Now that many small to medium-size businesses have installed document management systems to improve workflow and comply with records management guidelines and regulatory requirements, they’re ready for the next step in further streamlining paper management.
By adding networked scanners and pushing document capture down to the desktop, companies can eliminate inefficiencies in existing business processes and reduce operating expenses. Desktop document capture provides a cost-effective way to manage business-critical information, whether it’s active or archived.
Applications for networked scanning include financial services, insurance, health care, government, legal and general office. For example, a NASCAR team’s engine-building-shop employees use a networked scanner to scan and send technical sketches to the engineering, accounting and management teams.
Travelers Guarantee Company of Canada wanted to make certain that its underwriting staff had visible proof of payment from its accounting department. But the Toronto insurer also wanted to speed up its underwriting processes and have a means to quickly search copies of payment documents online.
Two years earlier, the company had transitioned to digital imaging, which had decreased courier and mail costs as well as retrieval times.
The drawback was that individually maintained databases presented obstacles for viewing records that already existed online. At times, users did not request information because they didn’t know it existed, or they replicated research and analysis efforts. As part of a centralized document repository project tied to its distributed file system, the company was able to give its underwriters in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Montreal visibility into the files stored in Toronto, and vice versa.
“We hadn’t been scanning documents before,” says Tim Van Dusen, network administrator at Travelers Guarantee. “For our underwriting team to see proof of payment, they would have to call a clerk who physically went through files to find it, scanned it in and then sent it to the underwriter. It was cumbersome.”
The department now uses a networked scanner to file documents directly into the company’s Microsoft Windows file server. The Adobe Portable Document Format files contain a layer of invisible but searchable text, he says. “No matter where a document is scanned and where it might be stored physically, the database logic of the system makes that document visible to users at all of the branches,” Van Dusen says.
Document capture at the desktop combined with networked scanning can provide quick access to shared information for everyone in a business, equating to collaboration throughout the organization and, more important, shortening the time for information retrieval. It can also migrate potential business risks. With information readily available, officials can make decisions based on the most recent data and will comply with records-management guidelines and regulatory requirements, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
A specific genre of distributed document capture — networked scanning — offers the convenience of a walk-up device that everyone in the office can use without the need for a dedicated computer. Where networked scanners differ from distributed desktop scanners is that they connect to an existing network infrastructure. Some new devices feature intuitive and interactive one-touch operation — including image preview of scanned images prior to sharing — from a full-color touch screen and the capability to save files on portable USB devices.
The USB capability can offer users additional flexibility in using personal e-mail lists and files. Furthermore, once a document is scanned it can be sent in a variety of file formats, including searchable PDFs, to produce high-quality scanned images.
Networked scanning combines document capture speed, quality and ease of use with the capabilities of existing networks. Small to medium-size businesses with a need for quickly accessing information will find that installing or upgrading to a document management system is worth considering. In addition to providing a return-on-investment value, networked document capture brings an increased competitive edge in providing better customer service with happier employees.