Byron Aulick

Byron Aulick

Byron Aulick is the President, Co-Founder and CTO of DataVault, Inc.

Byron is CDIA+ Certified and the leading instructor for CompTIA CDIA+.


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As I’ve been consulting companies of all sizes and talking to folks within many age groups I’ve started to see a trend in regards to pricing model and ages. Older folks seem to have an aversion against open source technologies, younger folks have the exact opposite aversion against commercial technologies. All the while, SaaS seems to have no age preference but one of corporate size.

Older folks tend to have in their minds the adage “you get what you pay for”. They’ve seen price correlation between product development stage and cost. Some folks even think that the most expensive product must be the best product and instantly want to purchase that product. When open source technology is brought up there is an instant confusion and disregard.

Younger folks seem to have in their mind a vision of an evil corporation. No matter what it is, if it has a price tag, some younger folks will balk at it and think to themselves, “there’s got to be an open source project that does the same thing”. When commercial technologies are brought up, even if fairly priced, some young folks will not hear another word.

When it comes to the SaaS pricing model, there seems to me to be less of an age based correlation but rather a corporate size correlation. Larger companies tend to avoid SaaS products, even great ones like, small companies tend to jump on top of any SaaS product that they think can help them progress. Large companies tend to be averse to any information that resides outside of their firewall, despite great studies about the security of the cloud like this one.

So what is driving the decisions at your company? Is it your age and your company size or are you realistically looking at all of the options that your company has?

"When everyone is looking for gold, it's a good time to be in the pick and shovel business." -- Mark Twain

Enterprise Content Management, by definition, is the ability to gather, organize, and distribute corporate information, regardless of its original format. The ECM industry is rapidly becoming the most highly sought after service for ’Corporate America’. Having said that, let’s first understand that ECM has no ‘vertical’ market. Simply stated, this means that there is no one type of business served better than any other. ECM can help a medical facility handle its knowledge base just as quickly and efficiently as it can help an attorney’s office manage their legal documents.

The second thing we need to recognize is that ECM has integrity. Think of it as an electronic library of knowledge. Similar to a library made of brick and mortar, once information is deposited, it becomes the central focal point for getting reliable data. In other words, you can depend on the reliability of the information because there is only one original copy, not five!

It is safe to say that ECM is not all things to all people. To be represented properly, it must be known as having a single focus; to afford a company the ability to reduce frustration in the office environment. How can it do that you say? By being a tool and by being the central repository for anything a computer can understand, staff only has to look in one place to find necessary information. Like a student doing a report, if you take them to a good library, they will find the information they need and the report will reflect it. ECM is that library! Additionally, the ECM library has security, accountability, reporting and audit-trails. Ooooh, if only the old-fashioned libraries had that kind of accountability, they would never loose a book!!

Thirdly, ECM is truly a ‘niche service’ and therefore, it needs a ‘niche market’. The interface that the end-user sees on the screen, in most cases, can be simply modified to fit the perspective niche. For example, you can address the specific needs of a medical concern with a medical ‘interface’. If you choose to modify the initial login screen to contain medical terminology, the users will believe it was created especially for them! I am not advocating deception, just perception, and positive perception at that. Now you have a niche product, addressing the niche medical market.

Lastly, ECM may be initially challenging to sell. It is not for lack of technology, but because of the business culture’s mindset. How so? Because corporate America still does not fully understand and accept a ‘paperless society’ or ‘automation’ in general. This is why we call it a niche. Perhaps ‘it’ is not as much the niche as the prospect you are looking for as a ‘niche’. The ideal candidate for ECM automation is youthful or more aggressive towards technology with a fairly high impetus to move in this direction.

It might be that in the past, they have lost a document that has cost them a tremendous amount of time, money or aggravation. We still must face the facts that even among those who are receptive, ECM represents a significant change in the accepted way of how documents are stored and handled. To offset the anxiety, we must show an apprehensive market how controlled document management is a gold mine, and that ECM is the 21st Century’s pick and shovel industry.

