Business Network

RightFax Health IT Integrations

One of the greatest strengths of OpenText’s RightFax fax software is itsbroad integration options and unmatched interoperability. As my boss is fond of saying, “It’s not a question of what we do integratewith, but what we don’t.” When it comes to healthcare information systems (HIS) that manage hugevolumes of protected health information (PHI) and other sensitive data, secureelectronic records transfer like fax can be a life-saving communicationssolution. Just to be clear, we’re not talking about fax machines, (rememberthose boxy old screeching dinosaurs?), we’re talking about securely sending andreceiving document images using voice technology between IP addresses. If that’stoo much of a mouthful, you can just call it fax over IP, or FoIP (pronounced“foyp”). Also, we’re not talking about a few dozen or even a fewhundred faxes, but rather thousands or hundreds of thousands of faxes amonth. We have spent the last 25 years designing the world’s best fax-based documentdistribution software and servers, and we have proudly deployed more than100,000 servers around the world, (more than 10,000 in the healthcare industryalone). Healthcare providers have a lot of options when it comes to designing thearchitecture of their HIS, and when you talk to healthcare IT professionals,they are generally focused on two things aside from basic functionality:scalability and integration options. If they rely on fax to transmit PHI, theyneed to consider the leader in integrated fax solutions: OpenText. Need to view faxed PHI from your mobile device? There’s an app for that. Wantto send a fax from your email client? We can do that. Want to control which ofyour staff has access to specific document types? No problem. If an externalaudit or other discovery request requires rapid access to a specific record orgroup of related records, our fax software will save you the trouble of leafingthrough mountains of paper documents and enable you to retrieve and deliver yoursensitive information quickly and securely from the desktop. Let’s put it this way: If your application/device can print, it can befax-enabled. This has been a true statement since the very first RightFax faxserver was deployed, and our capabilities now extend to XML-based applications,all SMTP-based email, Oracle, SAP, Exchange, and 100s of the most popularMFPs. Most medium to large clinics, hospitals, and health networks rely on someform of electronic medical record (EMR) system to share PHI (52 percent ofrespondents to a recent survey said they used EMR last year, up from 17 percentin 2009). But they also need their records management strategy to work alongsideother systems, often between several different vendors and platforms. WithOpenText RightFax fax server and Alchemy document server, one thing they won’thave to worry about integrating with is their fax. Our products integrate withdozens of crucial HIS systems from all of the leading vendors and innovatorsincluding McKessen, GE Healthcare and Allscripts. Many of these vendors actuallyrequire RightFax to fax enable their HIS products. To learn more about how RightFax HIS integrations help healthcare providersstreamline records management, click here.

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The Four Basic Models of B2B – Which Is Best for Your Business?

B2B models

When your company exchanges business documents electronically with your trading partners – your customers, suppliers, logistics providers and/or banks – one of the decisions you need to make is what type of communications you will need to connect to each one. To help you decide, described below are the four basic approaches for connecting to your trading partner community and the issues and benefits of each. 1.  Direct Connection Model In the direct model your business connects directly to each of your trading partners for sending and receiving electronic documents. Your IT organization is responsible for all mapping, translation, technical support and tracking documents. As long as everyone agrees on a single connectivity protocol, e.g. FTP over VPN, RosettaNet, OFTP, AS2, and the community size remains relatively small (generally less than 100) this approach works well.  This is how B2B was handled in the in the early days of EDI. But, as the size of your community grows, you need more resources to implement and support each new trading partner. You need to continually monitor communications, manage trading partner calls and resolve issues quickly. Quick issue resolution is critical since the documents being exchanged (e.g. orders, invoices, ship notices) are frequently the lifeblood of your business. Adding to the complexity, trading partners frequently insist on using different protocols, particularly if they are also trading with other enterprises. Now you must support multiple protocols, requiring more resources. The graphic below illustrates the direct B2B scenario. Your business is represented as the “Enterprise” connecting with six trading partners who are trading other partners as well. This model is sometimes called the “spaghetti model,” or the “spider model” because of its complexity. Very few businesses today connect directly with all their trading partners because of the support issues. 2.  Network Model To avoid the complexity of the direct model, many companies decide to work exclusively through a B2B Service Provider, which, in the days prior to the internet, was referred to as a Value-Added Network (VAN). In this model, you have a single connection to the Service Provider using whatever protocol you prefer – e.g. AS2, SFTP, FTPS, FTP over VPN, RosettaNet. Likewise, your trading partners connect to the Service Provider, each selecting the connectivity protocol that best meets its company’s requirements. In this way, each trading partner makes an independent decision regarding its preferred connectivity protocol and relies on the Service Provider to mediate the differences between the protocols as needed. The Service Provider facilitates the exchange of electronic documents via its network. The Service Provider also relieves all community members of the resource-intensive responsibilities for supporting all communications issues; ensures data security and non-repudiation; and provides audit information, reporting, backup and recovery.  The Service Provider charges transactions fees for these services. Your business is still responsible for all mapping and translation as well as some reporting and translation-related technical support. The graphic below illustrates the network model of B2B. Your business is represented as the “Enterprise” connecting with the Service using a single communications protocol. Likewise, each trading partner is connected to the Service Provider as well using their varying preferred protocols. Use of the network model for 100% of a B2B trading community was extremely popular before the rise of the commercial use of the internet and large trading networks.  Today, while it’s still used by many companies, it’s much less common to have 100% of the community on the network. 3. Hybrid Model The hybrid approach to B2B is a combination of the direct and network models. Typically, businesses will connect directly via the internet to their trading partners with whom they do the highest volume of transactions, using one or two preferred protocols, in order to save on Service Provider transaction fees.  The business continues to leverage the Service Provider for trading with the large number of lower-volume trading partners as well as for those that require a protocol other than the one or two that are used to connect directly. The graphic below illustrates the hybrid model of B2B.  Your business is represented as the “Enterprise” connecting directly with the two partners in green.  You also have a connection to the Service Provider for trading with your partners in blue. For large communities, the hybrid model is much more commonly used today. 4. Managed Model In the managed model, the business outsources the entire B2B process to an external Service Provider.  This greatly reduces resource requirements, expenses and complexity The Service Provider receives your business documents directly from your ERP system (SAP, Oracle, etc.) and then assumes responsibility for all the mapping, translation, technical support, data center operations and document tracking. Once documents are ready for delivery to your trading partners, the service provider delivers them either directly to the partners or via the network, depending on the individual trading partner requirements. The graphic below illustrates the managed model. Your business is represented as the “Enterprise” that connects to the Service Provider. The Service Provider connects you directly with the two partners in green.  It also connects you with the rest of your partners. Companies are increasingly outsourcing their entire B2B process to avoid purchasing and managing complex, expensive B2B mapping, translation, and communications software.

