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Optika's unified toolset represents bold leap

There's no doubt that Optika (www.optika.com, Booth #1433) is onto something big with its new 32-bit, three-tier, intranet-based eMedia solution.

Connie Moore, an analyst with Giga Information Group (www.gigaweb.com), said, "Optika's vision and technology initiatives represent a bold new step forward for the workflow-enabled imaging industry. Creating a unified toolset that integrates the various points along the paper trail is a real step toward eliminating paper at its source."

And beta user Tom Reynolds, senior network engineer for GMAC Commercial Mortgage (Detroit), contends that "Optika eMedia is much more than just an imaging product. It will be an integral part of brokering our business transactions through the incorporation of EDI and electronic commerce."

Ironically, however, Optika has taken such a dramatic step forward that it has leap-frogged its own "traditional" FilePower suite of imaging, COLD and workflow applications. Optika officials believe that, although eMedia is fully backward-compatible with FilePower, prospective FilePower customers are postponing buying decisions until eMedia's release in the second calendar quarter of 1998. First-quarter revenues are a "disappointing" $3.6 million or $3.7 million, compared to $4.5 million for Q1 1997.

Optika CEO Mark Ruport acknowledges the cost of his commitment to "raise the bar" with eMedia. "The recent announcement of eMedia has delayed customers' purchase decisions, impacting sales for the first quarter," he said. "EMedia is so important to our future that we felt we had to introduce it to our customers and business partners at our annual summit in January. In retrospect, our announcement then may have been premature­we were not able to provide the details of eMedia's pricing structure and deployment plans at that time."

That's all in place now, though. Ruport said eMedia will be in full beta production in June. The site license for both FilePower and eMedia is $25,000. Anyone who buys FilePower's $450 client now will receive the software, plus an eventual upgrade to eMedia, for $150, or the same price as an eMedia client. (An alternative incentive plan involves a 30% discount on the cost of an entire FilePower installation, plus a 10% fee to upgrade to eMedia.) Optika is bringing its partners together again for two weeks in May to explain the eMedia value proposition. That strategy is to leverage the power of the Web (read: powerful, inexpensive, ubiquitous technology) to allow users to retrieve and view the images, COLD pages, EDI and electronic communications associated with business transactions. The Web is also used to configure, deploy and maintain eMedia. Training costs are minimized because everyone, from the IT department to the user, is comfortable working with standard Internet technology. All of that leads Optika to boast that eMedia dramatically lowers the total cost of ownership of a scalable solution that's easily deployable across the enterprise and the supply chain.

Other eMedia features include multiple clients (including a standard browser interface as well as an Optika production interface) that are user-configurable and can process work using eMedia's integrated workflow. A "transactional knowledge base" deals with out-of-tolerance business transactions by "eMediation," or the automatic creation of an extranet page with links to transaction-relevant documents and information. The extranet, accessible to all partners in the transaction, serves both to resolve the dispute and as an electronic record of the dispute's resolution. (Optika provides extranet clients free of charge.)

A not-so-subtle paradigm shift is implicit in Optika's new solution. The company is essentially asking customers to trust that it will lead their business "into a paperless future." Recognizing that such a leap of faith will not be easy for many customers, Optika advocates a "continuous change process" consisting of three deployment phases. The first is the automation of work through imaging, COLD, document management and workflow. With that in place, a company can automate its work processes and streamline business-to-business transactions. The final phase involves automating a company's value chain, connecting customers and suppliers via EDI, and resolving transaction disputes via eMediation.

To further ease the transition, Optika has developed a standardized implementation methodology­from solution definition, to development, rollout and extension­that is designed to deliver results without risking key business relationships. Optika estimates that the definition and implementation of the solution for each phase is achievable within 60 to 90 days.

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