators can capitalize on this hot compliance market, but doing so will require some adjustments to their business models. "Storage integrators and document imaging VARs will need to understand the entire life cycle of a piece of information," says Tommy Thompson, business development manager at NewWave Technologies (Gaithersburg, MD). "They need to understand more than just the front end document capture or pure storage solution. A compliant strategy will require the combination of both knowledge sets." Gaining the proper perspective and added expertise to deliver a compliance solution can be a challenge for a VAR, but many get the support they need through their distribution partners.
Compliance Starts With Processes, Not Technology
A VAR must first understand compliance and how it is achieved before it can implement an effective technology solution. "Many people think that technology alone is going to solve the problem," says Arsenio Batoy, president of Optical Laser (Huntington Beach, CA). "However, if a customer doesn't have a compliant process, then the technology won't solve anything. A VAR must ensure the customer understands this and help the company put the proper processes in place to comply with the regulations it faces."
Once effective processes are established, technology supports the compliance strategy by performing automation and storage functions. For example, with HIPAA, a client may be required to keep certain medical records online over the life of a patient. The customer will develop a process to identify, enter, and manage this information, but technology such as document scanners, document management software, and disk storage automates the information capture, storage, and retrieval process.
Bundled Solutions Provide A Foundation For Compliance
A compliance solution for a customer may require the integration of several technology components. Many distributors attempt to simplify this process by offering bundled technology solutions specifically for compliance.
"Some aspects of compliance lend themselves to bundled solutions," says NewWave's Thompson. "For example, some distributors offer bundled solutions for small to midsize businesses required to store fixed content. These bundles are IP [Internet Protocol]-based, WORM [write once, read many] solutions and typically consist of a NAS [network attached storage] server with scalable RAID [redundant array of independent disks], storage management software, and Plasmon UDO [ultra density optical] technology. These bundled solutions can allow a VAR to quickly implement a compliant solution for an end user with little integration or network disruption."
Optical Laser's Batoy believes bundled offerings can help a VAR or end user understand what constitutes a compliant solution, but feels their impact is limited. "You can market a bundle, but compliance is not an out-of-the-box solution," he says. "Each organization is different and has different compliance requirements. The compliance solution is dependent upon the regulations that need to be observed and the portions of the business that they affect. This requires a great deal of consulting and many customized pieces that need to be tied together."
Further Your Compliance Education
Many regulations affect businesses today, and each places different requirements on how data is valued, managed, and stored. To deliver an effective solution, a VAR must familiarize itself with selected regulations and learn how to integrate the technology components that will help an end user comply. Oftentimes, these integration aspects fall outside the realm of expertise of a document imaging VAR or storage integrator, but distribution partners can provide the support needed to succeed.
"VARs can gain new product knowledge from vendor certification programs," says Batoy. "What distributors add is market education and practical experience. Some VARs shy away from selling compliance solutions because they are uncomfortable with a new integration aspect. So in addition to seminars and training, a distributor may allow a VAR to shadow one of its experienced technical teams on an integration job and gain the on-the-job experience that you can't learn in a classroom. Furthermore, a distributor can align a reseller with a VAR more experienced in compliance to support them during the installation."
Crossing The Bridge Between Imaging And Storage
Due to the close link between content and storage in compliance, some document management and storage specialists have attempted to increase revenues by offering services that span both technologies. This is not an easy proposition, according to Batoy.
"Crossing the chasm between document management and storage is not as much a technology issue as it is a target audience issue," he says. "Document imaging VARs typically sell to line-of-business and department managers, while storage integrators typically sell to data center managers, IT departments, CIOs, and CFOs. A VAR must be able to interact with and persuade both groups to be successful at selling both document imaging applications and storage. This has been the biggest hurdle."
One technology that has helped many storage integrators make that leap is e-mail archiving. Since e-mail resides on the same servers and storage devices installed by a storage integrator, it puts the integrator a step closer to understanding how an application like e-mail management or archiving works. This, in turn, can lead to inroads with other content management applications.