New Support Form

On 2010/06/27, in Events & News, Other Links, by Administrator

It is our pleasure to announce launching of our new support request form on the following URL:

http://www.infiniteecm.com/blog/support-request/

Support Team.

 

1 — Choose Your Battles

Just because you have purchased a great new scanning/capture/data entry automation application doesn’t mean that it makes sense to automate every type of document under the sun.  Sure you may feel empowered to spend the time or money required to automate the indexing of that quarterly report that is generated only 4 times per year, but that would be analogous to hunting for quail with a bazooka.  Make sure that you look at the feasibility and return on investment before jumping into projects.  Always take the automation projects with the highest & fastest ROI first and pass on the low or negative net present value projects.

2 — Choose the Most Accurate Recognition Technology

Obviously, your choice may be limited by the records that you are trying to automate.  However, if you do have a choice, follow this simple rule. Barcode/Patch Code recognition is the most accurate, then OCR (machine printed text recognition), then constrained ICR (handwriting recognition), and lastly unconstrained ICR.

3 — Test For Recognition Accuracy Early

Even when using barcode recognition or OCR, the accuracy of recognition will likely be less than 100% in the long run.  Make certain that you test the accuracy of the recognition component of your capture/automation design early on in the process with a relatively large sample.  This will ensure that there are no surprises down the road.

Additionally, if you are in the evaluation stage of selecting an application, make sure that the supplier of the product performs the demonstration with a large sample of your documents.  Avoid demonstrations using standard documents that are prepared by the vendor.  Why?  You want to ensure that the automated indexing procedure that they have developed works on your documents with a high degree of accuracy…not only on their documents that they have prepared for the demo.  A good trick to throw at vendors is to provide 10 samples of the document type to be automated for the demonstration. Then, at the time of the demo, give them 100 more documents (of the same type) that they have never seen before.  This will truly address the accuracy of the application and automation process.

4 — Key on Documents You Control

In many capture applications, the logic used to automate indexing and separate an individual document (set of pages) from a batch is to key off of some identification page.  In most cases, it is easier to achieve full automation with a high level of accuracy if your identification page is one that you control.

Assume that you need to scan and index all of your vendor bills into your DM system.  Automating the indexing for these documents can be difficult since you have no control and there are many different formats of vendor invoices.  For example, 1000 different vendors could mean 1000 or more different invoice formats.  Creating an automated indexing process would be very time consuming in this case.  Furthermore, your vendors could change formats of their invoice on you without any notice.  This can result in the constant reworking of your data entry automation scheme.  Additionally, automating vendor invoices is a process that typically requires human quality control which will increase your overall costs.

As an alternative, explore automating the input using records you control as the identification page.  Using our vendor invoices example, you can use the checks you cut to pay the invoices as the identification page.  Your bank checks, in conjunction with your accounting system’s database, can typically provide an automation process that is nearly 100% accurate and fully automated.  The key here is a change in the process.  Rather than having each individual vendor invoice in your DM system as the process output, you would have a check packet in your system as the output.  The check packet would consist of the check (or check stub) followed by all of the invoices the check paid for.  If you every need to retrieve a specific invoice, you can search your accounting system for the check number that paid it and then pull up the check packet in your DM system.

Sure, this process does add an extra step to retrieval, but it cuts down dramatically on the input process costs and would provide a greater ROI due to reduced input costs related to quality assurance and the like.

5 — Quality Assurance

Any index automation process is prone to some level of error.  Therefore, it is best practice to establish some level of quality assurance procedure, even if it is a very brief procedure.  Even though today’s scanning devices have features to detect multi-feeds and auto-threshold scanned images, you will want to verify image quality even if on a random basis.

6 — Pre and Post-Verification

It is important to ensure that you track what was intended to be processed and what was actually processed.  At a minimum, simple page counts and record (individual documents in the batch) counts should be employed and verified with the output.  Even the most thorough index automation process can come across an unexpected file that will throw the process off.

7 — Documentation

There are thousands of technical writers working for thousands of software companies.  Some are definitely better than others.  However, regardless of how good these technical writers are, boiler plate documentation is never best for a specific process.  Take the time to document the process (with screenshots and videos if possible) for your scanning/indexing staff.  The time spent documenting the process will pay off tenfold down the road.

