The Verdict Is In
Uniscan, Inc. looks to double gross sales this year by creating e-commerce solutions for government and commercial markets. Often, the first step is image-enabling a customer's database.
If you can get these couriers to put on the brakes, ask them, "What is the single biggest threat to their job." This question might elicit responses ranging from a head-on accident with a careless driver, to physically not being able to handle the workload.
While these are common concerns of most couriers, the real threat to their existence may come from companies like Uniscan, Inc. The Cleveland-based integrator has developed an e-commerce solution that allows law firms to file civil briefs with a county courthouse. Uniscan's Electronic Filing System incorporates traditional document management and imaging technologies, including workflow. However, the entire solution was designed for the Web. Additionally, the Electronic Filing System capitalizes on Uniscan's ability to image-enable databases, such as Oracle. While the Electronic Filing System is designed for a vertical market, image-enabling databases have opened new markets for the 16-employee Uniscan. For example, any company that has implemented an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, is now a potential Uniscan customer. ERP systems automate processes within a company by allowing data to be shared between departments. However, this shared data does not usually include scanned images or electronic documents.
Founded in 1992 to publish electronic manuals for companies, Uniscan redirected its focus in 1996 to integrate document management and imaging solutions. The company is projecting $4 million in gross sales in 1999 by offering customized solutions to Fortune 1000 customers and government markets.
Image-Enable ERP Systems
Oracle Financials is one of the most popular databases used by companies to fuel their ERP systems. Consider all the financial data that is housed in this type of a database purchasing, invoicing, and payroll, to name a few. While users can access data from a specific invoice, they can't typically access an image of the invoice itself. This was the problem a major bank was having with its system when it contacted Uniscan.
Each week, the bank reviewed expense reports that were filed by its representatives in the field. "The bank was using Oracle Financials. Problems arose when the amount on the reimbursement checks was different than the amount filed by the bank's people in the field," recalls Will Sellenraad, president of Uniscan. "We developed a new system that included image-enabling Oracle's database."
Now, field representatives fax in their expense reports, and an image of the reports is automatically generated and saved in the bank's system. Accounts payable clerks still use Oracle Financials to process reimbursements. However, the image of an expense report now appears in a split-screen format with the Oracle interface. "The clerks are able to manually key information into Oracle on one side of the screen. At the same time, they are looking at an image of the report on the other side of the screen," says Sellenraad. "Accuracy immediately improved under this new system." Also, field representatives can now access the image of a faxed expense report if there is a question about a reimbursement check. This allows them to match checks and expense reports from their desktops.
Tapping Into The Legal Market
A similar use of image-enabling technology is integrated into the Uniscan Electronic Filing System that is designed for county courthouses. The company recently implemented its system for the Allegheny County Courthouse in Pennsylvania. More than 8,000 attorneys in the county, including Pittsburgh, will be using the new system to file civil briefs. Prior to the Electronic Filing System, attorneys sent couriers to the courthouse to make sure papers were filed before 4:30 p.m. each business day.
Now, attorneys log on to the Internet and start pointing and clicking. Once a password is entered, attorneys fill out forms that were designed for the Web. The forms have drop-down menus and fields that must be filled out in order to proceed. "As attorneys fill out the forms, that information is verified and used to populate the county's Oracle database, which contains docket information," says Sellenraad. "Once the forms are filled out, attorneys drag and drop their case into the Electronic Filing System as an attachment (Word or WordPerfect)." The Electronic Filing System also calculates the amount of the filing fee for the civil case, and attorneys make the payment through a credit card transaction via the Web. A receipt of the transaction is generated and sent to the attorney by e-mail.
The Allegheny County Courthouse is equipped with TREEV's document management and imaging system, which then processes the brief after it is filed electronically. The rules-based workflow moves the brief throughout the judicial system. Once the courthouse staff approves a brief, the attorney who filed the case is notified by e-mail. All other parties involved in the case are also simultaneously notified by e-mail, and a court date is scheduled.
"Entering into a government market is expensive for a small integrator. You have to be able to withstand the development costs and long cycles," states Sellenraad. "Once you have a successful installation in government, then you can go places." Ultimately, Sellenraad wants to take his solution from state to state. He adds, "Every courthouse in the country can benefit from our software."
Getting The Ultimate Endorsement
Image-enabling ERP systems and databases are key components of the solutions that Uniscan delivers to its customers. But, how big is the market for this technology? Sellenraad contends that any company with an ERP system in place is a prospective Uniscan customer. "An ERP vendor who provides a turnkey product cannot offer the same level of expertise as our company can. We specialize in this technology; and, we can offer more benefits and a better return on investment," comments Sellenraad.
Uniscan has a selling process to attack companies with ERP systems; however, selling this type of solution to a government market is trickier. "Under a government sale, you have to go through an RFP (request for proposal) process. You can spend a lot of time working on a government account; and when it goes into an RFP, the whole world knows about your project," explains Sellenraad. "In that regard, the competition is fiercer in government than it is in commercial markets."
Sellenraad expects to increase his total number of employees by 75% by the end of this year. With the extra manpower, Uniscan should be able to move more quickly into this "untapped" market. "We're moving as fast as we can," says Sellenraad. "This is a new technology, and it is vastly different from the manual processes that people are currently using. This is a new market, and there are no numbers to define its size in terms of dollars or seats."
However, Sellenraad adds optimistically, "Microsoft has identified electronic filing and has called it an untapped frontier. Microsoft wants to put its NT operating system on all the legal desktops. When we saw that Microsoft was embracing electronic legal filing, we knew we were on to something."