Konica Minolta: ” Starting in April We Will Begin to Launch Docshare in the European Market”

In this interview, Alex Hidalgo Arapachi, ITS Director at Konica Minolta, explains the company’s current situation and future.

Digital document management is at a crucial moment in its evolution. Companies, increasingly digitized, need efficient solutions to organize, store and share their documents. In this context, the latest technologies offer endless possibilities to optimize document management.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning make it possible to automate repetitive tasks, such as document classification and indexing, and can even help to extract relevant information from documents. On the other hand, the cloud has transformed the way documents are stored and shared The Blockchain offers traceability and the transparency it brings for sectors such as legal or financial.

On the other hand, Big data allows the analysis of large volumes of data that can help companies to improve efficiency, identify areas for improvement and make more strategic decisions. Usability and accessibility of document management systems are becoming increasingly important. Modern platforms offer intuitive and easy-to-use interfaces, making it easier for users to adopt and improve their experience.

In short, digital document management is in a state of constant evolution, with new technologies constantly emerging. Companies that adapt to these new trends will be better positioned to take advantage of the benefits of digitization and improve their efficiency and productivity. This is the context in which we find Konica Minolta.

Docshare’s evolution at Konica Minolta

Konica Minolta is a Japanese multinational company that specializes in imaging technologies and printing services. It was created in 2003 from the merger of two companies: Konica Corporation and Minolta Co. The company has developed advanced printing and document management solutions for businesses of all sizes, as well as specific solutions for sectors such as healthcare, education and public administration.

DocShare is software that offers a comprehensive platform for document management and electronic signatures. The origin of this software is Meridian, the company that started the development of DocShare, which Konica Minolta acquired after its sale.

DocShare offers a comprehensive document management and electronic signature solution to facilitate organization, access and collaboration with documents in a secure and efficient way. Alex Hidalgo Arapachi, Director of ITS at Konica Minolta, discusses the current situation of both companies with Silicon.

– I understand that Konica Minolta’s acquisition of Docshare takes place between 2017 and 2018.

Correct. With the sale of Meridian, a company that started developing Docshare in 2018, and it’s true that with Konica Minolta we engaged in talks since late 2016 or early 2017. The alliance starts there.

– Tell me about how it has evolved: has your approach to the market changed or has it stayed true to the origin of the company?

That’s a good question that’s not easy to answer. We are very niche, we do things in a very different way than others did. So we fit very well in certain types of projects. Konica Minolta was doing diametrically opposed projects, that is, more oriented to solutions with invoices of all kinds, such as invoice approval software, invoice validation, “matcheo” between invoices, delivery notes and orders, that kind of more vertical solutions. We are more focused on more global document management, documentation in general within companies.

It is true that right now we have this duality in which we continue to do the traditional projects that we knew how to sell best from Konica Minolta, but we have also expanded into these traditional projects. And in fact, the solution that we have right now, which is quite different from what we had in Meridian, because we have made quite a large investment over several years. Right now we’re still strong in what we were before and where we get the highest ratio of sales, but we’re also able to put the focus on that verticalization of the product in terms of invoices, delivery notes, et cetera.

So, the summary to your question would be that at Konica Minolta we continue to do more or less the same thing we have been doing for the last six years, but with the added bonus that we sell our own solution and we have also expanded our vision to complete document management projects.

– What is Docshare’s weight within Konica Minolta, either globally or regionally?

We have already set up a two-year roadmap and the idea is that from April we will start launching Docshare in the European market. There are already several countries that are going to start selling it, so we have turned a local project into a well-known project in Spain.

Docshare has always been among the three or four best-known document management companies, although our market share was not large, we were known. There wasn’t much competition either. However, right now, with the European expansion and the product as we have it now, much more powerful, designed for the web and completely factored, it is practically a new product. We will start launching it at European level in April.

– From your point of view, how do you differentiate yourselves from the competition?

Konica Minolta is a partner of document management providers. In fact, in the past we have been the number one partner of some of them. We don’t really see ourselves as direct competition with them, but in many cases it is possible that the relationship will last because we want to focus on that niche we have in the market, on that type of project that is less covered or where there is less competition. That is where we want to maintain our focus. Obviously, in some projects we may coincide with them and we will be competitors, but if we really focus on our market focus, and mainly on the transformation of business processes, that is where we really do not coincide with traditional document managers.

– What kind of ROI can customers expect when using Docshare?

The main advantage of using Docshare varies depending on the type of project. In the case of invoice management, the return on investment (ROI) is mainly reflected in the time savings in invoice data extraction, automatic integration with the ERP system and approval times. This time savings benefits multiple people involved in the process and translates into higher ROI as more invoices are handled. Although pricing does not vary exponentially by project size, ROI tends to be higher on larger projects due to the scalable efficiency of the implementation.

In addition, there is significant savings related to collaboration and document access, avoiding wasted time searching for files and managing versions efficiently. This aspect aligns with document management projects, such as the ones we offer at Meridian. Other benefits that are not exclusively economic can also be identified, such as improved security and systems integration, which although not directly reflected in ROI, do contribute indirectly to it.