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Does Supply Chain Excellence Offer a Competitive Advantage?

Traditionally companies viewed their competitive advantage as being derived from the products they developed and sold to their customers.  However, in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace even the most innovative products tend to be quickly replicated by competitors or counterfeiters overseas.  As a result, many large companies have begun to view the source of their competitive advantage as not only from their products, but the way they run their business. 

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ERP and B2B – You Complete Me

In my last post I described how B2B integration technologies were necessary to provide the first mile or last mile for many of the common business processes in the supply… read more → The post ERP and B2B – You Complete Me appeared first on All About B2B.

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Does Document Management Have To Be Harder Than Playing A Banana Piano?

Today on June 12th, one of my favorite Kickstarter projects will get off the ground having receivedmore funding than anyone could have imagined. The goal was to raise $25,000, adrop in the ocean compared with the more than half million dollars that has beenpledged on the Kickstarter web site so far. The MakeyMakey project, tagged as “An Invention Kit for Everyone”enables a host of everyday objects to be used as an interface for anyapplication that accepts basic keyboard commands. Want to play piano usingbananas for keys? MakeyMakey has you covered. Feel the urge to engage in somePlay-Doh controlled Pacman? Simply mold your control buttons, push in a fewalligator clips and off you go. The team behind the MakeyMakey project has made interfacing withapplications, games and web sites flexible, fun and easy. There is no iPhone orAndroid app, long winded software configuration, documentation to trawl or reallearning curve. I was lucky enough to be given a kit to play with, and after afew minutes of sticking and clipping things together, my four year old son wasplaying (what he likes to call) “music” using a piece of paper with tinfoilsquares stuck on it. So why are you reading about banana pianos and e-mail clients that can becontrolled using alphabet spaghetti on an information management blog? The shortanswer is: the interface. MakeyMakey may be designed to teach children (and bigchildren) about conducting electricity, circuits and interaction but it does itin a way that annihilates the learning curve and entices the user to do more.And, more importantly, try more. At OpenText, we think this is just as importantwith software solutions designed to provide users with ways to access vitalinformation previously locked away in file cabinets, records rooms and officebasements. Winning the hearts and minds of users can bedifficult when deploying any new application across a company. When thatapplication replaces the connection people have with their beloved paper, thechallenge can become substantially more significant again. There may not be away to categorize invoices using a stack of pancakes and an air horn but Alchemycan make it so straightforward that the time saved can be used for combingYouTube for just such a video. • Map a Windows network drive to Alchemy andeverything you drop in there is indexed, secured and ready to be accessed by theco-worker sat next to you or a customer on the other side of the planet. • In a few clicks you can send a customer all oftheir documents on CD, DVD, [banana-shaped?] USB key (see, we’re close) or anyother removable media. Click one more check box and Alchemy will include a copyof its own search engine so they can work with the documents as effortlessly asyou do. • Sort and Index that chaotic stack of unsorteddocuments without keying in a single value. Alchemy might be a solution that will capture, store, manage, distribute anddispose of your documents, but companies frequently select OpenText’s documentmanagement platform for small-to-medium businesses because it’s easy. Granted,it’s not as engaging as replacing your cursor keys with a slice of whole grainand a few Oreos… If you’d like to take a “Test Drive” of Alchemy to see how it works and howit can help you manage your files, please visit http://getdocumentmanagement.com. To learn more about Alchmey and how it can help your business click here.

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ERP is Incomplete

When most people think about the business applications that manage processes such as forecasting, manufacturing, logistics and accounting they think of ERP.  But as the level of outsourcing in the supply chain has increased, more and more of these business processes are being performed outside the four walls of a company – and outside the purview of traditional ERP applications.  In fact, even functions such as purchasing, shipping, invoicing and payments have never been the exclusive domain of ERP. 

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To Drop Ship or Not to Drop Ship? That is the Question (to ask Your Suppliers)

drop ship

For retailers, meeting customer demand no longer relies on how much free space is in your back room. Online shopping has helped retailers open up their channels and satisfy even the pickiest of consumers. Now, you can carry the most popular products as well as those that may only appeal to 1 or 2 consumers. Great, right? Well, it can be. Loyal customers can now shop their favorite brand online, and in many cases right from a customized phone app. And, thanks to new go-to-market channels, they have access to more styles, colors and sizes than ever before. Customers can order from the website, by phone, through an app or in the store and send products sent to their home, the store or split in packages of four. The choices are endless and so are the potential headaches. The idea of drop ship/direct-to-consumer means shifting fulfillment to your suppliers. You most likely have a process for enabling your vendor community when it comes to the brick-and-mortar channel, but when you’re trying to mitigate the madness of cross-channel, which suppliers can you trust? What should you expect and of whom should you expect it? Implementing cross-channel purchase order support makes for complicated supplier lifecycle management. More trading partners will be involved, the enablement process for direct-to-consumer programs will differ slightly and overall order volume will increase. But, none of that matters to your customers. They just want their stuff delivered when and where they want it. Thankfully, technology is available to help ease the process. However, rather than simply relying on technology and, often times, a new and separate merchandising team, retailers need to establish clear expectations for their suppliers across the various channels. Will the products be purchased by the retailer similarly to their store inventories, and then either housed at a distribution center or fulfillment center for shipping to consumers? Will the retailer engage in a direct-to-consumer model with their suppliers, opting only to take “ownership” of the inventory after it has been purchased by the consumer? Understanding the expectations of the buyer and the capabilities of the supplier is extremely important. Trading partners need to clearly establish which products are intended for which channels. For drop-ship or retailer fulfillment, suppliers need to be able to meet consumer-level, not store-level, requirements: Custom Branding: Many retailers want their branding on everything from labels to packing slips on shipped items. Some suppliers can mimic your brand and make sure customers aren’t left wondering why their exclusive high-end product was labeled from Jumbo Jim’s Warehouse, while others can’t. If this is important to you, make sure to ask. Delivery timeframes and service level commitments: Critical to a consumer-driven marketplace, as a retailer you need to know when items will arrive. Everyone has different time frames to which they can commit. Having an up-front commitment for overnight vs. three day shipping is the difference between a happy customer and one without the green glitter wedges they want for their big event. Specialized Packaging: Sometimes customers want packages wrapped up with a little bow… literally. Can the supplier handle special requests such as gift wrapping, customized boxes or whatever crazy request may come? Determining limitations up front keeps everything on track. While some suppliers excel at drop-ship, for many others it is a steep learning curve. Ask these questions to make sure your supplier drops the product into the consumer’s hands, instead of dropping the ball due to miscommunicated expectations.

