Imaging Spreads through Companies as Doc Management Tool

Once companies start imaging documents, the benefits of spreading imaging across an enterprise become more apparent.

At least that's the way technology provider Captaris sees it. And their customers seem to be backing them up, expanding the use of once-targeted imaging technology wherever document storage and retrieval needs can be found.

Dan Lucarini, a marketing executive at Captaris who works with the firm's Alchemy software, told MSN that imaging technology is appropriate for any business that is inundated with paper and trying to automate procedures. As such, imaging technology has been widely embraced by mortgage lenders and other financial institutions. Those industries are not only paper-intensive, they are also heavily regulated, he said.

Among the company's clients are firms like Cannon Electric Federal Credit Union, Countrywide Financial Corp. and Lenders Limited. The Alchemy product is particularly popular with credit unions, with more than two dozen credit unions currently using it, Mr. Lucarini said.

"It's not just that the company is looking to improve a business process and save some money. Underneath that, it's also about the need to keep these documents in a compliant fashion," Mr. Lucarini said.

He said version 8.0 of Alchemy includes additional functionality related to mortgage lending as well as beefed up records management capabilities. The system helps users ensure that every step of document processing is monitored and audited to enhance regulatory compliance.

"More and more, government agencies and auditors are asking, can you track that document every step of the way once it comes into your company?" Mr. Lucarini said.

Part of that compliance includes managing the privacy of a consumer's information, especially in the mortgage origination process, where a great deal of the borrower's personal information may be changing hands during the loan approval process.

He also said that Alchemy is popular with customer service and loan servicing departments, because Alchemy makes it so much easier to retrieve information when a consumer calls or needs to be contacted.

"We essentially put the loan document right at the finger tips of the customer service agents," Mr. Lucarini said.

Captaris also provides the RightFax fax and e-document delivery software, which is widely used in the mortgage industry. It integrates the flow of fax, paper, electronic documents and data. Captaris claims that RightFax has the largest market share in the fax server market.

And Alchemy appeals to midsized lenders because it can be "repurposed" to suit different functions within an organization.

Jim R. Wickham, chairman and CEO of Lender Ltd., a Michigan-based mortgage firm, said that the original goal behind his company's use of imaging technology centered on reducing document storage costs rather than facilitating e-commerce. The company simply didn't want to pay rent on office space used solely for file cabinets.

But once imaging came on board, Mr. Wickham said the appeal of electronic commerce became more attractive.

In mortgage lending, third-party quality-control audits illustrate the problems associated with managing paper documents, he said.

"We were tired of overnighting files to them that we get back in two to six months depending on how busy they are."

But soon the Michigan-based lender found that imaging technology could be used for more than just loan documents. Now Lender Ltd. images human resources and accounting documents as well. Some of the benefits are intangible, such as allowing loan officers to read hard copies of mail while they are on the road or look up health insurance information from home.

Mr. Wickham said it is unrealistic to expect mortgage companies to swallow large-scale technology initiatives whole.

"You need to start with what is the simplest step in the right direction, not always what is the perfect step," he said. "If you want to get everyone on board, do something simple first."

And when it comes to achieving widespread, industrywide adoption of technology, a little pressure from mortgage investors and servicers goes a long way, he said.

"When you think about it, when did we all start going to MERS? When we had to. When did we all start using automated underwriting? When we had to."

For this pressure to work, however, key investors and servicers need consistent data requirements for lenders, he said.

Last fall, Captaris released Alchemy 8.0, the most recent upgrade of the information delivery software. Alchemy was previously owned by Information Management Research, which was acquired by Captaris. The software is targeted at the intersection of document management, records management and information lifecycle management, the company said.

The software handles multiple types of documents, including images, e-mails, PDF files, and other forms of electronic documents. It controls the capture, management, archiving, retrieval, distribution and destruction of these documents.

The new release includes an adva-nced content management server, Captaris said, offering a single point of management for documents and new library and record management features. The systems workflow capacity is also enhanced in the new release.

Copyright 2005 Thomson Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. http://www.thomsonmedia.com http://www.mortgageservicingnews.com

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