Thursday, October 3, 2013

Locating documents in document imaging projects

When we work on document imaging projects in businesses or large organizations, there’s always the chance that we might not find the documents to be digitized in just one geographic location. Location of documents to digitize is crucial to determine the costs of the project and how to distribute human and technological resources.

When documents are spread over several different areas, businesses have to decide if the documents should be processed in one centralized location or in the places where they’re being created. The clearest example: banks. A bank can decide if it’s going to send all of the documents generated in its branches to a coordinating office, or if each branch office will be responsible for processing its own documents, or if the documents (in either paper or electronic format) are to be taken to a processing center. Businesses have a number of options:

  • Distributed capture:Distributed capture” means that the documents are scanned and processed at the point of origin (in the example of the banks, in each branch office), which cuts costs related to transporting documents. It’s also common for distributed capture projects to not require employees whose sole task is to scan documents. These processes don't usually require the technology to separate batches of documents, because the digitization of documents isn’t done all at once, but in an orderly way as the documents themselves are created. Now, depending on the document capture software we choose, this might end up being costly. Let’s think that we’re not talking about a web-based document capture program: we’re talking about a desktop program. That means that we’d have to have a capture program on at least one CPU in each one of the locations where we want to conduct capture. Many capture software providers charge per CPU, which means elevated costs for the project. Web-based capture systems, which are stored on a server (the company’s own, or in the cloud) allow users to use a web connection to access the system from distinct points, and distribute the work from distinct points. It might be necessary to have the software running from various CPUs at the same time, due to volume, but never as many as you would have in the case of desktop-based applications.

  • Centralized capture: Businesses that want to carry out centralized document imaging projects pick one (or a few) geographic points, in which all of the documentation will be processed – all of the documents that have been generated in different work areas (branch offices, offices, etc.) These centralized document processing centers house the software and the people in charge of the digitizing process. Document imaging is done on a massive scale, given the volumes of documents, which means that people who are dedicated to the scanners, the mechanisms to separate batches of documents, validating scanned information, etc., are needed. What’s more, this means that transportation costs have to be figured in if the documentation is sent, in paper format, to the document imaging center, or if a way has to be found to get the documentation to the center in electronic format (scanning documents to a CD, for example). People who defend this method of document imaging argue that it’s more cost-efficient to have and maintain one central processing area (fewer scanners, fewer computers on which to run the software, etc.).

Type Centralized Distributed
Advantages Ideal if we know that all documents will get to one specific location. Documents of high quality since documents follow procedures and best practices conducted by one team of humans. Quick access to documentation. Savings for transportation and labor. Prevents possible losses of information that comes from transporting documents.
Disadvantages Possibility of losing information when transporting documents. Might take a few days to have information available while waiting for documentation to arrive at processing center and be processed. Needs more people to do – runs risk of compromising security of documents. Needs much more flexibility, scalability and control. System needs to guarantee high degree of availability. Quality of documents might not be as high as those processed in a central location.

At any rate, businesses need to evaluate their work process and specific conditions before defining which method of document imaging would suit them best. Additionally, many document imaging processes manage hybrid solutions which combine centralized capture with distributed capture. 

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