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Fax: It’s Not Rocket Science

Before he revolutionized modern science with his general theory of relativityand earned the 1921 NobelPrize in Physics, Albert Einstein–arguably the most famous “genius” inhistory–was a patent clerk. As it turns out, patent offices are full of smartpeople to this day, and here’s proof: The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), an agency of the US Department ofCommerce (DoC), used to have a paper problem. Hundreds of thousands of faxeddocuments needed to be organized, routed and filed by hand, wasting hundreds ofpayroll hours and requiring about as many paper dollar bills as paper documents.But no longer. The USPTO now uses a customized RightFax application they call PTOFAX bywhich incoming faxes are automatically catalogued, routed to the proper patentexaminer and archived in accordance with federal law. The USPTO chose to pairRightFax with OpenText Alchemyas their fax archiving and document management solution. Together, RightFax andAlchemy comprise a comprehensive document management solution. If you areinterested in fax archiving and document management in general, check out http://getdocumentmanagement.com/. PTOFAX currently supports about 13,000 USPTO users, sending and receivingapproximately 5 million fax pages a year. According to one case study, the USPTO receives more than 270,000 fax pages permonth and sends anywhere from 250,000 to 300,000 pages. According to the USPTO, their business customers regard PTOFAX as amission-critical system. This is because revenue-producing paperwork must bedelivered to the USPTO in the form of facsimiles. The PTOFAX system has thecapacity to handle more than 1 million fax pages a month, and over the last sixyears, the RightFax application, managed by OpenText partner SyscomServices, has experienced zero downtime. The system has proved itsefficiency by eliminating the manual labor previously associated with faxsorting. This efficiency has ultimately improved the USPTO’s ability to searchand retrieve application data. This is important, because the USPTO requires an18-month search and retrieve capability. As a result of the unique capabilitiesoffered by the RightFax and Alchemy bundle, the USPTO was able to successfullypetition the DoC for a Sole Source Justification by demonstrating that “no other typeof supplies or services will satisfy the agency requirements.” The sole sourcedocument also noted that the second best option would cost twice as much andrequire twice as many staff to implement and maintain. I suspect that if Einstein had spent just a few more years as a clerk, thepatent office would have figured this out long ago. After all, it’s not rocketscience. Perhaps he was thinking of the “fax machine” when he uttered this propheticgem: “Why does this magnificent applied science, which saves work and makes lifeeasier, bring us so little happiness? The simple answer runs: Because we havenot yet learned to make sensible use of it.”

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Has Your Company Appointed a ‘Master of Disaster’ Yet?

In an earlier blog I discussed how global supply chains had been severely disrupted in recent years. I also discussed how the role of the Business Continuity or Supply Chain Risk Manager is becoming increasingly important. But how many companies actually have a Business Continuity Manager or  ‘Master of Disaster’ within their business and what exactly does the role entail? I guess the Master of Disaster could be referred to as a sort of supply chain super hero and this post is quite timely given that the new Avengers film was recently released. I wonder how the Master of Disaster would stack up against Iron Man, Captain America or the Incredible Hulk!  One thing is for sure, in true super hero style they would need some sort of costume, now this is where the Master of Disaster would have to do some work to create a unique identity as a quick check on Google did not reveal many suitable costumes, however I have given them a helping hand by developing an appropriate, supply chain themed, logo. So why is the Master of Disaster so important, what roles do they undertake during a period of disruption?, how do they communicate both internally and across the extended enterprise? and what IT tools do they use to manage disruption? There are certainly a lot of questions that need answering here, but given their importance and relevance in managing today’s supply chains I thought I would try and introduce some of their key roles and activities. Recent supply chain disruptions have certainly brought an element of nervousness to many companies.  Companies and indeed regulatory bodies are looking ever more closely at an organisation’s ability to not only recover from a disaster, but reduce the chances of supply chain disruption happening again in the future.  Ten years ago companies were focused on disaster recovery, how long would it take a business to recover from a disaster.  Today however things have moved on and companies are more interested in how they keep their businesses running during a period of disruption.  This particular process is referred to as Business Community Management.  Essentially this process provides an ability to recover from any given event and this area is certainly becoming important from a competitive differentiation point of view.  After all, if you can either continue production or offer some form of service during a period of disruption then your company will be seen as offering excellent customer service and ultimately customer satisfaction levels will increase significantly. Business Continuity Management (BCM), as defined by the Business Continuity Institute, can be considered as a management process that identifies potential impacts that threaten an organisation and provides a framework for building resilience and the capability for an effective response which safeguards the interests of its key stakeholders, reputation, brand and value creating activities. The Business Continuity Manager, aka Master of Disaster, helps to ensure that people, services or back up procedures are mobilised to fix any issues that may arise and make sure this is communicated succinctly to the affected areas of the business. Business Continuity Managers can also help to identify potential bottle necks, or points of weakness/single points of failure across a supply chain. Business Continuity Managers will also help to prioritise where efforts or the focus should be in recovering from a specific disruption. Without a suitable Business Continuity Management process in place, decision making will have to be taken on the fly and this will inevitably lead to errors being introduced to your supply chain processes. As I mentioned in my earlier blog entry, many companies, especially those with truly global supply chains have established control towers so that they can monitor their supply chains very closely. I also discussed how these control towers were now doubling up as crisis management centres during a period of disruption. IT and B2B technologies play an important role in assisting a Business Continuity Manager with trying to minimise the effects of disruption across the supply chain. The area of information management and collaboration across a supply chain or trading partner community is certainly one of the more important areas that a Business Community Manager will be asked to focus on. I would certainly expect to see the Business Continuity Manager as a key user of a solution such as Active Community which I briefly introduced in my earlier blog entry.  The ability to: identify alternative suppliers very quickly send out a mass communication to potentially thousands of suppliers at the click of a button undertake an assessment of the state of your supply chain following a natural disaster establish some form of supply chain risk database where you can analyse assessment response trends etc, especially relating to how supply chains were brought back online following a period of disruption This is an area that I will take a deeper look into via a future blog entry, but in the meantime if you are interested in learning more, take a look at this supply chain risk related webinar.

