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Workflow automation: How printers are solving the paper problem

Michael Nadeau | July 17, 2017
Incorporating paper-based processes into digital workflows may no longer be a roadblock to full automation.


Fitting into the enterprise IT ecosystem

The document imaging vendors see their products as complementary to enterprise systems. Canon, for example, sells its Therefore information management and workflow solution, which takes what Amorosano calls a “bottoms up” approach. “Without an ERP system, a business can’t run. The types of workflow systems we’re putting in place have a dramatic impact on productivity in particular business processes, but the business can still operate without the discrete application workflows we’re involved with—with the exception of the accounts-payable workflows,” he says.

One area where Canon is complementing ERP is with its AP workflow solution. “The ERP vendors and systems integrators who implement those systems tend to focus on the core business process. They are driving implementation activity that is capturing maybe 80 percent of the workflow. Oftentimes the paper-based aspects of the processes are not as well automated and integrated,” says Amorosano. “Canon has all this imaging expertise and heritage, and we’ve been able to look at the process that our customers are driving from an end-to-end perspective. We’re automating the ‘first mile’ of the process—the most paper intensive and the most manual.”

“We do not compete with ERP providers,” says Pavan Gourisetty, senior director of product management at Xerox, which sells its DocuShare Flex content management software. “We know that we are not the only enterprise software company in the IT ecosystem. They use applications like SAP, Oracle Financials or Workday. All of those systems are treated as systems of record for batch-specific use cases. We want to be the system of record for content management systems capable of integrating with other line of business applications. We like to be known as an ecosystem platform provider”

Enterprise application software vendor SAP offers its own end-to-end, workflow-enabled content management solution with partner OpenText that work across its entire application suite. “A lot of our customers are running massive operations that have to deal with content in many shapes and forms,” says Harald Nehring, vice president product marketing, middleware, at SAP. That includes paper-based content or content from various business communications. The suite of solutions SAP is building with OpenText “deal with every stage of content management be it paper-based and scanned, which we call digital content processing, or be it archiving and accessing documents at the right part of the business process, or specialized like invoice processing. We’ve been building tightly integrated solutions with OpenText that address a lot of these scenarios.”

SAP also partners with Canon for its Therefore solution. They are certified on interfaces and integrations, mainly with SAP’s core ERP S/4HANA solution. That certification gives them the ability to use facilities within the ERP system to, for example, trigger content for document archiving. “Integration is really important when it comes down to a coherent user experience. If you look at invoicing or purchasing scenarios, it’s important that workflows and screens people are using are integrated,” says Nehring.


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