The Fujitsu Imaging Products Group (IPG) Demo and Education Lab

This was a self-imposed project that I was very proud of. In 2007 while working at Fujitsu I took the initiative, and was gratefully given the authority, to organize, prepare and build what I called the “Fujitsu Imaging Products Group (IPG) Demo Lab”. The concept was to setup various solutions that utilized our document scanning technologies for educational purposes.

The project was really great because people were really interested in learning about emerging technologies. I didn’t have to spend any money on building this Demo Lab. All the equipment was excess. We created an internal web portal that people could log on and follow the easy instructions to understand, and try for themselves, the different technologies.

Much of our Demo Lab was dedicated to network-attach solutions so we had many networking hardware products such as Kofax DSS, Axis or Silex but we also had network software solutions such as Network ISIS and RemoteScan TWAIN. It was really great to share this knowledge with others and get such great feedback.

fujitsu-ipg-lab-interface fujitsu-ipg-lab5 fujitsu-ipg-lab4 fujitsu-ipg-lab3 fujitsu-ipg-lab2 fujitsu-ipg-lab1


The logic of document capture

Indexing, Metadata, Keyword, SharePoint, Capture, Scanner, Documents, ECM, Content Management

What is wrong with the collection of words above?  Well, it’s a collection of terms that are closely related but have no logical structure in order to be of value to anyone reading them.  In order for these words to be valuable in terms of readability for context they need to be logically organized into a sentence.  The logic of document capture and Enterprise Content Management is much the same.  In this blog post, instead of going into the nuts and bolts of document capture I thought it is more important to discuss two critical components to your overall success, or failure, of your content management strategy.  These two critical components are taxonomy and metadata.  This is philosophy and not technology.

To break down document capture in its simplest form, just think of this as the process of extracting information from a document and making that information available in the future.  The future could be immediate where a scanned invoice, for example, immediately kicks-off a payment process.  Or it could be two weeks from now where a customer service agent needs to retrieve a signed airbill for a proof of delivery.  The point is that document retrieval is based on some unique keyword or a set of keywords related to a particular document.  In the case of the invoice it could have been the invoice number and in the case of the airbill it could have been the shipping tracking number.

If you do not consider a well thought-out strategy then your organization could have accomplished the task of taking an organized paper mess and simply converted it to an electronic mess.

Establish a well thought-out taxonomy

Taxonomy is defined as classifying organisms into groups based on similarities.  Why is taxonomy relevant for document capture?  For several reasons, including security, quicker access to information and retention policies.  So, if you work backwards in the methodology of how and what, technology to implement for your document capture solution a solid consensus of the end result is of paramount importance.  The end result is typically a high-quality scanned image conducive for data capture (OCR, ICR, OMR, bar code, etc.) and the metadata itself.  So if your taxonomy has organized methodology then it should assist in making your document capture strategy fairly obviously.  Let’s take security as a benefit for a well thought-out taxonomy strategy.  By segregated documents based on a logical taxonomy, organizations are afforded an addition level of comfort knowing that a set of security policies can be applied to, for example, Human Resource, documents allowing access to everyone for a general set of available scanned documents such as the café menu which is clearly not a information sensitive document.  Additionally, another benefit of a well thought-out taxonomy is quicker access to information for users.  Many content management software applications and search engines use a ‘crawl’ method to check newly added content and add them to an index (database) which is then searchable.  As you can imagine, common sense and logic dictates that ‘crawling’ a more narrow scope is much quicker to keep the database up-to-date, but also access times could be considerably less by not having to search the entire database and only the relevant data indexed.  This makes access to data quicker.  Lastly, in regards to retention policies, having your data well organized is a major benefit for this area.  Imagine that an organization has all of their tax documents properly electronic stored via a well thought-out taxonomy in their content management system.  If they did then easily, and within corporate governance standards and policies the organization can removed these images from their repository based on a retention schedule.  So, as illustrated, investing the time to develop a strong taxonomy is important for many reasons including security, searchability and retention.

