Friday, March 21, 2014

The Cloud: 5 Things to Do Before Adopting Cloud ECM

Don't Let the Cloud Kill Your Network

Companies have been slow to adopt cloud-based ECM for a variety of reasons: security, perceived lack of control and lack of integration.  Scanning high image volumes to the cloud can kill your network, and cause major issues.  Take these 5 steps to make sure a smooth roll out:

  1. Assessment is key.  Doing a file assessment and analysis should be done immediately.   Take a deep dive into each of your departments, and figure out their scanning and capture needs.  Does your legal department want to scan 500 page documents?  Is back-scanning of file cabinets going to be a major portion of the project?  Does marketing want to scan full-page color?  Key areas to be identified are: large document scanning, color requirements, and high volume areas.  For more information on planning and assessment see here:   Scanning Planning
  2.  Check your internet bandwidth, and monitor.  IT involvement from a monitoring perspective will be key to ensure you proper bandwidth to support your scanning efforts.  Batch uploads from large file scanning can kill bandwidth quickly, and create a user revolt.  Proof of concept and single department implementations can give great insight into network impact, and provide some great stats for follow on phase roll outs.
  3.  Check your device settings, and control them.  Most scanners and copiers today will scan in full color if you let them.  File sizes vary to the extreme between black and white, grayscale and color.  Along with color settings, DPI should be controlled, and in most cases 200 DPI black and white is sufficient for most organizations needs.  Nothing kills a party like a 500MB color scan!!  Tips for Scanning Copier settings:  Copier Settings that Kill
  4. Check your server side settings.   Does your ECM System  set file upload limitations.  Make sure from your file assessment that you will be able to handle all file sizes required.  If you cannot control these settings, or your provider will not change them, make sure you use a capture technology that can perform file splitting for you (PSIGEN is one that allows dynamic file splitting to SharePoint).
  5. Timing can be key.  Depending on your requirements, it may be necessary to control large uploads.  For example, some customers have chosen to do their back scanning and large uploads during off hours / weekends so as to not impact daily operations.  Others will coordinate with a 3rd party scanning service to perform all their high volume scanning off site, with a planned, controlled upload during off hours.
Anything I missed?  Comments from the trenches?  Please post your comments.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

SharePoint Scanning Case Studies

Ran into a great site with some really cool Scan to SharePoint Case Studies.  This company is out of the UK, Datafinity, and has several deployments where customers are scanning and capturing documents into SharePoint libraries.  Here are some summaries:

Kepak Group is a young, professional and dynamic business that has grown into one of Europe's leading food processing companies employing over 2000 people in nine manufacturing facilities across Ireland and the UK. Kepak installed PSI:Capture to manage the scanning and indexing of a growing volume of personnel files that needed to be stored and managed. PSI:Capture links to payroll and HR systems to retrieve index data, converts the HR files into text-searchable PDFs and transfers the files to SharePoint 2010.  “PSI:Capture has enabled us to scan large volumes of documents into pre-defined structures in SharePoint with the use of very simple drop-down menu options and links to our HR system” said Aine Black, HR Manager, Kepak Group. Read full case study

Haulfryn Group Ltd, an operator of holiday and residential mobile home parks across England and Wales, decided to deploy PSI:Capture Enterprise as their SharePoint 2010 Document Capture solution.  Using PSI:Capture in conjunction with Kodak document scanners, they now have an end to end capture solution that provides unmatched speed and automation, along with a simple, yet powerful user interface.  “PSI:Capture has made our whole scanning process robust,” said Stephen Lattimore, Business Process Manager for Haulfryn.  “We can now quickly reference our documents in SharePoint 2010 for audit and service.”  Along with the current scanning process, Haulfryn plans to add the processing of survey forms and other documents in the near future. Read full case study

The Fire Brigades Union, headquartered in Kingston-upon-Thames, needed a way to store large volumes of paper documents in their newly deployed Microsoft SharePoint 2010 document management system. They evaluated several scanning and OCR products available on the market before choosing PSI:Capture, because of its ease of use, quick implementation and unparalleled interface to SharePoint. The Union now scans many thousands of documents a day which are converted into text-searchable PDFs and stored in SharePoint providing instant access to all paper information for the Union staff located throughout the UK. Read full case study

