Magazine Article | May 1, 2000

Imaging + Storage = Profits

Imaging VAR image one increased margins by entering the forms processing market, providing workflow, and configuring storage to support its installations.

Business Solutions, May 2000

Shrink-Wrapped. That's what the imaging industry is becoming, according to Mark Wright, VP and managing partner at image one Corp. (Tampa, FL). "You can buy shrink-wrapped imaging software bundled with your scanner. This trend will continue," he said. "Look at the copier industry. Fax machines and copiers used to be big-ticket items, and you had consultants selling them.

Then, one day, you saw the machines at Office Depot."

Add Value With Forms Processing And Workflow
Wright knew his company could add value with services like forms processing and workflow. Those two technologies can't be shrink-wrapped. "That's how you add value, by picking peripheral services that make sense," he advised. "Just providing imaging might offer a 15% to 20% profit. But combining conversion, forms processing, and data capture will fuel growth," observed Wright. It seems to be working for image one. The $4 million, 40-employee company is currently experiencing a 40% growth rate. "Forms processing technology is huge," Wright continued. "It's been growing incredibly quickly with Web and workflow."

Wright contends there are two aspects of using forms processing in conjunction with imaging. "One is for data capture," he noted. "The purpose is to automate a large amount of data that's currently manually keyed. The second use for forms processing is automatic indexing. This is where we don't need to capture a big volume of data, but seek to automate the process of indexing the captured images."

People can buy scanners and do imaging themselves. "Forms processing, by definition, requires professional services and form design," said Wright. "Data entry is a manual process. By replacing a manual process with an automated process, return on investment comes quickly. To make it happen, you need knowledge. And you can charge for knowledge."

image one committed its efforts to forms processing a year ago. "Prior to that, we had played around with it as a sidebar and didn't give it the attention it deserved," admitted Wright. "So, forms processing wasn't doing what we thought it would for us. Since we've made the commitment to forms processing, it's paying off. We hired qualified staff, committed marketing dollars, and made a full court press."

VARs Need Competent Vendors
image one did not have much success with its first forms processing vendor. The vendor was not able to give image one the support it needed. "Our first deal dragged on for over six months while technical issues were researched," said Wright. "We finally reached a point (after investing $5,000 in training and demonstration software) when we had to scrap the original vendor."

Vendor support and a "team mentality" between the VAR and the vendor are important. Without it, delving into a new technology can be a difficult learning process for the VAR. "We didn't research our forms processing vendor very well. There's a community made up of resellers out there. You need to research other VARs working with the product and doing installations. Our strategy is to find a core vendor that we can commit to 100%. We've done this with Microsystems."

"Good vendors are looking for good partnerships," noted Wright. "We've done some cooperative marketing campaigns with Microsystems. It has done mailers for our company. Microsystems also developed brochures for us and put our logo on them. We've gotten a lot of response and several OCR for Forms orders as a result."

Using OCR for Forms To Screen Blood Donors
Wright gave an example of how forms processing improved operations at a blood bank. "We used OCR for Forms to read the donor registration form. Blood banks need to be alerted to potential risks, such as pregnancy, medications, or disease. The donors have to be manually screened to determine if the blood is suitable. With forms processing, we've developed a way to assist in the verification process. The software checks the donor's answers and flags those that might pose a problem. A verifier can then manually examine the registration form. The software then archives the donor registration form for later reference."

Workflow Adds Value, Too
Workflow is another interrelated technology that will allow image one to add value to its solutions. "Workflow requires professional services to install and train," said Wright. "It also requires consulting on the business process. This does not happen without an investment in resources and training. We have almost completed the necessary training programs. We will install a 10-user workflow system in our internal accounting department to sharpen our skills and improve our processes. We will then focus on accounting applications modeled after our internal system."

One of those applications will be provided to a human resources department in a county sheriff's office. It will be a development client for workflow in a human resources setting. "These installations will be considered advanced training, so when we begin to sell our services, we have the developed skill set that the customer expects," said Wright. "We will invest $40,000 to get ready to do the right job with workflow. This consists of the formal training, the server and implementation in our accounting department, and the no-charge development with the sheriff. We will be able to add value to new systems, and the potential exists to add workflow to our existing installed base."

When the micrographics market started to flatten, image one added imaging. When imaging became something everyone could do, it added forms processing. You can see where it's going with workflow and even storage. Mark Wright is not afraid to offer his customers the technology they need to do their business. image one is offering NAS (network attached storage) and is one of the brave companies to delve into the SAN (storage area network) solution market.

Questions about this article? E-mail the author at