Capture the Value of Document Management & Find the Mess

Published in TDAN.com October 2005

One of the most profound technical developments in our industry in recent years has been the advent of digital document management systems. Today, organizations can bring both their paper and
digital documents together in one environment and search, distribute and archive these documents with a click of a mouse. This powerful capability is being overlooked by many organizations.

We use a variety of documents every day. Pick any business process and you can be assured that job requires at least one document. Many key documents are still paper-based, but many are also in
digital form. The key is to manage those documents holistically. Concentrating on just paper, or just electronic documents, while excluding the other misses half of the equation. A good document
strategy must look at both document environments with the aim to leverage the benefits of both formats and improve the gaps in performance inherent in each.


Capture the Value

One key concept to understand when considering a document management system is known as “Capture.” If you are not familiar with this term you may not mine the true value of document management.


Image Capture

There are two types of “capture”: Image Capture and Data Capture. When you scan a paper document (versus making a copy) you literally capture an image of that document. Scanning paper
documents and capturing images in lieu of printing or copying is at the core of eliminating all those dusty and bulky filing cabinets. For some small offices or departments, scanning and saving
digital images in TIFF or PDF format may be a big improvement over the paperbound way of managing documents.

Storing a large number of scanned images can become overwhelming and will quickly fill up your hard drive or server storage. Once stored, finding image files can be cumbersome and time consuming.
Imagine searching for a specific document months or years after you first created and saved it. Will you remember exactly how it was named or where it was stored? For busy users, clicking through
multiple folders in Windows Explorer is often more costly and time consuming than searching through old school file drawers of retention boxes.


Data Capture

For any document management system to provide its promised efficiency, the second type of capture comes into play: Data Capture. In order to quickly search for and easily retrieve documents no
matter where they are stored or how they have been named, capturing data about each document is essential. Key bits of information, like customer name, account number, date or amount paid, are
found on most documents. Using data capture, you can automatically glean this information at the time you scan a document and retain the captured data as index fields, also known as metadata. This
metadata is then married to your scanned image and will enable a variety of searches, or queries. For example, a company can find all training documents by date range, every invoice for a specific
part number, or shipping slips for a specific carrier.

This query function provides immediate access to your documents electronically, and is a much better approach than pawing through forgotten boxes in the basement. The key is to minimize the cost of
capturing data and maximize the access to your documents. Simply scanning documents to a file folder, then manually entering the metadata into fields on a PC can actually result in an increase in
labor and expense. Using data capture to automate this process by reading pre-set areas on a page (via Optical Character Recognition) and auto-populating the index fields can dramatically reduce
the cost of capturing this valuable metadata.


Lack of a Document Strategy Costs You

Consider a recent Price Waterhouse study that conducted a search of over 10,000 documents looking for a specific topic, author, and data range. A manual search of paper files performed by a staff
of paralegals took 67 hours and found 15 documents. The same search, performed using a document management system, required 4.5 seconds and found 20 documents. The time differential between 67
hours and 4.5 seconds is compelling, but many corporate managers will be more concerned about the five documents that were missed in the manual search.

Building a good document management strategy can increase the value of your other technology infrastructure investments like printers, copiers, scanners, and networks. Document management is a
powerful vehicle that can turn the expense of information technology into an asset so be sure you include the valuable benefits of both image and data capture.


FIND THE MESS

A document strategy is important because it will help you identify the “mess” in your document systems. Do you have a mess of different hardware, software and systems in your company? Is it true
that not all of it works together very well? Are the people who do the work unaware that they even perform a document process? If you answered yes to any of these questions you may have a mess on
your hands.

In my book, “Designing a Document Strategy,” ( www.document-strategy.com ) I define a “mess” as any system of conditions that produces
dissatisfaction. Some might simply say that things are messed-up. Either way, if your document process creates stakeholder or customer dissatisfaction you need to find the mess and clean it up.
Messes happen because of several conditions:

A lack of knowledge about how the process works. This is particularly troublesome if various people and departments throughout your organization perform the process. Documents are
so pervasive and familiar that they often live a “life of their own.”
A lack of knowledge about how the process should work. Often, the people involved with your documents are unaware of the interrelationships in the process. Most often, they see
their piece in isolation from the big picture. How should the overall document process in your organization function in order for you to be successful?
Lack of attention. Consider the trusted axiom: You can improve only what you observe. How can you clean up a mess if you don’t know that it exists? One of the biggest
opportunities with a document strategy is to simply take the time to step back and look closely at the process. Simple, even no-cost, improvements can often be found as a result of simply paying
attention to the process.
Waste and complexity are overlooked. In the rush to do “more with less,” it is ironic that wasted effort and materials are often the result. In the haste to implement new or
upgraded technology, complex and unnecessary steps are often allowed to become a norm of the new workflow. You will be tempted to overlook these problems until later, but the result is an
inefficient process that eventually becomes a messy legacy.
Excess variation. It is not uncommon for document systems to have been developed and deployed with little regard to how they must operate together. Excess variation an invitation
to poor quality and inefficient production.

Messes are a gold mine of opportunity for improvement. A document strategy should help you clean up the problems and improve poor practices that have, over time, caused your document systems to run
off course.

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About Kevin Craine

The author, Kevin Craine, EDPP is Supervisor of the Output Management, Electronic Publishing and Corporate Forms departments for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon. Kevin can be reached at 503/225-5213. Visit his web site at: http://members.aol.com/kccrain/craine.html.

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