Friday, 20 January 2012

What Is Document Capture?

Document Capture is just what it says: Capturing documents and content that can be used in everyday business processes.

With a document management system, document capture is the application employed to create a secure digitised document from information in various formats, including paper, that can be filed and  routed electronically. When done correctly, these digital copies can be used as the legal original copy. This will be covered in a future blog, (watch this space).

Scanning Documents

There are a number of quite sophisticated scanning subsystems that can be employed to capture both documents and content. Typically, scanning documents creates an image of the document in a format that can be viewed on a computer, a tablet or any other handheld device. Most people are familiar with PDF files. Other formats are used for document management too, such as TIF and PNG.

These scanning subsystems can also be configured to capture content that can be extracted using OCR, ICR or OMR technologies so that the content information can be used during the document life-cycle.

Importing Documents

Document capture is not just the process of scanning paper documents. Capture also takes into account electronic documents. For example, you can create a PDF from an MS-Word file. Although the MS-Word document is already an electronic file, you might want to have the original Word document or a PDF in your document management system for future reference depending on the business rules or process being undertaken.

Remember that the power of a document management system is the ability to tie all your documents together so that you can search and retrieve the right information at the right time when you most need it. Therefore,  In addition to the file cabinets of paper documents, you have large numbers of important electronic documents created by various applications including emails and email attachments. These electronic documents are just as important as the paper files, maybe even more important in many instances and need to be managed properly

An Example

For example: Records in your accounting system will probably not be imported into your document management system. Yet, these electronic records are critical to having a successful and efficient document management system.

There are two ways to accommodate these records with document management. One way is to link to the accounting system to pull in the data from these records. This is commonly used in indexing new documents providing accurate and consistent index terms and reducing the amount of manual data entry at the point of input. The second way is to have the accounting system link to the document management system and display the information needed right from the customer records. In this way the accounts payable team uses the accounting system for their work and when they need the supporting documentation they click on a customised link and the accounting system requests the supporting information from the document management system resulting increased efficiency and productivity.

So why not start managing your documents today? 
More information is available from Hershey UK. Why not get in touch for an online demonstration and discussion of your document needs.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

What is Document Management?

Let’s face it, talking about documents or document management is probably not a topic you would pick to be the life of the party at a social gathering. However, understanding document management can make a major impact for your organization. Here, we will cover the fundamentals of document indexing and retrieval all the way through business process management.

Document Management Basics

Document management is the capture, storage and retrieval of documents. With or without a document management solution, your organization already captures, stores and retrieves documents every day. For many organizations, this process is amazingly time consuming and too often ignored.

Documents Come in Many Forms

Documents come in the form of both paper and electronic. An invoice that comes in from a vendor in the mail is obviously a paper document that can be read and acted upon. However, that invoice probably started with an order from your business. That order might be an electronic record in the accounting system. Now we have two related documents that need to be kept together for reference, yet they are very different in how they are stored. This is a simple example.

We could have complicated the example by adding a delivery receipt, an acceptance document, or even a contract. Again, these other documents could be in different formats or different systems. Worse yet, they might be in different departments. A contract might be stored in a file cabinet in the legal department. The delivery receipt could be at a warehouse or on the loading dock. The acceptance could be at the functional department that finally received the order. Now we’ve added different groups of people who may be in different physical locations.

Here’s the question: What if something was wrong with the order? Where do we find all the documents so we can review the contract, look at the delivery ticket to make sure all the materials were delivered, look at an acceptance from the department, look at the invoice and determine if we paid it? Without all of the documents, it can be very time consuming to resolve an issue. Not only does this take away valuable time from multiple people in your organization, think of what was not being done while your staff is looking for documents.

How is a Document Management System Used?

A document management system can be used to capture and organize all of these documents into easy-to-find electronic documents. The paper documents could have been scanned into the document management system. The electronic records could be either stored in the system or pointed to from another system. A document management system has the power to tie these documents together.

The documents could be indexed by department, vendor, purchase order number or any other concept that makes business sense to your organization. Unlike folders in a file cabinet, document management systems store documents in electronic folders that can be indexed by multiple pieces of information. This gives users the ability to search and retrieve documents based upon different criteria.