Docshare technologies and functionalities

– Could you mention Docshare’s most popular functionalities within document management and electronic signatures? I imagine you have a variety of services, which are the most demanded and how do they contribute to improve team collaboration?

Sure, I’d like to give you an overview. At Boxer and Minolta we have two main objectives. First, we strive to be the single repository of information. Have you ever noticed how many Teams groups you currently have and how many documents are within each? Dispersion of information is a common problem, and we want to solve it by providing a single place to store and share documents. This ensures controlled access and avoids duplication of files in different locations. Secondly, we want document management knowledge to reside within the company and not with individual employees. We want to establish uniform practices regardless of experience level or role within the company. These are our two main objectives.

To achieve this, we have developed Docshare, a tool with an intuitive interface and powerful workflows. Among the most requested functionalities are workflows and records management. In addition, we offer forms that allow you to extract information from external repositories or generate documents based on data entered by the user. For example, we have implemented a vacation request system that automatically generates a PDF and sends it to the human resources department for approval.

The digital signature is also an important feature, as more and more companies are looking for digital alternatives for their processes. In terms of security, we comply with industry standards and have signed a global agreement with Microsoft to ensure data protection. Integration with Office and other platforms, as well as online and collaborative editing, are key aspects of our offering. We also offer version control and auditing to ensure document traceability.

Electronic signature and cybersecurity

– What kind of documents can be electronically signed with DocShare and how do you ensure that those signatures are legally valid?

It’s not that there are many ways or several ways, it’s how all platforms do it. That is, we rely on a certifying entity. It is the platform itself that actually performs the validation of the document. It’s like a digital notary. But what is really important is how to verify the identity of the person, is to know that this signed document was signed by me and not by you, the author of the signature.

To do this, first, you must receive notification of the signature by email. When you enter the platform with the link that you receive in the e-mail, is when the second authentication factor comes into play through the cell phone in the form of a code with which the process is completed. In the end, with this process we obtain a traceability of who has signed and by what means it is possible to link or reach a physical person always. Additionally, all signatures generate leaves, which is a unique signature code, so if there were alterations or modifications on the document or on the signatures in the future, it would not coincide with the signature and then it would be known that it has been altered. So, if it remains the same, there is no problem.

– How do you guarantee security and data protection against cyber attacks?

It’s a question that also has many sides and there are many angles of attack. The first is cybersecurity as such. That is, how do you prevent software from reintegrating user data or relationships? It is true that it is becoming more and more difficult because we are generating more and more documentation. Any company of a size of about 15 to 20 employees generates gigabytes of information every month. A company like Konica Minolta generates teras of information annually. That information tends to become more and more available and is increasingly uploaded to the cloud. In the end, the cloud, whether private, hybrid or public, is still a public access point. In other words, anyone with a login and password can access it. So, the attack surface, therefore, becomes larger. We invest a lot in the physical security part, from the point of view of how the code is developed in the elements that you put before firewalls, the platform where you host the documentation. And secondly, the GDPR issue. But still, Antonio, where do you think most of the security attacks come from? Let me ask you.

– I would imagine all the transfer of documents via email.

Note that most of the attacks, loss of information and unauthorized access to sites are caused by users. In other words, the weakest link in the whole cybersecurity chain is the user. In fact, a company can spend millions of euros on super-advanced firewall software, but in the end it is the users who generate the security breaches. We try to train users in this aspect, not only because we develop document management or when we give a training course on the tool and talk about these issues, but also because we do training courses within other business areas, because we are also dedicated to cybersecurity. But the biggest leak comes from the user.

Future Challenges

– Tell me about DocShare’s future strategy. Can you identify the main challenges the company faces in today’s market?

We have a few challenges, some related to technological issues and others more commercial. In terms of the challenges we face as software manufacturers in general, and in document management in particular, we have talked about the fact that information theft causes reputational damage.

In terms of managing the volume of information; because it is not easy to manage gigabytes and gigabytes of information; versions with people accessing simultaneously from mobiles, tablets, hard drives; it is complicated to make the systems accurate so that we can. There is more and more software on the market that you need, more integration. From one year to the next, platforms like Salesforce come out, which 10 years ago was nothing and now is the biggest CRM in the world. So you have to integrate with them, improve collaboration and security between users, even between people who don’t even belong to the organization, such as an accountant or a lawyer, but who interact with us; document lifecycles and expungement schedules. That is where we are introducing workflows, artificial intelligence, to improve the entire document life cycle. And, in addition, to keep pace with technological progress and then to comply with the over-regulation we have in Europe for all these issues. So that would be the general or technological challenge.

On the other hand, as I am more of a person who enjoys small successes and not going for big or megalomaniac projects, I think Konica Minolta wants to focus on two things: the technological development roadmap that we have to include the factors I have just mentioned, plus the features we have to incorporate, which we already have clear and designed for the next two years, in order to fulfill this roadmap in time. And then the European launch, which will give us a very different positioning, and of course, a higher level of sales than we have right now.

What is the vision of where document management is heading?

As to where document management is heading, if you were to ask the different document management software manufacturers, we would probably not answer the same question, because each one of us has our own identity, our own way of acting and thinking. In this aspect, it is true that we all have some common features in terms of document security and version management, but not in the way we do it.

