Everything is Heading to the Cloud: A Q&A with Panasonic’s Joseph Odore and Reseller Partner COLAMCO

We recently sat down with Panasonic’s Joseph Odore, Product Manager for Document Management and Imaging Solutions and Sean Salins, Director of Sales for COLAMCO to discuss recent trends they’re seeing in the industry.

What are the compliance issues SMBs are most challenged with today and why?

JO: Small businesses today—whether large or small—often face issues with tax reporting, general paper management and storage and even document retention. For example, a small legal firm could inadvertently be breaking a compliance law by keeping hard-copy legal documentation for too long. It is a compliance issue to not properly destroy some forms, personal information and contracts after a certain time. Something that is easy to overlook. We’re seeing an ever-increasing move to cloud storage where compliance issues are more easily managed and coordinated.

SS: Our SMB customers are constantly challenged with how to keep the personal information of their employees safe.   Often when meeting with the owners of these firms, I am able to point out a Bankers Box stashed in the back office with employee records and personal information.  These owners are usually so focused on their core business; they often overlook the types of security issues that could really cripple their businesses.

What are the top challenges SMBs face when transitioning from paper to digital, and then to the cloud? 

JO: One of the challenges I often hear is in regards to the expense and perceived high-cost of a document management solution. There are many low-cost solutions available on the market today ideal for an SMB. For instance, we offer a unique solution with software partner Neat that comes bundled with our workgroup scanners. This offering – available through COLAMCO – helps users manage critical paper and digital records including financial documents like receipts, vendor invoices and expense reports and starts at a price point under $1,000. A solution like this can help SMBs not only quickly manage expenses but offers a holistic document management system for a relatively low cost.

SS: For our customers it’s usually where to start.  For most companies, going cold turkey to digital can be overwhelming.  We suggest a natural progression and utilize scanners and multifunction printers as the digital “on-ramp”.   If these document processes can be migrated to digital gradually, it makes the effort a bit less daunting.

What business benefits can SMBs achieve from a digital system and storage?

JO: The benefits of a digital document management system range from efficiencies that can save time and money to increased storage. With features such as creating searchable text documents is a function any-sized business shouldn’t live without. No more wasting time sorting through a stack of documents to find what you need, by creating a digital record that can be easily searched with a few computer keystrokes, allows near immediate access to the information you need.

Additionally, security can often be a concern for SMBs. While we often think about digital-record security, password protections and safeguards against hackers, it’s easy to forget about the benefits of digital storage when facing a disaster recovery. What would you do if your home office became flooded or a fire broke out in your business and you lost years’ worth of business records? With cloud-based storage, files are stored offsite—often on multiple servers—providing a useful duplication of important records.

Having a reliable document management system in place will help create efficiencies and lower costs.

SS: Instant access to information is critical in today’s pace of business.  8 hour workdays have become 12 with folks accessing email from their phone before their heads leave their pillow in the morning.   Digitizing documents and implementing a robust storage strategy can make those hours more productive.  I am often frustrated when working late in the evening and are dependent on another coworker to send me a file that lives solely on their desktop or even in their cube.  The cycles to complete tasks can be greatly reduced by a proper strategy.

Where do you think the industry is headed over the next 12-24 months?

JO: Everything is headed towards the cloud, and cloud is the way to go. Subscription-based cloud services continue to be on the rise, especially when it comes to small businesses. Companies often offer a la carte-based services so business owners can pick and choose exactly what they need and nothing they don’t. It is so important for businesses to be able to access their information on-the-go from any device, anywhere, anytime.

Many ISVs are moving away from a software-as-a-service model to a subscription model. Offering functions such as barcode scanning, increased storage capacity, image capture and invoice processing. This allows business owners to pay small, monthly fees for the services and features they need to run their business opposed to having to pay a larger fee upfront for a software package that they may not know if they actually need for their day-to-day operations.

SS: Obviously the cloud is huge, but I am really excited to see how companies adopt strategies to archive and ultimately search the data that lives there.  Today we rely on Google to give us information from the web, but there is exponentially more information that needs to be accessed by companies to ensure that they can access the information they are trying to secure and protect.  Too often, I see companies making repeated mistakes simply because two departments aren’t talking to one another.  Information is key and as data continues to amass in the cloud, getting it will be the next real challenge.