8 — Outsource

Last, and certainly not least, outsource any manual indexing processes that make sense to outsource.  All too often, firms spend time and money staffing people to perform tasks that are not part of the firm’s distinctive competence.  Outsourcing makes sense in many situations, even for small companies and small projects.  Keep in mind that you can lower costs through ‘hybrid’ outsourcing…where only part of the process is outsourced. 

Original Article

 

1 — Access to external documents

It’s 3 a.m. and you’re in the emergency room. But you can’t talk. Remember all of those records you brought with you last time you were at the hospital for outpatient surgery? Lab work, radiology report, physician notes…all in paper. Where did those records go? With an ECM integrated with the hospital’s Electronic Medical Record, your physician doesn’t just have the hospital’s notes from your previous visit, but all of that external documentation was scanned in and is now a click away in the EMR interface where the clinician can now see a more complete history prior to providing treatment.

2 — Access to medical records in the hospital

Unfortunately, after visiting the ER, you are admitted. Even in heavily automated hospitals, you will often find that Emergency Department charts are still kept on paper. However, that paper ED chart may not always ride with you to your room. Scanning that chart in to the hospital’s ECM system linked to the EMR allows any clinician with security rights to see your chart info in the EMR to access your info. So whether you end up on a regular floor, ICU, Radiology or Lab, you can rest in that morphine-induced happy place knowing that your caregivers can access all of your information since entering the hospital.

3 — Always on 

In today’s growing world of outpatient services, hospitals and their affiliates are often sharing chart info between facilities. The good news is that AnyTown Hospital may in fact be the keeper of all of your records because you go to AnyTown physicians, AnyTown Radiology and AnyTown Orthopedics. Unfortunately, as you arrive at the ER, your paper chart info hasn’t come back from AnyTown Outpatient Surgery Center, and your file is ‘out’. With ECM, your file never moves. No faxing. No couriers. One file – online. Available to all of AnyTown’s caregivers through their EMR interface.

4 — Diagnostic data

While healthcare providers are adopting scanning technologies in rapid numbers, they are only scratching the surface of ECM capabilities. Upper tier Content Management products are truly object repositories – not just electronic file cabinets for scanned paper. So content such as audio files and video files could be dictation recordings and surgery videos available through your ECM. Digital photos for things like wound care, dermatology or burn units can all be easily imported in to your ECM.  Forward thinking thought leaders are even beginning to leverage ECM as middleware. Diagnostic info, e.g., EKGs, Fetal Monitors, Holter monitors and more are not integrated with the EMR in most cases. Printed copies of Fetal Monitor strips are often taped to pages in a paper chart. Your history of EKG’s are printed off and kept in paper form and may not be available for reference as you enter the ER suffering from chest pain. With ECM, direct device integrations can be done to electronically receive, store and integrate this data for instant availability directly through the EMR interface.

5 — Patient safety

Clearly, greater availability of information at the physician’s fingertips could be the difference in critical care scenarios. Lawmakers offhandedly cite ‘medical errors’ as the premise for electronic medical records. The term though is in most cases a misnomer labeling physicians as having made errors. Unfortunately, in most cases their ‘error’ was in fact a lack of available information. While EMRs are a step in the right direction, most industry data states that at least 20% of the chart remains in paper form today, leaving physicians and patients alike in a precarious information deficit. With ECM, that paper is scanned and available, integrated through the EMR creating one holistic record.

6 — Privacy

A quick read of the HIPAA regulations are not only a great cure for insomnia, but magnify the vagaries of ‘private information’ in a paper world. While great care is taken in defining rules and regulations around the securing of electronic data, one would argue that the standards as they apply to paper records are a bit more challenging to enforce. Copies, faxes, couriers, outsourced paper storage providers all present potential challenges in enforcing secure access. A well designed ECM security model ensures that only authorized users access your documents; even printing can be controlled. In addition, an audit trail logging every user who accesses any document in your chart – and even any action they perform while viewing it – provides peace of mind that your Personal Health Information is secure.

