Integrated document management (IDM) is the “last big opportunity to automate in a service industry,” according to David Szetela, president and CEO of Paperless Technologies, Inc . The company is a Louisville, KY-based firm that builds computer systems to eliminate or reduce paper-intensive processes.
Paperless Technologies recently worked with MedAssist, another Louisville-based company. MedAssist collects insurance claims, a business that involves managing huge amounts of data. Much of its work had been done manually, a time-consuming process with repetitive steps. MedAssist employees received hundreds of forms each day, and then manually extracted the information before entering it into their system.
Paperless Technologies reduced this drudgery by building a document management system for MedAssist that was integrated into its legacy system. With IDM technology, forms can be scanned and stored using advanced OCR (optical character recognition) technology.
“Documents are categorized by their information and can be located using a search criteria,” Szetela said.
What does IDM bring to the workforce?
“What [IDM] means to the manager of an IT department is that you’re going to be able to provide tools to your users to help them better organize information and find information,” said Alan Weintraub, research director, Document Management, GartnerGroup.
Integrated document management has several benefits:
- Enables enhanced productivity
- Eliminates redundancy
- Gives users the ability to search for previous content
- Reduces operating costs
“Content becomes a tool or a usable product, versus just a way to communicate [information] that may get filed and never reused,” said Weintraub.
The basis of a document management system involves attributes that describe a document. “When you check a document into your repository, you assign a set of attributes or keywords that describes that document," he said. "Those keywords are used in retrieval of that information. So no longer do you have to find a document based on what you called it or named it."
Document management also provides full-text indexing in addition to the keywords. Full-text search involves searching for a document by means other than the assigned attributes.
“The power is in the combination of these two—attributes or keywords and full-text search—to be able to uncover where that document is,” said Weintraub.
The paper trail
With the proliferation of PCs with multi-gigabyte hard drives, much of today’s information is in the form of Word and Excel documents, e-mails, and other paper documents.
“I’ve found that 80 percent of a typical organization’s crucial information is in the form of unstructured computer documents and paper,” said Szetela. “The only part that’s being managed is the 20 percent that’s in the Oracle databases.”
Document management is the solution to the problem because it allows users to store and retrieve their documents without having to know exactly where the documents are located. Users don’t need to remember what the document was named.
Efficiency versus headcount reduction
IDM has done for the workflow process what the Internet has done for research. It gives an organization real-time access to all documents online.
Companies that experience mergers and acquisitions find the technology particularly beneficial as they try to merge the communication structures of two or more organizations.
“We have seen companies where the headcount is reduced, but more often the move is driven by increasing markets for companies formed as a result of a merger,” said Tom Wilson, senior manager, Document Management Practice, KPMG Consulting .
The GartnerGroup developed this checklist for planning IDOM, integrated document and output management.
- Set strategic IDM objectives.
- Establish and adopt an IDM architectural framework.
- Identify all necessary technology interfaces.
- Align with relevant technology directions and velocities.
- Build skills and experience in standards and technology components.
- Know critical-path obstacles and limits.
- Build a process for continuous architectural updates.
- Expect the unknown; build a flexible and extensible architecture.
- Build an implementation schedule for architectural instantiation.
- Be ready to shoot at new targets.
The impact on the infrastructure
Because of IT's evolution, IDM is having a smaller effect on the network infrastructure within an organization than might have occurred in previous years. Integration of this technology into existing legacy systems is enhanced by the utilization of the Internet for distribution of information. The availability of bandwidth to transfer data at a very low cost is also a factor.
“You might have some back-office operations and production facilities that are working in a client/server environment and providing ad hoc inquiry capability and access capability through the Web. But generally, the systems we’re installing today don’t require a significant investment in network enhancement as in the past,” said Wilson. He predicts tremendous growth in the industry’s future. “It’s an exciting technology. At this point, we’re dealing with a lot of opportunities and a lot of challenges that are a result of the evolution and revolution in Web technology.”
Szetela compares the impact of the emergence of IDM technology to the transition from manual typewriter to word processor.
“IT has done a good job of wringing a lot of productivity out of everyone’s processes, but there’s still some room to go,” he said.
From healthcare to banking, IDM is a priority to organizations looking to improve their bottom line. What problems are unique to your industry when you implement IDM? Post a comment below or send us an e-mail to suggest a future topic.