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Document Imaging: How to Turn Paper into Gold

Whether companies have a few boxes of files stowed under a desk, rows of file cabinets, or rooms dedicated to data storage, chances are, they can benefit from converting paper to electronic files whether in-house or by using a digital imaging service. Making the data in these documents available for quick and easy retrieval, analysis and action is like turning paper into gold.

Paper documents take up more space and are harder to file and retrieve than electronic files. Since labor is usually the largest expense of any enterprise, even small businesses can benefit from document imaging because work can be completed more quickly electronically than physically. And since physical real estate is more expensive than electronic data storage, companies realize additional savings when document imaging systems are used. But the real payoff in digitizing documents is that the data in them can be extracted, analyzed and acted upon to increase volume and margin.

Imaging: First Things First
The basic tools needed for turning paper documents into electronic ones are a computer, software and a scanner. For the smallest jobs, when the only requirement is to capture the image on the paper and store it, a three-in-one device (printer, scanner, fax) and Adobe Acrobat, for creating PDF files, are all that is necessary. Even small businesses usually have the tools to capture and store images.

However, when documents are larger than a sheet of legal paper, or when their contents need to be extracted or manipulated, or when the number of documents is large, then additional resources are needed. These resources might include large format scanners for blueprints or maps, high speed or duplex scanners for large document loads or double-sided documents, specialized software for optical character recognition (OCR) or forms reading, database software for managing scanned documents, and additional storage capacity.

In-house versus Digital Imaging Service
For all but the simplest jobs, companies need to consider whether to employ a client/server system or to use a digital imaging service to start conversion to, or manage, a digital system.

One of the newest solutions in document management is the software as a service (SaaS) model--input is done at the company site but the software and storage resides on the vendor server and is available to the user as a Web application.

Needs Assessment and the RFP
Large scale implementations usually include issuing a request for proposal to vendors who supply systems and services. Many vendors provide worksheets to help prospective clients arrive at a cost/benefit analysis. Factors to be considered include:

  • Purpose of document storage (easier sharing of active records, research and data mining, creating an audit trail, complying with government regulations, etc.)
  • Type of documents to be included in system
  • Volume of documents to be processed
  • Go-forward and/or go-back inclusion of documents
  • Integration of electronically generated and paper documents
  • Transaction costs
  • Acquisition and maintenance costs of hardware and software
  • Training costs
  • Storage costs

There will probably never be any such thing as a paperless office, which is why managing the paper that continues to be generated is a real and ongoing challenge and one that can be effectively met through electronic document management.


Source
Aiim.org



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