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Case Study: Document management systems

Wednesday 29 September 1999 12:00

 

Scanners have many different applications. When used as part of a document management system, they can save time and money.

In controlled situations, some indicators of the efficiency of a document management system (of which a scanner is an important element) have been measured and proven in certain business situations. For instance,

 

in a study undertaken by Price Waterhouse, "several paralegals were asked to search through 10,000 documents by one author, written within one time frame, on one topic. It took them 67 hours to find 15 documents. The same search, using document management technology, found 20 documents in 4.5 seconds."

A different study conducted by Coopers & Lybrand discovered that in the average office, 19 copies are made of each document. Of these, 7.5 per cent are lost completely. The cost of labor for filing is $20 and another $120 is spent on labor searching for the misfiled documents. Finally, an additional $250 is spent on the labor involved in recreating the missing documents.

 

Judging from these results, the case for imaging and document management systems, based on increased efficiency, is strong. It might be useful at this point to provide some definitions. In imaging, the scanner digitizes a paper document and the file is stored electronically and managed by the software. A document imaging scanner, unlike a desktop publishing scanner, is designed to digitize documents at high speed and must include an automatic document feeder (ADF). Document management software provides for the centralized management and administration of large volumes of documents. These documents can originate from any source, but are stored electronically. Workflow systems provide for the automation of routine work processes, by automatically routing imaged or electronic data, and functions as a replacement for the manual routing of paper. This is a higher level application, which is only possible with a fully realized document management system.

 

In the modern office, information tends to take one of three forms: paper-based data, mainframe or "host system" data and PC-generated data. Of these three, the fastest growing today is probably the information that is created on desktop PCs.

 

However, paper has always been with us and huge resources of data are now resident on legacy systems like mainframes. Depending on the historic development of your organization, you will find that a large amount of your data resides on a host such as an AS 400, VAX or a UNIX mainframe.

 

For some organizations however, 75 per cent or more of their documents are paper-based. This estimate may sound exaggerated at first, but if you look at the amount of paper on and around your own desk, you may see that it isn't so hard to believe.

 

Regardless of your organizationís history or your current technology, you will have valuable information on paper that hasn't been generated or captured electronically. Seen from this standpoint, one of the greatest benefits in document imaging and document management systems is its ability to merge various sources of information into one access interface. This is an important consideration for the future of any modern organization because it opens up so many other possibilities.

 

Organizations that embrace imaging and document management systems almost invariably expand the uses of the system and the access to information that it provides.

 

This may be in the form of a workflow system or it may involve methods like Internet access to disseminate information outside the organization. With document management systems, it becomes easier to control information more closely, and yet make it more readily available to those who should have it. This is what we refer to as "the document management evolution." In the near future, the Internet/intranet/extranet information highway will become the dominant means for information delivery and access. When you convert paper-based information into online content, those captured images become your organizationís "Information Asset.

 

"Getting back to our central question then, how do you determine whether document imaging and document management are for you?" In general terms, based on the evidence noted above, this is an easy question to answer. If access to the information in your document base directly correlates with your departmental performance, and if your document base is getting larger, then you have a case for document imaging.

 

Beyond that general observation, here are some of the specific benefits: Reduced paper consumption. With online electronic documents, especially if controlled within a workflow system, you can avoid the necessity of multi-part forms for internal copies. You also avoid duplication of documents for distribution, which is notoriously wasteful. Some organizations find that their document management system is paid back in the first year's savings on paper alone Reduced storage costs of paper documents. This is also an easily quantifiable cost.

 

Many organizations discover a tremendous amount of usable square footage which can lead to cost savings, expansion opportunities or just better space utilization. Elimination of misfiled documents and the associated costs of regenerating those documents Location of records quickly. Usually this time is measured in seconds, which means you can provide information while the requester is still on the phone. If your representative doesn't have to leave his or her desk to locate a document, the efficiency improvement can be enormous.

 

The most critical element in any imaging and document management system is the software.

 

A document imaging specialist can assist you in ensuring you get the right software, with the right scanners, and that all the pieces fit to create a workable solution specifically designed for your organization. The sooner you begin the process, the sooner you'll see the benefits of merging your data in all its various forms into an efficient document management system. Whether you look at it from the perspective of a government-related organization or private sector business, there's no question (imaging and document management really is the way of the future.

Compiled by Paul Phillips (Fujitsu Europe Limited, 1999)