Document Management Solution is an industry buzz term for any combination of hardware and software that makes your work more accessible. Despite forecasts to the contrary, purchases for cut sheet paper (that stuff you keep loading into your copiers and printers) continues to climb year after year. Unless you are fortunate enough that you never have to retrieve those documents, chances are you spend some time looking through file cabinets, document boxes and other assorted piles of paperwork.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a digital filing system, electronically search for keywords in any document or group of documents, and compile all your results in seconds? Internet search engines can do this for online documents, so why can’t you search your own documents in the same way? The answer is that you can, but it does take some effort to ensure you scan documents in the correct manner. Blindly searching through thousands of files with little or no search capability can be an exercise in futility, so doing your homework now will help you to navigate safely and avoid potential pitfalls. There are three key areas to implementing a successful Document Management Solution – let’s investigate each of them.
OCR – Optical Character Recognition
Whether you are scanning from a desktop scan system, a larger multifunction device, or a full-sized copier with network scan, chances are it will output files of the same type. Scanned images in PDF or TIF format are just that, an image or picture of the document. All of the text in that image can be read by human eyes, but can also be processed to allow a computer to read and index that text. An efficient OCR process can identify all machine generated text to create a fully searchable document. If your process relies on searching for handwritten information, there are other options available.
Let’s say you would like to scan all of your purchase orders, which have handwritten PO numbers on them. Your OCR software does a great job reading 12 point Times New Roman, but does not understand your writing, omitting that vital PO number from the search. To continue inputting the existing document into your database, some human intervention is required. When scanning, the document may be indexed to reference the PO number. Depending on your solution, this may require manually keying the information at the scanner, or tagging various attributes of the document in a review process to index each image (or set of images) when they are added to the database. Either way, indexing common types of information like effective dates, customer numbers, client names or document types helps to quickly narrow your search results.
So you have started scanning every document that crosses your desk, which you can now search by looking for text strings, or by index keys like a Due Date or Group Name. Finding the document you need should be a no brainer, right? Perhaps not. As time passes, and you begin to amass hundreds, perhaps thousands of images, simple searches may return dozens of hits, leaving you to find your document amongst several. Finding a familiar means to organize the data will help your organization to transition from the old paper trail into the information age of scanned documents. Wherever possible, it is best to incorporate the same structure your staff has become accustomed to in electronic format. If you always had an Accounting file cabinet, with drawers containing folders for Agreements, Bank Statements, Contracts, Invoices, Ledgers, etc., then hopefully your solution would also contain these attributes to speed your search. A solution which requires the users to abandon what they know and start over with a completely new format may work in theory, but might leave a lot to be desired for those who must use the solution on a daily basis. Drawing parallels from the familiar help to ensure accurate data entry and easier retrieval for everyone.
A well thought out Document Management Solution will require a little effort at first, but once it becomes familiar, will pay dividends for those who must file the documents away or gather them from their respective hiding places. Less time spent on those tasks means more time to focus on tasks that earn revenue for your company. An added bonus “when you gain confidence in the solution you are using and maintain valid backups of the data, the space those old file cabinets occupied could make way for additional work areas, new hardware to help with day to day tasks, or new staff to handle the challenges you never had time to address in the past.
To schedule a free Document Management Solution consultation and technology assessment, please call 877-233-8500, we’ll be happy to send a technician to your business to go over your options with you.