Paper is a fact of life in every organisation. Although the
dream of a paperless office has crumbled, it cannot be denied that paper trails
have been trimmed, with organisations implementing electronic document management
systems. Rishiraj Verma takes a look
Document Management Systems (EDMS) are proving to be an effective mechanism
in facilitating workflows at India Inc. Organisations, be they in the BFSI sector,
government or retail, have to deal with a huge number of documents every single
day. These may be printouts, or they may be photocopies or faxes. Whats
common is that they cant be ignored or wished away. This makes it essential
for organisations to digitise their documents so that they can manage them in
a better way and save time and money in the process.
The origin of EDMS
It all began with the advent of PCs, that instead of cutting
down the use of paper increased it. Notes Som Gangopadhyay, Assistant Director,
Marketing, Business Imaging Solutions, Canon India, Managing documents
has always been important. And since PCs became popular, it has become even
This would go to explain the need for digitising the printed
documents produced by computers. Challenges such as bottlenecks have long been
associated with information retrieval from physical documents.
It is essential to look beyond generic objectives while implementing
this technology. There may be objectives that are more important than merely
printing and scanning documents. Comments Ashwini Aggarwal, Country Marketing
Manager, Business Imaging and Printing, HP India, It is essential to manage
and make the digitised documents available at all times to all authorised people.
According to Barney Dunne, Director, Collaborative Document
Management Solutions, Interwoven Asia Pacific, Earlier the need was to
secure documents. Next up was the requirement to add different kinds of files
such as e-mail, and finally arose the need to manage documentswhich has
made EDMS essential.
EDMS may have originated as a concept simply to reduce paper usage, but it has
slowly moved on to become one of the most important management tools around.
Ram Sundar, Business Manager, EMC Content Management, India says that the
need arose from unmanaged information. He adds that information on paper
wasnt easily available, and that globally EDMS has existed for about 15
years while in India it has been active for only four to five years.
Getting things right
As in any IT implementation, it is imperative for a CIO to undertake certain
evaluations before implementing an EDMS. The organisation needs to keep in mind
that all or at least a majority of its documents will be processed using the
proposed system. In the long run costs should reduce and profits rise, depending
on how efficiently documents are managed.
According to Diwakar Nigam, Managing Director, Newgen Software Technologies,
consistency of the whole implementation is one of the major aspects of the EDMS
to be evaluated.
Aggarwal points out that it is not a simple decision for a technology head to
make. One has to do a cost-benefit analysis of what you want for your organisation
from the system and how much it will cost to do just that. There are also issues
pertaining to the integration of the system with the present infrastructure.
Any EDMS system is going to be a combination of hardware (scanners and printers)
and software which will be the platform required to run the system, document
management software, and optical character recognition (OCR) engine.
But, as Aggarwal says, the range of hardware available for document management
can be confusing. Even in terms of scanners there are various types such
as flatbed scanners, simple document scanners and duplex scanners. There are
also output devices for certain documents that the organisations may want to
keep paper records of. Laser printers therefore form an important part of any
Moving on to the software components, there is the basic software that must
be part of the system. We are talking about databases to archive digitised documents
along with a robust search facility. To increase productivity there must be
other software such as that for indexing and watermarking documents (for security),
plus a reliable operating environment and management software. Dunne comments
here, All these software pieces have different functions, and they must
be installed and put to use accordingly so that smooth functioning is ensured.
Sundar adds to this the view that while the common hardware is essential, organisations
also need to have a good database and application server that will help them
It is clear that while investing in a holistic EDMS care has to be taken to
ensure that every hardware and software component fits organisational requirements.
The scalability and modularity aspect of the system is one of the most important
points for the CIO to consider before he flags off the implementation.
Wipro Spectramind Services
According to Gerela, his sector, BPO, is dependent
on voice for its communications. There is however the need to process
the large number of documents that come in through outsourcers everyday.
Documents have always been a large chunk of the outsourced work, despite
voice being the primary medium.
We need to do all sorts of scanning, printing and
archival for documents that come to us, informs Gerela. He says
that this helps in controlling the amount of documents that his organisation
has to deal with on a daily basis.
Commenting on the evaluations that CIOs need to make
before implementing the system he says, There are always the standard
check-lists. You need to figure out the pros and cons of the system and
its utility to your organisation. The implementation cost must be
a high priority while evaluating it. According to him, the key issues
that CIOs need to focus on are scalability and security, without which
the implementation wouldnt be a complete success.
Talking on security he says, Not all vendors are
looking deep enough into the security aspect. He thinks that it
is of prime importance to control and regulate the flow of documents.
His conclusion? It will probably be a little more
time before we get a system that is simultaneously robust, secure and
Only bitmaps managed, limited indexing, very expensive
Workflow added, storage requirements went up
Better hardware components added, newer file types managed
Focus on security, organisations trying balance physical
and digitised documents
Process by process
It is important that the processes affected and transformed
by an implementation be identified before the deployment starts. When it comes
to paper usage, most organisations deal with a mix of structured and unstructured
information. It could be in the form of a bank account opening request form
(structured), a training document (unstructured), or even invoices to outsiders.
