December 10, 2010 - 6:41 PM
Microsoft SharePoint has gotten a lot of attention over the past few years, and has served as a powerful catalyst for the benefits of enterprise content management (ECM), which include not just managing content, but also collaboration and process automation. In some cases, it has pushed companies to seriously consider leveraging SharePoint as the first step towards ECM. For other companies, it has been more about how SharePoint needs to coexist with current ECM systems.
While SharePoint has brought content management to the masses in a simple and easy-to-deploy way, one question that looms large is: How do I get my paper into SharePoint so that I can transform it from a liability into an immediate business advantage? To answer that question requires careful consideration of the five key points outlined here.
Ad hoc capture into SharePoint is not enough
Ad hoc capture is one approach to turning paper into digital content and delivering that information into SharePoint. Ad hoc capture provides lightweight capabilities for scanning and digitizing paper documents to be stored in SharePoint. But let’s not forget about the other common ways capture is used for process automation; documents enter the business at multiple locations—the mailroom, fax, e-mail, and remote offices. Implementing capture across many departments and processes requires an enterprise capture strategy. An enterprise capture solution should include the ability to connect to many devices and sources, support centralized and distributed capture, and provide document capture automation that can deliver significant value to an organization in the form of cost reduction and time savings.
Automating manual tasks will save time and money
Document capture automation can shorten processing time, enable businesses to do more with fewer resources, and reduce cost. There are varying degrees of capture automation, including something as simple as using barcodes for document identification and routing those documents to a particular SharePoint library. More advanced capture capabilities include sophisticated identification of forms and unstructured documents, as well as extraction of form data. Applying these types of capture capabilities allows businesses to cut operational costs and accelerate processing.
Solutions need to “play” with other systems
While SharePoint may be the cornerstone of an organization’s long-term ECM strategy, don’t forget about the other systems that play a role in running a business: other content repositories, archiving systems, ERP systems that are part of AP processes, and other line of business systems. With a wide variety of systems that often need to coexist with SharePoint, finding a flexible approach to integrating capture into SharePoint and other systems will ensure you can meet the needs of your IT and business users.
Standardized capture rules will help avoid headaches later on
Understanding how and where content will be stored in SharePoint is one aspect of the strategy; enforcing it on the capture side is the other part that needs careful consideration. The old saying, garbage in garbage out, is relevant here. By having set rules to enforce where content is stored, how folder and file naming convention are applied, how data is formatted, and which document types are allowed, you will ensure that storing documents in SharePoint does not simply become an electronic filing cabinet—without business rules for organizing the information.
Scanning should be a second job, not a day job
In a centralized capture environment, the scanning and indexing of documents is traditionally done by employees who work with the capture system daily. When capture is pushed to the front office to support branch operations or even mobile workers, it often involves casual users. In order to be successful in using capture in this type of environment, these knowledge workers need an application that is both simple yet powerful enough to handle the business requirements. Deploying a capture application that is unmanaged or too difficult to use reliably will only lead to failure and lack of adoption.
Bringing it all together
Using a capture solution to get paper into SharePoint may be in its early stages of adoption. But if we consider the fact that paper is still a big part of how businesses run today, it’s clear that the potential for using capture and SharePoint together will enable businesses to work even faster and smarter.
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