Virtual Service Provider Solves Document Overload
Last year a professional and technical staffing firm spent over a million dollars on imaging equipment to scan, archive, and access about 3,000 documents a month. This year, an ASP solution is going to process the same amount or more for about 10% of the cost.
With projected 2000 revenue of $3.1 billion, one professional and technical staffing and consulting group employs 8,000 to 10,000 people in North America. That's enough to keep any human resources (HR) department busy, but for a year and a half that department also undertook the in-house processing of about 3,000 contractor documents each month. Using a local vendor and a purchased software package, approximately 10 temporary workers and several staffers scanned and stored the documents. The solution was less than perfect. In-house IT staff was reluctant to deal with problems in the system because they were unfamiliar with it. In fact, support was so specialized that the department head attended a week-long training session held hundreds of miles from his busy office. Even when the equipment was running smoothly, the amount and quality of temporary help wasn't always ideal. Since concentrating on core competencies is one of the company's major credos, outsourcing seemed an obvious choice. Obvious, but not easy.
A New Model For Resellers
The company needed cost-effective, accessible, comprehensive services, a solution most integrators couldn't offer for the volume of data. Then a representative of the company met Scott Kline of Information Manufacturing Corp. (IMC) (Rocket Center, WV) at a trade show. IMC's vice president of sales, Kline says the company is working toward a new virtual service provider model. It offers CSP (conversion service provider), SSP (storage service provider), and ASP (application service provider) solutions for document-intensive businesses. IMC is a partner of OnlineStor.com, OTG Software's (Bethesda, MD) ASP initiative. As a CSP, IMC provides six discrete value-added document processes from simple scanning to OCR (optical character recognition) and document preparation. Clients can choose to have data made available online or on media such as tape or CD. The company opted for document pickup and conversion with output to an online repository, placing the entire system and its upkeep in IMC's hands. Because contract documentation must be available for as long as three years, IMC provides storage management for 2 million documents using OTG's DiskXtender software.
No on-site product installation was required for the transfer. Within a week and a half, IMC had the entire system online, including a backlog of 120 banker's boxes of documents. That backlog, which would have required a week for the company to process in-house, was eliminated at IMC within a day and a half. Now instead of overseeing an ever-changing array of temps, an auditing group inspects and packs about 15 to 20 banker's boxes of documents each week. Every Thursday, couriers take the materials to IMC, where they are scanned, bar coded, and indexed. In about a week, the documents are available online, accessed by contractor Social Security number. A weekly report integrated with an existing PeopleSoft (Pleasanton, CA) application is sent by FTP (file transfer protocol). Kline estimates it took about 10 minutes to train 25 employees to access the system. Fees for the service are based on the amount of information stored and the number of users who have access to it.
A 90% Savings
Last year, the staffing giant spent $1.3 million solely on equipment. This year, it will spend less than 10% of that by letting IMC do the work instead. Because of the sensitive nature of the information stored, only a limited number of employees have access to the contractor records. Security, says Kline, is a major concern. A pair of couriers is assigned to transport the documents, which are never left unattended. Trucks are equipped with fire extinguishers to protect the contents. At the IMC facility, employees must undergo a government-level security process, which includes cards, biometrics, and access codes. The online connection is made using dedicated lines and SSL (secure socket layer), and applications have full 128-bit encryption.
One way IMC can stay competitive is to "practice what they preach" by outsourcing functions like CRM (customer relationship management). "If it's not a core competency or a revenue producer, we jettison it," said Kline. Not only does the company lease software, it also leases hardware "by the drink." That means that equipment is leased based on actual usage rather than on time it spends inside the building.
The success in handling current data has prompted the HR department to convert legacy data. About 240 GB was converted to high-speed tape through an application written by IMC in cooperation with the company's development team. The files were converted from proprietary to industry-standard formats. Though there is no current plan to expand IMC's role in the HR department, other departments are considering outsourcing solutions for document management issues. Kline's next challenge: developing a solution to process 50,000 time cards - in four hours or less.Questions about this article? E-mail the author at JackieM@corrypub.com.