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.