Use Case: Your organization has installed SharePoint behind the corporate firewall to manage and organize your electronic content. Also, your organization is actively digitizing paper documents via document scanners and, as a compliment to scanning to improve efficiency, desires to use Automatic Data Capture software technology to extract pertinent information from an invoice such as invoice number, bill to, ship to and total. However, in this ever-evolving world of on-the-go and mobile you find yourself and your fellow co-workers on the road quite often which is problematic due to poor support of mobile devices when using SharePoint. In this case you will want to be able to view, as well as contribute content to SharePoint using a highly-collaborative and easy to use service such as Box which has outstanding mobile device support.
One of the really beneficial features of the Fujitsu network-attached scanners is the Central Administration Server (CAS) software that’s included with the devices. You can easily download the software from the scanners, install on a Windows server and have this great capability up and running in no time. Below is a hyperlink to a YouTube video that I scripted and narrated that highlights this handy feature. Enjoy!
This was a video script I wrote and narrated to show the Scan to Microsoft SharePoint capability of the Fujitsu fi-6010N network-attached scanner. Please click the link below to view the video on YouTube:
Sometimes it is not the technology itself that dictates either the success or failure of a particular technology. I believe that the “user experience” helps drive adoption of a particular technology or ultimately will bring its demise. Let me give you a few examples. Microsoft Windows: Ask yourself this question; self: “Was Windows the most robust and feature-rich operating system when Microsoft introduced Windows in the early 1990’s?” Probably not, but what Microsoft clearly understood was that the Windows Graphical User Interface (GUI) and ease of use from the user perspective was going to be a key to their success. Microsoft Windows now dominates market share among operating system software available in the market today. The next example is the iPhone and iPad. Unquestionably two extremely successful products released by Apple in recent years. Most people will agree that the elegant User Interface and ease of use is one of the driving factors for the success of the iPhone and iPad. My point is Document Capture vendors, both hardware and software, as well as even system integrators, should carefully consider how the user themselves interact with scanning applications and Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems. True adoption of a technology only happens with users fully embrace the technology wholeheartedly.
Businesses and organizations scan documents to capture information – not because it’s a fun activity like playing World’s of Warcraft on a Windows operating system; updating ones Facebook status on an iPhone or even watching a hi-def movie like Avatar on an iPad. Document Capture is implemented for several reasons including reduced operating costs, improved efficiencies or adherence to compliance. However, “fun” is clearly not near the top of the list. We must take this into account when presenting users with various methods of document capture. Therefore, I would like to share some of the common techniques that are used to scan documents into ECM/ERP/CRM/EMR systems. These three general methods (manual indexing, automatic indexing and network scanning) of capture are intended to illustrate various ways to accomplish capturing scanned documents to these systems however; the specific techniques utilized will vary depending on individual organizations requirements.
Three methods of document capture
Manual Indexing offers a simple and cost effective way for scanned images and associated search words to be imported into document management systems or simply to make access to these scanned images easier. In order to provide ECM users with relevant search results instead of vague results, metadata must be associated with documents. Adding metadata to documents is a critical step in making an ECM system effective and not just simply an electronic replication of a previously paper-based system of disorganization. The general concept of Manual Indexing allows a user to scan a document, choose a destination directly within the ECM Library then manually (as opposed to computer-processing) type metadata for that particular document type and then release into a back-end system. This is drastically different than scanning to a folder, then importing. Scanning to a folder is not an integrated approach. This direct communication between an ECM back-end system (server) and scanning application software (workstation) allows for real-time changes within the ECM system to immediately be applied to the scanning application software. Once the destination/document type has been selected by the user any associated metadata or search terms, are dynamically presented to the user for indexing purposes. These index fields are specific to each document type and business rules to establish continuity in your document capture process can be transparently delivered to scanner users without any disruption whatsoever.. A manual indexing approach to document capture is best for ad-hoc use or low volume scanning requirements such as a knowledge worker scanning an occasional document where the amount of index fields is limited to under 50 total fields per day as a best practice. Anything more than 50 total fields per day becomes quite tedious and should dictate consideration for some level of automation within a document capture strategy.
Automatic Indexing into ECM systems provides a way for organizations to gain additional productivity with the ability to scan large quantities of documents at a single time without interruption of the scanning process. With this approach the scanning, indexing and release into the ECM system is more automated and highly efficient which is ideal. However, it typically requires some level of technical expertise to install, configure and use these software packages.
In the case of automatic indexing, image quality is typically much more important than with the manual indexing approach. This is because often times the system utilizes advanced technology such as Intelligent Document Recognition (IDR), Optical Character Recognition (OCR), or Enhanced Bar Code (EBC) Recognition to allow a computer to make decisions based on the accuracy of a collection of dots, or pixels, on a scanned image. If you truly break-down document capture to its core an image is nothing more than a collection of dots. A collection of dots then compose characters and then characters formulate words. And then, eventually, you have a document containing many of these elements. The whole entire capture process is directly affected by the quality of the scanned image and, therefore, excellent image quality is essential to the success of an automatic indexing strategy for capturing scanned documents.
||Benefits of Automatic Indexing:
A Network Scanning approach to capturing scanned documents into ECM systems can use either the Manual Indexing or Automatic Indexing so the method itself is not necessarily the main appeal of a network scanning capture strategy. Some of the many appeal points of network scanning, in contrast to USB-attached scanners, includes the flexibility of integration options, effective device management and, of course, ease of use. Integration options using communication standards such as HTTP, Web Services and possibly even utilizing Cloud Computing infrascture can greatly benefit organizations by limiting their reliance on a proprietary vendor application or platform. With a well-constructed network scanning platform, organizations are presented with a nearly limitless list of integration options with complimentary or even drastically disjointed systems. All presented to the user through an ease to use, consistent touch screen interface. Does this sound too incredibly different than the iPhone interacting with different sorts of data??? As I mentioned earlier and would like to re-iterate, true adoption of technology happens when users have a comfortable and pleasant experience.
