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Deciphering the Differences among Digital Imaging Systems

Digital imaging is a broad term that covers the many uses of digitized images. These images can be of anything from receipts to training manuals to advertisements.

All digital imaging systems share some common characteristics. They are designed to:

  • Organize electronic files for easy search and retrieval
  • Assign and track authoring, editing, and publishing rights
  • Notate versioning
  • Keep information safe from unauthorized use

Most digital imaging systems are available as client-server programs; some are delivered as software as a service (SaaS) over the Internet. Others are available in both models. Below is a brief description of five types of digital imaging systems available to help companies.

Digital Asset Management
Digital asset management refers to systems that are most often used for marketing and sales purposes. The digital files (assets) in these systems are tightly controlled and highly active. That is, only a few people have permission to modify the assets although many people have rights to use them.

One example of a digital asset management system is a brand management library. It is here that corporations store logos, fonts, marketing collateral (usually in PDF), product beauty shots (still images), and print and video ads. These assets can usually be seen as thumbnails of their high resolution formats and can be retrieved by their file name or their digital image. Besides being available to a wide internal audience, subsets of these assets are often made available to industry analysts or the media.

Another example of a digital asset management system is a supply chain service such as a stock photography, music, gaming, or video website where the assets are controlled by the publisher and downloaded by the public.

Document Imaging
Document imaging refers to the process of scanning paper documents to create digital images. Once scanned, the documents may be stored as simple raster images or, if they are text-based, they may be processed with optical character recognition (OCR) software so they can be manipulated as electronic text with full text search capabilities. Document imaging is often the first step in document or record management. An example of a document imaging system is claims intake in the insurance industry where paper-based claim forms are scanned into computers to begin the claim processing procedure.

Document Management
Document management follows a paper or digital file through a procedure to a specified outcome. Going back to the insurance industry example above, once digitized, documents will appear on a computer screen, where employees can make decisions based on the condition of the document and its content. If the file is legible, it will be reviewed for completeness and accuracy, approved for payment or further review, or rejected. Eventually these documents are archived and may be controlled by a record management system.

Record Management
Record management refers to the policies and procedures used to manage documents to maintain compliance with regulations and business best practices. Records management includes company documents, whether paper or digital, and encompasses voice mail, instant messages, email, sales and marketing collateral, SEC filings, patent submissions, board minutes, financials, and similar information. The primary purpose of a record management system is to safeguard companies from litigation through adherence to retention schedules.

Content Management
Content management systems are of two varieties: enterprise and Web. Both serve as a platform in which documents are created, edited, managed, and published. Content management systems are designed for collaborative work and are especially concerned with audit trails, version control, and universal changes of digital image and text files.


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