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How Fax Technology Protects Patients and Providers

OpenText, the market leader in fax and document delivery, recently sponsoredtwo podcasts on TMCnet as part of a broad-reaching effort to highlight the manyways in which healthcare institutions rely on fax. The podcasts were a follow-upto the extremely informative webinar Simpleand Compliant Solution to the Paper Problem in Healthcare. “Privacy Professor” Rebecca Herold shared her experience working withhospitals to alleviate concerns over information security, and OpenText’s ErikEnderson spoke about a variety of fax solutions specific to the healthcareindustry. Rebecca Herold: The State of Health Record Security (click to listen) Rebecca looked at the intersection between healthcare and fax from theperspective of security. She noted several real-world instances of data securityrisks and breaches affecting both patients and providers. What stood out most inher comments was the central role of fax in healthcare communication, andspecifically in the exchange of protected health information (PHI). “The largest portion of (healthcare institutions’) breaches involve faxes,”she said. “Faxes can simply be sent to the wrong phone number. If that wrongnumber is a fax machine, that’s a problem.” Other security problems with fax simply come from using outdated technologylike traditional fax machines. If a paper fax containing sensitive informationis spit out at a fax machine in a public area–a busy nursing station forexample–it could be seen or even stolen by anyone walking by. Even sending faxby email can be dangerous without a method of tracking fax activity. One solution, she said, is to find a secure digital fax solution formedical record management and delivery like OpenText RightFax and Alchemy.OpenText offers healthcare institutions a way to send and receive faxed medicalrecords from the desktop over a secure network from a central server, reducingthe need for vulnerable paper documents and unsecure emails.Rebecca also talkedabout the importance of compliance with broad regulatory mandates like HIPAA.She noted that secure digital fax solutions like OpenText RightFax and Alchemycan greatly ease the risk of non-compliance.“At the core of HIPAA compliance ismanaging risks. So when you can use technology to manage risk, it’s a goodthing. (OpenText offers) receipt verification, access control, fax number checksand audit logs that record accounting disclosures required by HIPAA.”Finally,she said, document encryption can also mitigate security risks, because manybreach notice laws do not require notification if a transmission is encrypted.Again, RightFax and Alchemy can do this. Erik Enderson: Healthcare & OpenText Fax Solutions (click to listen) Erik said that OpenText fax solutions are predominantly used by three groupsin healthcare: payers (insurance companies), providers (medical professionals),and medical/pharmaceutical suppliers (medical supplies manufacturers and drugcompanies). They turn to RightFax and Alchemy, he said, because of their broadintegration with their existing applications. “It’s no understatement to say that our products’ ability to integrate withnearly any environment or platform is one of our strengths, and it’s franklyhelped us maintain our position as the market leader for 25 years. It’s also whymany clinical application vendors recommend using OpenText fax solutionsalongside their systems…not only EMR and EHR platforms, but also radiology lab,pharmacy and claims processing systems.” Erik believes that the whole point of a good fax solution is to allowhealthcare providers to spend less time pushing paper and more time deliveringquality care to patients. “We have a couple of customers who fax literally millions of pages a day andexperience no unplanned downtime. Clinical staff should be focusing on patientcare, not learning a new application every month.” Erik went on to explain how OpenText’s hosted offering, RightFax OnDemand,can simplify fax even more. With hosted fax, OpenText carries the IT/hardwareburden, reducing operational complexity and allowing hospitals to focus onpatients. Listen to the short (less than ten minuteseach) podcasts • Healthcare Podcast Series 1 – The State of Health RecordSecurity • Healthcare Podcast Series 2 – Healthcare & OpenText FaxSolution To view the healthcare webinar click here.

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SAP to Acquire Ariba – Drawing a Line in the Sand for Oracle?

In my previous blog I examined Ar iba’s history in B2B and how this may explain SAP’s acquisition, today I will consider what this high-level strategy could look like, what it means for SAP customers, and of course, what it means for Oracle… A B2B Strategy? On the face of things, Ariba looks like a good acquisition for SAP, potentially addressing SAP’s lack of reach outside of their customer base into B2B. By combining all their recent acquisitions, and adding SAP HANA technology in to crunch big data, it looks like SAP wants to be in B2B collaboration, Integration and analytics. I call this automating the physical and financial supply chains in order to reveal the information supply chain. This is why GXS continues to invest in our cloud B2B integration capability, Active Applications and analytics. For me, the question isn’t really what technology SAP gets from this; it is the business rationale behind the recent acquisitions. Based on all the industry commentary I have read on the amount of overlap in product sets and the consolidation process that SAP has to go through, the answer to my question doesn’t jump out at me. So I decided to pose the question from SAP’s biggest competitor’s point of view. Putting my Oracle ‘hat’ on, I would have to ask “what is the real driver?”. Sure, this acquisition may be a step forward in B2B, and explain Crossgate, but with so many product sets couldn’t they have got there anyway? Perhaps a simpler perspective would be to ask “What do SAP really want to do as a business?” and for me the answer is pretty simple “Sell more SAP and beat the competition”. The days of the big ERP projects are over it is said by some, the big focus for big companies is consolidating ERPs into a single global instance, a trend also being seen in B2B. So how can SAP sell more SAP? Encroach on competitor’s territory with new products and solutions with the (reasonable) assumption that they can convert these new companies to SAP. Stick or Twist? It is no secret that the majority of Ariba’s North American customers are Oracle shops. That is to say, they bought Oracle over SAP, so that is their chosen investment platform. If SAP purchases Ariba these North American customers will have a philosophical question to answer, “Can we use SAP Ariba alongside Oracle?”. Seems fairly harmless on the face of things, but if the Ariba solution set becomes tightly integrated into SAP, the value this solution provides is integral to the customer, and assuming there is no viable alternative to SAP Ariba – the question could become “Do we stick or twist with Oracle?”. Outside of North America, it is less clear on how many Quadrem and B-Process customers are SAP and Oracle users. If I assume that the majority are SAP, this acquisition may encourage Quadrem/B-Process to integrate tightly with SAP (but this is just my assumption). If this came to pass, I’m not sure what this would mean for Ariba’s customers in these regions, is Ariba already tightly integrated with Quadrem and B-Process right now? Will Ariba be the preferred solution over CC Hubwoo? Holistically, could this mean that SAP’s real focus is to establish their B2B “collaboration in the cloud” solution in Latin America and Europe, leaving Ariba’s North American (Oracle) customers with all the questions. For Oracle this is potentially a loss of a strategic partner, and maybe was an acquisition target as I read articles that Oracle had been looking at Ariba for some time. Maybe they could potentially see a disrupted customer base in North America, who will possibly be looking for the same type of B2B solutions that SAP could provide. But will Oracle be able to offer anything beyond iSupplier? Oracle may have missed a trick in not acquiring Ariba themselves, because if they had done so they would have had an opportunity to create a bigger footprint in Latin America and Europe. So many questions… but here is the big one for me. It isn’t why SAP buying Ariba? It is what will  Oracle do about it?

