Friday, August 7, 2009

Preview of upcoming book: ECM Buyer Beware

Preview of the New Book by Paul Szemplinski,

CAPSYS Technologies Co-Founder

ECM Buyer Beware: Real Insights & Answers for Decision Makers

Understanding Distributed, Web-Based Document Capture –

Realizing Greater Value at Lower Cost

Publication Date: Fall 2009


Companies of all sizes face an avalanche of documents and content in various types of formats to be managed, whether in paper or in electronic form. Navigating the myriad potential solutions is what this book is all about.

The set of tools available -- software, hardware and most recently, Software as a Service, all known today as Enterprise Content Management (ECM) technologies -- have advanced significantly in the past decade. Because ECM systems are made up of multiple components, designing an optimal system takes a great deal of knowledge, not only of individual components, but how they all work together.

In more than 20 years of consulting with companies across the U.S., I’ve found that many do their homework on ECM systems. But due to the technical complexities and multitude of choices, most are best served by bringing in an expert adviser. In these pages, I share real-world knowledge of what make these systems tick – and point out the stumbling blocks that often interfere with getting the absolute most from them.

One of the keys to ensuring all of the ECM components work together is Document Capture. It is often mistakenly not the focus of an ECM software purchase. Yet it is of infinite importance because it is the “on-ramp” to any ECM system, interfacing with many points in the content management process – from data inputs through Workflow processes, integration with your line of business system (such as ERP or operations systems) through storage in your Content Repository.

The secret: Content Management vendors rarely if at all – address efficient and effective Document Capture without the help of third-party Document Capture applications. So the lesson for you, the buyer, is to understand its importance, and not cut corners!

  • You need a well-defined business process; AND,
  • A software application capable of handling the document capture process.

Another reason to care: Labor associated with Document Capture is one of the highest costs in an ECM roll-out.

So how do you ensure you are on the right cost/performance track with the Capture system you are specifying? Read the two-part Executive Summary, below. To place an advance order for the complete book (available Fall 2009), contact:

Executive Summary


The All-Important On-Ramp for Managing Your Documents Electronically:

About Document Capture

The Importance of Document Capture in the ECM Strategy

Even with our PCs, electronic file cabinets and the Internet, we refuse to stop printing – and storing even more paper off-site for safekeeping!

Technology has evolved from Document Imaging to scan paper, to Workflow to route the imaged paper, to Document Management to organize our file folders, to Web Content Management to manage Intranet and Extranet documents – all are now united as ECM. The influx of both paper and electronic documents still presents an enormous business and economic challenge for any organization. It must be met with a well thought-out Capture strategy.

Since we can’t fully eliminate paper or electronic content, we have to identify where it originates. The closer to the origination we get, the more we can reduce or negate the manual handling that is often still required, even with fully electronic or ‘automated’ systems.

In the Book: Questions you should consider when reviewing Document Capture systems.

Capture Options: Central, Distributed and Hybrid

A Document Capture solution can be approached in one of three possible ways:

Centralized - All documents are handled (scanned), and the hardware and software are at one location. While providing control and fitting the logic that centralizing is a natural solution, centralized Capture is fraught with problems and high costs.

Distributed (decentralized) – Capture software is available to users at any location. Available installed on-premise or in a Software-as-a-Service delivery model. Represents lowest cost Capture solution (and is recommended by the author).

Hybrid -- Combines large scanners with thick client software at the scan station, housed at one location but accessible to off-site users via the Internet. The jury is out on belief that this is needed model, as it is often believed to be useful only by off-site personnel. There is no reason not to also use it internally – and that’s a matter of proper integration.

Distributed Capture is recommended as the best option of the three because it significantly lowers costs. Newer, Web-Based Distributed Capture solutions1 can provide all the same functionality as thick client software.

On-Premise or SaaS: The Great Debate

SaaS (or the pay as you go model) has progressed beyond first-generation functionality, and is in a prime position to serve small, mid-size and large firms. It represents an opportunity to gain competitive advantage through faster daily work processes for far less money than ever, and can be rolled-out in far less time (days or weeks, versus months or years).

