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Tips from the technology department of Appleby & Company.

“But I’m scanning to PDF now…” Network & Web Access

Mobile Access Document Management

Continuing on with our series of 7 reasons why scanning to PDF alone isn’t enough today (where we previously mentioned File Names Don’t Matter and Security), let’s continue on with reason #3.

#3. Network & Web Access

If we look at a PDF, generally the best way for us to share this with staff is through our network of Windows folders. Staff can navigate to a particular drive and then access the respective documents or records (for example, Jane will head to E:/Human Resources/Employee Files). While this is good in practice, it has limitations as there will be times when Jane may need to access something but it resides in a folder she hasn’t been given permission to access. Yes it could be that she’s not supposed to see that respective folder, but many times it’s simply that it hasn’t been done yet OR the documents reside in someone’s local folder. How is Jane able to access a related HR record if it’s on John’s desktop?

So with PDFs we really only have one way of sharing these documents amongst staff (Windows folders) and yes the occasional emailing of them which is more of a reactive approach as it involves too many steps. Compared to Jane going straight to the source and retrieving it herself, she has to contact John who then has to perform a search, and then create an email, attach the files, and send to Jane.

For people outside the organization, it’s even more cumbersome as the process of putting PDFs on your website is always a manual push. In other words, you may want to share board minutes or agendas or particular forms for people to download and access, but you always have to upload or point to a static file. If that file is ever revised, or a new document needs to be uploaded for consumption (say minutes), there’s no simple way to do this without updating that particular page of your website with a new link to that then uploaded PDF document. So for both the public and your own staff, PDFs have limitations on HOW you distribute them and more importantly the steps it takes to retrieve them.

With a dedicated document management solution though, you have a variety of ways to make that information available to both staff and those outside the organization. Number one is that you will be providing a centralized repository to all staff (and even the public if you wanted) where all your content will reside. These applications will serve as the foundation and provide a single source or location for staff to go to when they need to pull information up. Gone will be the information silos, the multiple applications each housing their own respective data (documents & records), and staff will then have a shared service they can all use simultaneously and to access their content.

If it becomes a policy that staff are not to store HR records or related documents locally on their computers, but rather in the document management solution than you will always have a single location to go to with the ability to still provide granular security as we mentioned earlier. So to confirm, Jane Doe could access the solution, login with her username and password, and possibly see just the HR records. John Doe on the other hand will login with his username and password, and also see the Engineering folder, the Accounting folder, etc. A big benefit here is that both didn’t have to ask themselves “What system did I save that record to?” or “Where did Jane/John store the X or Y records that were scanned?”

In addition to simple access through a desktop client, many solutions today offer both web accessibility and even mobile access. So leveraging the same back-end solution where all your content already resides, you can then also add on tools to web-enable the applications. Staff are then able to access documents and records wherever they are in the world really, so long as they have internet access. Most are browser-independent so whatever web browser staff are comfortable using will be just fine, but they are able to search and retrieve records, provide indexing, annotate documents, print, email, and even scan new documents in an ad-hoc fashion.

Mobile solutions allow them to be able to use their iOS devices (iPhone, iPad), as well as Android devices, and pull up any document. They can do almost anything they would in the web-based client on their smartphone, including the ability to use the devices camera as a capture tool while adjusting for the curvature of an image, possibly OCRing (optical character recognition) the document, and sending it directly to the centralized repository for others to access. So you could be out in the field, have a need to capture a specific page or form, capture it with your devices camera and it would then end up in your application for staff at your home office to access, all in real time.

You can see how there are far more benefits to having a dedicated document and/or records management solution compared to just scanning to PDF alone (relying on just storing the content in a network or local Windows folder). We will visit auditing and records management differences in the next post of this series.

Read other posts in this series
Reasons #1 and #2 – File Names Don’t Matter & Security
Reason #3 – Network & Web Access
Reason #4 and #5 – Auditing & Records Management
Reason #6 and #7 – Advanced Searching & Automated Capture

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