Introduction recap:

  1. ECM has no ‘vertical’ market - making it applicable to all.
  2. ECM has integrity. Like a library –you can count on it.
  3. It can be adapted to the audience, allowing it to fill a niche.
  4. Sales can be challenging due to engrained corporate culture.
Monday, October 15 2007 08:40

Successfully Managing an ECM Project

Whether you are a hardware or software salesperson, or a systems integrator, project management concepts will most assuredly affect the way you do your job. Most of us would agree we share a common objective, satisfying our customer. Therefore, our goal can only be achieved with a well planned and implemented installation, from sales to execution, and every step in between. Industry-accepted project management best practices will help you and your organization achieve this objective.

When most people think about project management, they think about execution, or the physical doing of the work. However, project management is more than just delivering a product on time and on budget. In project management, it all starts with the project initiation. As you might expect, project initiation has a lot to do with contracting and sales. Simply stated, without a signed contract there will be no project planning, execution or closure. For that reason the sales team must play an integral part in the project lifecycle.

It is during project initiation that the customer requirements are identified and their expectations are established. Without clearly defined requirements, there is no way to determine whether or not customer objectives are ever met or whether or not your solution can actually meet those objectives. It is clearly the sales force that initially identifies the link between your solution offerings and the customer's needs. However, it does not stop there. A detailed needs assessment is imperative in order to fully understand the customer’s business and their functional and technical requirements. It is only then that a solution can be designed and a scope document drafted—and then a contract executed.

Let’s look at a common scenario. A salesperson follows up with a lead and identifies an interested prospect for your software solution. This is a large sale for several hundred users. The customer indicates that they do have an IT department. However, resources are thin, and they would need your company to provide the hardware and implement the solution. The salesperson connects with the solutions team to determine the best way to go about executing this project. The solutions team immediately identifies the necessity of performing a needs assessment. The salesperson re-engages the customer and coordinates the assessment. The solutions team conducts the assessment by interviewing the applicable stakeholders and monitoring workflows. The solutions team also evaluates the existing IT infrastructure with all of the data collected during the assessment. Then, the business, functional and technical requirements are thoroughly identified and documented.

Next, the salesperson takes the needs assessment findings and presents it to the customer with a proposal. It is in this report that customer expectations are documented and agreed to. The customer signs the proposal and authorizes the project. At this time, the solutions team goes full speed ahead into project planning and execution.

The above mentioned example describes the steps associated with a project initiation. It is during this process that customer requirements are identified, the scope is defined, and the acceptance criteria are documented. Stakeholder consensus is achieved and customer sign-off occurs. The contract is signed and the project is officially authorized.

Successfully Managing an Electronic Document Management Conversion is the first in article in a series, designed to take the reader through the electronic document management project lifecycle from initiation to planning and then to execution. Objectives of the series will be to inform the reader of the industry accepted project management best practices, and equip them to be more successful with their EDM implementations.

The next article in the series will be discussing the steps to project planning.

In order to sell EDM solutions to a prospective customer without external drivers (compliance, company initiative, and so on), the rep must cost-justify the solution demonstrating cost savings of digital file management versus paper file management. In fact, to do the project right, a needs assessment is required during which all the data necessary to prepare a detailed cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is collected. Since this is a big part of what DataVault does being a vendor-neutral consultant, we are compensated for this activity. Therefore, we have to cost-justify the solution sufficiently to get the customer to write a check for the needs assessment independent of what technology will be recommended for the ultimate solution, and before the full data set is even available.

How do we do this, you ask? Well, you'll have to take our EDMS Needs Assessment class to get all the tricks and tools of the trade. However, I will point you to a relatively good tool I stumbled upon on the Internet today that will get you started in the right direction. The first step is to get rough costs for their current file management. I found this tool on a product vendor's site. It looks pretty good, though I have not checked it for accuracy--but you get the picture.

