Reports on the death of fax are greatly exaggerated. Like clockwork, fresh headlines abound about its decline every year or yet another mandate to “axe the fax.” The reality? Fax volumes continue to grow every year. As companies with aging, entrenched fax networks shift to modernize, we’re working to help customers chart their own path forward. At OpenTextTM, we’re focused on the future of secure document delivery and enabled information exchange. We help customers move beyond transactional fax into automated processing, intelligent capture and intelligent workflows.
It is – dare we say, exciting?
I recently caught up with Mike Stover, OpenText’s Manager of Product Management for Digital Fax Solutions. What follows is a recap of our discussion, allowing you to go behind-the-scenes to meet the team inventing the future of fax.
What made you choose product management in your career?
Great question. When I started at OpenText in 2005 – a lifetime ago – I wasn’t an expert in fax. In fact, I never really used it. It wasn’t something that was top of mind for me, but I spent five years supporting RightFax, while attending college on a business degree. I learned a lot about fax technology supporting RightFax by day and saw the rise of social media and other more modern technologies while attending classes by night. After graduating in in 2008, and having spent five years supporting RightFax, I learned to never trust anyone that said fax is dying. There’s a dichotomy between fax and these modern communication mediums. Fax is secure and private communication, whereas newer mobile social apps for communication are public and not private at all. Our customers rely upon fax technology to provide secure, private, and reliable communication. I jumped in to product management because I believe in fax and the value it provides. I wanted to be a champion for secure private communication and work to bring solutions to market to provide that. In every year of the 17 I’ve been working in the fax space, I’ve been told that fax will be dead very soon. However, fax usage has only gone up in that period of time. Fax may not be for every single organization, but for the organizations it works for – it works really well.
Why do you think fax is the butt of so many jokes?
Honestly, I don’t know why fax gets a bad rap, at this point it’s just an easy target. Some things on this planet just work, and fax is one such thing. Fax should be considered a technology and not a device. Fax technology is all about timing. We could trace the origins of fax back to the invention of the clock, when someone discovered the capability to use mathematics to measure the passing of time. Time is constant and its measurement always the same. Fax technology is about time and mathematics – two things much older than fax itself. When fax was invented back in the 1800s, it was determined one could take clock mechanisms combined with electricity to generate a facsimile – a copy of a signal over great distances. Fax in and of itself means facsimile, which means an exact copy. We can achieve that by ensuring the mathematics of time are synchronized.
Telephony in fax provides us with something unique in the modern world: security. We are selling trust. We’re selling the concept that I can use fax technology, combine it with the telephone companies of the world and achieve a secure point-to-point connection. It’s about trust, security and not exposing critical transactions to the public internet at large.
Is fax modernization an oxymoron?
It’s not an oxymoron nor a contradiction. If you think about history and technology: fax was invented in 1842. The automobile was invented in 1886. No one would say cars are old tech that can’t be modernized.
What we see in the future is simplifying the technology for fax users. The future of fax is cloud. 100%. The future of fax is embedded and integrated with many organizations that want to ensure customers can send and receive faxes wherever they want, be it a device, cell phone or workstation.
We can help simplify it by moving a customer’s fax infrastructure to the cloud, where we have unlimited capacity for phone line connections – tens of thousands. Our networks transmit 4 billion pages of fax for customers every year.
What excites you about the future of fax?
The future of fax is trying to remove the stigma of how it became a punch line. Those that are in fax understand its value and those that are not believe it’s a joke. Fax is mission critical to our customers and an integral part of the enterprise.
I think of it philosophically. I do believe fax is going to be around for a very, very long time. The core values are exact copies of documents, secure transmissions, the concept of non-repudiation. Fax provides trust in a world where no one trusts each other. Massive change has come about, industrial ages and revolutions have passed but nothing has replaced fax for the industries that need it.
Fax has staying power and it’s growing. The future of fax involves capture, automation, securely delivering messages, pulling data off and feeding enterprise information management systems of record. We allow organizations to gain insight into the transactions they’re faxing. Insight leads to better outcomes – especially in industries like healthcare.