7 — Release of Information

Whether it’s a move to a new city, a new physician or a new health insurer, you may need your records in portable form. While EMR’s can produce a report for you, paper charts – if immediately accessible may need to be copied, faxed from multiple locations, pulled from offsite storage, etc. Healthcare focused ECM products often contain the ability for the hospital to go through a simple ROI workflow to produce all of the scanned components of your chart along with your EMR report. In fact, some ECM/EMR integrations offer the ability to do that through the EMR as a singular process.

8 — Scalability and Integration 

A number of EMR’s offer document imaging as native functionality. However, scan and store capabilities within an EMR should not be confused with the breadth of functionality a true Enterprise Content Management system can offer. Whether it’s being tied down to strictly scanned content, or in many cases, an architecture reliant on database blobs for the storage of image objects that limit scalability and ultimately hamper performance, the functionality chasm is severe. Imagine yourself in the bed in the ER as your clinician waits for your chart’s scanned images to load for minutes in some cases. Top tier ECM products have been scaling to billions of images and terabytes of data in numerous vertical markets for decades now. So, why might a hospital buy the EMR’s document imaging functionality? Because it’s ‘integrated’. However, whether it’s HL7, Web Services, API’s, or screen scrape technologies, peeling back the layers of an EMR’s ‘integrated scanning’ will often yield little more or even a weaker integration than many ECM’s can provide out of the box.

Original Article

 

1 — Disregard for Adoption.

Most organizations are so focused on trying to get something in production, that they tend to disregard the simplicity and fluidity of user experience that is required to garner the appropriate adoption rates. Adoption is a two-dimensional problem. The first dimension is making sure that a critical mass of users is enabled to access and use the ECM system. The second dimension is that a critical mass of content be available through the system. If either of these conditions doesn’t hold true, overall system adoption suffers. However, for both the number of users and amount of content, simplicity of user experience is the most critical dimension. If a user has to perform additional work to use the ECM system, that he/she didn’t have to do in their old world, more than likely than not, they will bypass the ECM system. Not placing sufficient emphasis on both of these dimensions of user adoption is one of the biggest reasons ECM implementations fail. 

Recommendation: Focus on scaling the number of users and the amount of content with an acute emphasis on simplicity of user experience. Integrate ECM’s back end with social computing front ends. 

2 — Picking the Wrong Business Scenarios.

Most organizations don’t pick the right business scenarios to start with to demonstrate the true potential of ECM. Those organizations that choose the first few scenarios for roll-out based on a combination of strong ROI potential and strong strategic enablement of long-term business directives can drive high (and positive) visibility for their ECM initiatives. It is the demonstration of the transformative potential of ECM to a business that tends to get the right level of enthusiasm from the other business areas.  

For example, if your company is looking to move non-core business processes to a cheaper geography via business process outsourcing (BPO) activity, digitization of content is a necessary pre-requisite and enabling condition. Enabling digitization for BPO will have a higher likelihood of obtaining executive attention than digitization to save file-room real estate.  

Recommendation: Pick business scenarios to start with that: (i) have high visibility at senior levels of management; (ii) offer strong potential for cost reduction or for increasing the top line; (iii) need ECM as a strategic driver to their business rather than a toolset from IT. 

3 — Over-customization.

Doculabs consulted for more than 500 companies across a multitude of highly regulated and complex industries, including life sciences, financial services, consumer packaged goods, utilities, state and local government, etc. Very seldom have these companies recognized the similarity of their operations to those of their peers. Instead, what we hear more often than not is how unique each company is, despite the fact that very few are that different from each other, especially regarding the reasons they could potentially fail with ECM.  

One result of this conviction of uniqueness is that as businesses implement ECM, they tend to over-customize their implementations, believing they are different from the rest of the world in the ways they use information. The net result: long, arduous, risky, and expensive roll-outs, with even more expensive upgrade cycles. If most organizations focused not on meeting 100 percent of their needs with ECM, instead aiming to get 70 percent of their most important needs fulfilled by ECM, the cumulative benefit over a period of time would be far greater than trying to boil the ocean all at once. This seems like common sense, but is very rarely practiced.  