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SAP to Acquire Ariba – Another B2B Hub?

In my previous blog I asked how SAP’s consolidation project may affect their customers, in today’s blog I will examine if SAP is now focusing more on B2B. Cloud, Collaboration, Supply Chain, B2B B2B e-Commerce is not new to SAP; Steve Keifer recently blogged how on SAP’s stake in Commerce One was dropped when they were Ariba’s largest competitor. This paved the way for Ariba to become leaders in e-Procurement at the height of the ‘land grab’ where online ‘exchanges’ were the future of commerce. Keifer’s book, Herding Geese outlines this period and it raises the questions to me, why Ariba and why now? Ariba has been followed closely and, trading on the Nasdaq, their profitability has been the subject of scrutiny.  It is clear that they have grown steadily as a result of their focus on sourcing and procurement in the indirect material spend area.  More recently Ariba has attempted to expand across the order-to-pay process adding e-Invoicing functionality and partnering with supply chain finance and payments companies in the Ariba Supplier Network (ASN). This expansion led Ariba into a new area – B2B. Online exchanges are good at consolidating small and medium businesses with low transaction volumes into a single online ‘community’. I wonder if, as Ariba began to come across companies with larger transaction volumes, many already had Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) capability and Ariba realised they had to find an alternative strategy for integrating these companies. The crux of B2B is integration, being able to provide system-to-system connectivity for companies of all size, around the world, with the systems they already own.  At GXS we understand this challenge very well and our B2B outsourcing business has grown fast as we have enabled our customer’s integration complexity. Maybe Ariba realised this as they expanded the ASN, driving  their partnership with Hubspan and their acquisition of B-Process. Hubspan are not part of the acquisition and may be eyeing their relationship with Ariba warily as they are fully aware of SAP’s recent acquisition of Crossgate, who do the same thing. SAP may feel that by acquiring Ariba they will become a leader in Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) and cloud-based business networks, backed by Ariba’s stated goal to reach $1tn in commerce by 2015. In my view there are challenges.  SAP described the ASN as an ‘open network’. I am not sure how they define ‘open’, but for those of us in the e-Invoicing world, Ariba has been perceived as  a ‘closed’ network with limited desire to interoperate. Does SAP really want to be a ‘super-hub’ for B2B? This challenge of connecting networks was addressed by B2B companies when VANS were king, and it will be a key question for SAP.  SAP has stated that they will maintain the openness of the business network, including companies such as Microsoft, Oracle, JD Edwards, Maximo and Peoplesoft, but this overlooks the real complexity of B2B integration and connecting disparate systems and standards. So if SAP is to focus more on B2B, what will its strategy look like? In my next blog we will consider some of the ramifications and what it might mean for SAP’s customers, and importantly, what it may mean to SAP’s largest competitor – Oracle.

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SEPA & Inter-Bank Space: Reaching for the Stars?