We have prepared a similar tool provided with our class that actually summarizes the results in a nifty little sales letter that we use to sell the needs assessment. Read what one of our students had to say about this tool--and be mindful that this tool is just one small part of what our students walk away with from the class--though an important part! You can learn more about the other tools on our Web site.

Be wise with your assessments, and always remember, "diagnosis before prescription," and NOT for free! Don't devalue yourself or your firm.

-by Byron B. Aulick, CDIA+, PDI+, Project+
Senior Instructor

Here is a news flash: CDIA+ certification is NOT limited to here in the US only. I leave Thursday to teach another (fourth one) class in Johannesburg, S. Africa! Believe it or not there are other countries that are open minded in regards to finding better ways to handle paper in the office...

I fly 9 hours to Amsterdam, then 10 hours to Johannesburg. Drive 1 hour to Pretoria, sleep for two days (boy-oh boy do you need it!!) Then teach 23 students, of whom the English language is NOT their first language!

Anyhow -I would also like to tell you of the dedication to training these folks exhibit. You see the simple truth is, work is highly valued. Their country is doing well, but there is still a high unemployment rate. There is no welfare system in S. Africa, so if you don’t work and have money for food -you starve!! Let’s pause and think how that might effect the training class: students take their jobs serious and as a result they take training serious. This is a joy to an instructor -students that pay close attention -wow -what a concept...

All kidding aside, imaging has taken off in many countries outside of the U.S. DataVault also teaches Latin America in Spanish -where they also take this discipline very serious.

When it comes to electronic document management, if the company produces paper (and how many don’t?) there are several choices to choose from that will streamline and make the process entirely more effective -reducing stress and saving money. This is CDIA+ through and through. Isn’t that what it is all about??

Yes, it's been a while since we have blogged. We have been VERY BUSY training, training, and doing some more training for the past several months. We are still very busy, but I just flew in from a class last night and had an observation to share concerning the CDIA+ certification.

This last class I just taught had a different demographic than many of the classes I teach. This class had several people with 20+ years experience. If I did not have specific knowledge of the type of content on the exam, I could see how some would wonder why they needed a training class to sit for the CDIA+ exam. However, by the time these students had finished the three-day class, they were certain that they did the right thing by signing up.

You see, years of experience in imaging or document management may or may not prepare you for exam. The exam is not just technical. The CDIA+ candidate must also possess a solid understanding of the players and documents associated with the EDM solution sales and project management life cycles. Not only that, but the candidate must also be familiar with CompTIA's terms as related to these subjects. Now I am a PMP and Project+ certified. I have a solid handle on the project management life cycle inside and outside an IT environment. However, some of the terms used on the CDIA+ exam are slightly different. A keen understanding of these nuances can mean the difference between a passing and failing score on the exam.

Some terms you must understand (by no means exhaustive):

  • WBS
  • Risk mitigation plan
  • Implementation plan
  • Requirements document
  • Scope document
  • RFP
  • Functional requirement
  • Functional design
  • Gantt chart
  • Cultural change management plan
  • Change control plan
  • Change order
  • SLA
  • and so on--there are over a dozen more...

The CDIA+ candidate must not only know what these terms refer to, but the candidate must know their purpose, who prepares the documents, who receives the documents, and when in the project life cycle. Does the requirements document go to the the project team, the end users, the project manager, the project leader, the implementation manager, the steering committee, the vendor, or the CTO.--and who prepares the document? What is the document for. Is it a stand-alone document or is it part of a larger deliverable? You get it? There are many little nuances that are significantly beyond the technology.

