Snail-Mail Alternative Automates Data Capture

Unisys is reselling a software package that lets signature-intensive businesses set up Web-based forms for capturing data and then obtaining signatures without using traditional mail.
With so many companies looking for alternatives to snail mail in the wake of Sept. 11 and the anthrax threat, vendors have been flooding the market with electronic alternatives. Now Unisys Corp. has begun reselling one for companies that aren't ready to dive into the realm of entirely digitized transactions. Unisys' offering is called FormFiler, a product developed by Comfidex Corp., a small, New York E-business software firm.

Targeted toward financial-services firms, insurance companies, government agencies, and other industries that still depend on obtaining customers' pen-on-paper signatures, it works like this: The end user logs on to a company's Web site and fills out a Web-based data-collection form. That data is then used to create a PDF file of the form to be filed, marked with a unique identifier, and the PDF immediately is delivered to the end user's browser so it can be printed, signed, and faxed or scanned and E-mailed back. The unique identifier then can be used to match that form with additional data and complete the transaction. The result: greatly reduced data entry requirements for the company, and no need for users to purchase software.

Tim Girone, director of business development and program management for Unisys' global industries workflow and imaging program, says FormFiler should enable Unisys customers to achieve a 90% reduction in the cost of data entry and capture. Girone says Unisys has seen a lot of demand for products that move mail-based transactions online since Sept. 11. The company has had a reseller agreement with Comfidex since early last year, but has only made FormFiler a priority since demand heated up after the attacks. It conducted a Webcast with sales teams last month and turned them loose in the last couple of weeks. "The time is here for this," says Girone.

Hurwitz Group analyst Pete Lindstrom says there's incremental value in offering such an alternative for companies looking for a stopgap measure. "This is great for folks who are still too hesitant," says Lindstrom. He says the real value isn't so much in the ability to use digital means to obtain written signatures, but rather in the product's approach to automating the collection of data.

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