It seems to me that there isn’t a single day that passes by without a market announcement, conference or opinion expressed about SEPA. Official implementation guidelines, rulebooks and even the official local language lexicon have existed for years through the European Payments Council. However, one item that is definitively NOT fully covered in my opinion is the inter-bank space of SEPA. And, since this is the area where there is the most concentration of volumes (both SCT and SDD), where a missed settlement cycle could ruin the D+1 Payments Services Directive requirement, I am not surprised that many UK and European Banks have come to realise the importance of their “inter-bank” SEPA strategy. Yes, I know that most clearing banks are already SEPA-compliant and have SCT and SDD in production; however their inter-bank space “backbone” is not so well known nor is it leveraged to its maximum potential. So, here is my short list of the aspects that I think should form part of a clearing bank’s strategy, as well as day-to-day operations and optimisation: Direct Participation to Clearing and Settlement Mechanism(s): The key stakeholder in the Bank’s inter-bank space is the SEPA Automated Clearing House, also known as CSM. Today there are a number of CSMs in Europe, including EBA Clearing  (the Pan-European ACH), as well as a number of domestic and some fully Pan-European CSMs lead by the EACHA (European Automated Clearing House Association). Banks can choose to participate with a single large CSM, however the most efficient model for them is a multi-CSM model. Many banks now want to maximise their reach table and settlement time-frames by targeting CSMs in real-time given their clients’ collections or payments instructions. Billaterals / Correspondent Banking: Correspondent banking was probably the first ever cross-border means of inter-banks funds transfer, before the age of regulated cash clearing and settlement. As part of a multi-CSM strategy (as highlighted above), a bank can still choose to use a bilateral relationship in a specific SEPA country or region. In my opinion, bilateral access is the best option to penetrate a country with a low level of SEPA adoption, a few SEPA Additional Optional Services or still using a number of legacy domestic niche payment instruments. Indirect Participation: Most CSMs offer access through indirect participation, via a sponsor or agency bank. Tier-2, Tier-3 banks and building societies can access the SEPA clearing world as an FI client of a Direct CSM participant. The PSD makes room for a new type of financial institution, called Payments Institutions (PIs). This is a status half way between a Payments Services Provider and a bank, allowing to join CSMs indirectly through a sponsor bank (PIs cannot hold cash or liquidity). Late Settlement Cycles: SEPA isn’t currently a real-time payments instrument; the rulebooks impose a few days between the various steps of the payment (delivery date, settlement date). On top of that, CSMs operate only a few settlement cycles per day (between four and six on average). So, if a bank’s CSM last settlement cycle is 17:00 CET, the bank will probably accept payment instructions from customers for payment the next day up to 16:00 CET (allowing one hour for bank processes for validation, sanctions, AML, referrals, booking entries, etc). From a bank’s perspective, the SEPA value proposition for their clients is directly impacted by the notion of late settlement cycle during or just after business hours. The later, the better. A bilateral relationship or participation in a more domestic CSM could, for instance, increase the cut-off time by one or two hours for a specific country. Reach: Who can help you build the largest list of reachable SEPA participants, in the fastest relative settlement timeframe? Again, this is probably the main driver behind the choice of CSM(s) and bilaterals. End-to-end Settlement Timeframe: The Payments Services Directive, now transposed in national law within all SEPA countries, imposes a D+1 overall settlement timeframe. So, questions to consider include: are your current SEPA inter-bank space relationships still leaving dark holes of D+2 in some areas? If you are already covered on D+1, are your relationships really offering the best price per transaction? Settlement Funding Model: There are a number of options for the settlement of funds between banks. The most efficient and liquidity-friendly agent is probably the European Central Bank’s TARGET2(Real-Time Gross Settlement). Bilaterals often choose to impose the holding of a large amount of collateral on each other to guarantee funding of outgoing funds. In the case of TARGET2 (usually used by most CSMs) the participant banks only need to fund their settlement accounts a few minutes before transfer with the gross value of the outgoing value. Inter-bank Interface Connectivity Business Logic: The most efficient strategy for SEPA around the inter-bank space is to increase the number of relationships; effectively to increase the complexity of the banks’ own interface with the outside world. It doesn’t mean that banks need to host and manage connectivity themselves (such as SWIFT, host-to-host with bilaterals) or the technical interface (such as routing and reach decision logic, file and data transformation). For instance, GXS  provides inter-bank connectivity, business logic and file transformation to maximise the business outcomes of a long-term SEPA strategy. I hope this blog is helpful. It is primarily a “shopping list” highlighting the different levers that can help maximise a banks’ business outcomes. February 2013 will probably kick-off the next round of step changes in banks’ SEPA strategy. I am predicting that the focus will shift from the commercial differentiation of corporates and FIs towards how efficiencies and better service can be drawn out of the inter-bank space.  Let’s see if I am right!

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SAP to Acquire Ariba – An Acquisition too far?

On Tuesday May 22, 2012 SAP’s subsidiary, SAP America, Inc., entered into an agreement to acquire Ariba, a cloud-based business commerce network, for $45.00 per share, representing an enterprise value of approximately $4.3 billion. It’s certainly interesting, but it leaves me, and many others it seems, with questions. What further complexity will this acquisition add to SAP’s current list of consolidation projects? If SAP are aiming to become a giant in B2B how coherent is the strategy? How will this affect both SAP’s and Ariba’s customers, and interestingly – what does this all mean to Oracle? So let’s take a look at what it is that SAP is intending to purchase. B2B is recognised as a $5bn (growth) market globally, the top 2,000 global businesses today spend $12 trillion annually with their suppliers and only $319 billion is conducted on the Ariba network today. Ariba have often claimed that they are the largest and ‘most’ global trading network, but other companies also make strong claims. Ariba has led the way in cloud-based collaborative commerce applications with their e-Procurement and sourcing solutions. They have also made advancements with the Ariba Supplier Network by making two acquisitions, Quadrem mainly focused in Latin America and B-Process, whose geographic strength is in France.  Combined, they claim over 700,000 trading partners, if they are all actively transacting; this is a compelling number across North America, Latin America & Europe. They offer solutions across procure-to-pay, from sourcing through to supply chain finance and payment. On this basis, you can understand SAP’s interest. Acquire, Consolidate, Acquire, Consolidate As my colleague Mark Morley pointed out in his latest blog, SAP haven’t  focused on B2B so far and this acquisition could help them to connect external trading partner into their customer’s existing SAP products: “ Even though there were a few presentations that discussed the role of the business network and in particular the role of B2B, I think SAP still has some work to do to embrace the external enterprise.  This is why SAP’s NetWeaver based cloud integration platform is going to become so important in terms of providing connectivity to external trading partners and other third party cloud platforms.. “ By acquiring the Ariba companies, SAP will now provide this reach (perhaps at the Expense of CC Hubwoo). It is fraught with challenges as Morley points out as – SAP is already in the middle of mass consolidation of a number of acquisitions, and is now adding more complexity with Ariba. SAP customers, and Ariba customers will be diligently following this consolidation with interest. In my next blog I will examine SAP’s new focus on B2B and how Ariba’s history in this market provides both strengths and weaknesses.

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Fax as Art Part Deux: Past, Present and Future of Fax

