With the advent of digitalisation, fax has evolved dramatically over the past few months and years to become ‘fax over IP’, which has removed the dependency for it on hardware or the connection to a PABX and thus this environment has become a fully software-based one; hence, fax is far from dead.

Recognising the continuing importance of fax communication to core business processes, many organisations have implemented server solutions to perform faxing functions. While these technologies certainly offer clear advantages over fax machines, they also put business performance at the mercy of the fax tool the organisation is using. If the faxing system is not running as well as it should, neither is the business.

Fax is at the centre of many business processes. When your organisation cannot rely on the tool it uses for faxing, or you find that your faxing system does not provide the capabilities necessary to support the business process improvements you need to make, the impact is significant and widespread. Delayed or lost fax communications hit the supply chain hard, sending ripples throughout order management, customer billing, purchasing and accounts payable.

This situation is compounded by uncertainty surrounding some of the fax server products that organisations have in place today. In response, business and IT leaders within forward-looking organisations are asking themselves some key questions such as:

  • What are the fundamental business problems that involve faxing?
  • How do those problems affect other areas of the organisation?
  • If we didn’t have a faxing system in place and wanted to implement one, would we choose what we have now?
  • Is there a better way to handle our document traffic? and,
  • What are the options to replace our fax server, and how do we go about it?

With specific regard to faxing technology, organisations face a variety of issues with the tools they rely on to support their day-to-day business operations. These include:

  • Many fax software companies being involved with merger and acquisition activity, which creates uncertainty surrounding the future of installed fax server products.
  • Customer support issues resulting from unresponsiveness and insufficient knowledge of the product in relation to organisations’ specific environments and business processes.
  • Asset management and total cost of ownership (TCO) associated with running and managing assets to support faxing, including server maintenance costs spiraling out of control along with telephony expenses and telecommunications charges.
  • Stability issues with fax servers that may fail without warning, causing disruptions that ripple throughout the business.
  • Functional limitations such as a lack of scalability to support growth, notification of fax delivery status, self-service capability for users to resend faxes if necessary, and support for technologies such as Fax over IP (FOIP).
  • Too much paper as organisations still find it necessary to print hard copies and file fax documents manually.

On the IT side, important considerations should include:

  • Time and money spent maintaining fax infrastructure such as fax lines, fax boards and multiple servers; costs which are compounded for international companies with offices around the world.
  • The need to consolidate on one platform to standardise production and desktop faxing integrated with business applications, inbound and outbound faxing, and shared services.
  • Change control for implementation and upgrading of enterprise resource planning systems such as SAP® applications.
  • Declining or increasing fax volumes that no longer match up with the fixed costs of the resources to support them.
  • Help desk calls related to faxing.
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Thus with the above, it is vital that business and IT needs are appropriately aligned. Solving a business problem that involves faxing is never just an IT project. Because fax communications have a direct impact on so many aspects of an organisation’s business, leaders within the IT and business groups need to work with and not against each other, knowing when and how to involve the various stakeholders. Only when business leaders and technology leaders come together can the organisation determine what it really needs and identify the best solution.

In conclusion, the following are a few basic tips to help bring IT and business together:

  • Include IT and business leaders in vendor demonstrations of potential solutions;
  • Get end users actively involved in evaluating potential solutions;
  • Consider how a potential solution may be extended