It is extremely important to not over look this important concept when planning out a document capture strategy.  A simple taxonomy might be organized like below:

  • Accounting
    • Accounts Receivable
      • Check
      • Statement
    • Accounts Payable
      • Invoice
      • Receipt
  • Human Resources
    • Applications
    • Resumes
    • W2 Forms


Considering a well thought-out strategy might seem cumbersome in the initial stages of establishing your document capture strategy, but it can save organizations significant time, money and aggravation in the long-run.  As a best document capture practice it is important to establish a solid taxonomy for scanned documents and also re-evaluate the strategy as it relates to taxonomy as any new documents are introduced within your organization.


Consider what information is important, and what is not

Creating Searchable PDF’s is one form on document capture; however, it is not always an ideal document capture strategy.  While sometimes, in certain situations, creating Searchable PDF images of your scanned documents is the right approach for an organization sometimes this technique of document capture often creates inefficiencies.  You might be thinking to yourself how could creating a fully Searchable PDF with all the words of the document indexed be construed as being inefficient?  Let me elaborate.  When creating a Searchable PDF the scanning software does its best job possible to recognize every single character and every single word on a page.  This might sound appealing but let’s consider the possible results in real-world applications.  Imagine that an organization in the insurance business scans as little as 100 single-page documents and creates Searchable PDF documents.  Then they want to retrieve a document based on a keyword so they use the word “claim” in their search criteria to find a document a user is searching for.  As you can imagine the user would most likely be presented with a long set of links to possible documents but only one is the important document they are looking for and the rest is “irrelevant search”.  This is because the entire page was indexed via the Searchable PDF method.  Alternatively, if your data capture strategy had included only extracting “relevant search” terms that apply to a particular document then you make the organization much more efficient by being able to find the data you have requested much quicker with the first search.

One of the other significant benefits with an integrated document capture/content management strategy is that often times any sort of metadata fields created, and rules applied, in the content management system can be brought forward and applied into the document capture system itself.  For example, if an organizations’ policy dictates that on a healthcare insurance form that for a metadata field the social security number is required and can only be nine characters long of numeric characters, then directly in the document capture system these rules can be enforced.  This allows for great business continuity and consistency in your data capture process.

An analogy I like to use is go to your favorite internet search engine and enter in a vague term such as “taxonomy for document capture” then you will get a long list of ‘hits’ that probably are not of interest because you might be looking for a specific piece of information, or a scanned image.  In the contrary, if the user enters-in a more specific term such as “aim document taxonomy” then the focus of the search is narrowed down to a more relevant list of potential information the user is searching for.  This is an example of relevant search versus irrelevant search and it’s all related to applying metadata to web pages, electronic documents and, yes, especially scanned images.

Summary: Organized taxonomy + relevant metadata = Efficient process

In summary, my point is to carefully plan out your document capture process.  Pay close attention to developing an effective taxonomy for your documents.  Determine what information is important on a particular document and what is not.  Document capture technology has evolved to nearly magically proportions but, the truth is that organizations can still greatly help their efficiency and content management effectiveness through careful planning; after all there still is logic to document capture.

Do you have thoughts of the topic of document capture, taxonomy or classification?  Please share your comments.

The Opportunity of Network Scanning for resellers

A question and answer session on the topic of Network Scanning:

Q. Is network scanning currently taking any particular market “by storm” when compared to other scanning options?

A. Network scanning is being embraced and deployed in a range of vertical markets. While there seems to be a healthy balance of markets deploying network scanners, we’re noticing that the traditional markets that have invested more in scanning and enterprise content management, like Healthcare, Finance, Accounting, Legal and Transportation, are also quicker to the draw when it comes to implementing network scanning solutions. This is simply because of the network infrastructure they already have in place. However, we’re still seeing a strong adoption rate across many vertical markets to assist in business process management securely in a controlled environment and to achieve improved efficiency.

