A fresh look at the lowly copier

The noise around enterprise content management is getting louder, what with EMC Corp.'s recent acquisition of Documentum Inc. and other vendors rushing to sort out their content and life-cycle management stories.

If we are to believe that crowd, content is king and we are about to see advances in how you manage, store and age it.

But how do you capture it? That's where multifunction copiers can come into play. Most new copiers are network-attached today, meaning they can serve basic copying and printing needs and also be used to scan content for distribution or delivery to document-management applications.

If you work for a large company, chances are you've already inherited the job of figuring out how to take advantage of multifunction copiers. But some firms still are making the mistake of looking at them as lowly copiers and leaving them in the hands of purchasing departments.

With recent advances, multifunction copiers can play a much more significant role in workflow processes. Dennis Amorosano, director and assistant general manager of Canon Inc.'s Integrated Business Systems Division, says Canon's Java-based multifunction embedded application platform (MEAP) lets customers develop copier-based applications that have unique GUIs.

With MEAP, for example, a mortgage company could build an application that, in a single operation, could scan a document and then route copies electronically to the various parties that need to see it, such as underwriters, the legal organization, the title company, etc. "That would minimize the time it takes to transit the paper, not to mention eliminate the cost associated with the transit of the paper," Amorosano says. Theoretically, it also would speed up the whole process and make it possible for the company to close more business.

Documents that are distributed like this can be printed and used in the traditional way, tied into an existing workflow systems or even posted as HTML pages on a Web site so people involved in the process can fill in data online.

"Once IT guys see a copier running an application that is unique to their organization, they tend to have a huge number of ideas about how they are going to integrate the technology into existing business applications," Amorosano says.

The lesson, it seems, is that if you haven't already realized the potential of the copier in your workflow analysis, make sure you consider the alternatives in your larger content management plans.

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