The document capture market and the copier channel are converging at ever faster speeds in the current market. For our channel chat this month we talked to a mix of leaders from the hardware and software markets to find out just how those worlds are converging.

We are seeing convergence in the copier and IT channels, and one of the pivot points is capture. Has document capture changed how you sell your process and/or your product line?

Tom O’Neill: Canon has our own document capture solutions as well as longtime partnerships with partners such as NT-Ware, Nuance and Therefore. In our MFP area we’ve seen customer requirements, and therefore the sales process, evolve. Customers still capture hardcopy documents to be used as email attachments or (for) digital storage. But they’ve become increasingly sophisticated in knowing they can improve paper-based business processes by digitally automating them through the extraction of index data or other information from scanned documents when they scan them at the MFP.

With the availability of office-based solution software to process scanned images and capture information, as well as information/workflow management software that uses the data to automate processes, we’ve seen the evolution in favor of a more holistic approach. In this approach, document capture is just one part of a complete information/workflow solution. This drives our product and partner strategy to ensure systems (hardware), software, services, support and infrastructure work seamlessly in the solution. It’s driven the evolution of the sales process to a much more consultative approach with the need to more deeply understand business outcomes customers desire and how their business processes can be improved to achieve them. It’s not a product and feature sale anymore, it’s a business solution sale.

Bruce Orcutt: There is certainly a convergence of channels happening in the capture market. We are seeing more opportunities for document capture being driven by hardware manufacturers as part of their corporate pivot to provide more solutions and use software to differentiate the value of their hardware. As part of this pivot there is consolidation within the core VAR channel along with VAR acquisitions by traditional hardware vendors to expand their software solution design and delivery capabilities.

This pivot to enable packaged solutions for VARs that make the positioning and delivery of capture software solutions easier with shorter sales cycles is assisting growth in the capture market. Enabling VARs to be successful by providing them with turnkey software that meets the customers’ expectations with packaged offerings and solution training for their internal teams is helping to accelerate this success within the channel.

Hugo Palacios: Yes. We are working with clients to leverage the existing investments with their fleet of scan-enabled MFPs and IT infrastructure. The discussions we are having with our customers are elevated and focused around business process and workflow automation. The key is to tie the flexible IT infrastructure to workflow process and the integration to their LOB, ERP or general ledger software. Our teams work closely with our customers to look beyond simple scan to PDF or Office to determine the customer’s pain points and the nature of the workflows being supported, and provide them with assessments on ways to improve their business operations. With additional intelligence, simple capture applications can be further developed to improve client operations.

Capture has become an essential component of every MFP sale. The starting point of workflow and business process optimization begins with capture. Customers are looking for ways to streamline the document capture process through document capture applications which can provide powerful, time-saving tools. Our role is to provide cutting-edge solutions that will reduce the time it takes our customers’ employees to get documents to their proper locations.

What new needs are you seeing in the channel surrounding document capture?

Jim Coriddi: We’re no longer “just” in the paper business; we’re in the information business. Because of that, we need to have a deeper understanding of how end customers do business and what vertical markets they serve. The only way to be effective in document capture is to understand where information is coming from and where it’s going in the customer’s business. For a lot of our customers, cloud plays a key role in “where the information is going.” And capture to cloud is easy thanks to our ICE (Integrated Cloud Environment) offering. At the same time, process automation to help make sure information gets where it needs to be quickly, efficiently and accurately is huge. The days of just offering centralized/batch scanning and calling it a day are long over. We’re excited to be playing a role in the future of how information is handled.

Jim Hayes: We recognize the need to provide open capture platforms that allow channel partners to easily add specialized IP and technology components in order to provide a broader range of solutions for capture customers. In the “age of the customer,” our channel partners are under increasing pressure to not only provide solutions that drive a strong ROI but also to reduce time to value – implementing solutions in weeks instead of months. Lastly, there is significant interest in solving capture needs closer to the actual customer contact point and transaction. In contrast to traditional mailroom capture implementations, which run all documents and processes through a central facility, channel partners are increasingly engaging with customers who focus on remote, real time and mobile capture opportunities.

O’Neill: Our channel partners tell us their biggest need is finding and keeping the right type of salespeople. Selling business solutions with a document capture component requires someone who is oriented toward business process analysis and solutions rather than being product sales oriented. This also drives compensation challenges as these types of sales aren’t transactional in nature and require a “team” to identify, propose and implement these solutions. This also introduces opportunity and challenges in pricing, delivering and maintaining professional services – a different business model than the traditional MFP sales and service model.

Larry Trevarthen: The standards for scanner performance have been increasing for a number of years. On the software side, it is driven by the automation of document classification and data extraction. On the hardware side where we operate, it is driven by the need to deliver that high-quality image in the most efficient way possible, with features like double-feed detection and robust paper handling mechanisms, along with fast image processing, blank page removal and color dropout functions.

Are there differences in the way copier dealers sell your product versus IT VARs?

Coriddi: Historically, dealers are coming from a position of providing print or copy solutions. Meanwhile, the services-focused dealers are coming more from the computer and network side. They’re both looking to expand, so they’re finding themselves meeting in the overlap.