Q. What new features and functionalities (if any) are being added to network scanners that make it an appealing option?

A. Some of the key features of network scanning devices that are making them so appealing are based on the “user experience”. True adoption of a technology begins to gain momentum when the actual users of technology enjoy the experience of using a particular product. In the case of network scanners specifically, users overwhelming comment that a large touch screen display makes them comfortable with using a device. The learning-curve is minimal with a bright touch screen display which encourages either additional usage by a particular person or encourages usage by additional persons in a departmental environment because there is no training involved. The user-friendly touch screen is complimented by a full 101-keyboard for additional ease of use. Users can simply scan images then enter an e-mail address and type other information in the subject or body of the e-mail message. In addition, software integration with back-end Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Line of Business (LOB) is certainly creating additional appeal for network scanners. Now, users and IT departments have the option to either use standard functionality such as Scan to Folder, Scan to Fax, Scan to Print or Scan to E-mail, but they also have the option to Scan, Index and Store directly to an ECM repository with the properly Add-In Module installed.

Q. Why would VARs want to offer network scanners as a part of a comprehensive ECM strategy? Please explain your answer.

A. VARs can absolutely capitalize on the explosive growth of the network scanner market. As part of an ECM strategy, a network scanner is just one piece of the solution, although a very important piece. The quality of the image is vital to other complimentary technical processes directly related to the electronic document. Capture techniques such as Bar Code Recognition, Searchable PDF creation or Optical Character Recognition (OCR) accuracy are either greatly enhanced or can possibly cause additional manual correction which is directly a cause and affect specific to image quality. Value-Added Resellers in the ECM market, in particular, understand the importance of the quality of a Dedicated Use Device such as a network scanner in comparison to other network scanning peripherals available in the market. Through a thorough understanding of the quality differences between dedicated scanning devices from other multifunction devices, a VAR in the ECM space has already set themselves apart from their competitors and they can leverage this expertise into the network scanner market. There are many appealing factors for VARs to offer network scanners as a part of a comprehensive ECM strategy. First, quality network scanners are easy to deploy. With a basic understanding of network concepts which involve things as straight-forward as knowing IP addresses or host names of servers, either the VAR or even end-customer themselves can have a network scanner up and running in literally minutes. Second, quality network scanners are easy to manage, maintain and update. Software utilities such as ‘Network Scanner Admin Tools’ allow authorized persons to access the network scanner remotely to view usage, update software or even change system configurations. With a traditional desktop scanning workstation this is not easily done or would require additional software of configuration. In short, network scanners are easy to deploy, simple to use and require very little maintenance.

Q. Is network scanning more suited to any particular market? Is it excluded from any particular market?

A. Anywhere paper exists is an opportunity for network scanning – there is no particular market that cannot benefit from this technology. Network scanning helps accelerate all the traditional benefits found in scanning and ECM solutions, including enhanced business processes by eliminating lost or misplaced documents, decreased costs by enabling quick business process because of minimal human labor involvement, increased revenue for certain vertical markets such as being able to take advantage of pre-pay discounts in an invoice processing application, improved environmental consciousness by eliminating paper and thus our reliance on trees.

Q. What are the specific advantages (and disadvantages) to selling network scanners?

A. Selling network scanners provides opportunities for VARs and System Integrators to engage their customers in a discussion about their business processes. Resellers should embrace this opportunity to work closely with the end-customer to identify areas to improve their overall business operation. By thoroughly evaluating and taking inventory of the customer’s existing network infrastructure it is very possible to find either missing components such as servers and server software that may be needed to enhance the system. In addition, there is a possibility to offer the customers either consulting or professional services in order to properly implement the right solution for their specific business. Selling network scanners should not be considered a “cut and run” business proposition. VARs that understand this will be extremely successful. One of the potential disadvantages involved is if your network scanner itself is difficult to configure then the labor costs of just getting the device communicating on the network could far outweigh the potential profit involved in a particular installation. Network scanners present a wide range of functionalities and options as compared to simple stand-alone scanners, therefore understanding the capabilities involves a well-rounded understanding of network concepts and not just document scanning and capture. Having a solid understanding of document capture as a foundation will serve those who wish to embrace network scanners

