ECOM is a global commodities company headquartered in Dallas, TX, trading cocoa, cotton and coffee between 40 offices in 30 countries. “Columbia, Chile, Honduras, all the i-stans—if they’re growing an agricultural product, we’re there,” says Willa Zandi, IT Director. The Dallas office, for instance, is the company’s hub for cotton trading.
With ECOM’s global reach comes the potential to standardize business processes common to every office. Zandi had long been a proponent of using technology to standardize and streamline repeatable business processes, but she also knew departmental adoption could only come from answering a user-driven need for practical application.
When two of the 10 departments in ECOM’s Dallas office came to Zandi with what she recognized as a need for an electronic document management system (EDMS) in August of 2009, she saw an opportunity to introduce full-scale ECM/BPM functionality into the company, one familiar process at a time.
“I’d been preaching the importance of using workflow and document imaging, but I didn’t have any business groups with that burning need,” she says. “Then a year ago our tax and real estate departments each came to us with some ideas about streamlining and automation, and we told them, ‘If all your documents were electronic, you could.’”
Hitting the Ground Running—with the Vision to Go the Distance
ECOM had a relationship with Jeff Flory of Dallas-area reseller Datamax Technology Group, who suggested Zandi look into Laserfiche as an ECM solution agile enough to answer ECOM’s pressing needs while also possessing the potential to expand in size and scope. “Laserfiche was easily the most user-friendly solution we looked at, but it was also scalable to meet more and bigger needs as we evolved the system,” Zandi recalls.
ECOM purchased a 25-user pilot system with Audit Trail and the Laserfiche SDK with an eye toward future integrations, expanded deployment and automated business processes —once the immediate document management fires had been put out.
“We had the vision for BPM and automation upfront,” she says. “The important part for me was the Workflow and the scalability. We started with the two departments that were on fire, and we’re capturing that momentum to implement Laserfiche in other departments. The system lends itself to that flexibility.”
First up were HR and Accounting. Zandi explains, “HR saw that it could use Laserfiche for archiving and historical information, while Accounting could jump in with day-forward scanning of active records.”
Operational improvements followed these departmental implementations. For example, “Our Treasury Department has a variety of companies depositing checks and money. Those checks are now automatically scanned, so that when the bank receives checks it no longer copies them—and a notification that the bank has the check is automatically printed in Laserfiche as well,” says Zandi.
Unanimous User Adoption, Magnanimous Enterprise Expansion
Building on this initial success, ECOM is now upgrading from its pilot system to Laserfiche Rio with a goal of standardizing content and business process management worldwide. “Rio makes sense for us because it gives us the flexibility to add servers and licenses incrementally, in whatever way we need to,” Zandi explains.
Currently, the system is being rolled out to more departments in ECOM’s Dallas headquarters—with unanimous adoption. “The familiar interface, being able to save searches, being able to use sticky notes—these are things that helped people catch on right away,” she says.
Zandi is confident that Laserfiche’s ease-of-use is paving the way for bigger and better things for the enterprise by encouraging users to do bigger and better things with their information. “Laserfiche is flexible enough that departments can implement it in a way that mirrors their current system, but once they’re comfortable, they can say, ‘I don’t even need a folder, now I can start thinking about changing my business,’” she says.
That change, she says, will come from implementing business process management (BPM) initiatives using Laserfiche Workflow. To that end:
- ECOM is working with Datamax to integrate Laserfiche with its Navision accounting software to set up distributed approval A/P processing for 10+ departments. Invoices will be automatically updated, then filed according to payment type and date using Workflow.
- The Real Estate Department is planning to integrate Laserfiche with its Timberline accounting system to update contracts and payment histories and file them automatically.
- The HR Department plans to integrate Laserfiche with its ADP system to automatically create and update personnel folders.
The most extensive—and potentially impactful—use of Workflow, however, is in ECOM’s Traffic Department, which is developing 35 workflows with up to 250 different outcomes. “I can’t even get my head around it!” jokes Zandi. She credits the simplicity of the Workflow Designer for lending itself to such an extensive deployment. “Workflow is created graphically—the Designer is essentially drag and drop, so you don’t have to know Fortran to use it.”
With an operational model and foundation in place, Zandi says ECOM is well on its way to standardizing its approach to content management worldwide using Laserfiche Rio. “This is where the scalability of Rio is so, so important,” she explains.
“Once we have integrations with the ERP up and running in our office, we can roll it out to our offices around the world literally overnight,” Zandi says. “We’re developing what has the potential to be the global, centralized ECM/BPM standard for the company’s business processes. Even before we’ve done all our analysis or know where that infrastructure will go and how our repositories will break out, we know Laserfiche has the scalability to do it.”
Willa Zandi’s Run Smarter® Philosophy
“For me, as an IT professional introducing technology-driven initiatives, success is powered by my effectiveness as a change agent. What I like about Laserfiche is that it has the flexibility and familiarity that allow users or departments to implement it in a way that mirrors their current system and how they think right now. That’s really important, because once they’re comfortable and see what’s possible, they’re saying, ‘I don’t even need a folder, now I can start thinking about changing my business.’
“Laserfiche is introducing ECM and BPM into our organization in way that gets users thinking about how they use the information—not the piece of paper.”