Enhancing Workflow With Document Management Solutions

by Scott Cullen

When it comes to helping customers enhance their workflow, what better place for an office technology dealer to start than with a document management solution?

Workflow and document management are practically synonymous, and office technology and imaging solutions dealers who are adding workflow solutions have an array of choices with which to move customers from cumbersome manual processes to more efficient electronic processes. Even customers who have implemented some sort of digital process into their workflow have found there’s sometimes a better way.

To get a better idea of what the customers of office technology dealers are looking to achieve with a workflow solution, let’s take a look at three dealerships experienced in selling, implementing and servicing document management-based workflow solutions. 

COMDOS succeeds with Square9

Commonwealth Digital Office Solutions (COMDOS) in Sterling, Va., has been selling Square9’s SmartSearch and SmartCapture going on three years now. It’s the ideal product for its customer base, which includes various associations based in the D.C. area that are looking for ways to improve their workflows and routing.

“It’s very flexible, user-friendly and doesn’t require an engineering degree to set these workflows up,” said Robert Feinstein, senior solutions manager for COMDOS. “It’s really easy on the customer side, so they can set up their own workflow. We usually start it, and they can often add on to it themselves.”

One of COMDOS’ customers was looking for a way to improve how invoices were routed through the organization. The invoices originated in the accounting department, which sent them off to each department head for approval. Often, those approvals took as long as 30 days to obtain.

After sitting down with the customer and getting a clear understanding of how the company was currently handling this workflow, COMDOS recommended Square9. “We were able to automate that process, and now they get those invoices back much faster, and they no longer have to pay late fees,” Feinstein said. “It quickly paid for itself.”

While ROI varies from customer to customer depending on what’s being automated, Feinstein claims that some organizations see an ROI in as fast as 90 days, while others may have to wait 18 months. “It depends on the volume and what we’re trying to solve for the customer,” he said. 

COMDOS sells a few other document management programs, all of which do different things. What he likes best about Square9 and its SmartCapture scanning solution, which Feinstein calls “front-end capturing,” is that it includes many features out of the box, such as OCR, barcode recognition, zonal OCR, capture workflow and other advanced capture capabilities, whereas competing products are more open and require third-party products to provide the same features.

“If (customers) don’t have any third-party products such as NSi AutoStore, Hyland OCR for AnyDoc, or PSIGEN Capture, Square9 is perfect because it gives them everything they need,” Feinstein said. “But if they’re already using a third-party product, the other product fits in really well because it can tie into that solution.”

Another customer — a large association — was having problems with its American Express bill. “It was over 50 pages. They line-item everything out, and it goes to all the different department heads and speakers that they use,” Feinstein said. “Now, with the ability to pull the invoice in, they can send it out to each of those departments and automatically index within Square9. What used to take them months … (for) one bill is now taking less than a week.”

This type of workflow implementation is common. Most start with one process or one department and then grow into other departments. An implementation might begin in the accounting department and, over time, branch out into other departments such as HR or marketing.  

Not surprisingly, Feinstein finds the knowledge of most customers regarding workflow solutions is modest at best. “You kind of have to teach people,” he said. “They understand that there’s software to do that, but they don’t know where to look or what it is.”

Impact Networking shines with DocuWare

Impact Networking in Waukegan, Ill., has been a DocuWare dealer since 2005. That solution has been an excellent fit for Impact’s core customers. “It’s best of breed within that midsize document management space as far as functionality,” said Frank DeGeorge, general manager of Impact’s Strategic Services Group. “It fits in small and midsize companies, which is what we target.”

The dealership prefers to stay vertical-independent with everything it sells because, as DeGeorge pointed out, Impact serves every vertical. Pinned down, however, he acknowledged that Impact has had success in everything from distribution to various types of financial companies with the DocuWare solution.

In the past, Impact’s customers hadn’t considered document management as a way to improve their workflow. “They’ve invested significantly in other types of systems, such as ERP, accounting (and) warehouse management, but the way they’ve moved the paper has pretty much stayed the same,” DeGeorge said.

However, it’s not unusual now for end users to be more aware that their business would be more efficient if their workflow processes were automated. A document management solution such as DocuWare is a good jumping-off point for automating that workflow. Plus, it’s a natural evolution for some organizations that have automated workflows in other segments of the business.

Impact Networking starts a workflow conversation by helping customers understand that most business processes, even in cases where all data is electronic, are still triggered by hard-copy documents. “We walk them through that conversation and try to understand what kind of challenges they have,” DeGeorge said.

One challenge, according to DeGeorge, is getting customers to accept that a change is in order, which isn’t always easy, because they’ve been handling workflows manually for so long. Impact’s approach is to explain what it’s done for other companies and how it’s affected those companies’ bottom lines. “Rarely do we go into a company and say we want to automate the process and do it using workflow,” he said.

Another challenge of implementing a workflow solution is getting customers to understand that they can realize a significant improvement in their business processes from doing so. Impact backs that statement up with statistics from Gartner Dataquest, for example, while noting that the average person spends 20 percent of his or her time looking for information or documents. “We like to hone in on their specific challenges, but it’s mostly about educating them on what the return can be and making them feel comfortable that we can pull it off,” DeGeorge said.

DeGeorge has found two types of workflow within an organization, even though Impact only focuses on one from a document management perspective. The first is business process workflow, which is handled by enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.

“We focus on the documents that drive your typical business process,” DeGeorge said. “(That) depend(s) on the type of company. If it’s a distributor, … you’re talking about that customer and owner process, customer service, where the documents come from, how it gets matched up, and the way that process is automated.”

Impact prefers to focus on quick returns when selling a document management workflow application, which means it prefers to control the scope to fit the return while not overproposing a solution. A quick return for a purchase is between 12 and 18 months, while a lease yields an immediate return. 

Documation prospers with MaxxVault

Documation, an office technology dealership in Eau Claire, Wis., offers clients an array of workflow solutions, including MaxxVault’s Enterprise Edition, which it’s been selling for nearly six years now.

In the business world, workflow within Documation’s customer locations is affected by other platforms and solutions such as PaperCut, Planet Press and NSi AutoStore, and it’s important for those solutions and a document management workflow solution such as MaxxVault Enterprise to play nice together. This compatibility is critical to both Documation and its customers, who ultimately see one solution where there is, in fact, a myriad of products working together.

The target market for MaxxVault Enterprise, at least when Documation is selling it, is midsize businesses and certain verticals such as insurance, car dealerships and technology firms. In an economy where budget cuts are common and businesses are trying to handle the same workload with a smaller workforce, it’s essential to eliminate inefficiencies, and customers ask Documation about ways to improve their workflow almost every day. Documation helps them with this by demonstrating how workflow software can automate processes customers may not have even thought of.

For all of these reasons, workflow solutions offer a lucrative option for office technology dealers. As long as there are manual and inefficient digital workflow processes, there are going to be opportunities for improvement, and that’s a job that’s well handled by a host of document management solutions.

This article originally appeared in the January 2014 issue of The Imaging Channel.

About the Author

Scott Cullen is the editor of The Week in Imaging (www.theweekinimaging.com), a weekly online publication, and a frequent contributor to office technology and imaging industry publications, including The Imaging Channel. He has been covering the office technology and office products industries since 1986. When not writing and editing, Scott can usually be found at a concert or sporting event somewhere between Philadelphia and New York City.