If you see, for example, an M-Files, they have a different way of doing it. They tend to collect all the information that is distributed in all the repositories and then try to organize it. And we go diametrically opposite. That is, we’re going to centralize the information and then share it securely. If you ask Konica Minolta, we believe that the future lies in managing the enormous amount of information that all of us users generate, centralizing it in some way or sharing it securely. In the end, the only difference is that there will be virtually no paper documents, so we will have to be integrated with all the text editors and document editors on the market.

Being able to easily upload or access a document to our centralized repository is a crucial area of constant improvement. And then something that is perhaps the most differential so far in document management is that what is important is in the document. I mean, I have an invoice, I approve it, I pay it from my contract, someone signs it for me. What is really important in companies is the management of processes. That is where we provide process management based on the experience that characterizes us in document management. But document management is no longer the main goal; it is process management.

– The current government has been very conscientious about electronic invoicing during its first term in office. What role does Docshare, and by extension Konica Minolta, play in the implementation of this system?

In our case, we are fully involved, as we carry out many invoicing projects. Companies need to manage paperwork and ensure that invoices are paid correctly. In addition, companies need to anticipate what may happen in two years, although extensions are likely to be granted, as this is a European issue, not exclusive to Spain.

A single format is being worked on in which the invoice is generated in an XML format, eliminating the need to extract metadata or use a specific PDF format. This means that the information is integrated directly, without the need for intermediaries. Subsequently, this information can be converted into a PDF in the desired format, but this is perhaps the main difference. Although the physical invoice and data extraction are separate processes, we still provide value in terms of data approval, verification and reconciliation.

It is possible that the totals on the delivery notes do not match those on the invoice, so these verification processes still need to be performed. In short, even if the invoice arrives to us via scanner or email in XML format, we still play a key role in its management. As for the mention to the other question, unfortunately, I have no information on this.

Integration of new technologies

– How can the advance of technologies such as artificial intelligence or quantum computing affect the issue of electronic signatures? Do you have R&D projects to develop new electronic signature formulas?

In the next few years I do not expect big changes in electronic signature technology, as we have experienced many changes so far and now we are in a consolidation stage of those new technologies. However, I expect blockchain and digital identity to advance significantly. There is great potential for growth in the area of digital identity, where we could have blockchain-based identities, similar to a global ID card. This would change the way we digitally sign, as we would no longer rely on traditional methods that could be supplanted, but would use our blockchain-based digital identity. As other technologies continue to develop, e-signatures will adapt, but I don’t foresee drastic changes in the next few years.

– And how does artificial intelligence affect your business model?

In the field of artificial intelligence, perhaps the limit lies in the imagination. Technology today is all about combining existing technologies to create a better one. So, we already have very high-level document management capabilities. For example, we are now using artificial intelligence to summarize documents, to extract the two most important points of the document, the key words of the document. We are generating a model to be able to chat with the document. So, imagine you have a document that is a public tender. So, you can ask the document, “Hey, John, what is required to submit this tender? What are the deadlines? What products are they requesting? Is it kid-friendly, is it not kid-friendly, is it not pregnant-friendly?”

With Excel, for example, we are being able to query thousands of lines with all the sales by product for a country for a year. You can ask questions like which is the most profitable line, which is the product with the highest margin, the product that generates the most losses. Then, our artificial intelligence system will answer you, but there is room for improvement.

On the other hand, in invoices or in unstructured documents, because structured documents are easy to extract information, because it is always in the same place or around the same words, so it is relatively easy to extract it. But imagine a project we are doing right now for notaries, simple notes. You know there are infinite formats, there are thousands or tens of thousands of formats depending on the quantity. Already more or less, simpler, it does not always have the same information, but it also depends on the property and it depends on the owners. So, we are applying algorithms in document management to extract information in a more structured way, because you have to understand what is in the document to be able to extract it. There is great room for improvement in document management.

– On the subject of electronic signatures, as well as the creation of a digital identity profile, and blockchain, have you taken into account a scenario where quantum computing is used for electronic signatures or document management?

I believe there is no direct cause-effect relationship between quantum computing and improvements in digital signatures. It is true that the main goal of quantum computing is processing speed, because instead of having two final states, you have three, which gives you a brutal processing capacity. Quantum computing will give us previously unimaginable processing capabilities, and with those capabilities we can make existing technologies better, faster, or able to take on more volume. However, I don’t think there will be a direct improvement in e-signatures due to quantum computing, beyond increased processing power, at least in the long term.

– Can you point to new trends in the document management or electronic signature market?

In terms of document management, the trend is more towards processes than towards the documents themselves. The document is still important, but the process is more important, especially the coexistence in all the different areas in which users have assets. For example, the document is a great tool, but it has also made life very complicated in terms of security, as the user now has a lot of freedom to share more things without having directly accessible security. You can give security to a digital document, but do you really decide who can see it or not? In this sense, I think the short-term future goes that way. We have to learn to live with these new technologies and find ways to manage and solve the problems they generate. New technologies solve some problems, but they also generate others, and that is what those of us who are dedicated to document management are currently working on.