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A Conversation with ... Daniel Lucarini, Captaris

On the section of the Captaris, Inc., website (www.captaris.com) that highlights its products in the fax server market, there's a game called "Eliminate Your Fax Machines." I couldn't resist. It's a basic point-and-click shoot ‘em up. Fax machines fly through the air. You put the crosshairs on one, and BOOM! It explodes in a satisfying burst of metal and putty-colored-plastic shrapnel.

Seems like a curious diversion for a company that is thriving on the growing—yes, I said growing—fax business. But there's a lot about Captaris that doesn't immediately meet the eye. So I spent an hour or so talking with my friend Dan Lucarini about Captaris, its direction and vision...and a little about the good old days.

"Despite what the technorati might say about the ‘death of fax,' the fact is it is still part of many business processes," says Lucarini. "It's amazing how many applications still make sense. If you have offices overseas or in South America, and they need to get forms that have been filled out by hand, or drawings, they use fax as the entry point. They can afford a fax machine; they know how to use it; there's no learning curve. Doctors' offices, remote clinics, pharmacies... these kinds of users are struggling to put in document scanners because of the cost and the learning curve. But they all know how to put a sheet of paper face down, punch in 10 numbers and hit send."

The background: Captaris was formed in 1982, under its original name, AVT. Mainly a telco-market player in the unified messaging space, it also had a fax server product called RightFax. And it still does; Captaris RightFax was recently called the "overall global leader of the fax server market" in the "Computer-Based Fax Markets Report 2005-2010" from Davidson Consulting.

The company recognized that messaging was probably headed for domination by much bigger players (Cisco, for instance), so Captaris wisely turned to its category-leading fax business as a new and proper direction. It was a good call.

"We already had software that helped people control the movement of documents," explains Lucarini, who joined Captaris in 2004 when they acquired IMR and the Alchemy product. "The natural result, when you bring all these documents in from outside, is that they all trigger workflows." And so, building on "the great beachhead of a fax server business," as he describes it, Captaris acquired a few companies and products that have slowly allowed it to evolve from a one-trick pony into a fully fledged document management and workflow vendor.

"Customers are looking for more business process automation, bottom line," says Lucarini. "It's proven that you can find an ROI by automating practically any business process you have that is currently manual. We just happen to specialize in those automatable processes that are bogged down by paper. The way we say it is: ‘We want to forever change the way that paper manages people.'"

I start thinking more about that fax-killing game.

"When they hear ‘computer-based fax,' a lot of people think we're talking about faxing a Word document," clarifies Lucarini. "Certainly, that's part of many business processes, but it is probably not going to grow, because there are a lot of other ways to do that.

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