With regards to EDMS there are a few key processes that need to be focussed
on. Capturing a document, processing it, and archiving it to make it accessible
are the most important functions which an EDMS must fulfil. It needs to enable
an organisation to create, control, transmit, review, assemble, retain and publish
documents of various types. For these functions and processes to be fulfilled,
certain sub-processes need to be undertaken. Informs Nigam, There are
six major processes to an EDMScapturing, indexing, retrieving, distributing
and publishing, archival and destruction.
States Gangopadhyay, An important thing to be decided is differentiating
between the attributes (metadata) and content (graphics and text) of documents
so that the processes of archiving and accessing become easier in the future.
Meanwhile, Sundar is of the opinion that processes too depend on individual
organisations. But archiving and storing centrally are essential processes
that must be part of the system.
Dunne makes an interesting observation: There are so many [processes]
that one of the more difficult issues is to prioritise which gets addressed
first. This would mean some sort of added pressure on the IT team to make
sure that they address the right process at the right time.
- The first step deals with capturing or creating
a document. In this step, a physical document may be scanned using a
document scanner with an OCR engine.
- The second process in an EDMS helps in storing
the document. This should not be confused with archiving. In this stage,
the document is stored for review, monitoring and editing instead of
being archived for much later use.
- Stage three of EDMS helps the organisation control
or provide access to documents based on their sensitivity. Most security
policies and their implementations come into effect during this process.
- After access rules have been laid down, the
document may start getting used by more than just one employee. Thus
comes into picture the transmission process of an EDMS. Here, various
pieces of software related to document workflow may be used to ensure
that there are no hurdles in transmitting documents.
- The next process deals with reviewing the document.
This can be compared to signature verification in a bank. Only here,
the documents are digitised and may be sent back to the original user
immediately if any errors are found.
- Documents get indexed as soon as they come into
the EDMS. Thus, after reviewing, if there is need to search and edit
them further, the next step, that of retrieval, comes in. A standard
EDMS comes with a document search engine installed, and this helps users
locate documents over a network.
- One of the last processes in an EDMS is that
of assembling and publishing the document. Here help may be taken from
the earlier process. This is also the process where the output devices
of the EDMS come into the picture.
- Finally, as is the case with physical documents,
digitised documents also need to be archived. The organisation may want
to archive documents with an eye towards compliance, or even to ward
off legal issues that may arise in the absence of these documents.
Protection: a must
Digitising documents may help an organisation cut the paper trail, but it may
have some side-effects as well. The biggest negative repercussion is going to
be a lack of security. While passing through the organisation, digitised documents
may fall into unauthorised hands.
Gangopadhyay says that it is not just about printers and scanners; he warns
that the servers on which the documents get saved must be secured before even
thinking about devices in the office. And Dunne insists that organisations become
more focussed on the security side of things because of staff coming and
going, and even performing multiple roles.
CIOs also need to assign responsibility vis-à-vis security to individuals
across the organisation. After rolling out a security policy, it must be ensured
that all authorised personnel in the organisation are aware of their accountability
with regard to the security of internal confidential documents.
On the subject of ensuring technical security Gangopadhyay
has this to say, These days you can set up the system so that users attach
a password to their files, and only then send them across a network. He
says that the original file may then be erased from the system so that it cannot
be misused. Adds Sundar, Gone are the days of user IDs and passwords.
Organisations are looking for single sign-on authentication and secure workflows
P G Kamath
An EDMS, just like any other concept or technology in the
IT world, cannot function on its own. What it needs is skillful operation to
get maximum throughput, hence it becomes necessary that the human element in
an EDMS be handled with great care.
P G Kamath, General Manager, Lexmark International (India),
says that once the application is designed, skilled personnel are required to
ensure that it works 24x7. Adds Aggarwal, The human element must not stop
simply at designing the hardware and software.
Aggarwal is enthusiastic about the concept of EDMS. Gauging by market
reactions, its time has come. EDMS will take off very well, and is probably
only a year away from mainstream adoption.
Nigam lists some likely trends. According to him, storage capabilities will
increase and newer formats will evolve. Government rules will also dictate
the concepts development, compliance being an important factor.
One thing is for sure. If organisations were given a choice between something
and nothing they would definitely want to go in for something, which
in this case means cutting down the paper trail rather than waiting for some
other concept to help them come closer to attaining the dream of a paperless
Senior VP, IT
According to Kajwadkar, demat has already brought
about a revolution by eradicating shares in their physical form. Such
initiatives have reduced the generation of paper documents. More effective
management tools would be welcome. Even so, he insists that there
is still a need for more sophisticated technology in that area.
When it comes to the issues related to document
management he remarks, One of the problems is lack of clarity about
the authentic life-span of documents. As a result, one ends up managing
them almost forever.
He also points out other problemsthe existence
of a variety of documents, the difficulty in deciding how to classify
them, and the integration of different workflow systems.
Kajwadkar feels that organisations must be absolutely
clear about the results they want, therefore a thorough evaluation must
be conducted before coming to a conclusion. Ease of use, other
user reference and feedback are also important during an evaluation.
About the future Kajwadkar believes that EDMS
is bound to rise. However, he is also of the opinion that the concept
needs to evolve in terms of products and services.