What is ERM/EDM? EDM or ERM is about the way that we cope with processes which entail paperwork. As computer systems have evolved over the years, many individuals believed that the total amount of paperwork would be drastically reduced, perhaps even leading to the paperless office. Indeed, in several cases this has proved correct and I am led to believe that some organisations have managed to go paperless, in contrast, I am yet to search out one of these organisations. In reality, what appears to have occurred is that despite a smaller portion of data ending up within the printer, the overall volume of data has grown so much that the overall quantity of printed material has also risen.
Much of this printed data will not need to be kept as it shall also exist in electronic format. On the flip side, some items can't simply be disposed of. Organisations shall always have a need to keep hold of certain documents for legal or regulatory reasons. The kind of documents and also the time that they can be to be kept (the Retention Period) shall vary from industry to industry. On the contrary, many of these documents may be kept in an electronic format, scanned and made available on your computer systems.
Using the-latest EDM/ERM solutions, many documents can now be scanned into an electronic format, this can be done in a way which allows the document to remain legally compliant, even to the extent that the digital copy will be admissible in court - so long as the appropriate procedures are followed. Once scanned to an electronic format, this paperwork no longer takes up valuable office space nor does it necessarily need to be stored in off-site archive. Furthermore, it can be accessed instantly by any authorised person within your organisation and shared electronically at the click of a mouse. All too often, by making the information widely available in the organisation, further efficiencies are found be the de-duplication of tasks.
In short, through the digitisation of paper based records, organisations can take advantage of extra space, the freedom of information to be accessed around the organisation or even routed automatically through established business processes - workflow solutions.
Prep / Pre Scan Preparation Documents arrive for scanning services, Going In this article, in a variety of formats. Sometimes there are actually simply reams of A4 pages neatly organised in boxes. More often conversely, the documents are contained within files, often stapled and un-structured. The prep process is designed to organise these documents ready for scanning. It will involve the removal of all folders, staples and paperclips, the unfolding of folded pages as well as the repair of damaged documents. This process allows the documents to be scanned in an efficient manner.
Document Separator Pages Although this is strictly a part of the Prep and or Indexing process it's best explained separately. Document separators can be as simple as a page with a certain pattern that tells the scanner software that a brand new document has started or even more complicated sheets that use barcodes for the automatic capture of index data. These barcodes can often be incorporated into commonly used documents to reduce the indexing costs.
Substitution Sheets Substitution sheets are used where mixed page sizes occur in a document. Mixed page sizes may mean that different document scanners have to scan one document. Sometimes, large format items will be removed from the document and replaced with a substitution sheet. These large items can then be processed through large format scanners with the remaining document being scanned on more conventional devices. The software then marries the two resulting sets of output images into one complete set.
Scanning / Capture This is the process of digitisation. Digitisation may be via an affordable low volume scanner or via more advanced technology capable of scanning 10's or even 100's of thousands of pages in a day. Document scanners will be able to scan in full colour, simple or greyscale and varying levels of quality in accordance with the required resolution. Scanners can often scan both sides of every sheet in one pass, automatically removing blank pages because they are found
Indexing / Data Capture During this process, key information is gathered about a document that has been scanned. It is this key information that is then used to retrieve the document when it's required or to trigger an automated process. The quality of this information is paramount and as a result it's usually keyed from the scanned image. Very often, where the information is extremely important it really is double keyed, by separate operators and also the software flags up any miss-matches in the keyed data. Software also can be utilized for this purpose, see Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and Forms Recognition. Furthermore, document separators may be created which contain this data for automatic capture over the usage of bar codes (see above).
Quality Control (QC) Quality Control will be the next stage in the process. Random samples are selected and when compared with the original, both the scanned image as well as the index data may be QC'd in the way. The degree of QC will depend on the budget, the complexity of the project and the value of the final data to an organisation.
Scan-on-Demand Scan-on-Demand is a hybrid of traditional archive storage and EDM/ERM solutions. Where a high volume of paper based documents are produced that only need to be retained for a relatively short time period, scan on demand can be an extremely cost effective solution. Documents are stored in off-site archive and any time a document will be required a request is made, the document is located, scanned and delivered electronically.
Retrieval Systems Retrieval systems allow scanned information to be recalled for storage. Regardless of where the scanned information is stored, whether it be on optical disk, a server in the office or even more commonly hosted off-site as involved in the service, a system is required to gain access to these facts. Typically, documents are situated through the use of search terms which could return a list of matches. The correct document is then selected and displayed on screen. Retrieval systems will then enable the user many options, the capability to e-mail, annotate, add notes, add pages etc. to the document. Changes should often be tracked for the system and the original be accessible. Retrieval systems can also offer a method of adding new documents to the shop and workflow functionality.
Workflow Workflow refers to what is usually a complex process of which there are a number of steps or actions required. A rules based system allows a set of rules to be created that connect with a particular document type and can determine where this document is routed throughout the organisation. As an example, an invoice will be routed around an organisation for approval finally ending up with the accounts payable department, authorised for payment. Dynamic rules provide further possibility for documents, for instance, low value documents might only need to be authorised by a junior member of staff whereas higher value invoice need the authorisation of two members of senior management. The routing may be to specific individuals or to departments. Workflow has many applications not restricted to the Accounts Payable department. Customer complaints, holiday requests, training requests etc all take advantage of automated processes.
Retention Period Retention periods determine the amount of time that an organisation will be required to keep a document, either for internal or external reasons. Legal and Regulatory requirements require that certain documents are kept for certain time frames, furthermore, an organisation may have its own required retention period for several document classes. Retention can be automated, setting an expiry or destruction date against each document since it is added to the retrieval system. In the event the expiry or destruction date is reached, an administrator or manager is notified and may authorised the removal of such documents for the system.
Metadata Metadata is similar in nature to the index data, though it can be appended to the document by the retrieval system. Metadata may be information such as the date the document was added, the date and time it was accessed and also by whom, who it's been emailed to and why. This metadata helps to generate an audit trail pertaining to the document that could prove invaluable to any investigations in the future.
Document Access Rights The retrieval system chosen by an organisation must always provide secure access to the data and records stored within it. At the smallest amount there users must be necessary to make use of a password combination to gain access to the system. It's preferential that the solution allows for multiple layers of security and encryption. One example is one group of users may require access to accounts payable records but must not be allowed access to HR records. Furthermore, in the event the capability to e-mail or print documents from the system is provided, a genuine reason must be logged as well as the recipient.