Service Bureau Spin-off Thriving with SharePoint for Imaging

Published by Document Imaging Report
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SharePoint for document imaging is kind of like Bigfoot. Many people portray it as a large and powerful force—that’s even a bit scary. However, they also question its existence as more than a legend. “People talk about it all the time,” they’ll say, “but we don’t really see it.”

Well, Scott Swidersky, president of DocPoint Solutions, has a different perspective. No, he hasn’t seen Bigfoot, but he has certainly seen many instances of organizations using SharePoint to address document imaging needs. In fact, since DocPoint was launched in 2008, he says the systems integration specialist has done more than 100 implementations involving imaging and SharePoint.

“A lot of people in our industry use the word ‘SharePoint’ to drive traffic to their Web sites or increase attendance at events,” said Swidersky, whose company is based in Fulton, MD. “But, they really haven’t established connectivity between their core competency in document image capture and management and what they’re speaking to regarding SharePoint. Because of that, they are leaving a lot of potential business on the table.”

DocPoint’s roots go deep into the imaging industry. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Quality Associates, Inc. (QAI), a conversion services specialist and systems integrator where Swidersky is a principal. QAI is a leadingKofax reseller that has historically partnered with Open Text and IBM for document repository needs.

“Today, we find that we are bringing in DocPoint as a partner for a lot of QAI’s systems integration opportunities,” said Swidersky. “QAI is a capture specialist and there is always the question of what we are going to do with images after we capture them. One answer is to bring in DocPoint and its skills around building ECM applications on SharePoint.”

DocPoint customer references that Swidersky provided us with include Johns HopkinsGeneral Dynamics,Cornerstone Records Management, the Seventh-day Adventist World Church, the National Institutes of Health, and the United States Coast Guard. “Some of our customers have thousands of users,” he said. “We’re also starting to develop some repeatable solutions in areas like human resources and electronic medical records.”

Swidersky acknowledged that the introduction and adoption of SharePoint 2010 has been a key element in DocPoint’s increasing success. “When we first launched, we were supporting SharePoint 2007, which required several add-ons to provide a complete imaging solution to the customer,” he said. “However, when SharePoint 2010 was introduced, it enabled us to more effectively compete in the traditional ECM market.

“New features in areas like storage optimization, records management, and meta data management, as well as the maturation of third-party products for governance, compliance, and workflow, have all come together to really drive adoption of SharePoint 2010 as an ECM solution. I would say that overall, 85% of DocPoint’s installations are built on SharePoint 2010. This includes all the new ones, and we are helping many of our 2007 customers migrate to 2010.”

From humble beginnings

DocPoint’s growth and success has not come without challenges. “When we launched the company [see DIR 5/2/08], there was a lot of interest in using SharePoint for ECM, but really there was very little spend,” said Swidersky. “People were hesitant to adopt SharePoint as a replacement for traditional ECM software. With the introduction of 2010, and some of the market education around it, that spending is now actually exceeding expectations.

“One thing we had to do was close the gap between what we thought customers knew and what they actually knew. As an offshoot of this, DocPoint has launched a practice focused primarily on SharePoint training. We’ve found training to be useful, for example, in cases where IT departments have taken SharePoint as far as they can take it but want to go further.

“They may have been able to set up some personal Web sites and/or minor collaboration sites, but are feeling a responsibility to learn more about SharePoint’s other tools, such as those that can be used to create ECM repositories. In many cases, we found we were consulting on these matters for free, or close to it, as part of a pre-sales effort. So we decided to better monetize our efforts through a formalized SharePoint training service.”

Software savings drive adoption

According to Swidersky, Microsoft has brought DocPoint into multiple customer sites, where users were inquiring about extending their SharePoint implementations to address imaging and ECM. “Establishing DocPoint as a Microsoft partner has been critical to our success,” he said. “We feel it is important to invest in a relationship with Microsoft, so we understand the direction they are headed and can take advantage of that direction.”