Please Note: This blog article was originally written and published by Jacob Block. Way back in 1843, a Scottish mechanic and inventor named Alexander Bainreceived a patent for a brand new form of telegraphy. Officially, the patent wasawarded for “improvements in producing and regulating electric currents andimprovements in timepieces and in electric printing and signal telegraphs.” Bainused his knowledge as an amateur clockmaker to combine clock parts with atelegraph machine. What he had created was the world’s first machine capable of transmittingfacsimiles (copies) of images to a remote surface using electric current. Thoughit has carried many names and incarnations since then (copying telegraph,Pantelegraph, Telediagraph, Radiophoto) what he had created was essentially whatwe know today as a fax machine (“fax” began to replace “facsimile” as a noun in1948, and was first recorded as a verb in 1979 – I bet you didn’t knowthat!). Okay, the history lesson is almost over. After a huge surge of fax usagebeginning in the 1970s, fax machines began disappearing from offices, replacedby newer, faster, safer and cheaper fax technologies like multi-functionprinters and, more recently, fax over IP (FoIP) delivery. But, it was not so long ago that faxing paper documents to and from traditional fax machines was the norm. The obnoxious squeal of modems communicating is familiar to anyone born before 1990. Despite the throngs oftechies calling for the end of fax machines altogether–the elderly devicesactually seem to command a bit of nostalgia for some people. Portland-based artist Emily Counts is one of them. She is currently displaying her work at Garboushian Gallery in Beverly Hills, CA under the titlePast Present Future: Connect. The exhibit showcases an artfullyreimagined computer, an answering machine, various push button and rotarytelephones, and yes, a faxmachine. The artist seems to be fascinated with the history and evolution of communication. One piece even references fire and smoke signals (ancientcommunication), and others conjure up futuristic robots (possible futurecommunication). Unfortunately, she did not include an MFP, a fax server or a SIP Trunk…..technologies that are currently the preferred forms of communication formillions of people around the world and will be in use well into the future. Whoknows what other technologies will emerge in voice-based communication? Food for thought during this strange week of “Fax asArt.” Past Present Future: Connect is on display until June 16.

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Who Could Build a Supply Chain Social Graph?

In an earlier post I described the need for a social graph for the supply chain.  The social graph would outline the various relationships between companies at different tiers of the supply chain.  Such a mapping would be useful when unforeseen disasters such as earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, plant explosions and salmonella outbreaks occur leading to supply shortages.  Most people would agree that such an idea sounds great in principal.  However, it begs the question of who has enough information to put such a model together.

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After Abandoning Commerce One, SAP Ends Up Acquiring Ariba

Yesterday, SAP announced its intention to acquire B2B e-commerce vendor, Ariba for $4.3 billion.   In addition to its suite of spend management and procure-to-pay applications, Ariba has built up one of the world’s largest business networks with over 700,000 members.  The presentation materials issued following the announcement stated that “Ariba will enable SAP to create the business network of the future by combining its large buyer & seller network with SAP’s more than 190,000 customers and deep business process expertise.”  What I find particularly ironic about this transaction is that about 10 years ago, SAP had a significant equity stake in Ariba’s largest competitor – Commerce One.  

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Fax as Art?

Please Note: This blog article was originally written and published by Jacob Block. I spend most of my time at work thinking, researching and writing about fax:trends in usage, new technologies, and new applications. But until a few daysago, I had only thought about fax as a reliable method of secure documentdelivery. Then, over the course of a single day, I saw two things that changedthat: The first was forwarded to me by a coworker. It was a four-and-a-half minuteaudio track by artist Schrödinger’s Dog titled Automatic Negotiation. The artist and a friend had taken the sound of an old dial-up modem like the ones used in fax machines and remixed thescreeches and squeals into a surprisingly compelling song they describe as“Dial-up Dubstep.” Little did I know, the theme of the day would be “fax as art.” Browsing theInternet for industry news, I came across FAX,an exhibition currently on display at the San Francisco Arts Commission Galleries (SFAC) consisting entirely of faxed artworks. I decided to contact thegalleries to find out why artists would make such a fuss over fax. SFAC Galleries Director Meg Shiffler said the exhibition has been travelingsince 2009, when it was first organized through a collaboration between TheDrawing Center in New York and Independent Curators International (ICI). Shesaid the goal of the show is to “reimagine fax as a drawing tool.” SFAC selected22 local artists and asked each to submit five pieces to the show. The onlystipulation was that the art had to be faxed using traditional paper-based fax technology, and every artist approached the show differently. “The artists were interested in the inconsistencies of fax printouts. Theyare interested in this (fax) machine and how it’s capable of producing radicallyinconsistent images.” Meg added that she was confident in hosting the showbecause of artists’ well-documented fascination with what she calls “antiquatedmedia.” She noted the continuing use of Polaroid film, typewriters and slide/film projectors in particular. Josh Singer is an assistant professor in the visual communication designprogram at San Francisco State University (SFSU). He is also an artist in hisown right, and agreed to participate in FAX. Josh took quotes from a book about19th century lighting, camera and mirror technology, and faxed spreads from thebook into the show. He called his work Partial Facsimile, pointing out that afaxed document is never an exact copy as the word facsimile suggests. “You get these black holes of shadows from the crease of the book and someloss on the edges. I followed up with a fax of me photographing the guts of afax machine as it was faxing, and then a faxed photograph of that fax. By thelast one, if I recall, it was just a black page with a streak of light. I wasmost interested in the technological aspects of fax and the ways in which itchanges images. It changes the way they look, it changes the context…it turns them from an original to a whole new object.” All of the contributing artists approached the show from their own uniqueperspective, but most shared a common theme of using the inherent lossy aspectsof paper fax transmission to create unpredictable images and unintentionalcontent. Brandon Brown, another local artist whose work was on display next toSinger’s, decided to add human error to the mechanical error of fax machines for his submission. “There was a piece next to mine by Brandon Brown; he was taking things he hadread that day, writing them down from memory later in the day and then faxingthem. His work pointed out the fallibility of reproduction by using the oldestform of reproduction: memory.” When asked if the skewed or noisy images producedby fax machines have any value compared to the image that goes in, he had thisto say: “If you are looking for a true facsimile: no. But if through the processsome other meaning is created, then yes, it is valuable, because it starts a newdialogue.” In addition to the local artists, the gallery embraced the collaborative/cumulative nature of the show and invited foreign artists toparticipate as well. The good thing about fax, Meg said, is that it’s cheap andcan be sent to/from anywhere with a phone line.“My goal was to show not justBay-area artists but artists from around the world. The idea is that fax is lowcost and very economical. We have a lot of artists–some very famous–but we don’t have a big budget.” In conjunction with the faxed art, four featured artists are offering specialevents related to fax. On June 19th, playwright Kevin Killian will present Box of Rain, a play he wrote in which a San Francisco gallery installs a new fax machine that just might allow them to communicate with thedeceased. So, there you have it folks: most days my job is to point out the problemswith paper and fax machines and the ways in which software-based fax addressesthose problems. But today, I stand corrected: there is still some value in thefax machine. The FAX exhibition runs until June 21st at the SFAC Galleries.

