Selling Imaging Systems - The Paperless Chase

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Trees sigh in relief as pros begin selling document management systems.

by Carly Lombardo

Imagine this too-frequent problem: A company has paper coming in at different times, and too much time is spent matching received documents to invoices and ultimately to purchase orders. This results in delays in the check-cutting process, not to mention bills that aren’t paid on time.

Partner Insights

The solution to this situation-a document management system. Nothing new about that, right? However, there’s a twist-the local accounting VAR or CPA firm may be the one selling and installing the system.

Accounting professionals such as IDT Consulting, the Videre Group, Habif, Arogeti & Wynne, and Net@Work are doing just that-offering their clients document management systems geared toward their businesses. Furthermore, vendors such as Immediatech and LaserFiche are also getting the word out by providing formal reseller programs to enlist both traditional VARs and accounting firms.

New York-based accounting VAR Net@Work has jumped into the document management game by launching a sister company, Docutrend Imaging Systems. Net@Work, which specializes in accounting and business management solutions, partners with the likes of Microsoft, Accpac, Best Software, and Citrix. “Our clients were asking for document technology. We feel it fits with accounting software, and eventually it will just be another module,” says Edward Solomon, one of the co-founders of the reselling firm.

Despite that optimism, there is no evidence that any major vendors are ready to jump in. Most are waiting on the success of operations such as Docutrend.

“At this time, we are doing all the integration. Accpac has not yet added this module and, like other vendors, is waiting for proof of concept,” says Solomon. “Vendors are concerned that most resellers are not large enough to handle this as it requires resources both on the network infrastructure side and the application development side.”

In order to provide a full document management system, Docutrend partners with Sharp for digital imaging systems, fax machines, copiers, and printers, while scanners are provided through Kodak and Fujitsu. Document management software includes Legato (ApplicationXtender and integrated suite, Enterprise Content Management), Digitech Systems, and Kofax (which bridges the scanners to the content management software).

Document Management Vendors

Docutrend
New York, N.Y.
(212) 997-5200
www.docutrend.com

Habif, Arogeti & Wynne
Atlanta, Ga.
(404) 892-9651
www.hawcpa.com

Immediatech
Englewood Cliffs, N.J.
(201) 541-4121
www.immediatech.com

Integrated Document Technologies
Itasca, Ill.
(630) 875-1100
www.idt-inc.com

LaserFiche
Long Beach, Calif.
(800) 985-8533
www.laserfiche.com

As document management momentum builds, it is becoming more commonplace to see accounting VARs, CPA firms, and vendors working together to reduce paper. Both VARs and CPA firms are using document management internally, and when this happens, they realize this is an opportunity they can share with their clients. Solomon notes, “Customers [already] come to us and say, ‘You took me to one place with my accounting system and taught me to generate the paper. Now, how do I eliminate it?’”

Docutrend solved the too-frequent problem described above by automating the capture of sales orders as they came in, as well as by introducing the scanning of packing slips and invoices. Docutrend integrated with MAS 500 to grab missing data to populate the rest of the fields via a bar-code header sheet that gets placed on top of the sales order and then is automatically indexed and archived in the system.

Docutrend president Aaron Rubin explains: “Data from all paper is now tied together in a coherent package easily viewable by any search criteria. Anyone can now easily find all data received to all paper, and bills are being paid on time. For example, check numbers are in the system, so for the approval the number is entered and it brings up all supporting documents for the check.”

The solution included two Kodak scanners, two workstations with capture software, and five concurrent user Retrieval Licenses. The initial implementation took three days, while follow-up integration took another two weeks. It cost the client $35,000.

Partner Programs

Immediatech recently launched a business partner program that enables firms to tap into this lucrative market by providing GoFileRoom document outsourcing to their clients. GoFileRoom enables companies to store documents in an online filing cabinet from which they can be retrieved via a browser interface. All files are maintained at a secure off-site location, which provides backup not available with paper-based systems.

“Firms can easily start a new line of business and generate a recurring revenue stream. Since the solution is a Web service we provide, they don’t need to provide any technical support, and can offer their clients access to their own documents, such as tax returns and financial statements, right through the Web,” says Joe Harpaz, chief technology officer of Immediatech, based in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

The Immediatech Business Partner Program, created in January, has enrolled six partners. Harpaz expects to have 30 by year-end as channel members sign on at a rate of about five per month. Immediatech hopes to have reselling partners that work in vertical markets such as legal, healthcare, banking, insurance and engineering. “Our partners will be able to add, value into how document management will help these markets because they will know the types of papers these companies deal with,” he says.

Harpaz feels that accountants are ideal candidates because “there is a synergy between our solution and the interaction CPAs have with their clients. CPAs are already managing their clients’ financial documents, and also providing them with financial documents.”

There is a $1,500 fee to join, which includes sales training and demonstration models. The margins can be as much as 20 percent. Immediatech takes responsibility for implementing and maintaining the data center, servers, and user interface, and also provides partners with sales, marketing, and technical support.

The 145-person, Parsippany, N.J.-based Videre Group has not only gone paperless with GoFileRoom, but has also joined Immediatech’s Business Partner Program. Adam Kupperman, Videre’s technology director, led the way in reducing the firm’s paper, and immediately saw the benefits of the system.

“Being able to offer document management to Videre clients is a natural fit. It can be applied to multiple industries, and leads to additional business and workflow consulting,” says Kupperman.

Focus on Priorities

Gary Boomer of Boomer Consulting of Manhattan, Kan., believes that accounting professionals selling document management systems should have companies focus on their priorities, in addition to the software, in order to meet expectations and ensure success.
"The 'paperless office' means different things to different departments and personnel within a company. Too often we see firms committing to the hardware and software, but not committing to the discipline and manpower necessary to succeed," says Boomer.
Boomer provides the following list of questions that professionals should ask their clients to provide insight as to the capabilities they want in document management.
• Do you want to implement firm standards, policies, and procedures?
• Do you want to reduce paper, supplies, filing, and retrieval costs?
• Do you want to share clients' supporting documents in digital format?
• Do you want clients to access documents through a private client site?
• Do you want access to documents from remote locations via the Internet?
• Do you need the ability to destroy documents in accordance with firm policy?
In addition to establishing procedures, professionals must determine the scope and complexity of a document management project:
• Who will be in charge of the project?
• What is the time line?
• What is the budget for hardware, software, implementation, and training?
• How do you plan to store the files?
• Do you plan to back-scan old documents?
One size doesn't fit all. But Boomer suggests that a quick way to size up a company's requirements and expectations is to simply ask the question: If we were meeting here three years from today, what has to happen for you to feel we have been successful in implementing document management? "The answer to this question will provide you with a perspective of the complications and requirements. The tough part is to prioritize the requirements and dedicate the personnel to the project. The bad news, there will be pain. The good news, the payback is significant," adds Boomer.

He also believes that document management is more of a business-focused than a technical solution. “The IT emphasis is minimized, making it more do-able for CPA firms. We are not selling any hardware-that’s Immediatech’s department. However, we get 100 percent of the revenue for consulting, implementing, and training.”

Videre is extending its paperless environment to J.H. Cohn, with which it recently agreed to merge. The combined entity will retain the J.H. Cohn name, with eight offices in New York and New Jersey. The firm plans to use its existing staff in the IT Consulting Group, but may add an additional project manager if the systems produce enough volume. Kupperman says that the chief sales people will be the CPA partners themselves.

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