Ever since the PC arrived on the corporate desktop, there have been dreams of a paperless office. But paper looks like it’s here to stay and combining paper-based processes with digital workflows presents real challenges. Not least of these is the fact that integration usually involves specialist input and output hardware. Any change of that equipment results in a need for expensive integration.
That is a problem eCopy has tried to solve by creating a single interface for integrating paper-based processes into enterprise IT infrastructures. Founded in 1992 by CEO Ed Schmid, the company provides an embeddable platform for multi-function peripherals (MFPs) that makes integration functions available to all end-users in the organisation. The user can scan the paper document with the MFP and send it via fax, email or to another application directly from the MFP. Since the user interfaces and the programming interfaces in the software are constant, wherever they are, the underlying hardware becomes interchangeable.
That is only a relatively recent development. Until the end of 2004, Canon was eCopy’s only MFP partner. But in 2005, eCopy opened up its platform and began to create an ‘ecosystem’ of MFP partners that now extends to Toshiba, Sharp, HP, Konica, Minolta and Ricoh. Software developers can build “connectors” that link eCopy to new applications, such as Microsoft SharePoint and Exchange, PeopleSoft, and enterprise content management systems. The technology is also being integrated with third-party authentication systems to make features like “follow me” printing and user-dependent interfaces easier to use, more secure and easier to audit.
However, not all MFPs have the capability to embed eCopy software yet, which is why the company still pushes its original product, a scanning workstation called ScanStation. “If you look at the manufacturers today, the only ones really shipping devices with a robust embedded environment are Canon and Ricoh,” says Schmid. “With others, we’re still connecting with ScanStation, but we’d love to get out of the hardware business.”
Despite its relatively slow start as a multi-platform system, eCopy has a good chance of becoming a de facto standard. It can boast $63 million in annual revenues, over two million end-users of its platform and a customer base that includes over 100 Fortune 500 companies, and it has the market largely to itself.
The company now just needs the rest of the world to catch up with it – demand in countries outside the US is nascent. Outside of industries such as legal and insurance, there is still a widespread resistance to digitised pager documents. But with compliance and security pressures forcing a greater need to capture and make accessible both physical and digital documents alike, it seems likely that eCopy will play a significant role in helping many organisations get closer to a paperless environment, or at least one where paper is digitally managed.
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