Laserfiche, a Brief on its Enterprise Content Management Solution for 2012 and v9

Over the years, Laserfiche, the California-based vendor, has expanded from the records management space to enterprise-class enterprise content management (ECM) software. In this TEC Report, TEC director of knowledge services Josh Chalifour reviews three different use cases for Laserfiche’s ECM product and details how the product’s functionality (especially with respect to version 9) can help companies address their content as well as business process management problems.
Laserfiche is launching the ninth major version of its enterprise content management (ECM) system since the product’s introduction in the late 80s. The new version advances functionality to help organizations manage their business processes. This improves on the range of content management functionality that Laserfiche already provides with its Rio and Avante products. Organizations that need an enterprise-class ECM system should evaluate Rio, while companies with smaller deployments (those with fewer than 100 users) will find Laserfiche’s Avante offering suitable for review. This report refers to Rio but because the two offerings are versions of a single platform, the bulk of this report pertains to both. 

Company Background

Laserfiche began operations in the records management space. With a significant number of clients in the public sector, Laserfiche put an emphasis on security, obtaining DoD-certified status and other standards. Today, Rio is a fully-fledged ECM system. Laserfiche’s main development office and headquarters is based in Long Beach, California. The company also has an important development office in Shanghai with about 50 developers, and it has positioned its newer office in Markham, Ontario for growth that should parallel the Shanghai office. These offices, along with the company’s London, England location, allow Laserfiche to provide nearly 24x7 support to its approximately 30,000 clients.

Organizations that use Laserfiche products run the gamut of sizes and industries. Although there are some single-user implementations (e.g., law offices or independent financial advisors), there are also very large implementations, such as a school board with 185,000 users. On average, Laserfiche clients tend to have between 50 to 200 named users.

The crux of the company’s product focus rests with five key areas: a capture tool, workflow engine, records management, integration capabilities, and accessibility features. TEC’s model of research on ECM systems covers these areas by breaking them into 15 components, ranging from content authoring, content acquisition, workflow management, to document and records management, and so on. I’ll review what Laserfiche provides at a high level and point out some of Rio’s key features, in particular as they relate to the version 9 release. To understand ECM functionality at a detailed level, you can explore it using the TEC Advisor evaluation system.

The Three Ways of Laserfiche

Laserfiche sells its product under three different use cases. First, as an ECM solution, it’s a central point of control for all of an organization’s documents. This approach would be used by an organization that’s seeking a system to reduce the number of places it has to manage its documents. Typically, this case is valued by organizations that need to improve how they manage access rights and track the life cycle of their documents (from creation to revision to disposition).

Second, Laserfiche sees Rio as a piece of integrative middleware. Some organizations will implement Laserfiche as the front end for other enterprise systems owing to the product’s process management functionality. For example, a company may adapt the Laserfiche system, configured for the company’s processes, as a user-friendly interface for components of its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

Third, the Laserfiche product is used for shared services situations. In this case, Laserfiche is advancing its product as something that can be adapted to a variety of uses aside from straight-forward content management. The company cites the myriad of ways that it’s being used in higher education. A university will implement Rio initially for a specific purpose and subsequently set up the solution for those departments that will have a need, rather than buying a different, dedicated application. This also maintains cross-system consistency for managing documents and data.

Now, let's take a closer look at Rio.

Capture

The Laserfiche system’s capture capabilities are essential to the product’s content acquisition and document and records management features. Rio includes a relatively advanced system for document scanning and capture. Upon scanning documents, its internal optical character recognition (OCR) functionality automatically generates text copies for each document. PDFs get the same treatment. Thus, text content managed by Rio becomes easily searchable. In the screenshot below, you can see a scanned document and how Rio identifies the search text on various pages.

 
Figure 1. Rio Search Functionality on Scanned Document Text
 

Post-capture, there are many things Laserfiche provides to better manage the captured content. For example, users can place virtual sticky notes on documents, highlight, and redact portions of the documents. These tools don’t modify original content, but their effects are preserved for all the users working with the documents in respect of the user permission system. Thus, users without the proper rights to see what’s behind redacted portions of documents see portions that have been blacked out and also cannot get search results that would otherwise reveal redacted text.

As users handle documents within the context of their individual roles, Rio maintains the corresponding document versions. A user that e-mails a redacted document from Rio will in fact be disseminating the redacted version. This type of functionality is useful for organizations that need to disseminate documents with sensitive information, which may not be appropriate for all audiences. For example, Laserfiche notes that Public Works and Government Services Canada uses the system to support its management of access to information requests. The Laserfiche redaction functionality also tracks the amount of time required to make redactions (useful for reporting purposes) and enables users to insert notes (e.g., to cite laws that require a given redaction).

Capturing documents is not simply a function of storage. Laserfiche’s capture system enables users to scan a document and have the system identify certain types of information within that document so that the user can take action. For example, you could scan a form and have Rio identify the PO number for use within a workflow. It can do this through several methods such as finding bar codes, zonal OCR (having certain regions set for finding certain types of information), or via pattern matching.

Figure 2. Rio Example of an Invoice with Zonal OCR Options
 
Laserfiche is quick to point out that even though it offers all of this scanning and capture functionality, its system will integrate with dedicated third-party products from companies such as Kofax and Brainware, if your organization prefers to use those.

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