There are quite a few Digital Imaging solutions in the market today and somehow they all claim to be the best. So where should one start when comparing these various solutions? I have always believed that when evaluating any type of product or service, one should start by creating a list of top 10 priorities. Then compare solutions from various vendors using this list along with weightings for each of the criteria.
I was recently involved in comparing Digital Imaging Systems for my company and since I practice what I preach, I created the following list:
1. Ease of use: Arguably the most important consideration of any technology solution is ease of use. While some solutions may appear to offer the most significant cost savings, those savings can be diminished if a solution is difficult to use. The more time an employee spends searching for documents, the less time they spend doing their jobs, and that lost productivity can represent significant dollars if users are highly paid professionals such as attorneys. Solutions that are difficult to use can also cause errors during the scanning/indexing process which would make documents difficult to locate in the future.
2. Lowest, long-term cost of ownership: Any organization that is evaluating Document Imaging solutions should begin by estimating growth projections for a minimum of five years. Each vendor should then be asked to provide hardware, software and licensing requirements to support these volumes. SaaS architecture solutions make it easy to calculate future costs since pricing is most often related to transaction volume and/or storage requirements. Forecasting future costs for on-premises solutions can be more difficult since hardware and/or software upgrades might be required as transaction volumes grow.
One suggestion would be to contact customer references of on-premises solutions having similar volume requirements both now and five years in the future. Knowledge of the hardware, software, staffing and licensing necessary to support these volumes is essential to performing accurate, long term cost of ownership.
3. Software as a Service (SaaS) architecture: The new trend in software solution architectures is called Software as a Service (SaaS). SaaS is also frequently referred to as On-Demand, Cloud Computing or Web Based. SaaS solutions differ from traditional on-premises solutions since end users require only a web browser to access the system. The application and data are also housed off-premises at a remote hosting site. While both architectures have their advantages, what’s more important is the IT profile of the organization that would be implementing the solution. Organizations that are large may already have established IT infrastructures, including big investments in hardware, security and failover. These types of organizations may choose on-premises solutions over SaaS since the cost savings wouldn’t outweigh the loss of control. Another important consideration is how much growth a particular organization is forecasting. Companies that are expecting high percentage growth can easily outgrow one or more parts of an on-premises solution. Whether it’s the hardware or the software, conversions are always time consuming, disruptive and costly. SaaS architecture solutions can easily scale regardless of how fast a company is growing or how many users are being added to the system. User access for SaaS architecture solutions only requires a web browser rather than end user licenses. End user licenses can be both costly, and in some cases, require manual distribution. iDOC Corporation offers a Digital Imaging solution where customers can choose from either an on-premises or SaaS version. Offering both architectures is obviously the best approach since all types and sizes of customers can be supported.
4. Configurable Workflow: Organizations that need to store documents can vary drastically regarding both size and workflow. Companies that have lesser volume requirements may only require one person and one scanner. Larger organizations might require multiple scanners either in one location or spread across many, and some companies will benefit from having one or more high-capacity scanners complemented by one or more, lower volume scanners. The important consideration is that a Document Imaging solution should be able to support any and all workflow scenarios.
5. Fast Implementation: Calendar time required to implement a software solution can vary significantly from vendor to vendor. One general rule is that SaaS architecture solutions usually implement in less time and at less cost than on-premises solutions. The amount of time that the new solution and the old, manual solution will need to run in parallel is also an important consideration. SaaS architecture solutions can typically reduce implementation times from months to weeks.
6. Search capability: One of the most important considerations when comparing Digital Imaging solutions is the search functionality. Document Imaging solutions typically offer sophisticated indexing functionality so that documents can be quickly and easily located. The creation of these indexes should be possible either during the scanning process or later after documents have already been scanned. Functionality should also be available for making additions or changes to these indexes over time. The ability to search for documents by keywords is also important since users might not always know the title of a particular document.
7. Low risk of failure: It seems common sense that the biggest consideration when comparing any type of automated solution should be risk of failure. However, in many cases this consideration isn’t evaluated formally using empirical data. A failed project for any reason is extremely expensive and disruptive, and unfortunately, is always a risk. While more established vendors may seem to be less risky, that is not always the case, especially since new; SaaS architecture solutions are being created using the latest technology. Since SaaS solutions need to be very comprehensive to meet the requirement of all customers collectively, the chance that needed functionality won’t be there when needed is reduced. Asking vendors to provide information defining their successful implementation to failed implementation ratio should be a mandatory part of any evaluation process.
8. Specialization: I believe that Digital Imaging solutions support a critical functional area of any organization. I suggest that there is less risk when working with a vendor that dedicates 100% of their resources to supporting Digital Imaging solutions. Vendors that offer a wide range of solutions can sometimes lose focus on the products and services that they are providing to you. Vendors have been known to drop products / solutions that aren’t providing expected profitability levels. That scenario isn’t possible when dealing with a vendor that only provides solutions for a specific market.
9. Training: Training is a very important consideration for any high tech solution and Digital Imaging is no exception. It is always best to have the option of either on-site training or web based, on demand training. Many times the training tools and resources are not evaluated and compared during the evaluation process.
10. Packaged solutions: Some Digital Imaging solution providers offer packaged solutions that include functionality specific to an industry or industries. These types of vertical industry solutions can increase the likelihood of successful implementations and widespread usage. A good example is that iDOC Corporation has its roots in the legal industry and consequently provides excellent support for that particular vertical market.
I hope that the aforementioned list of 10 evaluation criteria will help you to make the best possible selection should you be evaluating Digital Imaging solutions. Another, albeit more involved process, is to create a more extensive list of criteria in the form of a Request for Information (RFI) or a Request for Proposal (RFP). Obviously, the top ten lists is a good place to start with any of these approaches.