With a document management system, gone are the days of lost documents because they are all in one secure central electronic repository. Also gone are the days of wasted time because multiple people are retrieving documents from various locations and multiple file cabinets. With a document management system, the documents are immediately retrieved for the person looking for information. This not only makes them more productive for that one task, it shifts the focus from the document retrieval to solving the original issue.

Source: DocuVantage

Friday, 10 June 2011

Document Management Benefit: Seamless Integration

Can I integrate my existing systems with an OnDemand document management system?

It is a fact that for applications to work for us there needs to be a crosspollination of data from disparate systems such as ERP, CRM and HR to name but a few. Any document management system that does not integrate seamlessly and at an affordable cost is dead in the water, and that includes OnDemand solutions.

True cloud applications have been built from the ground up with the objective of lowering the cost, reducing the time and mitigating the risk of integrating with existing applications whether they are on-premise or OnDemand. As a result an OnDemand application provider will be able to share the burden of integration because the infrastructure and the tools already exist.

What are the benefits? Firstly it adds value to existing systems, it reduces cost and aids efficiency in processing orders and and other business related enquiries. It also means that customers have control of their data and that in turn will give them a competitive edge.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Document Management Benefit - Improved Security.

How secure is my data? This is a common question that people ask when introduced to OnDemand document management and it is a justified one. In general terms, there is no doubt that all of us are more security conscious today than we have ever have been in the past, some are even obsessive about it.

When it comes to data security in the cloud however, we have to be particularly concerned. Directors of companies are culpable if they do not take this aspect of their business seriously and can be prosecuted if they are found wanting. Such concern have also been compounded by the recent collapse of the Amazon cloud that affected hundreds, possibly even thousands, of web sites and services, probably costing companies a substantial amount in lost revenue.

So, how secure is my data? Especially when companies like mine are promoting the use of cloud technology to provide business critical services such as OnDemand document management. It has to be said that opinion differs greatly on this subject depending on who you talk to and there are many articles and websites that discuss the security of public and private cloud offerings for business critical applications, along with their advantages and disadvantages. However from the perspective of security and reliability Hershey UK promotes the use of the private cloud for their services. What is the difference? Put simply it comes down to control of your data. In the private cloud you have the peace of mind of knowing where your data is, IE which data centre information is being stored in and that it is secure and being managed by a trusted organization that meets all the necessary compliance standards when it comes to handling customer data.

DocuVantage OnDemand, provided by Hershey UK,  have partnered with Opsource to provide this service because they are a tier 4 data centre which is the most stringent level, designed to host mission critical applications, with full failover subsystems guaranteeing 99% uptime. Other security issues are addressed by the OnDemand application itself. For example who should have access to documents and files? What access should they have? Are confidential documents and files secure? These questions are resolved by the built in security that is provided by modern document management systems. Not only that but customised management reporting using either Crystal or Jasper reports can provide audit trails on the history of any given piece of information within the system.

Improved security is one of a number of advantages that are provided by OnDemand document management that are not provided by their physical counterpart. If this is one of your concerns then it is worth while finding out more.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Failsafe Archives and Effective Disaster Recovery.

What would we do in the event of a disaster? This is something that we don’t think about on a daily basis. Maybe it’s the, “it will never happen to me” syndrome. The fact of the matter though is quite different. Disaster Recovery, or DR, is big business and corporate organisations today are certainly taking it seriously spending hundreds of thousands of pounds if not millions on disaster recovery strategies so that they can ensure business continuity.

The small business however, also needs to take disaster recovery seriously as the threat of a disaster, like a fire or a flood is not discriminatory. Disasters will affect the large business as well as the small, so having a disaster recovery plan is vital. This may be as simple as backing up our mission critical data. Today there is a plethora of online backup organisations that will handle this for you. But is an online or offline backup enough to maintain business continuity? What about the paper trail, the hardcopy information that may also be lost? Companies remain paper driven and in the event of a disaster it is the paper trail that is lost and it is a well documented fact that 80% of companies who lose their data, paper, electronic or both, will go out of business within eighteen months. Having a sound disaster recovery strategy therefore is vital.

