No more paper chase

As readers of this magazine know, Tech Data Canada is a national distributor of some of the biggest names in information technology.

But it still took the company 10 months to find the document imaging solution it wanted — one that nearly got away.

The problem, explained Jose Brito, the

distributor’s director of credit services, is it has to store and keep track of thousands of Ontario provincial certificates certifying the sales tax exempt status of resellers, documents which are renewed every four years.

“”As you’re trying to manage drawers and drawers of paper you think there must be a better way to do this,”” said Heather Donaldson, TDC’s assistant credit manager. “”With document imaging making a lot of progress over the last few years, it seemed to be a logical solution.””

When Donaldson was appointed to find an answer for the credit department, she was also delegated to get one that was robust enough to serve company-wide.

One quick way was rejected: buy the software used by the Tech Data Canada’s U.S. parent. While that supplier — which Brito refused to name — had a Toronto division, for service it would have been dealing with its American office.

Among the other requirements was a system that was scalable, easy to use, secure, would run on Windows NT and was SQL-based.

In March, 2002 Donaldson and a member of the IT staff began searching for vendors, using the Internet as a resource. Over ten months11 suppliers were identified. Donaldson wouldn’t name the competitors, but said all came to the office to demo their products.

Only two were finalists. “”Their software was very similar,”” said Donaldson. “”I would have easily gone with either.””

In fact TDC was about to choose one, when she finally tracked down Franz Gangl, an enterprise document specialist at nearby Ikon Office Solutions, which carries a document imaging product called LaserFiche, from Compulink Management Center Inc.

Ikon is the Canadian branch of a U.S.-based solution provider with offices in seven countries specializing in document management, big enough that Donaldson couldn’t find the department she wanted. “”I had contacted a couple of offices, but Ikon is so big I didn’t find the right people.””

There’s a communications lesson for resellers there.

Gang suggested LaserFiche because “”it’s clearly the easiest to use and most robust solution to meet their requirements.”” It converts faxes to TIFF files, offers full text search and a low initial entry cost. Users who create digital files need a LaserFiche client, but for those who only view files can use a viewer called WebLink. It could give the local support TDC wanted.

But the clincher in the presentation, he recalled, was that LaserFiche allows third-party reporting software to access the SQL Server database.

For Donaldson, it was a case of “”where were you 10 months ago.””

On the advice of its IT department, TDC bought a dedicated server to keep the imaging system separate from other business applications, and started with 10 software licences.

Their existing printers had scanning capabilities, an added bonus. The initial cost for hardware and software was: around $15,000.

Ikon looked after the software installation, and after consulting users configured templates, created the indexing and folder structure and trained staff.

The only problem, Gangl recalled, was solved by advising TDC staff to configure their fax server to output Group IV TIFFs to LaserFiche.

In July the solution was launched in the finance department, and after four weeks was added to the credit department.

Within a year, Donaldson hopes, TDC will no longer create paper. Return on investment was achieved in two months, she adds.

It’s also good business for the reseller: “”As we prove ourselves to the firm they keep expanding us out,”” said Gangl.””

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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