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Securities: AFME 5th European Post-Trade Conference

This week GXS attended the AFME 5th Post-Trade Conference in London, UK. Major stakeholders from the European Capital Markets were there alongside representatives from European and domestic public entities. Walking into the conference room, I expected the usual universal debate between the private sector, their business drivers, day-to-day challenges and call for self-regulation, versus public bodies considering regulation and top-down transposition of directives. A few years in the world of SEPA and the Payments Services Directive would make anyone believe that the same deadlock of drivers would slow down the progress of harmonisation, standards, risk management and best practices in the world of Securities. However, I stand corrected; we have here a real-life example of how productive synergies can happen on a pan-European scale. The conference was mainly focused around six industry themes: Settlement, CSD Regulation and TARGET2 (T2S) Securities: This is seen as crucial in the post-trade industry, posing a number of issues and open-ended questions. As a whole, the AFME and its members agree that the CSD Regulation covers a fair amount of beneficial provisions, including the harmonisation of T2S settlement cycles, settlement discipline, as well as dematerialisation and immobilisation of securities. Some sensitive aspects of the Regulation are still seen as a risk, such as the ring-fencing systemically critical CSD functions. Harmonisation and the industry:The launch of T2S (go-live scheduled for 2015) is seen as a technical harmonisation, since each country CSD has traditionally carried out the settlement of trades in its domestic securities. The view at the conference seemed to be that T2S will be rapidly adopted due to the reduced number of alternatives, however the recent announcement of the nine first CSDs joining the platform shows that participation will help drive harmonisation. Looking at harmonisation from a collaborative perspective, however, the combination of public authorities and private sector efforts are moving forward the much-needed transformation of the Post-Trade in Europe. Overview of Legal Entity Identifiers: The purpose of LEIs is designed to help regulators to monitor and manage systemic risk. Dr. Werner Frey insisted this item was initiated within the G20 agenda. The global technical standard has yet to be established so there are still hurdles ahead of the ISO-proposed standard. According to a 2012 Aite group report , 94% of Financial Institutions and Post-Trade vendors in the USA and Europe agree that a global LEI scheme is needed. This illustrates that public-private collaboration can sometimes reach an agreement at the inception of a global Capital Markets harmonisation item. EU Regulatory Process and Authorities: the panel presented the process flow linking the private sector (market players, advocacy and private prudential bodies) with the public bodies (regulators, European Commission, European Parliament). Again, a crystal clear explanation of how a given industry interacts with its regulators – on a level playing field. Interoperability:Although interoperability reduces risk, the conference panel view was that there is increased exposure with collateral for participating CCPs. There is a common agreement that interoperability aims to reduce costs and risks, while increasing efficiency. CSDs and European central counterparties have been moving in that direction, with upcoming EU regulatory initiatives working to provide this. Extraterritoriality and Third Country Rule: Many, if not all market players are playing an international or global game; AFME recognises that all of their members are operating their Post-Trade organisations globally. The panel discussion covered the basics of where the challenges of extraterritoriality should be regulated. A segmented set of rules and regulations are still not helping all of the stakeholders to maintain a stable balance between risks and efficiency, which is why bodies such as the Financial Stability Board, CPSS and IOSCO are publishing global principles to facilitate the cooperation between local regulators and market players. So, in conclusion, should the Post-Trade arena in Europe move towards a new era of unified regulations, global standards and business practices? Let me share with you this comment from a delegate at the conference: “I am French, married with a Polish wife, living in the UK and our child was born in Romania, so should I ask for a Pan-European harmonisation of laws and processes from the ground up, or should I simply work within the local laws?“. My response was whether for Post-Trade or for family matters, harmonisation is important when differences arise that prevent efficient Post-Trade business, no more, no less.

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Healthcare IT Adoption is on the Rise, but Challenges Still Remain

Please Note: This blog article was originally written and published by Jacob Block. A recent report released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in conjunction with Mathematica Policy Research and the Harvard School of Public Health highlights key findings about health information technology (HIT) in the United States. Broken into four chapters, the report examines: • Progress on adoption: Who is using electronic health records (EHR), where, and how • Health information exchange (HIE) under HITECH: How healthcare institutions at the state and federal level are approaching HIE under the Cooperative Agreement Program • The importance of HIT and HIE in healthcare: Why hospitals and healthcare providers should be participating in Meaningful Use and other programs • Delivery reform through HIT: How effective HIT can help with healthcare reform models like the patient-centered medical home (PCMH) and accountable care organization(ACO) The heartening–though unsurprising–findings included statistics on EHR adoption, which was at 57 percent for 2011, up from just 17 percent a decade ago. Not all those surveyed, however, had implemented a strong enough EHR system to feel confident applying for Meaningful Use funds. While half of respondents said they intended to apply, only one in ten said they could actually meet the requirements With 80 regional health information organizations (RHIOs) in operation, and another 82 being planned, healthcare networks in every state are working together to foster a true HIE system under the Cooperative Agreement Program. An interview with Drs. Michael Painter and David Blumenthal elucidated the challenges that remain for meaningful HIT and HIE adoption, noting that federal funding programs like Meaningful Use have likely reached their peak and should be taken advantage of as soon as possible. Finally, the study examined the importance HIT adoption for new health reformmodels like ACO, but noted that many challenges and barriers remain in terms of tracking and managing patient care and safely communicating protected health information (PHI) and other EHR. The study caught my eye because of a trend I have noticed in the healthcare industry to use digital fax technology to address document delivery and management. OpenText’s RightFax, Fax Appliance and Alchemy solutions in particular are well-suited to some of the document-related challenges healthcare providers face. By automating fax on a secure server, healthcare providers can safely and confidently manage the access and exchange of sensitive patient data. An automated audit trail retains all the information a healthcare provider would need to produce to show compliance with programs like HIPAA, HITECH and Meaningful Use. Many healthcare providers already use OpenText products to manage their records, but many overlook fax as a viable solution, tending toward other secure document transmission. The fact is, fax technology is keeping pace, and in some senses, outpacing other technologies like email. The point-to-point (sender to receiver) nature of a fax makes it uniquely trustworthy and reliable. Used properly as a utility integrated into HIT and HIE systems, fax can and does help healthcare providers save lives every day. To learn more about digital fax and document management technology from OpenText, visit our healthcare provider page.  

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