Weighing Tech Benefits

Heavy Features
Bigger might just mean more expensive

There are reasons I enjoy my work in a technology related field.  One of the most fun is the whole idea of better, faster, cheaper that I get to see new examples of every day.  If you think back a bit, in 1980 if you bought a VCR it was about $500 (in 1980 dollars), the size of a refrigerator, had no remote, no auto-tracking, no stereo audio output and broke if you rewound tapes too much.  Just before they stopped selling VCRs a couple years ago, you could go into a Walmart and buy one with a remote, produced a clear picture automatically, stereo output, was only maybe 4 times larger than the tapes themselves and cost $39 in 2006 dollars!  It was better in every imaginable way and way cheaper to boot.

To me, this is how I have come to expect technology to behave.  I have been working in document imaging for roughly the last 15 years.  Document scanners followed the predictable pattern.  15 years ago a bi-tonal scanner that jammed all the time and made marginally clear images was roughly $30,000.  Now you can buy a great full color scanner that has a super reliable paper feeder that can handle roughly 100 pages per minute for $5,000.

One would think that the rest of the imaging industry followed suit.  While there are some examples of this, for the most part the price of a document management system remains high without offering a comparable additional hard dollar payback over systems that were running 15 years ago.  Let me simplify the conversation; many companies have fairly unsophisticated needs when it comes to document management:

  • Put a variety of documents in to the system (scanned images, faxes, PDFs, word docs etc.)
  • Assign indexes to the documents (Document type, date, reference number, etc.)
  • Be able to easily find them and use them when you need them
  • Keep things secure
  • Make sure the archive is backed up so a hardware failure doesn’t cripple your organization

When it comes to most organization’s needs, being able to store their purchase orders and invoices (or HR documents or insurance claims or whatever it is the company does) so that they can easily access them when needed offers a lot of payback.  The funny thing is that prices seem to get higher every year instead of getting lower.  Sure the list of features keeps expanding, but many of these features don’t offer as much of a hard dollar payback as the basic capabilities of a document imaging system.

While I have not met a lot of happy Filenet customers over the years, there are lots of very happy customers out there with offerings like Application Xtender from EMC (the former OTG) or even Alchemy et all.  The thing is, should the paperless office require a $50,000 – $100,000 investment to start?  Sure the basic license costs less, but once you factor in training, install, maintenance, hardware, not to mention your own staff to run it, those estimates are a joke.

With this in mind, it was great to run across Fileworks Online.  The system evolved from the technology they sold for years to large insurance customers and as such is stable and full of the features one would expect to find in a modern document management system.  The thing that made it stand out to me is the faster, better, cheaper offer they put together.  Essentially instead of investing in national sales forces and trade show booths, Fileworks seems to have put together a great product that can be used by anyone with a web browser without major investments in hardware and training.  The best part is that it starts at about $30.00 per month per user with no capital investment.  They host the software and all your documents in a secure archive, keep the system running 24/7, and keep your files backed up so that you don’t have to worry about some crash will eat all your records.

(Ok, I just re-read that section. . . sounds like a campy infomercial.  Either way, I like the stuff and don’t think I should beat around the bush and pretend I don’t)

I also like how it is sold.  Rather than sitting through powerpoints on what the software will be like, Fileworks seems to figure that their best sales person is the product itself.  They encourage the potential customer to download it and give it a shot.  Most others in this space seem to think their environment would be too complicated to do this sort of thing on your own.  They are probably right.

Anyone else have any examples in imaging that follow this trend?  Drop them in the comments so I can check them out.

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