Xerox flows into the digital office

Sometimes, not having the most current information could be disastrous.

On any given project, London, Ont.-based construction company EllisDon Corp. could hire between 50 and 60 sub-contractors. This means if the plans for a building change, then the sub-contractors must have the most recent documents before they go in to do their end of the job. If a sub-contractor is working with the wrong documents, serious consequences could follow. But with each job generating about 100,000 documents, keeping track of them is no easy task, said Bruce Fleming, the CIO and vice-president of technology at EllisDon in Mississauga.

In fact, he said that about 95 per cent of the job involves making sure that people gets the right information at the right time.

To help reign in the thousands of documents the company has to handle, Fleming has implemented Toronto-based Xerox Canada Ltd.’s FlowPort technology. The document management software is part of a larger extranet solution that EllisDon will be using.

“This could change the way we do business,” said Fleming, who had only completed a smart portion of the FlowPort implantation when ComputerWorld spoke with him. The application will allow EllisDon to store all their documents digitally and keep track of different versions chronologically.

“I don’t think that printing is going away, but I do think we’re getting away from storing paper documents.”

FlowPort is a browser-based application designed to integrate paper documents into the digital world. The software allows users to distribute and access documents to and from various user interfaces such as Xerox’s DocuShare, Lotus Notes, Microsoft Exchange and in file transfer protocol and PDF formats. The technology is integrated with Textbridge Pro 9.0 optical character recognition (OCR), which allows users to scan in paper documents and then make changes to them digitally in programs such as Microsoft Word.

When the software is used in conjunction with Xerox’s PaperWare technology and its Document Centre 400 Series multifunction printers, users can send paper documents directly to a user’s desktop from a printer.

The PaperWare uses DataGlyphs technology – digitally encoded information that can contain thousands of bytes of data. The data appears as grey patterns on paper, and works not unlike bar codes. Everyone in an office can have an individualized coversheet with DataGlyphs information encoded on it. Then if they send documents to someone in the office from a printer, the DataGlyphs can be read electronically and inform the receiver of who is sending the information.

The sub-contractors that EllisDon works with do not have FlowPort, but EllisDon employees can better keep track of documents. They can push documents to the contractors through a variety of means, but keep them in a central digital repository. They can also capture documents they receive back from the sub-contractors electronically – including hardcopies which can be scanned into the systerm.

“The glyph technology is unique to Xerox,” said James Lundy, a research director at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Group Inc.”It gives businesses some options. Paper is just a temporary display medium.”

“It’s a good technology, but the question is, what are they going to do with it?” he said. Lundy believes that Xerox should concentrate more on marketing the technology and gearing it towards different vertical markets.

For it’s part, Xerox claims that it’s at the forefront of the digital office.

“We’re committed to it, we’re leading it and we’re reinventing it everyday,” said D. Cameron Hyde, the president and CEO of Xerox Canada.