S4i Takes Document Management to the Cloud
April 16, 2013 Dan Burger
S4i Systems‘ decision to market its electronic document management system on a subscription basis looks like a well-timed strategy. At the COMMON Annual Meeting and Exposition last week, there was plenty of talk about hosted services, software as a service, cloud computing, multi-platform reality, and data centers ready to help IBM midrange customers move workloads off-premise. S4i is handling some of this on its own server and has partnered with Baseline Data Services for most of it.
Electronic document management from this IBM i software vendor goes by the name of S4i Express. It consists of modules for document capture, automated distribution, archiving and retrieving, plus custom form design. Most people think of document management in terms of accounts payable items such as invoice matching, routing, approval and payment, or with business processes like requisitions and procurement, claims processing, and personnel files. However, many companies integrate it with their ERP systems and find it useful to the sales and marketing reports. Workflow efficiency and the elimination (or at least a substantial reduction) of printed forms costs are the main benefits.
Susanne Moore, S4i’s director of marketing and client services, picked two reasons that she believes the hosted services model is the right move at the right time. First there’s the multi-platform capabilities that comes with delivering S4i Express as a service. Express is designed for both IBM i and Microsoft Windows platforms.
“Organizations want assurance that we can support them, not only today, but into the future regardless of the path that their core business applications take them,” she says. Secondly, there’s the workload management and available resources side. “Companies with limited IT resources are looking for more options that will allow for varying levels of support for managing business applications and servers.”
S4i is taking the smallest companies under its wing with a low-cost, point-of-entry option that provides electronic document management functionality on its own Power 720 box. Moore describes the likely candidates as manufacturers, distributors, or restaurants with several locations. Most of these companies have never used software that manages business workflow. Moore says S4i could host 30 to 40 customers in-house. The price point for this is about $700 per month, which frees the company from managing the application, but does not include disaster recovery or high availability.
This is a multi-tenant environment, which means the customers do not have individual partitions. Eventually, when S4i has enough customers on its server, those customers, as a group, will be large enough to make a partition at Baseline affordable to them and the DR and HA will come with it. Baseline uses Evault EVault for DR and both Vision Solutions and Maxava for IBM i high availability.
As S4i brings more customers in house, it watches the CPW usage, so it can determine the threshold when more resources (Baseline’s specialty) can be added. Applications moved to the Baseline data center will still be managed by S4i.
From the beginning, conversations with companies that want their own document management environments along with disaster recovery, high availability, and buy/rent/manage options will be steered to Baseline, which is equipped to handle more complex requirements. Baseline has been doing this work for a few years and has been handling hosted services for highly regulated and complex financial customers. Bob Morici, director of technical sales at Baseline, says the entry-level price at his company is approximately $1,200 per month.
Baseline offers options that include the customers buying software licenses or subscriptions, managing those apps or having Baseline manage them, and either having their hardware systems on premise or at the Baseline data center.
So far, most customers are asking S4i and Baseline to manage both the app and the server environments, although the customer count is small.
“Our customers are getting to the point where they are making decisions on whether to keep an existing ERP solution, CRM solution, and warehouse management solution,” Moore says. “They don’t want to worry about the platform. This hosted services option allows customers to not be concerned if they switch platforms. They can keep their repository and document management system. It’s one less app to worry about migrating and they can focus on business rather than server platform. Hosted or cloud offerings are an easier conversation with organizations than we’ve ever had in the past.”