Document imaging was once the exclusive domain of a geeky breed of value-added resellers, imaging-specialized distributors and obscure “integrated document management” vendors. This triumvirate was in touch with an equally obscure bunch of imaging-focused employees, cloistered in back rooms at big banks, insurance companies, government agencies and wherever else paper documents showed up in mountainous quantities. In the past five years, things have changed dramatically.
The VARs are still there, but the customer universe has grown, embraced by midsize enterprises and new verticals, including retail, health care and city and county governments. In the post-Enron/WorldCom era, many business and IT executives are aware of the imaging processes and how they fit in with the larger content management scene and responses to regulatory compliance demands. The community of management system vendors has been consolidated into the portfolios of a handful of leading players, and vendors including Microsoft and Oracle have joined IBM in the enterprise document management market.
Document scanners, too, have gone mainstream, handled by the broadest distributors and direct marketers, such as Dell and CDW. Companies that once focused on consumer scanning products, like Visioneer, have moved upstream into the document scanner market even while the dominant high-volume scanner manufacturer, Kodak, has steadily moved downward, adding products in the sub-$1,000 range. The workgroup segment, which InfoTrends categorizes as models scanning from 10 to 25 pages per minute and costing from $500 to $2,000, is the hottest ticket going, growing at nearly 70% per year over the past three years. This segment accounted for only a third of approximately 75,000 units shipped in 2001, but InfoTrends forecasts say they’ll account three quarters of approximately 300,000 units shipped in 2005.
There’s lots of discussion about midsize and larger enterprises turning to distributed scanning — placing smaller scanners in many locations rather than shipping documents to centralized, high-volume scanning operations — but I think the impact of that trend is overstated. I can’t point to fresh stats, but I believe the lion’s share of the more than 200,000 workgroup scanners sold last year (particularly the big slice of models under $1,000) are being used in small businesses, home offices and educational settings.
Meanwhile, the departmental (26 to 40 ppm) and production (41 to 90+ ppm) scanner segments have been relatively flat in recent years. The final stats for 2005 have yet to confirm it, but there’s evidence the copier industry, which sells millions rather than hundreds of thousands of units each year, is gaining a larger share of the corporate scanning market. In a 2005 study by AIIM International, respondents predicted the would increase spending on scan-enabled multifunction machines (a.k.a. copiers) an average of 25%, versus 14% to 15% for all but the highest-volume scanner segments. Last fall, eCopy, the leading provider of software and hardware for scan-enabling copiers, joined the Deloitte Technology Fast 500 and Fast 50, reporting a nearly 40% increase in revenue for fiscal 2005 — quite a bit healthier than the increases at its scanner-oriented counterparts (excluding acquisitions).
Anecdotally, it’s word-of-mouth and industry buzz that has me sensing a new direction in corporate scanning — one that’s long overdue. The copier companies have been educating their dealers, simplifying their scanning functionality and improving their IT connectivity and ease of use for years. There’s still a way to go before you’ll be scanning to e-mail and back-end systems as routinely as you make copies, but the these efforts are finally paying off, bringing user-friendly and increasingly ECM-connected scanning options to the copier down the hall.