Document Capture, to DIY or Not?

dave poyser Associate Director IF profile photoBy Dave Poyser, Intelligent Filing

Who would have thought that the act of converting physical paper documents into digital assets could cause so such debate in a business? Yet the fact remains that document capture – the cornerstone of most document management implementations – is a divisive topic.

On the surface, document capture can appear to be quite straightforward: if you’re implementing a document management solution it’ll no doubt have some form of scanning application, so why not buy a scanner or two compatible with your software of choice and do it yourself?

DIY is always an option, yes. But if it’s the right one it should get more consideration than a few minutes working out your average monthly volume of purchase invoice documents for example, or whether or not you have space on someone’s desk for a scanner. I’ve seen it discussed like this – it’s never pretty, and almost always ends in tears. Not always, but mostly.

 The crux of the issue is actually how to go about managing the resources necessary to prepare, scan and, if necessary, index the documents that are to be captured. Your key questions: should you do this daily, weekly, monthly? How many people should you (or can you?) assign to the task? Does this influence the frequency of capture? What’s the contingency plan should something not work or your key resource is off on annual leave?

These are all valid questions for your planning stage. But to get a true understanding of whether converting physical paper documents into digital assets in your environment is feasible, you need to dig deeper, into the people issue.

For example, you need to find out what your staff can physically and mentally cope with. Paper-based tasks aren’t demanding, for say 10 to 20 documents a day… but would asking them to work through 100 to 200 (or more) a day be a problem? Would it cause delay elsewhere? Would this impact staff motivation and negatively impact your business?

This people problem is entirely different to that faced when introducing a document management, not capture, solution, which is typically a replacement for a legacy process. You’re attempting to introduce a new process, which includes a fair amount of manual work and probably some shiny new technology, into someone’s day-to-day routine. But do you truly understand that routine that you’re attempting to alter?

To make your document capture work, engage with the people it will affect. Have your vendor set up a demo of the process in action and ensure that your people have time for real hands-on play time with the new process, not just sit through a show and tell from the supplier. Organise a workshop (or one to one with the staff) to understand the constants in a day, what has to be dealt with, the ad hoc and the priorities placed on individual tasks etc.

If everyone has a clear picture of the existing processes, you’ll quickly be able to determine where potential gaps are which could allow the new process to be inserted without interruption. Most importantly, make sure everyone contributes to the discussion; the rewards will be greatest that way.

I started saying that the subject of document capture is divisive – and I stand by that. For every manager, director, owner who will argue that keeping the process internal and getting “someone to do it, they’ve got time,” is the correct approach, there’s an equal number, thankfully, who will take one look at the problem and decide that it’ll be easier to ship the work off to the local document scanning bureau and be done with it.

I’d be tempted with the latter every time. But I’m biased!



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