Like Snowflakes, No Two Document Imaging Deployments Are the Same

Some prospects and customers are surprised when our consultants decline to show a generic demo during a sales call. Why won’t we show one? It would be simple enough to do so, but a canned demo would be virtually worthless for the client.

The reason we don’t do demos goes to the heart of what separates a leading document imaging integration firm from less skillful providers, as well as product vendors promoting single one-size-fits-all solutions. The simple truth is that no two businesses or business processes are exactly alike. Thus, you cannot create a single demo that would encompass all the variations and address the unique needs of each company.

Like the processes they automate, imaging systems tend to be idiosyncratic and wrought with nuances, rather than cookie cutter affairs. Getting the best results for your deployment requires in-depth discovery to obtain the proper understanding of your unique business processes. Short of having magical powers, no vendor can craft a demo that will apply to your individual business processes before they ever walk in the door.

How different are companies’ business processes? The variations can take many forms. The routing and approval processes at different companies can differ greatly. The number of people and steps involved, as well as the business rules that apply to the processing of documents can be staggeringly different.

The documents themselves can differ in many ways. Indexing methods can differ, as well as the type and number of keywords. The volume of documents and the number and different roles of people requiring access can differ. Routing requirements and workflow configurations can be dizzyingly complex.

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Some companies require integration with ERP systems like SAP, with fax systems, or with other installed systems and repositories. Some companies, such as those handling medical records or insurance claims, require the ability to add notations to documents. Others require folders in which groups of associated documents, images, and videos can be aggregated. Some require custom document storage, presentation, access, and retrieval schemes. Still others require collaboration capabilities for documents or customer account reviews, all of which can differ in numerous ways. Certain invoicing operations involve single currencies and countries, while others involve multiple nationalities and currencies.

Achieving the desired results typically requires carefully chosen components as well as custom development, data transformations, workflows, and integration schemes. This is why, in document imaging, unique situations and requirements tend to be the rule rather than the exception.

As our previous post related, SharePoint is widely installed in businesses and many companies are interested in extending their SharePoint investment to document imaging. Is SharePoint the optimal imaging repository for all these companies? Not necessarily. A reason for going with SharePoint is when it is installed enterprise-wide and the cost of having to buy further product licenses can be avoided. Having SharePoint administrators and developers in-house is another factor, enabling that company to avoid the cost of developing and supporting another environment. A strong rationale for deploying a non-SharePoint solution is speed of deployment. SharePoint is a foundation and requires add-on pieces and more custom development (for workflow, for example) than do solutions that are ready out of the box. Choosing the most appropriate path, SharePoint or non-SharePoint, requires discovery and analysis.

For more information on SharePoint and document imaging, read this whitepaper.

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