The Business Case for Imaging

Article excerpt

Is your organization interested in imaging technology? It seems like almost everyone is looking at it. New rumors of the paperless office abound, with imaging presented as the answer. The skeptics, who point out that the paperless office rumor is almost as old as the hills, are not convinced. However, and despite the "hype," imaging truly is an excellent technology which can deliver substantial benefits to its users.

But how do you determine whether imaging will deliver benefits to your organization? The most common way to evaluate the benefits of any technology is a business case. Such an approach is particularly important in the case of imaging technology, where the costs, particularly of the initial investment, can be high, but benefits are also substantial. A business case provides a solid basis for the crucial decision: Do we proceed with the new imaging technology acquisition or not?

The business case is fundamentally a "well-dressed equation." The result of the equation should be a clear Yes or No answer. If the answer is clear, and made with assurance that the organization is doing the "right" thing, (i.e., the thing that delivers the best benefits), then the business case has done its job, whether or not the technology is purchased at this time.

Therefore, the business case itself is a critical part of the organization's investment. The business case is the up-front investment of time, effort and (potentially) dollars, required to make that "right" decision for the organization.

Although one cannot necessarily predict the outcome of the business case before it is started, the organization usually has some excellent reasons for beginning the business case, and recognizes some of the general benefits of imaging technology before the business case has begun. It is the perception of these potential benefits which often provides the impetus to begin the business case in the first place.

POTENTIAL IMAGING BENEFITS FOR YOUR BUSINESS CASE

It is true that imaging can eliminate the need for paper in many areas. (It is important to note that eliminating the need will not always eliminate the desire.) The elimination of paper in a business process, as well as the paper-based restrictions on access, can be a significant enhancement for an organization. Tasks which were previously done one after another can be done simultaneously, because imaging technology can provide simultaneous access to documents. Therefore, multiple people can do their jobs at the same time. This enhancement can mean considerable improvements to the overall processing time and the quality of the product.

Imaging can also increase efficiency in other ways. For instance, it is possible to eliminate "bottlenecks" where document processing slows down because of the difficulties of moving the physical documents. Moving paper documents within organizations is a time consuming process. (Just consider how long you wait for the internal mail service to deliver something to you. Is it a one-day turn-around? Two? Would that be acceptable if you had someone on the phone while you were waiting for your documents?) In service-intensive processes, where documents must be moved, and moved quickly, to those who require them, issues of physical access and retrieval alone can sometimes drive the implementation of imaging technology.

Imaging also provides much needed disaster recovery capabilities for existing manual systems, which usually have little or no "backup." This benefit can be largely unrecognized, since it is "hidden." The lack of backup in the manual world is accepted, while providing backup in the automated world is expected. The addition of backup in the automated world is not a high profile item, so the benefit may receive little or no attention.

Finally, imaging will provide the organization with improved management information on the use of records--something which senior management and records managers have wanted for years, but found difficult or impossible to collect in a manual environment. …