Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The IT MOAB Effect

Internal IT - Your Friend or Foe?

It is rather amazing to see how unnecessarily bloated IT spending has become over the years in Corporate America.  We see it time and time again how the internal IT departments in large corporations block and tackle their own customers.  They are supposed to bring reasonably priced solutions and work in cooperation with their end users to solve their business problems.  Reasonably priced and work in cooperation are indeed the operative words here.
Case in point, we just recently had a discussion with a customer who is getting handed a "ginormous" (h/t Elf, after all it is Christmas season) per server Christmas present from their IT department to support an internal ECM application.  To complicate matters, this particular customer outsources their IT infrastructure and day to day management to a third party under the direction of corporate IT leadership.  They need three servers to run their existing legacy ECM application - which by the way has been deemed end of life by the manufacturer.  The existing hardware infrastructure is outdated and can't adequately support the latest version of the application software.

The Oracle database is also outdated and IT has mandated an upgrade to Oracle DB Version 11. Microsoft is terminating Windows 2003 Server support on July 14, 2015 in which the current application is installed upon.  All this information is news to the business end user who was not prepared nor made aware all of these unfortunate events.  Further, they were not being proactively addressed by IT - the application was neglected.  But wait.... that is not the end of their bad news.  $300,000.00 is the price tag that IT is proposing to charge the internal business user to support and standup three new virtual servers that are required. On top of that, the end user needs to spend consulting service dollars - around $35,000.00 for the ECM vendor to perform the application upgrade to the current release.  So the total project cost for an application upgrade is north of $335,000.00, not including annual software maintenance.  This is why I call it the IT MOAB effect - utter shock and awe news delivered to the end user courtesy of their IT Department.  No advanced warning, no planning, just the deliverer of very bad news. 

What is the end user going to do in light of their holiday gift?  Sit and spin - they didn't see that price tag coming.  Simply amazing! Sound familiar?  From our standpoint, its a broken record, we see Corporate IT behave like this time and time again.

Plan B - Cloud to the Rescue
This client can consider taking a Blue Sky approach - which can equally serve small, mid-sized and enterprise organizations - and in this particular case can serve as an effective alternative to internal IT.  Plan B can quickly and cost effectively solve this end user's dilemma - essentially firing internal IT.  The Cloud represents an immediate opportunity for this end user to gain a significant competitive advantage by getting the solution they need now rather than continue to wait for IT to do its job which in this case, they clearly didn't.

Cloud solutions can be rolled out in days or weeks rather than quarters or years.  With the Cloud (unfair) advantage, this end user no longer has to deal with ongoing internal IT struggles such as hardware, software, maintenance, bureaucracy or bloated charge backs for the organization's internal IT department's fast/friendly service.

The Math doesn't Lie - Lower your Costs
Let’s revisit some of the other harsh realities of an on‐premise solution model: You are still left with having to put in place the necessary infrastructure to operate the ECM application — people, processes, support systems, and of course, vendor software and equipment. Those are some of the hidden costs behind why IT is hitting the end user with such a hefty price tag. After that initial capital contribution, it’s also your job to budget each and every year thereafter for your ongoing support maintenance contracts, software upgrades, hardware/servers/OS refreshes, patching, hot‐fixes, etc.

In the Cloud model, you typically are not required to procure any hardware or software; you may or may not be required to sign a multi‐year agreement (multi-year agreements are a means of negotiating lower pricing in exchange for a commitment), pay a nominal setup charge, agree to a monthly recurring fee and away you go. And, you the end user are now out of the business of dealing with internal IT struggles around upgrades (hardware and software), patches, hot‐fixes and internal IT support nightmares and exorbitant charge backs. Remember, all that non–money making series of necessary events and tasks to maintain an on‐premise solution must be accounted for and performed by someone one way or another.

In the Cloud, the provider who is the resident expert provides that service for you directly.  Your IT department are generalists and value added is likely spent elsewhere within the organization.  ECM is not a generalist application, it requires experts who are proficient in the industry. The Cloud provider has a built in "carrot and stick" to make you a satisfied customer unlike internal IT - you are probably considered a cog in a very large wheel. 

Am I being tough on IT departments in Corporate America here? You bet, but it is well deserved and after 20+ years in the industry seeing this scenario play out over and over, I think it is time the Business End Users are provided with viable and affordable alternatives that work - ECM in the Cloud. 



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What's the big deal with PaperStream IP from Fujitsu?