The different starting points can mean different contact points within a business. That can bring different expectations from the customer, different conversations with the customer and so on. As we start to see more overlap between IT and traditional hardware dealers, they’ll begin running into competitors they may not have run into before. That makes it incredibly important for dealers to establish their expertise and their services capabilities.

Palacios: Yes! [VARs] lead with IT services versus copier dealers selling solutions that integrate with copiers. Each comes from a specific perspective based on historical business focuses. Copier dealers tend to be brand/hardware focused. VARs may be more hardware agnostic, but may tend to support limited software applications or services. IT VARs are looking at organizations holistically and are bringing in subject matter experts who are savvy with the trends and industry movements, and are therefore seen as trusted advisors.

Copier dealers operate on a different sales cycle and have many software solutions they represent other than ECM. When looking at IT VARs or ECM-focused companies, they dedicate all of their resources toward just ECM or capture solutions. Copier dealers have a significant advantage with financial backing, market share and a significant customer base. However, they often don’t have the expertise a VAR might have as their team is only dedicated to that one particular ECM solution.

Trevarthen: In general, and there are always exceptions, the copier dealers are typically placing our units under contract and therefore generating revenue not only from price per printed page, but also from price per scan charges from their devices. IT VARs that are not focused on document management, who historically have simply sold products, are increasingly looking for ways to participate in the ongoing revenue streams MFPs provide.

As it relates to standalone scanners, IT VARs that are focused on document management have been selling scanners as the input to their document management software and consulting services. Copier dealers are beginning to explore how they might extend their businesses into the document management market, but typically use higher-end MFPs as the capture source.

What innovations are you seeing related to channel convergence?

O’Neill: We see some copier dealers acquiring VARs to expand their sales footprint in their current customers through information/workflow management solutions with document capture. And there are some dealers beginning to use innovative pricing, such as all-inclusive seat-based pricing that includes print management, document capture, information/workflow management and IT services.

Trevarthen: The primary innovation we are seeing is an increasing use of scanning as an ongoing revenue stream, similar to the price per page model used in printing. Scanning has become nearly equally important as an MFP function (to print), and resellers are finding innovative ways to monetize scanning.

What market forces have led you to sell capture solutions?

Coriddi: Capture enables dealers to become involved in the entire document lifecycle process, moving beyond the print/copy component. So we’re looking to add value for our customers in a way that’s tied directly to those “bread-and-butter” capture offerings many customers already associate with us. We know we need to be able to provide more resources and more holistic solutions. If our distribution channels are just selling boxes, they’re entering into a largely price-based war of attrition with their competitors. Ultimately, that doesn’t go very far in building customer relationships, and at the end of the day, it doesn’t help the customer as much as our dealers’ experts can. Selling capture solutions is part of that more comprehensive approach.

Lance Elicker: The broad range of entry points for capture. With mobility becoming a huge factor, the need to gather and capture information in a mobile environment has driven companies to look at a capture plan. Waiting for someone to get back into the office, or sending e-mail/postal mail back to the office for a data entry person to enter something into a system or kick off a workflow is not efficient. Being able to capture information/images/signatures to initiate workflows for billing or other approval processes has become a huge force in the conversation of capture.

Hayes: Although paper is in a slow decline, analysts and industry experts project that the overall capture needs will continue to grow, perhaps even achieving double-digit growth rates. The growth factors include a strong increase in electronic documents running through capture systems, the requirement to improve processing time (time to market) and the traditional benefits in providing a strong ROI with increasingly accurate automation capabilities. Our EMC Captiva investments focus on capturing incoming documents including paper, fax, email, PDF or any standardized electronic format, and automating many of the manual processing steps associated with classifying and extracting data from those documents.

Is there any specific vertical that you find has been uniquely successful with document capture solutions?

Coriddi: In every vertical, there are good reasons to be able to more accurately capture, transform and manage information. Still, each vertical’s needs are different. That’s where the vertical-specific expertise comes in. Anyone looking at industry trends can say, “Oh, document capture is important. We should offer that.” But it takes real knowledge to know why each customer needs document capture, and how that “why” impacts their workflow – and ultimately, which solution is best for the job. So, to directly answer your question, no, I wouldn’t say any specific vertical has “more” document capture needs, but pretty much all of them have many.

Hayes: Although our solutions provide value to any organization facing the need to digitize documents and automate capture processes, the strongest areas of growth for Captiva remains the financial services and government markets. Both vertical markets still process a great deal of paper and unstructured data, and they are being forced to do so at a lower cost. These underlying requirements can only be achieved through automating manual processes. We continue to invest in and drive capture automation technologies, which, in turn, provide organizations a clear path toward achieving successful digital transformation.

Orcutt: We have seen a tremendous amount of success with VARs selling invoice processing to help automate and accelerate the accounts payable process. Considering that every customer who they target with hardware (if they are hardware focused) or any customer they target for software will have the need to pay invoices. This horizontal approach to the market is very appealing because the VAR does not need to bring specific industry expertise or knowledge like they would for healthcare, insurance, financial services, or government. With a successful lead for invoice processing, VARs then expand the solution to process accounts receivable, human resources, customer onboarding, new account opening, or any other document type on the same platform leveraged for invoice processing. This is a great example of how a platform play can be positioned by the VAR by starting with a straightforward invoice processing solution.

