VAR's Imaging Solution Begins In Public Safety, Moves On To Finance
Being able to provide local support and imaging hardware for a direct software sale to the city of Wichita, KS, translated into years of ongoing business for Galaxie Business Equipment, Inc.
End users who insist on dealing directly with the vendor are a common source of frustration for many VARs. However, Galaxie Business Equipment, Inc. (Winfield, KS), a document imaging and business automation integrator, was able to take what began as a direct engagement for a single department and turn it into a 5-year relationship with the city of Wichita, KS.
It all began when the city posted an RFP (request for proposal) for a document imaging software solution for use by the police department and court system. The goal was to eliminate microfilm and physical storage of documents for the thousands of court cases filed every year. (In 1999, almost 21,000 crimes were reported in Wichita.) In creating digital images, the city hoped to make the documents available to judges, clerks, and investigators. Integration with a specialized records management solution was also part of the plan. The city settled on LaserFiche (Torrance, CA) document imaging software. Because Wichita wanted to work directly with the vendor, LaserFiche was the director of the project, but the proposal included a provision for local support. "As the LaserFiche VAR in that area, a major factor in securing the contract was proximity," comments Milton Konstantinidis, executive VP of Galaxie Business Equipment. "After the contract was awarded, there was the opportunity to design the hardware architecture and recommend appropriate scanning hardware."
Based on the department's volume and document types, Konstantinidis recommended Fujitsu (San Jose, CA) scanners with VRS (Virtual ReScan). At the time, VRS was a relatively new technology, and it appealed to the city officials because it allowed for on-the-fly image cleanup, which reduces time spent on quality control and rescanning. This was especially important in scanning thousands of multicolored index cards because VRS can adjust for color and produce legible scans. As part of the sales process, Konstantinidis brought in evaluation units and ran tests on-site for the city. In addition, officials visited a site in Kansas City, KS, to see Fujitsu scanners in an actual operating environment.
Stalled Implementation Provides Time To Explore More Opportunities
With the contract for software and integration as well as scanning hardware, it looked like everything was going smoothly. That is, until the city decided the existing public safety records management system could use an upgrade as well. Thus, the integration with the document management software was put on hold while the city reviewed various options, eventually settling on a specialized records management solution from TRW Inc. (Cleveland).
In order to meet the eventual need to integrate with the TRW software, IT staff from the city and Galaxie technicians have completed training with the LaserFiche integration toolkit. The city's internal IT department has begun writing the interface, but Konstantinidis doesn't see this as a threat. "Their desire to get involved is a positive thing," says Konstantinidis. "It expands the use of LaserFiche in their organization. If the customer has an active interest in the solution and understands how it works, they will find new spots where it can be useful. That keeps the site alive and active, so it remains a continued source of annual support revenue."
The delay created by the new records management system hasn't prevented some phases of the project from going forward. Realizing the need to have images ready when the rest of the system is complete, the police have begun scanning current documents as well as converting back files. In about two years, one Fujitsu MD4099D scanner has processed more than a million documents.
The full implementation of the public safety project may have been temporarily stalled, but Konstantinidis found plenty of other projects to keep him busy in the meantime. For instance, Galaxie provided a solution to image-enable the Oracle-based accounting system used in the city's finance department. All invoices are scanned, and the indexing can be accessed through the accounting program. Since the finance department oversees all divisions from city clerk to the water department, it produces a significant volume of documents.
Joint Sale Becomes VAR's Engagement
As the relationship evolved, Galaxie eventually took sole ownership of the software contract. The integrator realizes incremental revenue in maintenance, upgrades, and training, as well as significant hardware sales. The initial contract was for about 9 scanners, but since then Konstantinidis estimates the city has purchased at least 25, ranging from a 90 ppm (page per minute) M4099D to a 25 ppm fi-4120C. The most recent purchase included 6 Fujitsu fi-4120C workgroup scanners for use in the police department. The substation uses the scanners to collect documents at the source and send them to the central system. The ability to scan in color was an important factor, as the police scan a number of photographs. The solution uses Kofax Image Products, Inc.'s (Irvine, CA) SVRS (software VRS) for automatic image cleanup. Using SVRS slows rated speed by about 25%, estimates Konstantinidis, but the customer sees the value in having to spend less time rescanning documents. The software also keeps an audit trail of scanning productivity, so Galaxie can prove the benefits of the solution, as well as make recommendations for improving the process.
The next step is to make documents securely available to the almost 350,000 residents of Wichita. The city recently placed an order for LaserFiche WebLink, which will allow public access to the document repository. As a result, the ability to provide document security at the document, user, and group levels will also be important.
Wichita keeps data online for convenience and speed, and archives data to DVDs as a backup. While Galaxie provides mass storage services for many customers, Wichita already has a large server farm and capable IT department. "If the customer is large enough, they probably already have a SAN [storage area network] or NAS [network attached storage] and just need specifications and recommendations. When I get to a smaller engagement, I often provide everything from the server itself to the mass storage hardware, usually a combination of tape and RAID [redundant array of independent disks] 5."
Government and other document-intensive operations continue to be promising markets for imaging VARs, but the demand for stand-alone systems may not be as strong as it once was. "Even though the business climate is preventing customers from just jumping into document imaging, we still foresee huge potential for continued growth," comments Konstantinidis. "Just as it was for the city of Wichita finance department, image-enabling line of business applications will probably be key for many of those customers."