In this second installment from our interview with Aaron Sarber, the director of our Professional Services Group at Imaging Office Systems, we talk about the future of information management, best practices for implementation and execution of new systems, what surprises him, what surprises our customers, what makes his job easy or hard, and what he thinks are the most valuable elements of the services we provide to our customers.
More Q&A with Aaron Sarber, Director of Professional Services for Imaging Office Systems
What’s going on right now in the information management technology world that people should be watching closely?
The ever-expanding use of hosting services offered by the likes of Amazon and Microsoft. The clients that used to have a large internal IT staff, or one that was stretched too thin to manage all their platforms, including the solutions we sold them, are now able to handle those in a more efficient manner. Software manufacturers needed to conform to those environments and address the connectivity and security challenges they presented. The solutions and products we sell kept pace with this trend and now provide some low IT-involvement options for our clients.
What are the biggest changes you see ahead?
Back in the day it may have been that clients would engage in a one-time purchase of licensing or module set with annual maintenance. However, a lot of the software manufacturers in our world are headed toward subscription pricing models. Clients seem more interested in going that route, it's even a trend that goes beyond our industry. I read recently that Porsche was coming out with a subscription pricing model for its vehicles. Another change I see is the transition of connectivity methods, for any one of our solutions. What used to be a web/desktop style interface is being replaced with self-contained apps built for specific functionality/processes.
When a company is having an information management problem, what should be their first course of action?
They’ve first got to identify the breadth of the issue. Is it localized to one department? Is it interdepartmental? Is it company-wide? How big is the issue? Once they’ve identified that, they’ll need to figure out who the key decision makers are for those affected departments and get them together with the knowledge workers to outline their processes and identify pain points and bottlenecks. This is really important. Facilitating this exercise is one of the key aspects of what we do in our business analysis process. You need the mix of the knowledge worker and the executive to solve the issue. Knowledge workers understand their world and know the day-to-day business processes better than anybody, but they may not be able to approve the changes necessary. Executives look at it from a different perspective, but they may not know the nuts and bolts of what’s going on daily, so it’s important for those two groups to get together and hash it out amongst themselves.
How has the pandemic affected your job, the solutions you provide, and your interactions with customers?
It’s made it difficult for everybody. The hardest thing, and we understand why, is to get and maintain a client’s attention. In many cases, their worlds have been turned upside down. In some cases, our contact at a company may no longer even be employed there, so getting in front of the right people to keep a project going that was in progress, or to perhaps start a project that was on the threshold, can be a real challenge. Conversely, some clients are so busy because of the pandemic that they can’t keep their head above water...and one client in particular, who was supposed to get going on a project this past March, has now said they may not be able to meet with us until next year because they’re so busy. So, we’ve seen both scenarios, and we understand why. As far as what we can provide in this fluid environment, there could be a fairly quick turn on any number of scanning/indexing/storage/routing solutions to meet temporary needs and relieve pressures. Then, once time allows for a more permanent resolution to a company’s overall content services needs, we would follow-up with a typical deep dive into all aspects of their systems/processes to design a long-term solution.
What kinds of things can you do that will make someone say, “Wow!”?
It depends on the scenario, but let’s say we have a client replacing a solution, and they need to get content out of the old one and into the new...our development team has performed conversions from over 50 different software products...and when we bring that to the table, it usually gets a pretty good reaction. Chances are, even if they have a one-off system, we have probably seen it or cracked enough of these that we’ll be able to help them out. We can also wow them by demonstrating our integration capabilities between a content services platform and something like Outlook or their ERP. These integrations today are often times so seamless the users do not realize it’s there because the functionality just seems inherent.
What’s something that’s surprised you?
The willingness of clients to have their content services platforms hosted by another entity really surprises me. The technology has been out there for several years, but it’s really only come into focus as an accepted alternative to large IT footprints, in mass, the last 4 to 6 years. The thought of relinquishing control and turning over all images and their associated data to a third party for hosting...I just never thought I’d see clients do that. But the software industry has created the necessary security/connectivity capabilities to make it acceptable.
What makes doing what you do easy? What makes it hard?
What makes it easy is our experience. It is really comforting to be able to sit in front of a client—even if they have a really tough situation—and know we’re going to be able to come up with something that meets their needs and fixes their issues. One of the challenges we do have to work through, though, is making sure our clients are able to fully identify how big an issue is and who the people are on their side that are going to help us, help them fix it. If we get in on a project and don’t have any client-side executive or senior management participation from the start, it can get tricky because they may interject at a random point in the project and change key aspects of a solution that require extensive re-work. That’s why it’s important to get/keep involvement from those folks early and as often as their schedules allow.
What is the biggest value that you think Imaging Office Systems offers its clients?
It kind of goes back to being the one-stop shop. Sometimes a client may do research and find that this component from a software company does ‘X’, another component from a different company does ‘Y’ and cobbled together they work just like content management... trust me, they oftentimes don’t. They end up with a system that doesn’t really provide any improvements or efficiencies...and they may actually make the problem worse. Working with IOS is analogous to doing a home remodel, in which my wife and I are currently engaged. We didn’t call the electrician, plumber, mason, and the flooring people—we hired a designer, and they took care of all that for us. In the same way, when a client engages us, they won’t have to talk to anyone else. No scanning hardware manufacturers, we offer that equipment, no coding specialist for disparate software platform integrations, we have 3 developers on staff, no need for quotes from multiple vendors as we offer systems designed for a handful of users to user counts in the tens of thousands+. If they need a partner to handle scanning for them, our Lab does 4-6 million pages per month, if they have a need for box/film storage, we maintain a 100,000+ box storage facility with room to grow. Being able to provide the end-to-end solution really gives us an advantage.