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Enterprise Content Management (ECM): Bundled Scanning Services Pros and Cons

05/01/2024 - By Rfeoli Created 4 weeks ago

Considerations of Scanning Services as a Bundled Option

As more businesses and organizations move to invest in document scanning services so that they can operate more efficiently, many quickly come to a crossroads. There are ECM or Document Management Software vendors that offer document scanning modules as part of a “bundle,” but don’t necessarily meet all of a company’s ongoing needs. It is therefore important for organizations to consider when bundling will make sense for them, and when it won’t.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the bundling offered by ECM/Document Management Software providers and independent Capture Software vendors can bring is that the former typically does not include classification and extraction software as an option or path for growth. Consequently, companies will likely have to devote significant amounts of man hours to having employees sort every document that needs to be scanned into a number of different piles, then actually scan and categorize the documents before moving on to the next batch.

Making a Change

Those already committed to investing in document conversion services know full well what the benefits are: less square footage is devoted to storage, document sharing is easier and more efficient, significant sums can be saved on printing, and so on. And while such a move may require investment in updated computer systems and the like, these are often upgrades that pay for themselves over time, according to Houston Chronicle Small Business.

Unfortunately, what sometimes happens is that companies invest in all those things – for all the right reasons – but end up coming out a bit worse off than they thought. This can happen because bundling didn’t meet all of their needs when it comes to making the conversion process go as quickly, seamlessly, and stress-free as possible. Classification and extraction can seriously help when it comes to organizing “on the fly” throughout the document digitization process. In addition, by utilizing data extraction the information or metadata can be used to initiate or feed a business process or workflow.

Classification and Extraction

With classification and extraction software, there’s no issue related to manual sorting. Simply put, such a program not only scans a paper file into a document management system, but it also looks at the contents of that document and pulls out crucial information that then allows it to be grouped with similar documents automatically.

Instead of having to sort through potentially tens of thousands of documents to find a handful of invoices from several years ago, extraction software makes it quick and easy to find those files in short order. As opposed to making physical piles and then scanning by type, documents can be fed into the scanning process indiscriminately, and automatically sorted electronically from there.

Customizing Service to the Need

Depending on the type of organization looking to invest in document scanning, there may be any number of different types of files that need to be put into the system. Many companies will have forms with varying degrees of complication (some may contain simple personal information, while others will contain more intricate account details) as well as what are known as “unstructured documents” such as physical letters, reports, and so on, according to Parascript. And while it may not be too difficult to search simple forms for the right information, the more complicated the information contained within a file, the harder it will be to find without the help of extraction software. Of course, not all companies have this kind of complicated need for extraction, and as a result choosing bundling might be a smart move for them. However, having the option to add extraction as businesses grow may also be something worth considering.

The Downside of Manual Entry

Without classification and extraction, it’s not always easy to get consistent cataloging done in a timely manner. This is because of how much time it takes to sort through the documents in question, but also because metadata for future file searches needs to be entered in a routine and well-defined manner, according to data capture experts.

For companies that opt for bundling, setting standards for how files will be categorized before entering any data is vital. This helps to reduce many of the errors that might crop up otherwise, though it’s difficult – if not impossible – to get that number down to zero. The more clearly defined all the metadata is, the easier it becomes to craft an automated workflow that keeps everyone in the loop in the ways that will be most conducive to efficiency and success.

The Big Picture

Data suggests that the use of paper in the office hit an all-time high in 2007 – right around the start of the recession – and has been declining slowly but surely ever since, according to The Wall Street Journal.

 

And unfortunately, it has been smaller and medium-sized companies that have been slowest to adapt to a paperless environment. On some level, this is understandable because of the economies of scale involved with larger businesses investing in document scanning solutions. But that does leave their smaller competitors at the crossroads of figuring out exactly what they need from the scanning process, especially if they need to extract data from documents as they go. While the benefits of making the switch can be obvious, the bevy of choices available can cause some paralysis for executives.

In addition, companies that choose independent data capture solutions will typically have more options to make sure their data is “portable” when it comes to changing vendors down the road. Larger ECM/Document Management software companies’ bundling options – which do not frequently update their scanning modules because of their strong focus on management itself – might not always help when it comes to a seamless transition, creating more work for businesses in the long run.

Furthermore, the cost of integrating larger ECM/Document Management software companies’ solutions with their other offerings can sometimes grow quickly, while independent providers may offer more of a simple “one-stop shop” that helps improve cost reliability.

When a Plan Comes Together

For all these reasons, any company that’s looking to invest in document digitization in the near future will have to carefully consider its own needs before taking the leap. That typically means developing plans for how best to scan and manage files – not only initially, but on an ongoing basis, according to Business Management Daily.

When crafting the plans for a transition from physical files to a paperless office, there are many things to consider, including what needs to be scanned and how complicated it is, as well as how current work will be completed under the new system. After that, most capture solutions will also provide the option to manage electronic documents in the same way as physical ones when they’re first being scanned, adding ongoing adaptability.

This can present the opportunity for a “look before you leap” evaluation on document conversion. Some organizations, depending on numerous factors, may find bundling to be an acceptable solution based on their current and near-term needs. But for those whose data capture and search requirements are a little more complicated, an approach that incorporates extraction can be a brilliant investment.

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