The problem is that small businesses cannot afford to spend the kind of money that large corporates do when it comes to DR. So what can they do? Is there a way for SME’s to work from any computer with an internet connection so that company records can be accessed, bills can be paid and invoices raised. Where employees could continue collaborating on projects and carrying general day to day tasks? To answer these questions we need to consider the 7th benefit of an online document management system: Failsafe Archives and Effective Disaster Recovery.

Here’s an example: During Hurricane Katrina, a Hershey client was given warning to evacuate his office. Taking quick stock of what he could save, he picked up the document management server, put it in his car and drove off. Once at a secure location he was able to retrieve all paper documents that had been scanned as part of a daily process and save his business. Obviously this was before the advent of the cloud technology that we have now, but this customer recognised that the device he took had all the information on that was required for him to continue to work.

 Similarly an online document management system running in the private cloud, at a reputable tier 4 data centre, where the archives are backed up and where there is a guaranteed server up time is surely something to consider as part of an effective and affordable disaster recovery strategy.

Contact Hershey UK for more information

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Controlled & Improved Document Distribution

The old British Gas advert with Larry Hagman as JR saying “Don’t you Just love being in Control” may be a distant television memory for a lot of us but the sentiment is still very true, we do like to be in control, not in an extreme “control freak” kind of way, but in a way that makes us feel confident and sure about the decisions that we make, the relationships we form and the work that we do.

The truth of this can be seen when we lose control of something, take as an example losing our car keys, I am renowned for doing this much to my families annoyance and over the years have probably lost hours just looking for keys that should be where you’ve left them but never are. What is the result? Frustration, irritation, impatience, anger, blaming everyone else and not yourself and a lot of time wasted all of which could easily have been avoided if we had just maintained control and put our  keys on the key hook that was bought specifically for that purpose.

The same can be true when working with documents that we have to refer to during the course of our daily work. In our 10 benefits of using a document management system, benefit number 6 is: Controlled and Improved document distribution. Any document management system today that is worth its salt will have  a routing or workflow mechanism that can be employed to help improve document control and distribution. Not all documents have the same classification so the system must be flexible and robust enough to handle many workflows at the same time. Some documents are collaborative and therefore rely on the input of more than one person before they are complete. This may involve collecting information from a variety of sources, updating or modifying it before it is collated into a file that is deemed complete. Other processes are purely transactional like accounts payable for example where an invoice has to be routed to certain individuals for approval and payment. Whatever the situation, we like to maintain an element of control. Knowing where a document is in a given process and being able to track who has actioned a task during a documents lifecycle is important. Such data helps managers identify bottle necks in the process that may need adjusting, eliminate waste and improve overall business efficiency. It helps them to maintain control and helps the rest of us have the confidence and assurance that we are doing our job well.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Dont Ignore the Cloud

Just following on from the need to share information with employees, wherever they are, in order for them to do a better job and increase their value to the company they work for, reminded me of the time that I was discussing the benefits of document management with the General Secretary of a large trade union that has been a long term customer of ours for a number of years. They were due to attend the annual TUC conference, and preparations were well under way. Having the right information to hand at such an event is vital as new policies are made and existing ones are either modified or updated.

In order to make their contribution and represent their member’s rights, large amounts of files have to be gathered and boxed so that they can be transported to the conference venue. It transpires that every time the union had to attend these events whether it was the TUC or the Labour Party conference, a lorry load of files have to be transported to the venue just in case they need to be referred to. Obviously this is an expensive exercise not to mention the logistics required to accomplish the task and the resulting risks in transporting large amounts of corporate information. My argument was that if the documents were held electronically, this expense and the resulting security risk could quite easily be circumvented by accessing their document management system remotely and viewing, and if necessary printing the information they required in order to achieve their objectives.

Since that time and with the advent of Cloud technologies such a change in working procedures would be even easier and viable. True many may feel that a cloud based solution is still in its infancy and that there many questions yet to be answered however, as I read recently, like a toddler, it may not be fully stable but it has bags of potential, and that’s the point, interest in using the cloud and SaaS is rapidly gaining momentum and it is and will have a massive impact on IT, IT support and the way that we work and do business. So the answer is, in my mind, don’t ignore it. Keep abreast of the developments and test the water to feel the benefits for yourself.