About 15 years ago, before I was associated with DocuVantage, I learned the difference between buying document management and using document management. This was in the days when the only way to buy document management was to buy software licenses and then install the software on your servers.
This was also the first time I was introduced to procurement cycles at the federal government. I was looking for a reference from one agency for another. So I started calling my existing government customers. This is where the fun started.
It seems that if you don’t know the right person to call at an agency, even if they are your customer, you get turned away. Frustrated with this response, I decided to change my technique. The next time I was turned down, I responded with, “That’s a shame. They are on an old release and are entitled to a free upgrade.” “I’ll just mark down that no one could point me to the right person”. It’s amazing how fast they gave me the person’s name, title and phone number. For now, let’s call her Tammy.
Once transferred to Tammy I offered the free update. They really were entitled to it. Then before I asked for a reference for another agency, I thought I would ask a simple question. “How do you like our software” I asked. “We like it” Tammy replied. “And if we ever used it, we’d probably like it even more”.
I will admit that this response puzzled me, so being naïve I commented, “Sorry, I don’t understand”. Tammy then proceeded to explain. “When we were looking for a solution we found your product. It was under our bid level so we started the procurement process. But once we started, another manager wanted a copy too. This put the amount over our limit so we had to go out to bid. The process took 18 months and by the time we got the software, the project was over”. Tammy then explained her first comment, “That’s why I said we like it, but probably would like it better if we used it”.
Over the years document management has come a long way. First there were the proprietary hardware solutions. Given the costs of these solutions, only very large organizations could afford to implement them. Over time, these proprietary solutions gave way to open solutions with standards. This lowered the price somewhat because customers could install these solutions on off-the-shelf equipment. With slightly lower prices, medium-sized organizations could now afford document management.
Today, DocuVantage’s online document management is delivered via a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) subscription model. Customers pay a monthly subscription and access the solutions via the Internet. Delivering as a subscription eliminates the capital expenses and the hardware requirements. Now even small organizations can have a true document management solution.
In the example above, Tammy and her agency would have been able to solve their business problem with online document management. Her procurement would not have hit a snag and she would have been up and running in no time at all with the vendor providing all support, new features and upgrades at no cost. Instead, they did everything manually and then even bought software they never used.
The concept of buying document management is quaint now. Today’s customers can use online document management and get an immediate ROI and by paying a subscription, customers only pay for what they use.