Industry Profile: Outback Imaging CEO and founder Mike Kirkby

From a home garage to a brand new owner-occupied office building and warehouse in Morningside, Brisbane, Outback Imaging CEO and founder Mike Kirkby has seen it all on his journey to become one of Australia’s leading capture software solutions companies.

It all started in 2002, after Mike was offered the opportunity to acquire software that he had been involved in developing. Confident in where he could take the product, together with 17 years of experience with Australian systems integrators, specifically with some of the leading EDRMS platforms of the day, Mike understood the challenges faced by information and records managers.

It was with this understanding Mike applied both his development skill and market understanding to launch EzeScan as a fast and cost-effective document batch scanning and data capture software solution.

Outback Imaging now has over 30 employees spanning across Australia, United Kingdom and the United States and since 2002 has sold over $A150M of EzeScan software globally. However, this success has not been without its hurdles.

“Even with a great product to sell, to be honest in the first year of running the company I almost went broke. The reality is when you start up a new business you don’t necessarily know everything about being in business and the one thing I was lacking was sales experience,” said Mike.

That experience was quickly earned with the first sale of EzeScan to a client in the commercial space, which was ironic as Mike had initially planned to target the local That experience was quickly earned with the first sale of EzeScan to a client in the commercial space, which was ironic as Mike had initially planned to target the local government market.

“It was a great moment when sales started happening, however my first year in business was a difficult one and whilst it could have been easy to walk away, I knew deep down EzeScan had value and more importantly could make a difference to businesses and the people who worked in them. This is why I called the product EzeScan, it was designed to make a hard job easy,” said Mike.

“I think it is important to share that it wasn’t always success after success. One of the key aspects is recognising what you aren’t good at and finding people who are. That is something that even today I really pride myself on, is employing the right people. In doing this the company has gone from strength to strength and I am really proud to lead the team we have now.”

Founder and CEO Mike Kirkby proudly out front of the company's newly constructed headquarters in Morningside, Brisbane.

Self funded business

"Another aspect that I am very proud of is that we have grown the business without any external funding. If you chose to bootstrap, you are the master of your own destiny. Self-funding also set the tone for how the business operates.  It has always been about the customer and their needs, not trying to appease board members or shareholders. In this way we have always been able to remain agile and responsive to the changing needs of our customers,” said Mike.

The future looks bright and new Brisbane headquarters have provided a 50% increase in space, room for extra staff to help grow the business to the next level.

“With the release of EzeScan 5.0, we are giving our existing customers on EzeScan 4.3 a superior capture experience with new features and enhancements including a more seamless connection between our desktop and cloud-based capture solutions. Much of this is contributed to the product moving to .net with 64-bit support,” said Mike.

“Our current development plans include enhancing how our software is deployed and runs in the cloud. In particular, our new cloud-based invoice processing offering using Amazon Cloud.”

Document-centric future

While the document management market has evolved substantially since the launch of EzeScan in 2002, Mike still sees a huge potential for growth over the next decade.

While the growth of online forms and e-invoicing have the potential to eliminate its use, the “document”, whether paper or electronic, is still the required trigger for most business and government workflows.

“Most organisations are still document-centric in that respect, and I think this will remain that way for some time to come,” he said.

The company has established long term partnerships with leading enterprise software vendors and consequently EzeScan is now integrated with many popular line of business systems used commercially and in government.

The EzeScan development team is 100% Australian-based.

In the EDRMS field, EzeScan was initially focussed on the Tier 1 enterprise products but has now broadened to support cloud platforms such as Box, Dropbox, OneDrive, M-Files and SharePoint Online.

“The heavy lifting for most government departments from a records perspective is still done by the Tier 1 and Tier 2 ECM products, but it’s important that we have offerings in the commercial space,” said Mike.

“The challenge is the same whatever platform you are using. Both businesses and government rely on their staff to name their documents it in such a way, that you can find it when you are looking for it. There is a lot of discussion around auto-classification but the challenge here is that even if they are getting it right 99% of the time, you end up with some records that are misfiled. At some point this could become an issue for you as the business is exposed to risk of either not finding document when needed or the wrong people being able access documents.

“A key driver to not removing responsibility is providing the right tools and processes to get the job done correctly, which is what EzeScan can do,” said Mike.

"We want to make our customers lives easier, to assist both commercial organisations and government departments to align the capture of their business critical information with the business processes themselves."

Outback Imaging is assisting its customers to operate in the drastically altered landscape caused by COVID-19.

“We’ve been reallocating our customer's EzeScan licenses so that they can be used from their home offices, deploying rental scanners and software so the business can continue operations even though their team are in various locations,” said Kirkby. 

“By focussing on our customer’s needs we have been able to keep our own team fully employed without requiring Job Keeper assistance or having to resort to downsizing our workforce like many companies have had to unfortunately experience.”

Mike believes a large portion of IT-based roles will remain ‘home office based’ after the COVID-19 pandemic is brought under control.

“It’s going to accelerate the move to the cloud and to SaaS delivered solutions. This is a deciding factor in where we are investing our R&D funding and helping us to determine what our product suite will look like. Ultimately EzeScan’s goal is to deliver solutions that provide our customers the outcomes and operational benefits that their organisations require now and into the future."

"Our employees are the lifeblood of the company, many of them have committed a large portion of their working lives to the company and serving our clients. We are truly grateful for this," - Mike Kirkby