Thursday, July 08, 2004

More on the SSA -other summer thoughts

I apologize for the lack of recent updates in the “Thinking Out Loud” section of the Web site. As you may have seen, I’ve been fairly busy writing articles for Transform Magazine, as well as my regular duties with the Document Imaging Report. Currently, I’m working on a distributed capture piece for Transform. We’re trying to discuss the maturation of this evolving application (how’s that for turning a phrase) and I am still looking for a couple more mature end user sites. If you know of any that are willing to discuss, please let me know.

Speaking of Transform, did you all see the recent article I did on the SSA’s $900 million electronic folder instlallation?

This is quite an ambitious project. I profiled Kofax’s part in the deal in a recent issue of DIR [ 5-21-04]. I then had the opportunity to interview William Gray, who is basically in charge of the whole installation for the SSA. Based on the cash he controls, he is clearly one of the government’s heavy hitters when it comes to IT. Gray seemed very confident in the project, which had recently come under from fire from the Government Accounting Office. The GAO didn’t feel the SSA had implemented enough controls to ensure the project’s success. The SSA, in turn dismissed these controls as an impediment to the project and feel they would have stalled it and reduced the ROI. Basically, this project is a huge gamble, as the SSA is expecting a return of some $1.3 billion over seven years, which clearly doesn’t leave a lot of room for error. For the sake of document imaging’s reputation, let’s hope it works out.

It’s interesting to note that the projected has both centralized and distributed capture elements, with the Kofax software being used for the decentralized capture at more than 1,000 regional SSA offices. The centralized capture will be handled by a service bureau, which will involve a fairly large contract that has not yet been decided. Contrary to what we originally reported in DIR, there will be no scanner contract, as the regional offices are apparently going to rely on flatbeds that they mostly already have.

Many people know that the SSA was formerly a large eiStream imaging customer (dating back to the company’s roots as an arm of Wang) but has built its new system utilizing IBM’s Content Manager document imaging repository. We think part of the reason the SSA may have been eager to talk about the benefits of the new system may have been the fact that the eiStream implementation was basically a failure and the GAO had recently got done slamming the way the new system was being handled.

Anyway, hope your summer has been going well. Weather has been beautiful for a change up here in Erie, PA and I’ve actually had a chance to play some golf. News has been pretty slow although big installations like those at the SSA seem to be on the rise.

An analyst who has been covering this market for a long time recently told me that document imaging is the “new, hot technology.” I’d have to agree. I recently was contracted by a local organization to teach some document management basics to small businesses and it seems interest is up across the board. Enjoy it while you can. And remember that as interest increases, vertical specialties are going to become even more important, because interest will mean increased competition, which means you need a differentiation.

And the bottom like with imaging, is that it is not the scan that important, but what you do with it. Vertical knowledge is key to determining what you do with the information on that scanned page.

That’s all for now.

Remember also to continue to visit our Web site. Thanks to all of you who have helped increase our average traffic to some 400 visits per day averaging 10-20 pages. We promise to keep improving our content.

Cheers.

Ralph

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