The flexibility of using a network scanning solution as a platform for each company/organization scanning requirement is a key appeal point for this method. Most network scanners offer many useful features including scan to e-mail, folder, ftp, network fax and network printers. Additionally, some network scanner platforms offer Software Developer’s Kits (SDKs) which enable third-party integration software to operate directly on the device which offers another level of tight integration possibilities to other complimentary systems and/or additional functionality. And probably one of the most appealing attributes of network scanners, are the large high resolution/color touch screen interfaces. This is truly innovative for users to interact with data directly in the ECM system via the touch of the screen. These devices offer users an easy to operate and highly functional scanning experience that allows workers to get their scanning done quickly and efficiently.
||Benefits of Network Scanning:
In summary, I hope that you can appreciate the value of carefully considering the importance of the user experience when developing your document capture strategy. The behind-the-scenes technology can be the best in the industry but when resistance among users exists then true adoption suffers causing terrible inefficiencies. Or, you might still be able to find a copy of the OS/2 operating system for those fancy cell phones…
Below are two web links to animated presentations to illustrate these three methods of document capture for better understanding of each concept:
Document Scanning for Microsoft SharePoint (Flash animation)
Document Scanning for Microsoft SharePoint (PDF animation)
|Demystifying Forms Processing and Data Capture
Forms Processing is a proven technology that allows organizations of all sizes to benefit by improving efficiency and decreasing operational costs. There are many case studies available online to support these facts. When implemented properly the cost of a Forms Processing solution can easily be justified with a tangible 12-18 month return on investment. With such overwhelming evidence of decreased operational costs and drastically improved efficiency then a logical question would be why wouldn’t every business in the world be using this wonderful technology? Traditionally only large organizations with dedicated technical staff and humungous IT budgets could consider implementing a sophisticated Data Capture solution but times are changing. No longer does it have to take years to realize the benefits of Forms Processing once only available to Fortune 1000 type companies. In this blog post I hope to dispel the myth that this useful technology is only available to Enterprise organizations.
While the concept of automatically extracting information from a hard copy document is not new, what is new is a different method of implementation. Specifically, the “cloud” offers an intriguing opportunity for Data Capture. Why? First, Data Capture is a very CPU intensive process and the cloud offers unmatched processing power within gigantic data centers. Second, sharing resources and ‘renting’ a cloud service such as ‘Cloud Capture’ reduces the barrier to entry. No longer is it the case where the upfront cost to implementing Data Capture should be an issue. The cost of Data Capture can now be a Operating Expense versus a Capital Expenditure.
I have written previously about the “No Folder Zone” and in this blog post I will elaborate on the solution to avoid using Folders as a cop-out for a truly effective Information Capture solution. In a traditional installation environment of on-premise software. After the Forms Processing system is installed, tuned and tested then it is ready for deployment. This is the point where the Document Capture system Crosses the Chasm and the organization can now truly benefit from the 80% investment and turn this effort into 80% benefit.
The basics of Forms Processing are quite simple and straight-forward. The idea is to create a template overlay of the form for which you wish to extract information. As seen in the photo to the left, you would basically draw zones over the image where you can capture typed text (Optical Character Recognition, or OCR), handwritten text (Intelligent Character Recognition, or ICR) or even check boxes (Optical Mark Recognition, or OMR). After the template is created then the next time the system encounters this type of form then these fields will be automatically captured and eliminate manual data entry.
One of the most important objectives of any data capture system should be the quality of the information being captured versus just the pure speed of the system. The accuracy of information captured is based on many factors including original document quality, image enhancement or scan resolution but a critical step is to validate, or verify, any questionable data BEFORE it enters your information system. There are many effective methods to capturing highly accurate data including logic such as a Social Security Number field should contain only numbers instead of letters and, therefore, the number “5” would not be incorrectly recognizing as a letter “S”. In a perfect world you would hope for no verification at all but this is simply not reasonable all the time. A good rule of thumb is that 2% verification is acceptable which means 98% of work is done for you quickly and automatically. This translates into major efficiency gains.
A key misconceptions about Data Capture, or Forms Processing, is that the integration into back-end systems needs to be complicated or costly. While this could be true the fact of the matter is that all electronic information systems rely on some flavor of a database. And basically a database is composed of a bunch of tables with fields. In context of Forms Processing think about a table of Document Types. Then in the Document Types table you have the various types of documents you wish to capture and the Fields are the index values you wish to extract from an image. So the real magic is “matching” the extracted index values to the fields in the database. I think the term “Field Mapping” most accurately describes this integration of Data Capture technology with Electronic Information Systems. Fortunately, new trends in open connectivity such as Web Services and Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) is making the connectivity between Capture and Storage much more affordable and less time-consuming than ever.
As I mentioned earlier in this blog post, all applications have some flavor of a database to store information. It’s just a fact of how things operate and if you really think about it all we have to do is match Data Capture fields with database fields to make a fully integrated Data Capture solution. Often times we get wrapped-around the axel on the technical details but when we simply integration to it’s lowest common denominator then we can truly dispel the myth that Forms Processing is too complicated or expensive for everyone to utilize.
Now that I’ve covered the basics of Forms Processing and illustrated the fact that interoperability can be achieved rather easily in certain cases, I hope that we can move out of the stone ages of manual data entry and realize a truly efficient organization with Automatic Data Capture.
AIIM has just published a whole suite of educational videos on a collection of interesting topics including one on Information Capture (http://www.aiim.org/Training/Certification/Get-Trained/Videos/Capture-Manage).