Monday, July 5, 2010

Digitizing records is an untapped opportunity for many organizations

Posted by Mark Brousseau

In a recent document management industry survey sponsored by Oce Business Services, 83 percent of respondents indicated that their organization has a records management program in place. However, only 10 percent of the executives surveyed said their company's program included an integrated electronic records repository. This indicates that integrating digital processes and technology into their records programs could be an untapped opportunity for many companies.

Today's challenging business environment includes stringent statutory and regulatory mandates from a host of entities that require following specific processes. Digitizing business records – when implemented in an organized fashion using best practices – can help ensure that records are easily retrievable, storage costs are under control, legal discovery costs are mitigated and the organization is compliant.

An effective electronic document management program spans the capture, management, storage, preservation, and delivery of document images. Oce highlights the following key steps for developing and designing a thorough document capture process.

Sorting and Preparing
Sorting and preparing sets the stage for efficiently digitizing hard copy documents. In these steps, documents are sorted into a logical sequence to ensure that they are properly identified and routed for the capture process. Developing and implementing a logical sort sequence enables organizations to maximize the scanning process, insure intelligent distribution of images, and enhance future retrieval requirements. During this process technologies such as barcodes can be applied to reduce manual intervention and automate workflow processes, record retention, and image retrieval. Document preparation helps ensure that there are no obstacles present to interfere with maximum document processing.

The preparation process is designed to make sure that documents will be transported through the scanner cleanly and efficiently. Using the proper equipment is important to this step. Scanner manufacturers provide a rated processing speed for each model they produce. When determining the proper scanner to use, organizations should consider the number of separator sheets that will be inserted in order to estimate the true volume and speed of the scanning process. (Separator sheets are pre-printed sheets of paper that have codes on them. Each time the scanning software encounters a separator sheet, it creates a separate document containing the pages found under it.) Other determining factors include size of paper to be scanned, simplex (one-sided page) versus duplex (two-sided page) scanning, and color requirements.

The final step of the capture process is indexing. This is the process of assigning metadata (defined as data about data) to each image file. This metadata can be applied in a multitude of ways. One is manual data entry, which entails viewing the images and manually typing in certain metadata residing on the electronic image. Another method is using OCR (optical character recognition) software, which extracts certain data elements from the images and then applies this metadata to the image file. This eliminates possible operator error and improves metadata accuracy. A third approach is to employ technology that reads a barcode, a unique label on the document containing data that can be read by a computer.

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