Recommendation: Focus on less custom development; place greater emphasis on configuration.  

4 — One-off Provisioning of Business Requests.

The period from the time a business request comes in to IT to the time users have a functional system is, on average, 12 to 15 months of elapsed time. This extremely slow turnaround time is characteristic of many companies and is primarily the result of the lack of a repeatable implementation process.  

Recommendation: Implement ECM as a shared service so that repeatable, configuration-based roll-outs become the norm.  

5 — Lack of Focus on Proving Business Justification.

A big reason why ECM implementations fail is a lack of focus around quantifying the ROI for ECM. Defining concrete and credible benefit streams and tracking against the model to ensure that the implementations produce those results is the only way to obtain sustained executive support and funding. Most business justifications tend to be either too optimistic to be taken seriously, or too generic to be applicable to an organization.  

Recommendation: Develop specific business justifications with organization-specific data and a defensible heuristic model, showing peer group benchmark data that can be demonstrated to an executive in 10 minutes or less, but with rigor in the back end to be able to support the conclusions. (See Doculabs’ white paper for more details.) 

6 — Ignoring the Impact of User Experience.

Eventually a system either succeeds or fails based on how it appeals to the user emotionally and whether the user is able to imagine the possibilities of a better world as a result of sustained use of a system. Since ECM has such a huge platform component to it, many organizations fail to get clarity in how “a day in the life of” a user will be impacted a result of ECM.  

Recommendation: Build out storyboards or prototypes depicting how a user’s life would be materially impacted for the better as a result of using ECM capabilities.  

7 — Lack of an Overall Vision for ECM.

Most organizations don’t tend to have a sufficiently comprehensive vision of ECM to be able to determine whether their efforts are a success or a failure. A strategy for information management within an organization is largely absent in most places.  

Recommendation: Either develop an ECM strategy, or dust off and refine your existing ECM strategy, especially in light of the rapidly changing landscape of social computing, information governance, and cloud-based computing models.

8 — Underestimation of Cultural and Change Management Implications.

Last but not least, most failures aren’t the result of technology issues. ECM is a mature technology; most ECM suppliers are in their tenth and eleventh major versions of their products. The primary reason for failure is that organizations grossly underestimate the cultural and change management implications related to automating certain business tasks. People have become accustomed to doing things a certain way, and this sort of change can sometimes have a jarring effect. If not properly positioned, the ECM initiative starts off on the wrong foot and never gets back on track.  

Recommendation: Whatever you’re budgeting for change management during a roll-out of an ECM project, simply double it. No matter how much you think you’ve overestimated the effort, trust me when I say you’ve probably underestimated it by a long shot! 

Original Article

 

Chances are that the economic climate is taking a toll regardless of what industry you’re in. As a response, you may be seeking cost-effective measures to optimize your business processes. The trifecta of regulatory scrutiny, increased competition, and the need to improve turnaround practically demands that you find ways to continually improve performance and obtain measurable results.

A free ECM platform seems like the ideal solution. But is it? That depends on your definition of ECM. It also depends on your definition of free.

If you are planning to implement (or augment) an ECM system, you will definitely want to do your homework—especially if Microsoft SharePoint® is on your short list. As a collaboration tool, SharePoint offers a lot of benefits. It excels at allowing organizations to create a recognizable interface that can serve as a single point of contact. And SharePoint does have some light workflow functionality that may be of value to certain organizations. Unfortunately, however, as a complete ECM solution, it may do more harm than good—especially when you consider what’s missing. You can find a glut of articles that claim otherwise from Microsoft partners who—along with the Microsoft marketing conglomerate— spend significant time and resources defending SharePoint from perceived mudslinging. The contradictory messages confirm that you need to do your research. ECM implementation is no place to cut corners.

Is SharePoint a complete ECM platform?

Is SharePoint a complete ECM platform? In a word, no. This is not an attempt to discredit or sling mud at SharePoint. The fact is that there is no such thing as a complete ECM platform in today’s market. Unstructured documents come in every size, shape, flavor, and file format. The objective of ECM is to get control of all of that information, put it into a virtual repository, provide secure access, control its lifecycle, streamline processes with digital distribution, provide audit trails and reporting, and have the ability to retrieve your information on demand. As such, ECM encompasses a tremendous amount of depth and complexity. And no matter what the Microsoft marketing machine would have you believe, there is, unfortunately, no one solution out there that does it all.