Q. What are some common pitfalls VARs run into when selling/implementing network scanners?

A. I think a common misconception among VARs is that since a network scanner is a complete solution there isn’t an opportunity for add-on sales. In other words, since a network scanning device includes embedded software with scanning functionality there is no computer to sell or capture software to install or configure. While this may sound like it’s limiting the VARs ability to maximize their sales opportunity, I think just the opposite is true if you approach opportunities the right way. A network scanner is typically being deployed as part of a solution these days. Although network scanners can be used in an ad-hoc fashion, most of these devices offer advanced scanning features and intelligent functionality from years of document scanning experience and are used for daily business activities. Therefore potential add-on sales could include an on-site service contract to ensure maximum uptime. Also, as an example, if the customers’ network currently lacks a network fax server or LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) authentication server then this would require additional investments in hardware, software and configuration.

Q. What are the most recent innovations in network scanning that VARs should be aware of? (In other words, what is different in the hardware – or market – compared to 12-18 months ago?).

A. There have been some significant innovations in the network scanning market over the past 12-18 months. This includes hardware innovation as well as software innovation. For starters, as some of the traditional leading document scanner vendors are starting to enter the network scanner market, they are bringing the technology and innovation that helped establish themselves as leaders in the first place. To illustrate some of the special software differences, I’ve include the Automatic Page Rotation feature where the scanner can flip the page to the right-side up direction. This particular feature is found in intelligent network scanners and will likely be missing from other simple network peripherals. Other advanced features include automatic color detection, where the scanner intelligently knows to save a particular scanned document in a black & white format to decrease file size or in color and automatic blank page deletion and automatic deskew and cropping to handle mixed size documents efficiently. With regard to hardware, some of the more advanced network scanner devices include an Ultrasonic Double-Feed Detection sensor to detect whenever two pages might accidentally be pulled into the document feeder at the same time and stop the scanning process for immediate correction. If capturing each page accurately is of critical importance then you can imagine how important this feature can be. Also, some network scanning devices have the capability to scan plastic cards directly through the automatic document feeder. This is extremely useful in certain vertical applications such as Hospital Admissions where ideally you would want one device in a reception area to capture paper documents as well as plastic identification cards and plastic insurance cards through one device in a small physical footprint.

Q. Are there any trends about network scanning you would like to share?

A. As I’ve mentioned in a few of the above questions, these dedicated use devices are loaded with intelligent and advanced features innovated from years of document scanning experience. I suspect that this trend will continue and most likely accelerate as the adoption of network scanners becomes more mainstream. Connectivity to third-party software systems will be possible with Software Developer’s Kits (SDK’s) and ease of use and manageability of these devices is appealing.

Microsoft SharePoint – FAQs


1. What are the benefits of utilizing SharePoint for document imaging/ECM?

One of the main benefits of utilizing SharePoint for document imaging/ECM is the limited learning curve of both the users as well as systems administrators. With Microsoft operating systems and office applications being the primary graphic user interfaces most people are using in their organizations, it just makes sense the commonality between SharePoint and an application such as Outlook give the users a comfort level that typically does not involve complicated training. This decreased learning curve offers quicker adoption of the technology allowing organizations to focus on building out SharePoint sites for actual use which leads to tangible enhanced productivity. This is important because sometimes an organization can get burdened with months of installation, configuration and training before a system ever goes “live” which is not only time-consuming but is costly and leaves a bad impression on the ultimate success or failure of the system. Quickly demonstrating enhanced productivity through user adoption of a familiar graphical user interface within a departmental process such as invoice processing, for example, leads to a desire for stakeholders within organizations to sponsor additional departmental process improvement projects or even complete enterprise roll-outs of document imaging/ECM systems.


2. What is one of the most common misconceptions about scanning into SharePoint?

The idea that scanning into SharePoint is difficult or expensive seems to be a common misconception. There are more options than ever to scan a document into SharePoint and we think breaking down the high-level techniques for scanning and applying them to how organizations typically may scan into SharePoint is important.

