The Wavelength: Vertical Alignment

0317_wavelength_panelVerticals are critical to today’s solution providers. No matter which industries you work with, there are specialized requirements that make each one present its own unique challenges and offer its own rewards. Do some offer better opportunities than others, what are some of the tips and tricks, and are there certain “must-know” facts about each? Our panel this month tackles the topic.

Which vertical markets do you feel offer the most attractive opportunities?

Rebecca Blaine: (We have seen our greatest) successes in the legal and creative/design verticals. These vertical markets are print intensive and have required both knowledge and expertise of all of the technologies that surround the devices — litigation support, document management and job accounting for the legal vertical; color management, proofing and media profiling for the creative/design vertical. Not-for-profit is another vertical we feel offers attractive opportunities. An important aspect of LDI’s philosophy has always been providing support to not-for-profit organizations. Playing an active role in these organizations has helped us understand specific needs and offer solutions that are cost-efficient and effective. Furthermore, we see a significant opportunity for managed IT Services in this vertical.

Glen Johnson: Regulated vertical markets such as financial services, education, legal, healthcare, manufacturing, real estate and property management offer attractive opportunities. Vertical markets that enforce business rules pertaining to all documentation and require a form of approval are excellent opportunities.

Ron Nielson: We continue to see opportunities across key verticals, including healthcare, higher education and legal, particularly related to the way information is managed and shared. Each industry brings unique trends and challenges and therefore requires unique key strategies, tips and tools to be effective. A deep level of vertical industry knowledge is a must in today’s competitive environment to give customers the confidence you can help them within their specific market.  In many cases, such as in healthcare, our team of experts consult with customers to identify breaks within workflow and to make recommendations for improvements. At HIMSS [we saw] plentiful discussions around ways a services company can help with these challenges by offering business processing services, workflow assessments, change management and much more.

Frederick  Scherman: The current White House administration is projecting increased spending in aerospace, defense and healthcare. From a document management perspective, the U.S. government presents attractive opportunities within these sectors. We’re also seeing challenges in the healthcare market in both public and private sectors. There continues to exist an unprecedented demand for processing decades of accrued healthcare documents and records.

George Seymour: Among verticals, the most attractive markets are also the ones that are most complicated to address with solutions. Markets like healthcare, financial services and the federal government are driven by complex security and regulatory requirements to gain control of paper-based workflows. And because these are high-priority needs, organizations have budgets assigned to address them. But these are also the toughest markets to sell into successfully. The solutions require deep vertical expertise. And the sales process typically brings in CIOs and other senior decision makers. These factors make it important for dealers to team with vendors that have this market expertise and senior selling experience, and are willing to be true partners in collaborating during the sales process.

What are some of the more complicated vertical markets to sell to and why?

Blaine: Because we are more “boutique” in our approach, government organizations don’t afford us the margins and collaborative process that we attempt to utilize when creating solutions for our clients.

Johnson: Financial advisors and broker dealers have very strict requirements around compliance with SEC and FINRA rules. Truly meeting these regulations requires specialized knowledge and deployment of technology.

Have you gained entry to a vertical market unexpectedly and if so, how did that happen?

Blaine: Our success in the education vertical was facilitated through products added beyond its original core products and services.  The addition of interactive whiteboards and interactive learning management solutions promoted the development of conversations, relationships and ultimately technology engagements.

Johnson: The K-12 market. At first, school districts purchased PSIcapture to track barcode asset tags for teacher/student iPad initiatives. It has evolved into other departments such as accounting/finance, grading, student records, facility maintenance, and food service. Our technology fits the way educators work instead of trying to change the way they work.      

Are there any tools or best practices that carry through multiple verticals that you can share with us?

Blaine: There are a few basics that enable us to be successful through multiple verticals: An understanding of converting paper to an electronic workflow, including PDF technologies and document management strategies; an understanding of user behaviors that drive print volumes to desktop and shared multifunction devices; and an understanding of eliminating print waste through device control and secure print processes 

Johnson: Eliminate single points of failure in processes by incorporating groups versus single users whenever possible. This makes allowances for people being unavailable, traveling, etc., which can create bottlenecks in workflow processes. Take inventory of all standard business documents and create templates in your document management repository for each document. This way, everyone will consistently use the same, current version of documents.

Scherman: We continue to embrace enhancement tools that cross over vertical industries. Through partnering affiliations with document management companies, software is available that provides capture automation for business processes, with or without an ECM platform. These solutions play a pivotal role in streamlining workflow for vertical markets allowing organizations to spend less time managing their digital files and more time on value-producing tasks.

Seymour: We see the concept of enabling secure workflows across multiple devices and users as a fairly common process across verticals. The big difference among verticals is integration to back-end systems and security requirements that are specific to individual industries. Dealers should look for vendor partners that can bring in vertical specialists who know an industry’s workflows. That can be a major point of differentiation with customers.

