If all is well, the work flow will be published. If there is an error, the application will generate an error code so that you can locate and fix the problem. Finally, you create a "starting rule," which has its own wizard and tells the Laserfiche under what circumstances this particular work flow should be launched.

While Laserfiche goes to great lengths to make this process as easy as possible, it may be intimidating for the uninitiated. Hopefully, Laserfiche will create some work-flow templates for common tasks to get advisors started, though most firms in any case will likely purchase the system through an authorized reseller who can set up the initial work flows if desired.

For a true business process management solution such as this, the price is affordable. An advisory firm pays $1,500 for a server license and a charge of $500 per user, thus an advisory firm with three named users, for instance, would pay $3,000. If a reseller installs Avante and does some straightforward work-flow customization, expect to pay an additional $1,000-$1,500. Laserfiche does offer a number of enticing options that could further raise the cost, however.

One of these is Laserfiche Web Access. Once the Web access software is installed on the server, licensees install a small application on their laptops (or any other computers they want to use to access their Laserfiche information over the Web). Once the software is installed, users can log into and access information from their Laserfiche repository through a Web browser interface. With Web Access, advisors can also set up Web-accessible folders for their clients. This can be done a number of different ways. One method would be to set up a single folder for each client, but only make some documents within the folder accessible over the Web. Another way would be for the advisor to create two folders for each client, an internal one and a shared one the client has access to. One advantage of Web Access is it allows principals and managers to approve and route documents over the Web. It also allows them to collaborate with multiple offices no matter where they are at any given time.

Another option is the Laserfiche Audit Trail. This feature adds comprehensive security by monitoring and recording all actions taken within the Laserfiche system. The system can be configured to monitor any action that might put your data at risk. You may want to record each time an employee logs into or out of the system. You might want to know who edits, prints, copies or even views certain files. Audit Trail can record and supply this information. It can filter and report on the actions it logs so administrators can spot suspicious activities.

Laserfiche Quick Fields captures information from either paper or electronic forms and uses it in multiple ways. If you have a stack of new account forms, you can use Quick Fields to capture the client's name, which would then be put on a folder automatically created by Laserfiche Workflow.

Laserfiche Plus allows the user to "publish" files and folders onto a DVD. This DVD includes a viewer and an index, so the files can be searched and displayed even on a computer that does not have Laserfiche installed. Plus, it is useful as an archiving tool. It is also helpful for those who want to take documents home or on a trip if Web Access is not available.

Finally, Laserfiche Records Management provides life cycle management for all documents. This allows advisory firms to set retention policies for individual documents or classes of documents. The system will provide reports detailing which documents are eligible for transfer or destruction.

I had an opportunity to briefly test the product, and my initial impressions were favorable. Although I think that some advisors may be challenged to create their own work-flow models, with competent help firms should be able to achieve a considerable return on their investment.

Laserfiche is not the only firm offering an integrated document management/work-flow solution. Cabinet NG, Xerox and others have offered them for some time; nevertheless, the launch of Avante is significant. Among advisors, Laserfiche is one of the most recognized names in document management.