Recently our team had the opportunity to review and test drive the new Fujitsu 7160, PaperStreamIP (PSIP) with CAPSYS CAPTURE.  Having worked with so many different scanner manufacturers over the years they all begin to look the same and at times its difficult to determine meaningful or memorable differences from one brand to the next.  Every once in awhile, some new feature surprises you, but its not all that often.  At the end of the day, you the consumer are just looking for reasonably priced piece of equipment that will reliably scan documents as fast and accurately as possible with minimal paper handling problems.  As we know, one brand to the next all claim to "do x better than their competitor."  On top of that, you have optional third party image quality enhancement products that sit between the application and the scanner to
Fujitsu 7160
further improve the image quality than what already the scanner manufacturer claims to be superior to all the other brands. It can all get rather technically complicated, watered down and lost in the advertising and marketing communications.  Layers upon layers of software like drivers, image enhancement technologies and applications become a daunting task for IT to manage and support and the end users get inundated with different user interfaces and settings that can leave you in a state of confusion.  We have even seen instances where some of the image enhancement technology requires both ISIS and TWAIN be loaded concurrently confusing matters even further.   Weird anomalies arise such as "set this option in the driver configuration, but configure this option in image processing UI, but set this setting in the application layer."  You set an option in one area, only for it to have unintended consequences elsewhere.  Then a firmware upgrade comes out from the hardware manufacturer to resolve some problem that ends up breaking something in the image enhancement/image processing third party's offering rendering all three components - scanner, image enhancement, application software relatively inoperable at that point.  Sound all too familiar?

PaperStream IP, What is it?
So now Fujitsu comes along with PaperStream IP and you are probably thinking, "here we go again, been there done that."  In all candor, we kind of thought the same thing.   However, we were pleasantly surprised.  First, it would be helpful to understand what PaperStream IP actually does and what it contains.  On the surface you can't tell much of a difference between PaperStream IP and other manufacturer's image processing/enhancement competing offerings.   However, dig a bit deeper and Fujitsu begins to really stand out and substantially differentiates itself in the marketplace.  PaperStream IP can be described as advanced image enhancement (or image processing) recognition technologies, a hardware interface driver of your choosing - TWAIN or ISIS -combined with an intuitive, easy to use user interface.  The image enhancement capabilities include specialized features like auto orientation, punch hole removal, image cleanup despeckle and deskew, edge repair, blur correction for smooth dot matrix print all in an effort to produce better OCR, Barcode, Patchcode and Document Separation and improved image quality results in data and document capture applications.

Prior to PaperStream IP, the challenge to ECM resellers and consumers of ECM was they had to deal with selling/buying/supporting/maintaining three separate license-able software/hardware products in the past to provide the best possible image capture solution which could be summarized as follows:
  1. Scanner with TWAIN or ISIS driver support;
  2. Hardware or Software based Image Enhancement and Image Processing Technologies from a third party;
  3. Data and Document Capture Application software.
With PaperStream IP, items 1 & 2 are combined into a single offering; as well now being supported and enhanced from a single manufacturer, in this case Fujitsu. Ongoing maintenance costs should be lower (one less software package to be under software assurance) and IT / end user headaches should be reduced. ISV's (Independent Software Vendors) will also stand to benefit from the tightly integrated components.   Item two now becomes a non-issue for the Reseller and the Customer.    

Installation Process is a Snap!
It took about 10 minutes to complete the install and have the scanner functional with CAPSYS.  Fujitsu's install process for us consisted of selecting the PaperStream IP with the TWAIN driver and clicking the SETUP button. We ignored everything else.  Before you rush to drop that CD/DVD in the drive and hit install, STOP.  Go get the latest kit from their website, which is a 120MB download.  What you have on your CD/DVD most likely is already outdated.  It was for us and you will save yourself a lot of time and frustration if you get the newest builds from their online portal.  There were minor bugs we ran into with the early releases that Fujitsu has since fixed.

fi-7160 Compact Design
They too, like other scanner manufacturers throw in a bunch of other software items that they think are beneficial but you will probably largely never utilize if you use a commercially available data and document capture software application.  All the other items contained on the CD/DVD while nice for a consumer who doesn't have a product like CAPSYS CAPTURE or some other full featured data and document capture software takes up unnecessary space and you will probably never use it, so we didn't bother installing it and suspect you will arrive at same conclusion.

Post installation and User Experience
TWAIN UI Simple, Sleek Design
Image quality, speed and setup process are all simply outstanding engineering efforts.  Best we have seen in the ECM industry, ever! The user interface is just downright impressive.  You are not overwhelmed or intimated by the TWAIN setup UI or the Advanced Imaging Enhancement Controls. They even have options pre-configured that you can choose from a menu and Viola! You are GTG.  You see what you need to see and the rest is hidden but easily accessible by a drop down navigation button. Enough said. 

Wait, what about the 7160?
PaperStream IP Advanced Settings
Hey, its a nice scanner, no doubt about it.  Paper handling, speed, durability, packaging, form factor, USB, etc. all that is great.  No surprises here, Fujitsu has always done a very good job with the quality of their scanners.  80 page ADF, 60 pages per minute, color/grayscale/black and white, hard card scanning, can't really find any negatives about it...but in all candor, the real story here is their PaperStream IP and what a significant difference it really makes for end users, IT, VARS and Resellers.  And, the best part about it...doesn't cost you the consumer a penny more to reap the benefits from it.  No more hardware or software based third party image enhancement licenses to purchase, maintain or support!  There is a catch need to have a Fujitsu scanner to get less hassles and all this added functionality. 

Yeah, we love it, but let me know your thoughts!