Rethinking Fax to Reinforce Competitive Advantage — Part 2


Paperless Productivity

Posted on: March 5, 2015

In this continuation of last week’s post, we resume our discussion of two sea changes in enterprise faxing, and what they mean for businesses seeking to strengthen operational advantages.

As we emphasized last week, fax solutions today look and work almost completely differently from their predecessors. With such changes have come many new workflow possibilities, which give rise to this week’s point:

Organizations need to see how fax can be a critical variable in fortifying a competitive advantage.

That is to say, fax matters—and far more so than many users realize. After working with countless technical and business stakeholders, it seems that one critical question should be asked more often: “Since we have to fax for the foreseeable future, how can we do so in a way that makes us more competitive?”

In our experience, there is always an answer.

A concrete example might help. Health care providers and insurers have always comprised a large share of our clientele, and their proportion has further increased since the passage of the Affordable Care and HITECH Acts. A universal challenge in the industry is maintaining the security of protected health information (PHI) as required by HIPAA, since negligence could bring severe legal consequences.

Providers and insurers fax PHI perpetually. For the sake of compliance, many employ devices like locking security covers for their fax machines, or even entirely separate rooms. The inconvenience is severe, and the loss of floor/desk space can be a problem in its own right.

So, with the combined hassles of paper documents, manual workflows, and almost comically burdensome privacy protocols, it’s easy to understand why some healthcare organizations are particularly resentful of faxing.

However, that’s also why these same firms have been among the most eager to embrace server-based fax solutions. Even though laws like HIPAA are industry-specific, the workflow improvements that sustain a competitive advantage in healthcare are almost universal:

  • Getting better control of information by sending/receiving, indexing, and storing data electronically
  • Balancing privacy risk mitigation with ease of use for authorized parties/systems
  • Minimizing telecom costs (in terms of both usage and administration)

Almost without exception, enterprise fax architecture plays a significant role in all the above. Will it create more or less work for an average employee? Will it increase or reduce document transmission costs? Will it be more or less conducive to centralized management? Will it address privacy concerns or create more difficult ones?

In light of these influences on operational efficiency, something as seemingly mundane as fax is inextricably linked to competitive advantage, and therefore to long-run profitability.

In practice, fairly small improvements (a mere 10% reduction in fax line usage, for example) can offset solution costs very quickly. As a general rule, we observe a median breakeven point of about six months from deployment. A period longer than one year is nearly unheard-of. Less measurable factors, like workflow efficiency and privacy risk reduction, also contribute greatly.

In practice, this ROI timeframe yields a pattern that we have repeatedly observed throughout years of consulting:

  1. Clients have an “ah-ha” moment in which they realize faxing no longer needs to be costly or inefficient,
  2. They implement an electronic, paperless alternative in hopes of addressing one or two very specific pain points, and
  3. The efficiency gains from the initial project spark their imagination and lead to expansion into other departments/processes

In many cases, this pattern snowballs until enterprise-wide adoption has occurred (which, by the way, is one reason we urge scalability even in pilot projects).

The nuances of custom integrations, server clusters, virtualization, IP networks, OCR for fax, and so forth merit their own articles. But to make a long story short, these advances have turned faxing from a cumbersome vestige of bygone technology into an efficient, cost-effective, and eminently modern means of communication.

If you’re looking to do your customers, owners, and/or employees a great service, then it’s time to explore the possibilities.

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