In addition to Microsoft, DocPoint’s leads come from a combination of DocPoint’s and QAI’s sales teams. “I would say that QAI brings DocPoint into seven out of every 10 of QAI’s systems integration opportunities,” Swidersky said. “About 40% of DocPoint’s business comes from QAI customers, who like most everyone else, have standardized on the Microsoft Office suite for their normal business computing activities and are now embracing SharePoint as their standard, enterprise-wide ECM platform.

“Many of our clients have actually been using SharePoint for several years as a general collaboration tool. In many cases, they are also supporting a traditional ECM platform for records and document management.”

Swidersky said that the cost differential between SharePoint and traditional ECM software is what makes it so attractive to end users. “We find that the initial cost of deploying SharePoint for ECM is 30-60% less than the cost of deploying traditional ECM software,” he said. “In some cases, the maintenance costs of a legacy ECM system alone can justify a new SharePoint implementation. This maintenance includes not only the 20% annual software fees, but often the FTEs needed to manage legacy ECM software.

“Because it’s easier to configure and manage, and because it’s part of the Microsoft technology stack, a SharePoint implementation can sometimes be administered by a person with other responsibilities. I want to stress, however, that this can vary depending on customer requirements.” [For an example of a user that was able to reduce its administration costs by switching from a legacy ECM application to SharePoint, check out this KnowledgeLake case study on Tyson Foods. According to Rebecca Wilson, project leader for Tyson Foods’ productivity management group, “We now use an equivalent of half a full-time employee, whereas in the past it took two full-time employees to operate the Documentum system.”]

Swidersky also stressed that there can be significant professional services associated with a SharePoint ECM implementation. “In addition, we typically need to bring in third-party software for functionality like capture, search and retrieval, governance, storage management, and workflow,” he said. “Still, the cost of software in a SharePoint ECM implementation is probably only about 40% of the total cost, with the other 60% being professional services. With a traditional ECM software implementation, 60-70% of the cost is usually related to software.”

Swidersky said that not having to work with a traditional ECM vendor is also a positive for a systems integrator. “You don’t have to worry about Microsoft invading your customers, like you do with the direct sales forces of ECM vendors,” he said. “Microsoft is interested in selling software, but doing it through their channel, and DocPoint isn’t typically involved in SharePoint software sales anyhow.”

Swidersky has found professional services rates related to SharePoint configurations to be comparable to the rates integrators can get for services on traditional ECM products. “There are a lot of guys out there with accreditation on Microsoft server products,” he said. “But, is a user going to trust one of those guys with a large scale ECM project if he doesn’t have any experience in that area? That’s where DocPoint’s ties with QAI and its experience really pay off.

“Basically, DocPoint is solving the same business problems that we’ve been solving at QAI for many years. We’re just solving them with core competencies related to SharePoint. Often times, we’ll walk into a customer site and our competition won’t be a traditional ECM vendor, but another SharePoint integration specialist that doesn’t have near the experience with document imaging and workflow that we can bring to bear. They can’t answer the questions that we can.”

Back to the future

Swidersky estimated that being able to implement ECM solutions with SharePoint has increased his organization’s systems integration opportunities 10-fold. “DocPoint is approximately a $5 million a year business right now and we anticipate significant growth this year,” he said. “Working with DocPoint reminds me of being in the traditional document imaging space eight years ago. There is less competition and fewer players that really get it. And there is an enormous demand for companies with experience.”

Swidersky concluded by saying he feels there are opportunities for other service bureaus to partner with DocPoint in the same manner QAI does. “I suspect that there are a lot of service bureaus being asked questions about SharePoint as an ECM destination, and that these service bureaus are leaving the questions unanswered,” he said. “They need to recognize the potential market being created by organizations that can now easily roll out ECM solutions using their existing SharePoint licenses—a product they are familiar with and already likely using for other applications. DocPoint certainly has the experience and skill set to take their customers’ SharePoint environments and turn them into successful imaging and content management systems.”