Among the many advantages of SaaS:

  • No hardware
  • No software
  • Nominal set-up charges

ECM can be done using an SaaS model, but, likely not through the traditional ECM vendors.

Most important: An all-or-nothing SaaS decision is not required! Ideally your selected software vendors should provide both options – a traditional on-premise installation and SaaS.

Dollars and Sense: Distributed, Web-Based Capture to the Rescue

If Distributed Capture is the best method overall, why aren’t technology options more plentiful?

The bottom line: Offering Capture in a Distributed model is not a welcome shift for traditional software makers because it impacts licensing revenue models. Per-click counts, seat and server licenses add up. The bigger the scanner, the more you’ll pay, too. These and other cost-driver ‘secrets’ are covered in detail in this chapter.

In fact, understanding these costs makes the case for Distributed, Web-Based Capture, since it allows you to shift the costs outward to the point of origin – and possibly entirely outside of your organization (under an SaaS model). Capture at the point of origin eliminates shipping costs, reduces software, maintenance, labor and more.

1 Such as CAPSYS CAPTURE software and CAPSYS CAPTURE ONLINE, by CAPSYS Technologies.


Effective and Efficient

Distributed, Web-Based Document Capture Architecture

With Tricks, Tips and Realities of the Capture Process

Now that we know that Distributed, Web-Based Document Capture can be done – both inside and outside of the firewall -- let’s take an in-depth look at the fundamental building blocks that make up an effective and efficient Distributed, Web-Based Document Capture architecture:

  • Acquiring documents
  • Associating Document Pages
  • Assign Metadata
  • Automate as much as possible
  • Address Exceptions
  • Analytics

Acquiring Documents

While the concept of scanning a document seems simple, when scaled up to millions of documents, it can be anything but. More sophisticated software and powerful scanners are often needed. If scanning is not carefully considered, your organization could end up with a shoddy Content Repository of your scanned data – one that can’t be easily searched, and thus, can’t be easily used.

The fact is that many Repository systems simply can’t handle the realities of document flow within an organization -- regardless of its bells and whistles, or purported search functions.

Your daily business processes are virtually guaranteed to present challenges that neither an ECM repository nor an ERP system can resolve alone. (See financial system example in this chapter.) A better Document Capture solution is the answer!

In the Book: The pros and cons, as well as recommendations, for multi-function printers, document scanners (desktop, workgroup, department, mainframe, and network) and facsimiles.

Associating Document Pages

If you are not receiving every single one of your business documents electronically (and who is?), getting them into the ECM system is a chore.

This is especially true with a Centralized Capture model (you can see the inherently high operating costs in this list):

  • Staff and work space to prepare the documents (classifying and sorting, bundling into 100 page batches, etc.)
  • Deploy a means to tell the software application how to tell the difference between the start and end of a document (usually solved with the manual insertion of ‘document separators’)
  • Prepare the separators in-house, or outsource
  • Take care not to experience a misfeed or other hiccup or a re-scan of hundreds of pages may be needed
  • Beware of accurate page counts prior to and after scanning, or a re-count will be needed

Contrast these steps with Distributed, Web-Based Capture:

  • No full time employee to prep or scan is required.
  • No special facilities or workspace is required to prep the job, much less actually perform the job.
  • Just attach a $200-$400 scanner to the PC, connect to the app via a web browser, and away you go.
  • (Notice there is no need for separating documents. In some Distributed, Web-Based Capture software systems, separation is performed automatically with the document ‘Classify’ function.)

Approaching the Capture problem from a Distributed angle makes the process of scanning, associating, etc. much more simplistic, and allows the document custodian to maintain a degree of control over the organization of the documents, rather than leaving the responsibility to a scan operator 1,000 miles away (often paid on volume, not necessarily on quality or accuracy).

In the Book: How Distributed, Web-Based Capture can eliminate eight of the nine Centralized Capture steps – and their associated costs.

Assign Metadata

You need to develop a structured approach that can be applied to the indexing or labeling of your images or documents, AND you must think in terms of scaling the indexing process – it will have to be “repeatable” elsewhere in the company.

