Imaging Systems and Records Management

Article excerpt

Imaging Systems and Records Management

The latest, and greatest (or so it seems), technology to enter into the world of document management, (read records management), is imaging technology. Documents are scanned by a device which looks like a photocopier, and a "digitized" image is stored within an organization's computer system. The technology is hot. Imaging is the new buzzword on the street. Rumour has it that the paperless office may once again be within reach. But what does imaging technology really mean for the records manager, and how does one use it?

Imaging technology may be an interesting prospect, but it's important to determine if you really need it. Imaging technology is still leading-edge technology. What that means is that there is a world of promise in the imaging field, but a scarcity of factual proof of those "ideal" scenarios. Let the buyer beware; promises are not the same as facts. Therefore, the customer must make an investment in researching the technology and what is possible, and an analysis of the potential impact of the technology on the organization.

The determination of what imaging will mean to departments, employee work habits, the organization's work flow, and the organization itself, will involve an extensive investment of time. It will be necessary to review current work processes, and current work flow, and compare them to the projected work processes with the technology in place. Usually, this review will involve both your staff, and the staff of the imaging vendor. In addition, the vendor may wish the customer to share the burden of any research and development costs which go into creating a unique application. Which presents another problem: do you wish to buy an un-tried, custom-designed solution, or a tested, stable product line?

WHO'S ON FIRST?

The big players in the field of imaging are still struggling with what an imaging system should provide to the client. Stable product lines are currently difficult, or impossible, to design. Should the system move document images for the users so that they don't have to be concerned with who gets the image next, but only with what they need to do with the item themselves? Some of the designers of big imaging systems are producing software to move documents through the hands (screens) of the people who use them. But there is no uniformity to this feature among the large mainframe-based systems. There are still a multitude of types of controls for image movements, and the new enthusiast of this technology must be wary of whether or not a particular control feature is a bonus or a hindrance to user access and retrieval of imaged documents. Some vendors still prefer to custom-design solutions, since there is no readily-identifiable standard yet surfacing in the area of document-image processing.

The bottom line is still access of documents. No one would ever consider an imaging system if the system did not promise enhanced access and retrieval of valuable business documents. But how do you determine when you might be a good candidate for an imaging system?

ARE YOU READY FOR

IMAGING?

To consider a document imaging system, you must be a high volume user, and retainer, of paper documents, which are not distributed or received in computer readable format, and which include hand-written information such as signatures. Volume is the key. That's it. Of course, there is price, but you needn't bother looking at the price tags (which are considerable) unless your organization fits the criteria.

Suitable industries would include financial industries, such as insurance companies, banks, trust companies, and the like, which handle massive volumes of paper documents. These documents include signatures of the clients and must be retained for business and legal purposes. Financial industries have a requirement to keep a "paper trail" of documents for an extended period of time. …