Tuesday, May 04 2010 00:00

Needs Assessment and Solution Selling

Regarding conducting an ECM needs assessment, the last class I taught actually taught me something that I want to share. Turns out there are actually two struggles that impede the success of both the sale and the proper implementation of a document management system.
  1. Many [not all] ‘Solution Specialists’ aren’t properly trained and really don’t have the right tools to go onsite and gather the business requirements proficiently.
  2. Many [not all] ‘Sales Reps’ don’t know how to ask to get paid for conducting the assessment [ouch].
Lets think these through:
  1. SE’s or technicians are thrown into the fire and asked to ‘survey’ what the customer’s business and technical requirements are in regards to imaging. Most of their experience is with the output side (printing) and now they need to fully understand the input side of the workflow. So.. the tools they are likely to use are fabricated from existing output surveys, or worse yet; they quickly make a spreadsheet, guess at the questions, and hope it gathers enough data that when the system is configured it will meet most of the client’s requirements. KEY: Proper training and professional software toolkits can eliminate this dilemma and ensure the solution will fit the need [happy customer, happy vendor].
  2. Most sales reps are experienced in ‘transactional’ selling. More frequently called ‘box-selling’ wherein the rep has a brief engagement with the prospect, qualifies, sells and moves on to the next opportunity. Now they are expected to realize this was yesterday’s way of selling, and today it is all about solution selling. In order to do this you must know the business requirements. To do that you must do an assessment. If you send expertly trained, certified staff to conduct the interviews you will have to pay them. The rep has to explain that to the prospect and ask to get paid. This changes the outcome from “your opinion” [done for free] to a professional observation [paid for]. The later will be taken seriously! KEY: Build the rep’s confidence and belief structure and he will see the value and not be afraid to ask to get paid [motivating training is needed].
Friday, April 09 2010 00:00

Real Solutions to Very Real Problems

I find myself teaching another CDIA+ class in beautiful So Cal. Thinking it would be another “typical” class, with students asking basic questions about imaging [in general], posing situations that require them to use the recently taught info I just gave them, and helping them ready for the certification exam. I quickly found that it was not! Turns out the class was 50% System Engineers, with many of them having real-world experience with years of actual installations! I must say “It was refreshing”! This group was taking what I was teaching, applying it to their existing client base, and finding answers to some pressing issues. They had been struggling with the ‘finer-points’ of imaging [sales and technical] and once in a classroom environment they immediately capitalized on the info I gave them, combined that with their peers’ experience and came up with real solutions [to very real problems]!

All of this warms an instructor’s heart... All kidding aside, the CDIA+ class has morphed over the last ten years into so much more than just a prep for an exam. It now addresses current sales challenges, current mind-set challenges, and helps move the document management [as well as MFP sales person] professional into the year 2010.

Perhaps you should consider joining in on a class sometime. It just might be what you need to jump your “numbers” up to where you want them to be...?

PDI+We work very closely with CompTIA, the owners of the certification for technicians called PDI+. They were looking for a good case study to share with their contemporaries, so I reached out to a training client that became certified last year after taking our online training course. Our client's original intent for the training and certification was to add another certification to their long list of credentials to show-off to their clients. They got way more than they expected!

In short, here is what our client said about PDI+:

Friday, April 30 2010 00:00

What can CDIA+ do for you?

I ask you: “What can CDIA+ do for you?” Before you finish reading this blog post, you will certainly know the answer to this question. Whether you are a document imaging professional interested in your personal professional success, a leader or manager with a vested interest in the success of your electronic document management (EDM) sales or service firm, or a records manager responsible for compliance, CDIA+ can do something for you.

First, let’s answer a more fundamental question: What is CDIA+? The Certified Document Imaging Architect (or CompTIA CDIA+) credential is an internationally-recognized credential for professionalism and competency in the document imaging industry; it is the leading standard when it comes to document imaging. In the mid-1990s, the Computer Trade Industry Association (CompTIA) and industry leaders recognized a need for establishing a global standard of proficiency for document imaging professionals. With support and assistance from industry professionals, CompTIA launched the CDIA program in 1995.

The exam itself was designed to test the candidate’s knowledge in the technical, interpersonal, and management aspects of developing and implementing EDM solutions. The exam is divided into five domains, weighted to represent the relative importance of each domain to the job requirements of an experienced document imaging professional. The domains and their corresponding weight are summarized below.

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