For example: It is likely that more than one value will need to be assigned to many documents being scanned (i.e., an invoice that must be coded by Invoice Number, Date, Vendor ID, Vendor Name, Voucher Number, and PO Number).

The software that arrives free with your scanner simply won’t let you do any type of sophisticated indexing. And assigning values to each document manually just makes no sense (except in a few cases). Your software must allow you to automate the indexing process – and this automation is possible with thin-client software.

Automate as Much as Possible

The concept of automated Workflow, or what is now referred to as “Business Process Management,” has been part of the ECM industry for years. However, it has long been locked up in Content Management repository offerings. Capture software vendors have historically not focused on the Workflow opportunity, and thus many have a mediocre offering – if any at all.

If the most expensive component of the overall ECM solution is the labor to manage the “on-ramp” or Capture process, the questions becomes, where does Workflow optimization most logically belong -- at the beginning of the Capture process, immediately post-capture, or after content has been placed in the CM repository?

We believe that Workflow process should begin as far up the food chain as possible, and that means within the framework of the Capture Software Workflow application. The further upstream, the better chance you have of controlling the overall process, thus reducing errors and costs.

Further, the design and set-up for the Workflow and Capture process itself should be doable in-house, with no programming by costly external consultants required. Today, thin-client software is available to resolve both these issues, with:

  • User-friendly, visual design tools that allow you to construct your own Capture process map without the high costs; and,
  • All the advanced Workflow capability needed up-front.

In the Book: The Top 10 features to seek out in your software purchase, from a Workflow design perspective.

Address Exceptions

Exceptions to any business process are guaranteed, and Document Capture processes are not immune.

The Capture software you choose must have built-in controls to deal with the exceptions. Exceptional handling should be inherent within the architecture, throughout the Capture application and applicable to any/all Document Capture processes. This eliminates any fear or possibility that a loss of critical data can occur.

In the Book: An example of how easily exceptions arise, and how the addition of alerts and thresholds can further automate exception handing.

Archive to the Repository

The last building block in the Capture process (and the culmination of all previous building blocks): content is finally published in your Content Management repository.

Your Capture software architecture should provide the ability for you to easily export or release both the metadata and the image information to a repository of your choosing. (And of course, deal appropriately with the exceptions.)

An innocent enough expectation – but wait. With many acquisitions in the ECM industry, it’s likely we’ll see less flexibility with exporting metadata and images between vendors. Some may continue to force users to use proprietary development platforms, middleware, etc., driving your costs up. Buyer beware!

Analytics of the Capture Process

Know what’s going on with your capture process in real-time.

Capture software should provide the proper mechanisms for feedback, monitoring and controlling the process – but many legacy Capture vendors do not provide those capabilities (or they are proprietary and require a third-party product be purchased).

An additional function to seek – for those times when the Capture administrator must step in to work with a single document or batch – are a specific set of ‘administrator application tools’ built-in to the software.

Overview of CAPSYS CAPTURE Distributed, Web-Based Software

When you begin with an Internet platform, and a real-world understanding of what companies need, the right Capture tool can be created.

The industry’s first, fully functional Distributed, Web-Based Document Capture and Process Management solution, CAPSYS CAPTURE software, is browser-based, giving users working virtually anywhere a simple and easy to use enterprise-wide tool for capturing and sharing all types of documents.

The software’s thin client design offers all of the rich production capture features previously only available in Windows® “thick” client systems, at a far lower cost, without sacrificing capabilities. Among its advantages, the new software allows users to design their own Capture process graphically, without programming or scripting. And because time is money, the system is ready to use in days – not months.

Companies can readily place the new software into service on their own networks. Or, they can use CAPSYS CAPTURE ONLINE to capture and retain documents at a secure, hosted data center. The online or SaaS model is a very affordable option, because it eliminates the upfront investment, installation and administration of in-house software (as previously discussed).

In the Book: The many advantages of this new Capture platform; a visual overview of its architecture; and more details about why this option is well-suited for users today and in the future.

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To order an advance copy of the new book, ECM Buyer Beware: Real Insights and Answers for Decision Makers, contact:

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