When senior trace staff at Carma Financial Services need to find detailed facts critical to processing a credit report, the answers they need are now closer at hand and more informed thanks to a Web-based application

that provides more detailed information than typical search engines.

Toronto-based Carma Financial provides business-to-business accounts receivable management services including account recovery and asset-based financing through its subsidiaries.

The company of 88 employees uses askOnce from Xerox for finding information from a variety of information sources including the Internet and company intranet when processing credit evaluations. The search software can be executed against all possible sources with one query. At Carma Financial, the askOnce tool is used by about 10 senior credit reporters and members of the trace department when they are evaluating businesses or individuals for credit approval.

The tool is a server-based search software application designed to simplify how businesses search, retrieve and use information found across their enterprise. From a single inquiry, askOnce will search any number of information sources and present the results in a common format, says Jerry Low Foon, national software marketing manager for Xerox Canada. At press time, Xerox had sold off the askOnce unit to EMC subsidiary Documentum.

For certain employees of Carma Financial it has become the default search engine they use in their daily work, according to Peter Valier, IT Manager with Carma Financial.

“”It means they don’t have to search in 10 different places and it provides a nice synopsis of the pages that come back. It helps you better choose which page will have the best information,”” said Valier. “”You have a better idea of which page you want to look at. With Google, you get 100 responses with just the first line of each page. It cuts down on the amount of time looking at the results to get the correct one.””

Valier estimates askOnce has increased office productivity by about 20 per cent as employees say they generally find what they are looking for in half the time.

Carma has been a Xerox hardware customer for many years and for the past two years has also used its document management tool called DocuShare which creates a repository of documents. Carma has created links to DocuShare documents from other applications.

“”For example, credit reporting and debt collection applications both have buttons and keystroke sequences that will open the attached files associated with whatever you’re working on at the time,”” said Valier.

The company has more than 100,000 items stored in DocuShare and it has been able to decrease the amount of paper in the office by 75 per cent and those documents are easier to find.

“”We knew they did applications like this but it wasn’t until I was at a demo and saw (askOnce) and thought ‘Wow, that’s different.’ It was surprising they did this kind of thing,”” said Valier.

AskOnce can also be linked to DocuShare.

“”In our case, because we have already linked DocuShare into our apps, we probably wouldn’t, but for somebody who has a document repository for the entire organization — say I kept all my sales documents in there — it’d be ideal to link them to there as well,”” said Valier.

In document-intensive organizations, tools like askOnce and others can help employees find what they need, faster, according to Xerox’s Foon.

“”It allows them to leverage other multifunction systems they may have,”” he said Foon.

AskOnce is sold on a per-seat basis.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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