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The right stuff

Kodak Alaris is attempting to make the transition from a hardware company to a software and services-led business. PrintIT finds out how from Siddhartha (Sid) Bhattacharya, VP of Global Marketing for the Kodak Alaris Information Management division

Siddhartha (Sid) Bhattacharya,
Siddhartha (Sid) Bhattacharya,

As key enablers of digitisation, scanner manufacturers are agents of their own destruction. The more successful they are at facilitating the transition to paperless processes, the less the need for their products – or for their hardware, at least.

In this respect, companies like Kodak Alaris face many of the same challenges as printer manufacturers, with whom they are linked by a shared dependence on paper – for input in the case of scanners and for output in the case of printers.

It is fitting therefore that the man responsible for implementing the company’s new marketing strategy, Siddhartha (Sid) Bhattacharya, VP of Global Marketing for the Kodak Alaris Information Management division, should have spent 14 years with Xerox, where he helped launch the company’s ConnectKey MFPs and solutions platform.

Currently, well over 80% of Kodak Alaris revenue comes from scanner hardware, including services relating to break-fix and maintenance. However, just like Xerox, it is attempting to make the transition from a hardware business to more of a software and services-led company.

To facilitate this evolution, it has developed a new marketing approach, the Alaris IN2 Ecosystem, and is actively developing partnerships to increase revenue from an expanding portfolio of professional and managed services, like its new leasing solution, which provides customers with an alternative to the outright purchase of scanners and services and the opportunity to upgrade equipment more frequently than they might have done in the past.

Data chaos
Sid Bhattacharya says that the exponential growth of both structured and unstructured data, what he calls ‘data chaos’, has forced Kodak to focus on the notion of information capture, rather than just image capture, and its use in essential business processes through easy integration with other software solutions.

“The starting point for the ecosystem is the bigger narrative around data chaos; it’s all about turning that data chaos into business opportunity. The fact that data is growing exponentially, not just paper but digital documents, not just structured data but unstructured data, and the fact that it is coming from multiple and diverse sources – MFPs and scanners, tablets, mobile apps – mean that for many of our customers, the question is not whether they should make the journey to digital transformation but where and how to begin. That is the problem we are looking to alleviate with the launch of the eco-system,” he said.

The right fit
The right fit

The Alaris IN2 Ecosystem is built upon three of the company’s key strengths:

Science – its decades of R&D and IP in capture, recognition, extraction and integration;

Technology – Kodak Alaris has won the Buyers Lab Inc (BLI) Scanner Line of the Year for two years running (2016 and 2017) and has more BLI Picks (23) than any other scanner manufacturer; and

Partnerships – the development and delivery of new services through technology partners and system integrators.

“We feel the expertise we have with our scanners and our software and our partners really helps us take our customers on the information capture journey. Our scanners, software and services work in an integrated way with our solution partners. Through our eco-system, we allow customers to deal with different documents and formats; to identify index information; to route documents to the business process; and to lower their costs and increase their ROI,” Bhattacharya explained.

Getting it right
Bhattacharya adds that, taken together, the three elements of the eco-system – Science, Technology and Partners – deliver three end-user benefits:

The Right Fit:
“We are able to offer information capture that is seamless to customer businesses. We have trusted partners to deliver the right solution; we have best-in-class scanners, ranging from desktop to high value production models; and we are able to work in the customer’s environment to optimise their overall investment,” he said.

The Right Experience:
“This is about ease of use, the user experience, everything we offer in terms of easy management and set-up and the fact that we can bring in a set of services that allows remote monitoring and inspection to make sure that our scanners are up and running and to handle preventative maintenance, as and when required.”

The Right Results:
“Through the eco-system we expect to be able to offer our customers a higher ROI and a lower cost and, at the same time, the highest quality of captured data. If that initial capture is not of the highest quality and reliability, anything that happens to the data in the rest of the workflow is going to be sub-par. Our imaging excellence and optimised scanning allows more accurate information capture and minimal rework.”

Product announcements
Bhattacharya says the fruits of this new approach are evident in the company’s latest products, which enhance information capture by bringing productivity features previously only available on high-end scanners to lower-end desktop devices.

Kodak Capture Pro (supplied with scanners in a light version with an upgrade path to standard and network versions) now featuresntelligent exception processing, which spots when a required element, such as a signature, is missing and automatically spits out the offending document at the scanning stage. Previously, this would not have been spotted until the validation process, after which the operator would have had to spend time finding the original document and removing the digital scan from the workflow.

Kodak Capture Pro
Kodak Capture Pro

Another useful enhancement is intelligent barcode reading, which, by managing scanner profiles and other tasks in the software rather than on the scanner hardware, extends barcode recognition to smaller desktop devices such as you might find in a GP surgery reception. The ability to recognise a barcode and link it to a patient record in the EMIS system, say, cuts down on the amount of manual data entry required.

For batch scanning jobs, Kodak Capture Pro features Intelligent Job Select, which lets users employ programmable patch code separator sheets to separate jobs stacked in a feeder and automate the application of different scan settings for each one so that operators don’t have to change scanner profiles manually.

Info Input Express, which captures documents from multiple channels (e.g. local scanner, centralised scanner, MFP, smartphone, email attachment) for use in a workflow, is now HTML5 compatible. This gives users the ability to embed capture within an MFP with a web browser for scanning straight into a workflow.

i4000 series scanners now feature metal detection to prevent staplers and paper clips damaging the scanner and the scanned document, which might be the only original. This helps maintain the highest image quality for downstream efficiency and improves productivity by reducing the likelihood of jams and the need to re-scan.

Future plans
Bhattacharya says that these new products are just the start and that over the coming months Kodak Alaris will be further expanding its eco-system.

“Early in the fall, you will likely see a new set of distributed capture scanner hardware; you will see some new software solutions being launched; potentially a couple of services that build on the new capabilities in our hardware, focusing on remote monitoring and remote maintenance; and new solutions from our partners,” he said.

“This time next year, there will be a bigger announcement, focusing more on the software platform we are trying to build and how we apply our Alaris image science optimisation across the process, from optimisation, classification, extraction and validation of information to its routing into business systems like CRM or ERP or into repositories, either in the cloud or on-premise. We are looking to offer a host of micro services with our service platform that is going to help us stand out from the competition and really solve that bigger problem of data anarchy in the customer environment.”

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