Not so long ago, we were talking about what a 'normal' document management system is. Right, now it’s time to talk about document capture applications. What’s the minimum functionality that a capture application should give you?
The objective of document capture software
Before fully going into the topic of functionality, it’s necessary to go back over the basics about document capture, what it is and what it’s for.
Within a system that manages content and business documents, or a company’s ECM system (capture, management, storage, preservation and distribution), capture clearly represents the input. It’s the way in which documents and content get into the system. Without capture, a system, as such, cannot grow.
According to this definition, capture means uploading a document to an ECM platform. That’s what it is. That functionality in and of itself doesn’t offer any challenges to a document manager or ECM platform. The existence of capture software comes to life when we begin to speak of having to put a large quantity of documents inside an ECM system, no matter what their format – paper, electronic – is.
Okay, now that we know that, essentially, the goal of document capture software is to send large quantities of documents to a document management system, what’s the minimum that the system should give us?
We’re used to thinking of capture as a synonym of digitization or document imaging, but this last one forms only one part of capture. Documents in electronic format are, these days, as abundant as paper-based documents were years ago, and we can’t ask users to spend hours and hours managing them (or, worse, users don’t manage them.). I recommend following some good practices to achieve documents born digital can stay digital. However, normally, if capture software doesn’t offer Mailroom, a company’s employees have to download an attached file every time they receive it and then upload it to the document manager themselves. Why not just get rid of the previous steps and upload attached documents to the system automatically? Athento, for example, offers:
- To set up an e-mail account where attached documents can be stored automatically within the document management suystem (without having to click on any buttons, as the system automatically monitors the mail server). The most important feature of this module is that permits unlinking of work flows. Say, for example, that an attached document is an expense request; the system would automatically send it to someone in the Accounting department. This is just one example: flows can be customized according to the needs of each business.
2. Connection with a scanner
Now we’ve come to the point that everyone thinks of when they think of capture – digitization. As a basic point, I should be able to connect a scanner (or a number of them) to the ECM platform so that the scanned documents can be uploaded in electronic format to the ECM platform, where someone can organize them afterwards, or give me the possibility to scan one particular document from the platform. The point here is that, you should at least be able to send all of the scanned content directly to the ECM software.
Right: so that’s very basic, and it leaves a lot of work to the user. Having to manually organize tons of scanned documents isn’t much fun. A solution that doesn’t only give us the most basic things should be able to identify our documents and store them where we want them to be stored, or send them to the people who we want to go over them.
A basic system should give us the ability to add information or metadata about the captured documents. At the least, it should give us OCR functionality to index the content of those documents and give us the possibility to manually complete, at the least, the Dublin Core metadata. Of course, if we have a lot of documents to capture, registering the metadata of each document manually could be torture. An advanced capture solution lets us extract data from documents automatically and save it along with the documents.
4. Exporting documents and metadata
As we said at the beginning of this post, capture software exists due to the need to feed document and content management systems. It’s necessary, then that both documents in electronic format and the data that we get from the capture process both be sent to the ECM – without connection or compatibility between the capture software and the ECM system, it’s no use.
In my opinion, these four functionalities in their most basic forms constitute capture software, and everything else that’s added to them only have the goal of eliminating any kind of manual labor to be carried out by users. The aim of capture, though, can be done through these four functionalities.