Isos Housing, a housing association headquartered in Newcastle upon Tyne, is responsible for the day-to-day management of almost 12,000 homes across the North East, from Berwick in the north down to Stockton in the south, and across to Cumbria in the west. The company adopted PSI:Capture to enable them to automate the scanning and storage of invoices and other accounting documents in their Microsoft SharePoint system. PSI:Capturereads unique barcode references created from their accounting system, Open Accounts, to index and organise documents in SharePoint for quick and easy access by staff in their four offices across Northumberland.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Featured Webinar: Your Profit is in Danger

Your Profit is in Danger
Join us for a Webinar on September 10
Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
This joint webinar with PSIGEN and OPEX will focus on how to improve document scanning efficiency through a combination of PSIGEN PSI:Capture Enterprise and OPEX hardware.  See how you can reduce prep time and save on labor, improving your margins and driving higher profits.

Your Profit is in Danger
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM PDT

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

System Requirements
PC-based attendees
Required: Windows® 8, 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server
Mac®-based attendees
Required: Mac OS® X 10.6 or newer
Mobile attendees
Required: iPhone®, iPad®, Android™ phone or Android tablet

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mobile Capture? Really?

The Document Management industry is all about mobile capture right now. Really? Taking pictures of documents, page by page, with a tablet/smart phone camera. Some of the biggies in the industry are spending huge amounts of money promoting the cause, and building complex infrastructures and image processing to handle these types of images. There are a number of new startups, like StratusFlow, that are focusing on solving the key problem through the cloud.  Want to see a simple solution? Video below uses Microsoft SkyDrive, an iPad and PSI:Capture on the backend to read barcode photos and process the data.


Thursday, May 31, 2012

How do you want to find your documents?

Document Capture Drives Search
One of the first stages in planning for any scanned image repository is to ask the question: How do you want to find your documents?  Theories vary on best practices, but here are a few tips when designing a document capture implementation for any ECM system:
  1. Limit your number of fields to 5 or less. So many times i see document scanning customers use way to many fields during capture.  The more fields you have, the more time for end users to index their documents, and the more chances fields will get skipped.  Take the time to interview the end users and truly find how they need to search for their documents.
  2. Always use a date.  Dates are the ultimate filter that can be a life saver when searching for that needle in a haystack in a scanned document repository.  Invoice date, purchase order date, contract date, etc. give you the power to narrow down your search results to a specified period and can be a huge help in audit based searches or searches for legal support.
  3. Use automation to reduce indexing time.  Document capture applications provide automation and efficiency, and can reduce end user keying requirements on documents.  Strong, accurate OCR technology, and Advanced Data Extraction (ADE) are absolutely required.
  4. Ensure your technology has a QA step.  If you are going to go to all the trouble of scanning, capturing and migrating documents to a repository, make sure you can check your work.  Misfiling a document can a painful experience.
  5. Full text search is the insurance policy.  Always, I repeat always, convert your scanned documents to a searchable format, PDF Image with Hidden text.  This will allow for granular searches beyond your index fields/columns, and can help you in the "find a needle in the haystack" tasks.  But do not, I say, do NOT rely on full text search as your primary search method.  Full text does not let you sort by specific document focused dates, cannot let you do range based searches on specific criteria, and restricts sorting and viewing in most repositories.
Just a few tips when designing your document scanning index fields.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Oooops. Did someone backup the paper?

If you  look at the headlines over the past few years, you cannot help but notice the number of natural disasters that have occurred.  In my conferences with IT and Departmental Management, I always pose the question when discussing business continuity or disaster planning: Do you have a plan for your paper?   Just about every company has implemented some type of plan for backing up their important digital files.  Some go to the extreme with data snapshots that can be recovered from multiple locations.  But companies typically don't take the same strategy with their paper assets.  The good ole file cabinet, the protector of all things paper will provide protection, right? Companies need to take a good hard look at their paper, and assess the business impact should disaster destroy their file room.  Backing up your paper nowadays is not hard, nor expensive when compared to the legal implications and time it would take to reproduce (if possible) contracts, customer files, sales records and the like. Any paper backup plan involves a concept i call Bridging the Gap (BTG).  BTG involve hardware and capture software to digitize and build the bridge to the digital world, and then a repository on the "other side" to house the records and make search and retrieval simple.  The repository can be as simple as a set of named network folders, or as complex as a true ECM system like MS SharePoint.  Take the initiative and backup your paper today.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Document Scanning and Capture Planning - Part 4 - Document Scanning Models

