Carma Financial only has to askOnce

When senior trace staff at Carma Financial Services need to find detailed facts critical to processing a credit report, the answers are now close 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. At Carma Financial, the askOnce tool is used by about 10 senior credit reporters and members of the trace department.

It’s a server-based search software application designed to simplify how businesses search, retrieve and use information found across the 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. Recently, Xerox 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 generally find what they are looking for in half the time.

Products like askOnce often deliver results in call centres first, then the rest of the organization realizes it can deliver to all employees, says Guy Creese, research director with Aberdeen Group in Boston.

Can be linked to DocuShare

Creese said companies that have a knowledge-centric organization and a clear understanding of the costs associated with employees having to look for something are more likely to implement a tool like askOnce.

“”If a CSR (customer service rep) can answer a question in two minutes versus three they have saved money. It may then occur to a company with a large batch of distributed employees that they can take advantage of the same concept. Companies that don’t have hard data on how much time is wasted looking for information may not have the same interest,”” he said.

Carma has been a Xerox hardware customer for 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 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,'”” said Valier.

AskOnce can also be linked to DocuShare.

“”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 would be ideal to link them as well,”” said Valier.

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

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

After EMC’s (Documentum) purchase of the askOnce technology last month, Foon said there will be some changes in the sales support  process in the future, but right now it’s “”business as usual in terms of sales activity and support.””

AskOnce is sold on a per-seat basis.

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