Wednesday, November 17, 2010

20 Years later...No Brainer Opportunity

Our industry for over 20 years now - even to this date, continues to over complicate (needlessly) the ECM buying process for the business consumer.  There is a plethora of choices, compounded by the fact beyond the usual providers in the market, there is a huge indirect channel of solution providers in the marketplace.  You also have the Regional, National, and Multi-National Systems Integrators who are looking for their piece of the ECM pie.  Adding to the already complicated buying process, you have the MFP vendors and their respective channel partners all who make various claims as to their offerings and value add in the overall ECM marketplace. 

Let's zero in on the Document Capture component of the market for a moment. Question: after 20 years in the industry, has any software vendor made the buying process or implementation process any simpler?  It is nearing the end of 2010 and you still take software out of a box - granted on a DVD now - pop the DVD into your DVD drive and run a Setup.exe.  Or, perhaps you go to a secure FTP site and download, then run a Setup.exe.  Well, you don't run the Setup.exe, you have your authorized business partner providing the solution do that for you, or have the software vendor fly their Professional Services team out to run a Setup.exe.  Yep, that is what 20 years worth of software engineering efforts in the Document Capture market has brought to you the Business Consumer. Innovation? Aren't you ready for an experience that is radically different, more importantly an alternative that saves time, money and is more efficient for everyone involved?  

You the Business Consumer  - the ones with the business problems you are trying to solve with limited dollars and resources - shouldn't be plagued with chasing down your IT staff to spec out servers, operating systems, databases, etc.  Only to then move on to having your purchasing departments bid out server hardware to save a few pennies on the dollar.  Maybe, after all this passage of time, 90 days later - after you cut all your PO's, equipment and software begin to finally roll in. Schedules of your IT staff become available, your integrator or PS team from the software vendor begin to arrive, and your installation & configuration begins.

Meanwhile, you spent all that cash for products -software and hardware - but you have nothing to show for it other than pieces and parts that need to be assembled by those "in the know."  Your business process is still lacking the efficiencies, lacking the organizational compliance mandates, and your department is bleeding cash. You basically bought a very expensive "erector set" and patiently will need to continue to wait until your expensive erector set is finally all assembled, tested and put into production.

And, from a Channel perspective, the value add of our Channel Partners should not be bogged down in software installation processes and hardware provisioning.  Our Channel Partners should be focused on delivering cost effective Document Capture solutions that solve problems and offer the lowest cost of ownership in the industry.  Their focus should be on the customer's business challenges and they should be focused on problem solving.        

So, it got us all here at CAPSYS thinking. Can we significantly simplify the buying and implementation experience for both our Channel Partners and our Business Consumers when it comes to On-Premise based Document Capture solutions?  We have already successfully tackled the option of Software as a Service - CAPSYS CAPTURE ONLINE...but what about simplifying the On-Premise option?

Going back to the tail end of 2009, we had on the drawing board the concept of developing a Single and Multi-user document capture network appliance.  A solution that we could  pre-install and largely pre-configure for our Channel Partners and the Business Consumer -90% complete if you will.  That means the operating systems, SQL, CAPSYS software application, transactional content management workflow, etc. are all pre-installed, provisioned, pre-tuned - "matched" if you will - to server hardware that will meet the performance demands placed upon it.  All the same features and functionality that you would get with a traditional on-premise solution, but designed in such a way that we remove all the headaches previously described for both our Channel Partners and the Business Consumer.  The end goal: design a solution that could be made available in a "small form factor, superbly packed with features, functionality, and simplicity."   

On 9/27, my InformationWeek arrived in the US mail.  Low and behold, the headline on the front page of the magazine was, "Rise of the Appliance."  In that article they cited how all the major IT suppliers - interestingly enough - OUTSIDE of the ECM industry - are quickly rushing to bring out an "appliance based solution." Companies like: HP, IBM, SAP, Microsoft, Teradata, get the point.  Full article available here.

We temporarily shelved the idea because of other pressing development priorities and mixed responses from our channel partners whether or not the concept of a "network appliance" would make logical and practical sense in the marketplace.  In hind site, perhaps we should have released of CAPSYS AXIOM earlier in the year.  Hey, like any other company, we were faced with limited resources and only so many hours in the day, so you have to face "reality" when it strikes you square between the eyes.

So, while my industry has failed for the last 20 years to simplify the Document Capture buying experience and implementation process, at least we did our small part and have stepped up to the plate to address an obvious, major void in the market.  I am CERTAIN others will follow shortly.  Word on the street is a major publicly traded company in the industry is soon to announce their appliance based solution...shhh, don't tell anybody though ;-)

One caveat to my generalizations about our industry....FileBound from MarexGroup has significantly simplified the ECM experience with FileBound Express.  Hats off to their innovation, creativity and recognizing the weaknesses in our industry.  As for the rest of ECM software publishers, take your lumps and listen up.

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