Dbtech Blog

Document Scanning and Capture

By Phil Sullivan

Doug Miles wrote an excellent article on document scanning and capture.  The original article can be found on aiim.org and also appears below. Some highlights that are worth noting:

  • Only 38 percent of paper-originated records are scanned and archived electronically
  • 51 percent of scanned documents are 100 percent “born digital,” i.e., come direct from a printer
  • 46 percent of users report return on investment within 12 months, with two-thirds seeing returns within 18 months. These are consistent across many types of content and processes, with invoices, contracts and application forms being the most popular

March/April 2010

— Doug Miles

The term “capture” covers the combined processes of document scanning, image correction, recognition of text, barcodes, form fields, etc. and finally, output to an appropriate format for subsequent processing or archive storage. For 20 years or more, capture has been the entry point for document store-and-retrieve systems and increasingly for forms processing, workflow and Business Process Management (BPM). Capture may also be applied to faxes, emails, electronic documents, images and messages, but we will restrict our attention in this report to document scanning.

Traditionally, scanning and capture has been considered technically challenging. Achieving high throughput at minimum cost has required specialized machinery and skilled staff, hence the prevalence of service bureaus and outsourcers. There has in the past been some reluctance to invest in capture technology, particularly where manual keying costs have been reduced by low offshore labor rates and cheaper communications, enabling a combination of onshore scanning, with offshore remote keying into corporate legacy systems.

However, more reliable and capable scanners, more automated capture processes, and in particular, the availability of a multifunction scanner/printer (MFP) in almost every office, has led over the last five or six years to a new model of distributed scanning, local to the office staff processing the documents. In some scan-to-archive applications, particularly in professional services or healthcare, a scanner-per-desk policy can be viable.

In this report, we look at the issues and potential benefits of these different approaches, and consider the potential Return on Investment (ROI) across the more popular application areas. We measure the adoption levels of different approaches to scanning and capture, as well as the levels of success in automated indexing and metadata capture.

Key Findings

  • Centralized in-house scanning and mailroom scanning are set for considerable growth, compared to outsourced scanning and capture.
  • Distributed scanning on MFPs is set for some growth compared to desktop scanning.
  • Also set for a considerable increase is automated recognition via OCR, ICR, etc., and automated classification.
  • Despite the long term preferred strategies, sales next year of dedicated scanning hardware is set to drop, with MFPs just holding their own. Capture software and modules are the only areas of spending set to rise.
  • Knowledge management in the form of improved searchability of business documents is the highest driver for scanning, closely followed by compliance and business process improvement.
  • 46 percent of users report return on investment within 12 months, with two-thirds seeing returns within 18 months. These are consistent across many types of content and processes, with invoices, contracts and application forms being the most popular.
  • Legal admissibility of scanned documents is still seen as an issue in over a quarter of businesses.
  • 30 percent of the sample use outsourced services, citing “No staff management overhead” as the main benefit, along with cost-per-scan.
  • Integrating the scanned files back into the internal system is a bigger outsourcing issue than security breaches or lost documents. Quality of indexing is an issue for 30 percent.
  • 48 percent of respondents have a centralized, in-house scanning service, citing better indexing and closer integration with the process as the main benefits.
  • Meeting demands for fast turnaround is the biggest issue with central scanning operations, followed by logistics and space problems.
  • 78 percent of those surveyed have some form of distributed scanning via MFPs, desktop scanners or branch-office scanners. Ownership of the process by line-of-business owners is given as the main advantage, as well as improved utilization of MFPs.
  • The biggest drawback of distributed scanning is training staff to index properly and maintain quality of indexing over time.
  • While 32 percent of organizations report that the consumption of paper and/or number of photocopies is still increasing, this is equally balanced by those who feel it is decreasing.
  • 25 percent of scanned documents are photocopied prior to scanning. Only 31 percent of scanned documents are destroyed after scanning, with a further 32 percent being archived off-site.
  • Only 38 percent of paper-originated records are scanned and archived electronically.
  • 51 percent of scanned documents are 100 percent “born digital,” i.e., come direct from a printer.
  • 37 percent of organizations are scanning over half of their incoming documents. 12 percent scan more than 80 percent. • As regards accurate recognition and capture, on average 6.5 percent of scanned documents are rejected at quality assurance or require intervention.
  • Based on the broad definition of distributed scanning to include MFPs, desk-top scanners, branch office scanning and field scanning, 72 percent of the survey sample make some use of it, compared to 48 percent who have some form of centralized scanning operation, and 30 percent who use outsourced services.

Doug Miles is head of the AIIM Market Intelligence Division. He has over 25 years of experience with users and vendors across a broad spectrum of IT applications. He was an early pioneer of document management systems for business and engineering applications, and has also worked closely with other enterprise-level IT systems such as ERP, BI and CRM. He holds an MSc in communications engineering and is an MIET.

Phil Sullivan is the Director of Technology and Marketing for DB Technology. He originally joined DB Technology in 1999 and is responsible for the development and execution of DB Technology’s marketing, technology and social media initiatives.

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