Document Imaging with SharePoint

Last week Kodak announced the incorporation of “direct scan to SharePoint” capability in to their smart touch button. There isn’t any surprise with this move considering the fact that their main competitors have already implemented this sometimes back. Fujitsu was the first to incorporate direct SharePoint scanning in to all of their scanners, however other players also had this functionality available with some of their products. One Touch button of Visioneer scanners can be configured to scan directly to SharePoint. Xerox also uses the same one touch feature while HP scanners are equipped with Smart Document Scan capable of the same. I think Kodak being the pioneer in document imaging should have done this long time back Thinking . Anyway the point is why every scanner manufacturer is moving in this direction and what would be the impact on SharePoint as well as on specialised imaging applications like Kofax.

As we know MOSS (Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007) consist of 6 major feature areas as shown below

image

Of these six pillars, Microsoft describes content management as “The facilities for the creation, publication, and management of content, regardless of whether that content exists in discrete documents or is published as Web pages”. This is further elaborated under 3 areas;

  1. Document management focuses on working with electronic documents (More specifically with MS Office documents). This includes features such as check in-out, versioning, offline sync, content types and templates, search and workflows.
  2. Records management is about keeping and disposing (at appropriate times) of electronic content. Features such as information management policies, auditing, bar-coding, routing etc…
  3. Web content management provides features such as content publishing and deployment, publishing templates, rendering navigation etc..

When looking at these, clearly we can identify that SharePoint content management feature area does not include document imaging facilities. MOSS is developed with the focus of working with electronic files, specially MS Office documents. It does not provide facilities to convert physical documents in to electronic format before starting to actually work with them. As an example let us consider the steps involved in getting a paper document in to a MOSS document library;

  1. Scan the document using a capture application
  2. saving the scanned image in to a local folder.
  3. Navigating in to the relevant document library and folder.
  4. Uploading the scanned image using the navigation button or drag and drop.
  5. Enter metadata (document properties)

Imagine a user working on a document library. Rather than minimizing the browser window and launching the capture application to scan a document, wouldn’t it be nice if it allows the user to scan and directly save the image in to the MOSS library.?

As I wrote on my previous post, any ECM solution should consider on managing of paper documents in the organisation. That is, it should provide the facilities to convert native paper documents in to appropriate electronic format that are suitable for actual processing. MOSS alone does not have this capability and relies on independent software manufacturers to provide suitable solutions to fill this gap.

There are several products that we can use to scan documents and save in to SharePoint;

I haven’t had an opportunity to use most of these apps, but they look pretty simple and straight forward. Since all these come at a price, it is not a surprise that scanner manufacturer’s try to get a strategic advantage by incorporating this facility in to their scanner free of charge. This will definitely ease the process of adding documents in to SharePoint document libraries by end users. This move will also make an impact in to production capture applications such as Kofax. I will write about this in a separate post, especially about the Kofax release script for SharePoint.

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