Palacios: Virtually every vertical industry has a need for document capture. In our case, we have several industries and verticals where we have successfully implemented document capture solutions that have been integrated with different enterprise content management and line of business solutions. Some of these verticals include finance, insurance, education legal, property management, real estate, manufacturing, health care and government. These verticals often have legacy processes that are heavily dependent on paper. These processes and systems rarely take advantage of current document capture technologies and techniques. As advance capture and data analytics has become highly accurate, KMBS has assisted clients with technical process improvement to supporting financial modeling needed by our clients to better manage their businesses.

Trevarthen: The most common segment is actually a horizontal market, A/P processing. Accounts payable processing is applicable to all but the smallest of companies, and it is quite easy to identify the improvements in productivity offered by a solid automated capture and processing suite. As for true vertical markets, healthcare, financial, education and government are all key verticals as they seek to ensure compliance with the regulations that apply to each of their industries.

What are some of the biggest pain points related to document capture?

Coriddi: In a word: compatibility. Any time you’re trying to grab information from one form to another, making sure that document, and all of the information that goes with it, is right for where it’s being stored and how it will be read is extremely important. Because, with today’s technology, there are so many options for how you store and access documents, that the compatibility question is a lot bigger than it has been in the past. That’s why Ricoh is taking a very open-architecture approach. We have a publicly available developer kit, which welcomes innovation and collaboration to help make sure our capabilities evolve as fast as customers’ needs do.

Elicker: In our ever-evolving world of content management, we receive, create and have legacy data in so many different formats. Hard copy, digital, data only, and so many other kinds of content that we have to deal with in businesses. The pain that I find the most common is that capture is different for all of these different mediums. There isn’t a strategy to deal with everything so that ultimately we have the appropriate content and data in the correct locations.

Hayes: One of the biggest pain points is the setup and migration of capture solutions over time. At the first point of implementation, organizations can become overwhelmed by the complexity of some capture systems. Although capture solutions continue to evolve in terms of moving from scripting and coding to the use of standard configuration tools, best practice implementations that utilize partners and services typically achieve maximum success. Whether implementing capture for the first time, migrating a legacy capture application, or working through a migration, we recognize that the most successful implementations have a strong partner and utilize solutions that accelerate time to market for immediate ROI.

O’Neill: The first question a customer normally asks about document capture is, “Now that I’ve scanned this document, what can I do with it?” Understanding how to move easily from just scan and email or scan and file is one of the biggest pain points and biggest opportunities for businesses. Removing complexity in processing the document image and then inserting it, with the right information indexed, into a workflow is critical. With the proper consulting and a view of the holistic approach, Canon helps the customer move past the basics of document capture to a real solution that will improve their business.

Orcutt: Accuracy still seems to be the most important issue for a capture solution. ROI and project justifications are built around models that show the capture system reducing labor, accelerating time to revenue, or cutting costs, so when the results of the solution in production do not meet the customers’ expectations from their models there are challenges. Luckily, modern capture platforms are taking advantage of text and text analytics to improve recognition outcomes and understand the relationship of data in documents to make more accurate decisions. This means that entities and relationships locked in oil and gas leases are now understood and made visible by the capture system so proper action can take place, or data locked within contracts is now available to workflow and process engines to better manage or understand terms, risk, and entities. Accuracy is always important, but having a platform that gives you all the tools to succeed makes the solution easier to sell, support and expand.

Palacios: In healthcare, paper remains a challenge. There is a significant divergence in formats given our multi-payer system; paper has not declined even with the emergence of EHR; reimbursement requires proper documentation; and workflows vary across acuities of care, specialty, location and by the EHR being utilized (among many other factors). This makes document capture a bit of a moving target – is point-of care versus central scanning more appropriate? Does the entire patient medical record (including all histories and correspondence) require being digitized? How do we ensure documents are stored in the appropriate patient’s record, and in a location within the record that is easily and quickly accessible by clinicians? These are just a small fraction of the considerations that must be taken when devising an effective document capture workflow for a healthcare organization.

In legal, once information is captured in a legal case and then the documents are routed to the DMS, the biggest concern is whether all the information was captured. This is a concern because when attorneys go to review the documents they need to feel confident that they will be able to find documents that will help them win their case.

Mobile internet coverage for remote locations or slow wired network speeds are more prevalent than desired. Document transmissions require higher speeds to assure end user satisfaction.

Trevarthen: The biggest by far is the number of errors introduced by manual data entry. This can be completely solved by a good capture suite with easy to navigate verification and indexing screens. A scanner that has sufficient image quality for accurate OCR, even with difficult documents, is key to the final accuracy.

Retrieval of processed information is next, with robust keyword searches showing the links to all related documents. The scanner that is selected must be compatible with the capture software, with the right industry standard drivers, to support these.

This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of The Imaging Channel.