Xerox by: Byline Group
Company: ActionPointCustomer: XeroxSubmitted by: Byline GroupDate: April 2001No one knows better than Xerox how businesses – even 21st century businesses – depend on paper. According to a recent survey by Xerox Europe, 79% of companies do not believe the paperless office will arrive for at least another 10 years.
As “The Document Company”, and a leader in the paper-intensive document management and printer sectors, Xerox might be expected to take some satisfaction from this statistic. But as a $6 billion business in its own right, with half a million customers and 50 million documents a year to cope with, Xerox Europe has more reason than most to address the problem created by the growing mountain of paperwork.Guy Hudson, Programme Manager for Xerox Professional Services, says: “Just like any other business we are committed to eradicating paper wherever possible, but just like any other business we have thousands of customers and suppliers who continue to generate paper documents and will do so for the foreseeable future. Any realistic ebusiness strategy has to take this fact into account.”In 1998, Xerox Europe implemented the Change for Growth programme, a company-wide initiative to prepare for the opportunities and challenges posed by the digital revolution.
A key part of the scheme is the European-wide rationalisation of back-office processes, a project launched under the name Shared Financial Services (SFS).SFS involves the creation of a single ebusiness infrastructure for accounting, order processing and customer management functions. Tasks previously performed at 57 customer support centres across Europe are to be centralised at a single multi-lingual panEuropean Business Support Centre in Dublin, Republic of Ireland, which will serve as an electronic hub to serve the entire pan-European operation.Cost savings will come from eliminating duplication of effort, postal and courier charges, filing and administration, and time wasted tracking down invoices, purchase orders and other paperwork. Other, less easily quantified but equally important benefits, include improved customer service thanks to easier, more timely access to customer records and correspondence.At the start of the SFS project, Xerox Europe found itself in a position familiar to many large companies with back-office functions replicated across every country of operation.
Analysis of the business processes at work in each territory revealed that while some differences of approach had evolved for good reason to meet local market requirements, duplication of systems and processes also involved considerable waste. “It became clear that we needed to consolidate both systems and practices, but that we couldn’t do that without technology-enabling the organisation and transforming paper processes to digital ones,” Hudson says.This transformation to digital document processes is being managed by Xerox Professional Services, the consulting division that advises customers on ebusiness and document management strategies, working with Xerox Business Services. The impact of the programme has been dramatic: SFS is delivering year-on-year savings of $300 million. “Clearly we have a massive incentive to put our own house in order, but the experience gained on this project will be invaluable to customers of the Professional Services division.
SFS will provide both an excellent showcase for our services and a benchmark for the work we do for other organisations,” Hudson says.A fundamental part of the scheme is to capture incoming documents at each European location and route them to Dublin where they are either processed electronically or re-routed to the appropriate member of staff. To manage this process Xerox is using the award-winning information capture product InputAccel from ActionPoint (www.actionpoint.com).
InputAccel doesn’t simply reduce documents to bits and bytes during the scanning process, it transforms them into e-business ready content capable of triggering processes on a variety of back-end systems, including transaction fulfilment.The project team is currently setting up high-volume scanning centres in each country, where input and primary indexing are performed using the InputAccel software. Digital copies are then sent to a Documentum repository – the information backbone of the company – which uses the indexing information to route each document either to the relevant member of staff or to a SAP R/3 system for further processing.SFS addresses not just customer-facing documents but internally generated ones. Xerox DocuCentre multifunction workstations are available to staff at each location for ad hoc scanning of internal paperwork, such as expense claims, which are input via a simple template.”Handling expenses this way has obvious benefits to the organisation, since it reduces paper flows and administration.
Staff also benefit and have a powerful incentive to use the system because it can cut dramatically the time it takes to process claims and issue reimbursements,” Hudson says.The benefits of the SFS approach flow right to the top of the organisation. Greater transparency of information makes it easier for management to measure the performance of the business as a whole, to spot potential bottlenecks and to anticipate and solve problems before they escalate.As the three-year project unfolds, Xerox Europe expects to implement a range of ebusiness services designed to lower its costs and deliver better service to customers, including electronic billing presentation and payment (EBPP) systems and Web-based information capture. A guiding principle of the project is that in the transition to SFS the pace of change allows time both for the re-education of customers and the realignment of internal practices.
“This is an evolutionary process. We can’t afford to halt our everyday operations to reinvent Xerox Europe as an ebusiness. The challenge is to introduce radical change and keep the business running at the same time,” Hudson says.This philosophy helps explain why the project team chose ActionPoint technology. Not only was InputAccel able to meet the stringent requirements for high-volume document capture, scalability and security, it is also able to handle non-paper input.While many of the documents handled by Xerox Europe today are on paper, a significant proportion arrives by fax or email.
The consumable business alone has to deal with 40,000 faxed documents each month. These will be captured by InputAccel and despatched to the central repository.Xerox Europe’s commitment to the SFS programme is reflected in the multimillion dollar investment made in the new Dublin centre, the SAP enterprise business system and document enablement technology, but the projected returns will cover the cost many times over. Transforming paper to electronic content may be among the least glamorous aspects of the project, but Xerox calculates that document enablement, which represents only 10 percent of overall project cost will deliver 50 percent of the benefit.”In developing the Xerox brand image we are increasingly adding the word ‘digital’ to the phrase ‘Document Company’, but neither we nor our customers can realistically expect to become pure e-businesses overnight.
Our approach to paper and the one we encourage our customers to take is that though it can’t be eradicated, it can be accommodated,” Hudson says.