Navigating the World of Document Management: Learning the Lingo Part 2
In our last post, we explored basic document management terms for identifying different system types, document capture, scanning, forms processing, optical character recognition and import tools. While you may now have a better understanding of the building blocks of document management, you may also be wondering what methods this can help benefit your company. Today, we will delve into some of practical applications and functions of document management.
In its most basic form, workflow is the routing of information from one person to another based on a predefined set of rules. In a practical sense, workflow allows organizations to control the progression of people interacting with a specific process. Workflows can be short and simple or long and complex. Some of the more common workflows involve AP approvals, capital expenditure approvals, hiring process, onboarding and employee separation. Workflows can also be used for processing logical tasks that would otherwise need to be carried out by a person.
One of the newest industry terms we have adopted is robotic automation, which is achieved through the use of “bots”. This refers to “software robots,” which can automate any data-driven activity or task. These bots can handle defined and controllable tasks without human intervention, basically any repetitive process that a human would do. Some capture software, for example, is actually capable of learning how to extract data from pages based on watching how a human initially interacts with that page.
When you process data with an ECM solution, it can be beneficial to access information from a host system. This eliminates the need for you to manually key-in this information and assures a consistent match with the data from your line of business application. Likewise, it may make sense to transfer your data from the ECM solution to your host system. An example of this would be batching approved AP transactions from a workflow and passing the invoice information, GL codes and dollar amounts onto the ERP system.
This integration can be accomplished through the use of specific “connectors” designed to communicate between systems. Most software includes published APIs (application program interface) that also allow for communication. In the event that standard integration is not available for you, custom integration may be an option. If the manufacturer is willing to assist you, there are a variety of options are available to integrate third-party software.
Cloud-based solutions continue to grow in popularity, and utilize third-party servers to host application software, database and images. Access to this type of solution is achieved via a secured internet connection. Advantages of cloud-based solutions include lower upfront costs, since the hardware and software are typically provided by the DM manufacturer; backups of both the data and images are included; and software updates are provided as part of the ongoing costs. Disadvantages include long-term charges, dependence on a reliable internet connect, the potential latency that is dependent on outside variables and the potential that you will have limited access to the database for customization and integration.
In contrast to newer cloud-based solutions, a more traditional solutions model is to house the DM software, database and images on servers within your own organization. These systems are referred to as premised-based solutions. These solutions provide the advantage in that you have complete control of the system. Database access is a non-issue and you control when you wish to upgrade the system. You manage backups and overall system requirements. Since the system is local, performance is typically better than systems on the cloud. Disadvantages to premised-based solutions include upfront costs, which are higher than the cloud option; the need to provide the server(s) and database; and assuming responsibility for maintaining the system.
Think of the database as the heart of your DM system. Most systems utilize an SQL Server, but other options may be available. Your database creates the structure of your system and organizes the metadata that you enter into that system. It provides quick, logical and organized retrieval of your documents, and also forms the backbone for report generation and analytical reference to information within the system.
Images that are saved to a DM solution should be saved separately from the database on their own server. Image files are relatively big and can take up large amounts of storage space. Most systems apply a unique reference tag or I.D. to the image, which links it back to the database. Like a database, image storage should be backed up on a regular basis, at a minimum of once per day.
The vast majority of images saved to a DM solution have a defined value to an organization and are legally required to be retained for a certain amount of time. Organizations that retain documents beyond their legal requirements create the potential for legal consequences, should the information be requested for litigation. Most DM solutions offer a records management module that tracks the “life” of a document within the system. Upon reaching the pre-defined expiration date, the document, and all remaining information about that document are expunged from the system.
We hope that you’ve found these two posts helpful, and that you have come away with a better understanding of the document management industry. We look forward to diving deeper into all of these topics with you. Be sure to check back with us each week for a new blog post. In the meantime, let us know if you have any questions or comments below, and if you liked what you read today to make sure to share and follow us on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.