There are three basic ways to get a scanned image with corresponding metadata, or search terms, into SharePoint. The first scanning option is Manual Indexing where users scan a document, then connect to SharePoint where a SharePoint Document Type has some associated metadata. The user types in the metadata for this particular scanned document then simply uploads the document directly into SharePoint. The second scanning option for SharePoint is Automatic Indexing. This is a more automated, but also more costly, option that is typically used to process higher volumes of documents. With the Automatic Indexing option, information from the scanned pages such as bar code values or printed characters such as invoice numbers, social security numbers or other data can be automatically extracted and sent directly into SharePoint. Lastly, a network scanning approach can involve either Manual Indexing or Automatic Indexing, however the important point about this method of scanning into SharePoint is the appeal from an ease of use standpoint for users and an effective device management perspective from network administrators. Network scanners typically are dedicated use devices where scanning into ECM systems such as SharePoint is their sole purpose; therefore, making scanning easy was a priority in their design. Features such as bright, colorful touch screens make image preview simple and easy. Integrated hardware keyboards make indexing documents quick and efficient as well. So, as we have illustrated, there are several high-level methods for scanning into SharePoint and the right method really depends of your organizational requirements.


3. How do you add ‘scanning to SharePoint’ functionality to a SharePoint
server? And, is it expensive?

Adding ‘Scan to SharePoint’ functionality is surprisingly simple. The wonderful thing about adding document scanning capabilities to SharePoint is that it involves no additional software installed on the server itself. There is optional third-party Imaging software that can be installed on the server to optimize performance, improve scalability and enhance search, but this is not a requirement to scan documents.

Simply install the Fujitsu scanning software application on a workstation. Then once the Document Libraries have been created in SharePoint with the corresponding metadata, or search terms, all that needs to be done is to connect to the SharePoint site and supply login credentials. After this simple configuration is completed users will never have to configure the software again. When new Document Types are added to SharePoint, or if metadata fields change, then the user will dynamically see these changes without ever having to change the scanning application.

The expense to add ‘scanning to SharePoint’ can literally be as inexpensive or expensive as an organization’s scanning volumes and/or requirements dictate. Many scanner hardware vendors provide some simple options for scanning to SharePoint in-the-box with the scanner so the expense is just the scanner itself and not additional software. However, if an organization requires a higher level of automation to do sophisticated data extraction such as automatic document recognition, document separation, then capture the data and automatically release to SharePoint, this could be a more expensive proposition. It’s important to remember that this expense can be easily justified with reduced human labor, examples of this could be the ability to take advantage of more pre-pay discounts on invoices or better customer service with immediate access to information.

Example of simply connecting to SharePoint once. Supply some basic information once then all SharePoint updates are instantly available dynamically and visible in your document scanning software application.

4. How important is document capture software compatibility with SharePoint?

It can be, but the truth is that the capabilities are limited. Also, it is important to note that no matter what version of SharePoint you have (Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 or SharePoint 2010) the software must be configured before it is usable. Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 is the free component of SharePoint that is included with Windows Server 2003 or it is a free download for customers who have Windows Server 2008.

Also, it is important to note that while SharePoint has its strengths, just like any other product, it also has its weaknesses. We have seen many situations where SharePoint is being used in conjunction with other complementary document management systems. The right solution truly depends on an organization’s business requirements and all options should be thoroughly investigated.


5. What capabilities are needed to help end users have a better ‘Scan to SharePoint’ experience?

There are a few capabilities that are needed to help end users have a better experience when scanning documents to SharePoint. First, image enhancement is an absolute must. Anyone that has ever scanned documents must have felt the pain of having to rescan documents for various reasons. Maybe the image quality was poor? Maybe the page was scanned upside down? Maybe only the front side was scanned on a double-sided document? These are just a few examples of situations where the user would have to stop their process to rescan these documents, which not only is a waste of time but also is costly in lost productivity terms. Image enhancement technology, which can dynamically adjust for perfect image quality and perform automatic tasks such as automatic page orientation, intelligent blank page removal, automatic color detection, automatic cropping and automatic deskew, is key to helping users have a pleasant experience. If scanning documents is a chore then users will resist using technology that is difficult to use.

