With its headquarters in Tulsa, Oklahoma and offices in Austin, Texas and Jackson, Mississippi, TPi Billing Solutions, LLC (TPi) is a family owned and operated company that was established in the mid-1960s to meet the billing needs of rural telephone companies in Oklahoma and Arkansas. TPi has now grown to nearly ninety employees and represents clients in forty-three states. In addition, the company has expanded its scope to include offerings for the medical and financial services industries, municipalities, and non-profit organizations. TPi’s services consist of billing solutions, variable data printing, direct mail fulfillment, call center services, and third-party collections. Additionally, TPi’s business includes a division devoted to medical billing.
Despite being a private company, TPi’s success has been noticed by the media. In 2003 and 2004, Inc. magazine placed the firm on its list of the 500 fastest growing companies in the U.S.
The Search for Secure Document Management
As has been the case for most companies, the business and technical environments in which TPi works have evolved considerably over the years. When the company got its start, bills and statements were printed on paper and customers didn’t expect online access to those documents. In fact, the concept was foreign to them. That’s not surprising because in the mid-1960s and through the 1970s, business computers were almost exclusively large, expensive mainframes locked away in high security rooms. Furthermore, those data processing behemoths ran primarily batch jobs or were accessed through “dumb terminals” by just a few employees. Back then, people would have scoffed had you suggested that there would one day be networked computers on everyone’s desks, let alone in people’s homes. Obviously, that has changed.
Today, businesses are increasingly expected to offer their customers electronic alternatives to paper. With ubiquitous web access, online banking, and Web-based shopping, people have come to expect online options even in those areas where paper is still the norm. When TPi began to evaluate opportunities in this area, customers were not yet battering down the doors demanding electronic invoices and statements, but the company recognized the market trends and proactively decided to provide Web access for many of the documents it produces.
Merely putting documents online was not what TPi had in mind. It demanded more. For one thing, it needed a solution that was secure. Because the company deals with confidential information, it needed software that would restrict access to only those people authorized to see a particular document.
TPi also wanted software that was sufficiently flexible for the company to be able to apply it in ways that would fulfill TPi’s business requirements and best serve its customers, rather than being forced to adapt to the arbitrary confines of the software.
Finally, because TPi expects to continue to expand, it wanted a scalable solution that would grow with its business. TPi met all of its needs with Webdocs, from HelpSystems.
Flexible Document Protection Software
TPi evaluated alternatives from a few different vendors, but found that Webdocs best fulfilled its requirements. Webdocs allows organizations to store document images on iSeries or PC servers. The images can then be accessed using up to 10 keys. Those keys can be entered manually or Webdocs can automatically extract them from bar codes or textual data appearing within the images. Once loaded into the system, authorized personnel can use a standard Web browser to access the images over the Internet from anywhere in the world.
The ability to index documents based on up to 10 different keys was particularly important in the choice of Webdocs. The alternatives that TPi considered typically offered a maximum of two or three index fields, which would have limited TPi’s use of the software. “Having 10 index fields allowed us to customize the solution based on our customer needs, rather than on the architectural limits of the product,” explained Rick Roberts, director of information technology at TPi.
Another important consideration was the fact that Webdocs makes documents available over the Web through a standard Web browser. That allowed TPi to give their customers easy online access to their invoices and statements from anywhere in the world, without the need to install new software.
Security was also a critical factor. Webdocs requires user authentication and authenticated users can see only documents appropriate to them. Thus, TPi can protect the sensitivity and security of each customer’s information.
Webdocs meets TPi’s scalability concerns by providing a very high performance document management engine that is available on both iSeries and Windows. The multiplatform capability means that TPi can easily run additional Webdocs installations as its needs grow, without being confined by the technology.
After making its choice, TPi found installation of Webdocs to be very straightforward. In addition, its ongoing use is intuitive and easy.
Now, before TPi physically prints customers’ documents it also produces an electronic file that is fed into the PDF Splitter software. This divides the print stream into individual documents based on certain variables in the document, such as account numbers. These electronic documents are then fed into Webdocs, which TPi runs on an iSeries server. The documents are then accessible online using any of a variety of index fields, including account number and production date.
TPi also uses Webdocs to make short work of placing paper documents online. It takes hardcopy documents that it receives from customers, runs them through high speed scanners, and loads them directly into Webdocs.
Webdocs Provides Web-Accessible Document Management
TPi considers its Webdocs purchase to be an investment rather than a cost. It’s an investment that is paying off. The company uses its ability to make billing documents available online as a selling feature, one that is seeing a positive response from customers and prospects. And, because Webdocs can be accessed from any Web browser, salespeople can easily demonstrate the company’s Web access capabilities during a sales call at a prospective customer, with no additional technical requirements other than Web access.
TPi has found the performance of Webdocs to be superior. When it looked at the alternatives during the evaluation process, “other systems got crushed under the volume and didn’t have the powerful query engine the same way that HelpSystems does,” stated Roberts. Webdocs, on the other hand, handles the load easily.
TPi also considers the relationship with Webdocs’ vendor, HelpSystems, to be valuable. “I have the confidence that the partnership between TPi and HelpSystems will provide me with the tools I need to not only meet existing customer needs, but also realize new opportunities by the combination of technology, experience and expertise,” proclaimed Roberts. “That allows us to make available to our customers more than just the commodity types of functions out there. And, as our clients realize the value that we can provide, they recognize the positive returns that they will receive on the fees we charge to provide those services.”