In a lot of ways, that’s a good thing. It helps to differentiate the market, and provides targeted options to the business world. But when Microsoft touts SharePoint as a complete ECM solution, it creates confusion. And to be perfectly honest, legacy ECM vendors have done a fine job of creating confusion in the marketplace without Microsoft’s help.

A robust ECM solution is flexible and extensible. Ideally it should be comprised of an integrated suite of components that can be used to address organizations’ specific needs. SharePoint does have the ability to work with 3rd party products, but its openness often masks its existing shortcomings as a comprehensive solution. The components will likely evolve to offer more complete functionality, but today SharePoint is more of a toolkit than a complete ECM solution.

SharePoint can’t compete with legacy ECM systems. Even if a conventional ECM system doesn’t present a complete solution, it usually offers a much more rounded platform that reflects decades of industry experience. To find the best ECM solution, organizations need to look to their business processes.

Growing pains

When looking for an ECM solution, consider carefully the issue of scalability. Will the system that you implement today be able to handle your needs ten years from now? How about twenty? One of the concerns about SharePoint is that Microsoft stores objects as BLOBs (Binary Large Objects) in the database. This architectural model was discarded years ago by 95% of the ECM industry because it doesn’t account for scalability. The BLOBs will eventually grow, which leads to congestion and causes your database to grow. This slows performance significantly. Ultimately, database management will become unwieldy. SharePoint partners may offer unique hardware customization to address this issue. Understand that there is a price point for this customized architecture.

Alternatively, you could choose an architecture that legacy ECM vendors have adopted, which involves storing only the metadata and the pointers in the database. Objects are stored on fast, secure storage systems that support lightening-quick performance. The questions about SharePoint’s scalability are valid. I’m not saying it can’t scale, because you can put enough power behind any system if you have the resources. To implement a system that is truly streamlined, however, you would be wise to investigate the storage and bandwidth disadvantages that are associated with data BLOBs.

Adding value through collaboration

To get the best of both worlds, many organizations have implemented SharePoint in tandem with their legacy ECM systems. This provides them with the collaboration tools that can be so beneficial to a thriving business, and backs them up with the strong records management, compliance, and BPM tools that are available with ECM. Microsoft partners summarily dismiss this option, portraying it as a last-ditch effort on the part of legacy ECM systems to ride SharePoint’s coattails.

It is important to consider the strength of the Microsoft marketing blitz as you weigh ECM options that will best suit your business needs. The notion that SharePoint is—by itself—going to be the best fit to everyone’s needs is myopic. On one hand, the literature would have you believe that an integrated system that uses both an ECM system and SharePoint is redundant. At the same time, the very same literature states that SharePoint doesn’t have enough tools to satisfy what people need from an ECM system today so they have to integrate with other parties. It’s a Catch 22.

Again, SharePoint is a good product. It obviously has a place in the marketplace. But the fact is that its workflow functionality must be developed by IT staff so it is more like a toolkit. It doesn’t offer the drag-and-drop simplicity that is available with most workflow products delivered with legacy ECM systems. The Microsoft marketing team would advise you to bring in a BPM solution and integrate it to address its workflow shortcomings. But then you have to do the same thing for records management, because it doesn’t have a records management tool. And you have to bring in a lifecycle management tool. According to their model, you’re going to have to bring in four or five different products to integrate with SharePoint to create your ECM solution. SharePoint integrates well with other applications, but it also has more holes than a legacy application. Alternatively, you could bring in one integrated ECM solution to interface with SharePoint and handle the functionality that is lacking.

The best of both worlds: Backing SharePoint with breadth and depth

SharePoint does have a lot to offer. It has a fabulous interface that people are already familiar with because Microsoft essentially designed the desktop. This is a tremendous advantage, because businesspeople all over the world already recognize Microsoft and how it works. To this end, putting a Windows-centric front-end on something makes a lot of sense. But trying to integrate five unrelated products into SharePoint because it has ECM shortcomings does not make sense.