Secondly, the method of capture is another critical consideration. There are several methods for capturing documents into SharePoint. Some of the common approaches are manual indexing, automatic indexing and network scanning. Manual indexing is ideal for ah-hoc or low volume scanning. With manual indexing the scanning application captures an image, then the image is presented and the user types the metadata into the fields configured on the SharePoint Server. This approach is the most cost effective, yet still adds the important step of capturing important metadata to be associated with the scanned images. Alternatively, automatic indexing is ideal for large volumes and/or when the documents have some sort of fixed content structure. For example, the Census 2010 forms have fixed structure where a particular field such as Social Security Number is always in the same place of the document. It’s easy to design document scanning templates that can automatically and quickly extract this information and place both the scanned image as well as the associated metadata directly into SharePoint. Lastly, the network scanning approach is one of the newest methods of capturing scanned images into SharePoint. The benefits of network scanning are typically about the ease of use with simple touch screen operation for the user and the ease of deployment and on-going maintenance for the administrator. A network scanner can be configured to use either the manual indexing or automatic indexing approach as described above. So, as you can see, there are several methods for capturing scanned documents into SharePoint and the right approach, or combination of approaches, really depends on an organization’s requirements levitra over the counter.

Example of Manual Indexing into SharePoint.


6. How are hardware vendors addressing the vigorous adoption of SharePoint?

Scanner hardware vendors are clearly trying to address the vigorous adoption of SharePoint by including some level of SharePoint integration in-the-box or even embedded into devices such as network scanners. Scanning to SharePoint has to be easy to setup and easy to use. Often times SharePoint is deployed as a document management system where this may be the system administrator’s first experience with this type of software. To help reduce the burden on system administrators, many scanner hardware vendors offer simple solutions for configuring and using the scanning software. Therefore allowing the the system administrator to focus their time learning the server-side functionalities such as creating Document Libraries, created Columns for metadata or establishing document workflow.

Example of embedded SharePoint connectivity using the Fujitsu network scanner.

7. What makes scanning to SharePoint different than scanning to any other content management repository or platform on the market today?

The user experience of scanning to SharePoint is not unlike other content management repositories or platforms available on the market today. Most scanning applications can connect directly to a repository and show index fields based on document types. Also, most scanning applications can utilize either the manual indexing or automatic indexing techniques described in question # 5 above. With SharePoint, the main appeal is the ability for the user’s to manage the overall SharePoint experience. SharePoint offers users the ability to create their own ‘sites’ without the involvement of the Information Systems department. This is basically the equivalent to your own web site where you can store all your electronic content including scanned images. Within these sites, users can create a custom page using different ‘web parts.’ For example, a user can have a news feed in the top-left portion of the page, a business intelligence chart of daily sales activity in the bottom-left, a spreadsheet of current stock prices in the top-right, and finally, a web part with point-and-click access directly to scanned images in the bottom-right. Some people might refer to this as a ‘dashboard’ specifically tailored to what information and what applications a user feels is most relevant to them.


8. What trends are hardware vendors and solutions providers seeing in terms of SharePoint customization?

There are several trends that hardware vendors and solution providers are seeing in terms of SharePoint customization. Both of these trends involve careful planning of the SharePoint system. We recommend that you do not rush to simply begin scanning and importing high volumes of documents into SharePoint without a well thought-out strategy. First, the ability to more effectively manage SharePoint is a big trend. Within some organizations that have migrated to SharePoint from simple shared network drives, they have found that while they achieved the intended reduction in paperwork, they have also found that now they have nothing more than another electronic mess of content. There are several SharePoint Solution Providers that are successful in helping organizations get a better handle on their SharePoint system even after it has been deployed. Secondly, and somewhat related to the manageability of SharePoint, is the importance of metadata and well thought-out document taxonomy. Metadata refers to the key search words used to retrieve documents stored in SharePoint. If an organization is not capturing the right, or accurate, metadata on associated documents then it could mean a complete failure to gain any meaningful benefit from a SharePoint system. A taxonomy provides a formal structure for information, based on the individual needs of a business. Categorization tools automate the placement of content (document images, email, text documents, i.e., all electronic content) for future retrieval based on the taxonomy. Users can also manually categorize documents. Categorization is a critical step to ensure that content is properly stored.