A best practice for dealers that runs across multiple verticals is having a vendor partner that can engage with CIOs. Vertical opportunities are typically complex solutions that require deep knowledge of security and regulatory requirements. These are customer issues that involve senior IT executives as decision makers. Having the expertise to sit down with CIOs can make a critical difference to achieving sales success. Winning over the CIO can provide an effective counterweight to cost pressures pursued by purchasing departments, which may not fully understand the complexity of the problems you are solving.

Which verticals lend themselves best to paperless solutions as opposed to those verticals that are still paper-intensive?

Blaine: Because of the wealth of digital content, online resources and portability of interactive devices, the education vertical is quickly reducing the number of paper assets.

Johnson: With today’s technology, there are few verticals that really require paper. With the growth of electronic signature, even historically paper-intensive applications (i.e. AP, legal, HR, finance, healthcare, etc.) can be made paperless, or at least part of the process can be made paperless. Initiating an instance of workflow as soon as the documents are received and captured can advance any business process. However, most sales operations are still paper-intensive. I am often amused that companies selling a “paperless” solution require the customer to begin the relationship by signing various papers. 

Seymour: Healthcare has the best opportunity to move toward paperless work processes although it will be challenged to go completely paperless. In fact, healthcare is the only industry that operates under a mandate to achieve paperless transactions of medical records. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) outlined multi-stage measurement criteria for healthcare providers to go paperless. That said, the primary issue in healthcare – as in all verticals – is there needs to be dramatic change in the workflows. For example, there are still numerous processes that require someone to fill out information on paper that later needs to be entered into a healthcare system. Tools like mobile capture and speech-to-text technology are helping healthcare go digital and integrate that information into electronic healthcare systems.

What are some of the biggest challenges in the healthcare vertical?

Blaine: Compliance issues related to HIPAA and prevalence of legacy medical systems create some interesting challenges.

Nielson: This is a very timely question, particularly as we’re answering this question directly from the show floor at HIMSS.  The two areas we see as the biggest overarching challenges in healthcare are reimbursements and patient care coordination.  Despite the fact it has been a few years since EHRs were implemented, facilities are still buried in paperwork and manual processes – and still not seeing maximum ROI. While the move to digitizing information continues, managing the new processes that come along with it can be a major challenge as well. 

If you think about it, rapid change has been happening within healthcare facilities within recent years as they have implemented new technologies that may be disparate or improperly leveraging the older technology. Additionally, the clinicians and administrative staff may not have been properly trained on how to effectively use the new system, and at times where they may feel the old way is better, they revert back to it.  While this can be inefficient, it can also affect patient safety in some cases. Bringing in outside experts to help implement change management, or what we refer to as Strategic Transformation Services, can be incredibly instrumental in training healthcare professionals not just how to use the new technologies, but why they are so vital to their patients’ outcomes. 

Scherman: Due to the rapid rate of consolidation within the healthcare industry, many healthcare providers are forced to migrate from one platform to another. Technology compatibility becomes a critical issue. Driver-level compatibility between hardware devices and software systems is essential to eliminate technical support issues and simplify platform deployments.

We currently work with a number of independent software vendors to ensure interoperability between the individual platforms and our equipment. Third-party compliance certification testing with software applications, such as EHR systems, provide healthcare customers the confidence of knowing before they buy. This testing also enables hardware and software vendors to collaborate better to cut down on development time and avoid problems early on.

Where is there opportunity to collaborate with other providers?

Johnson: Working with our channel partners to deliver capture, workflow and document management solutions that are tailored to the various verticals they serve and integrating these solutions with the business management applications to help customers streamline their operations. Business applications like CRM, ERP, HRIS are not optimized to manage documents. However, we can provide tight integration from these applications to document management so users are able to get to all information and documents they need to do their jobs efficiently.

Is the strategy of vertical marketing truly actionable or is it really more hype?

Blaine: Vertical marketing strategies enable us to engage large groups of individuals with common technology interests.  It gives us an opportunity to develop system specialists and an expertise with the third-party solutions and workflow integrations that leverage technology investments. It is absolutely an actionable go-to-market strategy.

Johnson: It is not hype. Different verticals do have different requirements and priorities. No one software company can be all things to all people. A concentrated effort to focus on specific verticals allows information to be transferred via subject matter experts versus a “one solution fits all” approach. We all have our strengths, and therefore certain markets where we fit better than others.

Nielson: We absolutely believe in the value of a vertical marketing approach, and have seen positive results from it.  There is a strong customer demand and expectation that our team understands their specific markets.  Our go-to-market approach would not be as effective today if we didn’t have experts on staff who understand the unique vertical industry challenges, and know how to best address them.  Customers have an expectation that we can speak their language, know their challenges, understand their technologies and how their processes compare to other healthcare providers. Our vertical marketing approach shows them we can deliver. 

In today’s world, where information is moving so quickly and the need to manage that process is becoming more vital for security, transformation and even business growth – the concept of one-size fits all marketing goes out the door.  As an organization that may be thought of by many as an “output company,” we know the importance of workflow, managing information and putting that information to work, improving patient outcomes, revenue cycles and more.  Today, with our team of vertically specialized experts, we can help those healthcare, higher education and legal organizations implement new business strategies, processes and technologies that ultimately grow their business. 

This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of Workflow.