Document Scanning Models

After doing some planning on the hardware types and document scanning volumes, the next step would be to examine what type of model you need to deploy.  There are typically 3 standard  models for document scanning and capture: Centralized, De-centralized and Distributed. 
Each model has its own pros/cons, and below I will examine each, and dive into some detail.
Ah, the centralized model.  Some call this old school scanning and capture, as for many years, this was the only way to get the job done, and convert your paper to digital form.  This model provides a centralized scanning center to provide mass conversion for the organization.  The operation can be run by in house personnel, be managed by a services provider in house, or be outsourced to a scanning service bureau.  It requires high volume/high speed hardware, and typically utilizes advanced capture software to allow for the utmost in automation and efficiency.  The software and hardware operators are typically highly trained, and there are usually only a few of them.  Paper and/or digital media is shipped to the centralized location and processed through a set, standardized capture workflow.
Centralized Pros
  • Easily standardized process due to a limited number of skilled/trained scan operators
  • High speed hardware/software results in minimal processing time once paper is received
  • Centralized reporting and control of overall process
  • No loading on WAN infrastructure
  • Centralized backup and restore
Centralized Cons
  • Usually a high time delay for availability of documents
  • High cost due to shipping of documents
  • High maintenance costs
  • High training costs to bring on new operators
  • Disaster recovery planning issues if centralized site is down
  • Operators are typically not knowledgeable in the documents they are indexing
Over time, as bandwidth and scanning hardware/software prices went down, the obvious move was to decentralize the whole scanning and capture process.  This move placed scanning in the branches, and allowed the whole document capture process to be performed by those who had working knowledge of the documents.  Smaller, desktop class hardware could be used, and most capture companies made batch scanning and upload to the centralized repository simple to accomplish.
Decentralized Pros
  • Scan operators are well versed in the documents they scan
  • Documents are available almost immediately
  • No shipping or transfer costs for documents
  • Branch control of the whole scanning process
Decentralized Cons
  • Standardization can be an issue
  • No centralized control or reporting
  • WAN Bandwidth consumption can be high
  • Licensing costs can be high depending on software utilized
The advance of network-based scanning devices and the lowering of bandwidth pricing led to the newest model, the Distributed Model.  Distributed Scanning allows for just about anyone in the organization to walk up to a network scanning device/scanning copier/fax machine and send documents to a repository.  The devices are typically multi-faceted, and along with repository integration, can provide scan to network folder, FTP and email.  Collaborative back-end systems, like Microsoft SharePoint, lend themselves nicely to this model, as they allow anyone to participate in a Document Workspace.
Distributed Pros
  • Put scanning in the hands of everyone in the organization
  • Provides a great launching pad for collaborative solutions
  • Simple, easy to use interfaces allow for minimal training and quick adoption
  • Capture and indexing is now in the hands of the true document owner
  • One-to-many solution provides a single device to service many users
Distributed Cons
  • Lack of standardization without software addition
  • Security and document control can be major issues
  • Bandwidth from smaller branches can be a problem with larger scans
  • Lack of hardware integrations with back-end systems
So, most organizations today are combining the above models to create a Hybrid Scanning and Capture solution, and leveraging all the strengths together to minimize the weaknesses of any one model.   Another strategy is to tie scanning models to specific business processes, as most lend themselves nicely to specific scanning and capture workflows.

Hardware and Choosing Your Scanning Model

Most organizations will choose their model to leverage their existing hardware investment, but this can be lead to decisions that seem good at the time, but if deeper examination occurs, it can make sense to realign hardware with the best model.  Take for example, a company that instantly leans toward a distributed model, and attempts to leverage their copier fleet that is currently under lease.  If you examine the part of this guide that covers scanning hardware, copiers will not always fit for the type of scanning you need to perform.  Take for example a branch accounting department that is looking to scan receipts or check stubs.  Will the copier perform well with mixed original sizes?  Just a word of caution to examine the paper, workflow, and document types to get the best feel and adapt the best model.