9. How does the implementation of SharePoint impact your current document management system?

Without a doubt, the implementation of SharePoint is going to drastically improve productivity or is going to become a burden to your organization. It will affect your organization either positively or negatively, but the SharePoint Effect will certainly be felt. Let me be specific.

Only a few short years ago, we think that many organizations were under the false impression that SharePoint Server contained all the same capabilities of traditional Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems which was not the case. For example, auditing is a very important concept for ECM systems and up until SharePoint 2010, with the addition of full-featured auditing with the Compliance Details screen, Microsoft lacked this functionality that is pretty standard with most ECM systems. Additionally, another important ECM concept missing from previous generations of SharePoint was the idea of Managed Metadata (which is also a new feature of SharePoint 2010). Managed Metadata allows organizations to define a set of terms to be used in a consistent manner when applying searchable terms to scanned documents. Point-being that there were certain deficiencies within the suite of SharePoint capabilities that left organizations without adherence to compliance regulation due to the lack of auditing, for example, without the control over a consistent metadata strategy. These are a few examples where a SharePoint implementation might have been perceived to be a failure due to a lack of understanding critical ECM features organizations require.

Consequently, a solid understanding of SharePoint’s true capabilities helps organizations benefit greatly from the ability to leverage SharePoint’s core strengths. These core strengths have traditionally been focused around collaboration and portal – in other words, the sharing of electronic items such as Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, PowerPoint presentations and now, of course, scanned images. It should be noted that with some of the new features of SharePoint 2010, Microsoft is incorporating specific ECM capabilities to make SharePoint more appealing as a complete ECM solution. Many customers have shared with us that SharePoint in conjunction with other ECM software seems to be a solution that works well for them. To illustrate this point we will use a Records Management application as an example. Prior to SharePoint 2010, SharePoint lacked true Records Management capabilities such as ‘holds’ or ‘document retention periods’. Therefore, organizations could use SharePoint for their ‘active documents’ such as an Excel price list that needs updating by a team of people. These people could access the same document, check-out this document, edit it and then check it back into SharePoint for the next person to check-out and edit. However, once the spreadsheet is finalized and defined as a permanent final ‘record’ then this document would be committed into the traditional ECM Records Management system.


10. Can you scan to SharePoint without using another application?

No, Microsoft SharePoint does not offer any native support for document scanning. There are some creative ways to import images into SharePoint via e-mail or shared folders, however this is not ideal because there is no way to apply metadata, or search words, to those particular scanned documents. The true power of SharePoint, or any other Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system, is the ability to keep your information organized and searchable. Adding relevant metadata, and not simply a full-text OCR, to scanned images makes the system much more usable. For example, imagine you have a collection of one thousand images in your SharePoint repository and you had done full-text OCR on each document, then you search for the term ‘scanner documents.’ If you are in the scanner business then the likelihood of nearly each of those one thousand documents being presented as the potential actual document you were searching for is very high. However, if as a business rule or policy, your organization decided on a logical taxonomy to classify your documents and apply only relevant metadata then your search results would be much more pertinent to your query.

It is key to a successful ECM implementation to carefully consider the importance of applying metadata to scanned images. Otherwise you might simply replicate a current paper-based filing system with an electronic mess of disorganized and lost images.


11. Can SharePoint be a document management system for you, out of
the box?

It can be, but the truth is that the capabilities are limited. Also, it is important to note that no matter what version of SharePoint you have (Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 or SharePoint 2010) the software must be configured before it is usable. Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 is the free component of SharePoint that is included with Windows Server 2003 or it is a free download for customers who have Windows Server 2008.

Also, it is important to note that while SharePoint has its strengths, just like any other product, it also has its weaknesses. We have seen many situations where SharePoint is used in conjunction with other complimentary document management systems. The right solution truly depends on an organization’s business requirements and all options should be thoroughly investigated.