It seems logical to put SharePoint as a front-end to an existing ECM solution that already is completely integrated. You have the best of both worlds. SharePoint can offer its wonderful front-end pieces—the collaboration tools, portals, etc.—while an existing legacy ECM system can tie in full-blown integrated life cycle management, BPM, workflow, audit trails, security, reporting tools, dashboards, reports, full text searching, and other technologies that have been around for years. ECM works behind the scenes—invisible to end users—and adds all that value to SharePoint’s front end. ECM solutions are here. They work today. Why wait for Microsoft to finally round out SharePoint and hope that all of the marketing material about it being a comprehensive solution actually comes true?

You get what you pay for

SharePoint is exploding because Microsoft’s marketing dominates the media. And the perception is that it is more cost effective than a conventional ECM solution. Again, I don’t want to take anything away from SharePoint. I respect SharePoint. It has created the perception that everyone can have and leverage ECM. Everyone recognizes it. The collaboration piece is creative and useful. But it still has a lot of holes, and is not a complete solution for the enterprise. And unfortunately, Microsoft has made it seem too easy.

And at the end of the day, SharePoint is cost effective in the way that a puppy is cost effective. You can get a puppy for free. But it takes time, resources, and experience to housebreak it, let it out, and feed it. You’ll have to make an investment in bowls, leashes, chewed furniture, ruined shoes, soiled carpets, and veterinary bills. People don’t usually think about that. They see a cute puppy and they hear the word “free.”

Microsoft has made it see like ECM can be done inexpensively and easily with little cost or planning. But SharePoint isn’t inexpensive. And ECM isn’t necessarily simple. There is more to it than merely turning on the product. SharePoint may be cost effective at a certain point. But, again, only the basics are free. As you extend it, you need more database CALs (client access licenses) to use it effectively. You need more SharePoint CALs. To make the most of your implementation, you will probably want to invest in an experienced consultant to determine your needs for ECM. You’re going to have to buy third party products to integrate into it, as well as additional server storage. The manpower alone that you will need to put it together may require additional services unless your staff already has not only SharePoint experience but ECM experience. Hidden costs abound.

Legacy ECM solutions have been around for more than 20 years. Training is already planned. Project plans are available, as are historical models, etc. The software is already integrated, and built to streamline the enterprise needs of small and large businesses. They aren’t toolkits.

And here’s another scenario to consider: when you buy a legacy ECM solution off the market, you’re going to buy maintenance. You’re going to buy support. When you buy SharePoint, and you put it together, and you build out your structure, who is supporting you? Microsoft may be supporting the pieces and parts you use to build it, but they are not supporting your solution. Organizations may find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place when their IT team informs them, “Why buy this when we can build this ourselves? We can build it cheaper.” Maybe they can build it cheaper. But most organizations that have gone that route don’t get the full functionality that they need. And, inevitably, they find themselves being held hostage by their own IT staff. If they leave, who is going to support that product that they built? Ironically, it is possible to create significant maintenance overhead as part of an attempt to streamline processes.

Assessing the capabilities of today’s technology

I do believe that SharePoint will evolve at some point by employing the same methods that customers use today. This involves purchasing the technology. But until Microsoft decides which legacy ECM solution to purchase, it still has a lot of holes to fill before it can be considered a platform or a full solution.

Like people the world over, businesses come in all shapes and sizes. Each has different visions and requirements. Consequently, no one solution can solve everyone’s needs. But some of the more rounded-out ECM solutions that have been around for many years offer fuller solutions that can work across an enterprise. From an architectural standpoint, legacy ECM solutions offer all the major components: scalability, flexibility, and extensibility. From a feature/functionality standpoint, they have a lot of the key pieces in compliance, document management, workflow, life cycle management, capture, security, auditing, etc.

Any solution should have the capability through web services to integrate with other software to allow a customer the flexibility to bring in a complementary piece. And SharePoint’s true niche at this time is as a complementary piece to a full ECM solution. The reality is that as a complete ECM solution—regardless of Microsoft’s marketing agenda—it is just not there yet.

Original Article