Ascher Group, LLC

9457 S University Blvd #175· Highlands Ranch · Colorado · 80126

Phone (866)683-1994 · Fax (720)554-7988 · Email info@theaschergroup.com

© 2002 - 2009 Ascher Group, LLC


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Ascher Group, LLC

9457 S University Blvd #175· Highlands Ranch · Colorado · 80126

Phone (866)683-1994 · Fax (720)554-7988 · Email info@theaschergroup.com

© 2002 - 2009 Ascher Group, LLC



What is Electronic Document Management? And is that like KM or CRM?


Electronic Document Management has many names Imaging, Knowledge Management and Customer Relationship Management. They all share one common element though, the electronic management of documents whether paper or electronic through a common indexing database.

So what are the key differences?


Do you have to pick just one?

No. The titles above have been developed over time to better describe some of the heavily focused areas of EDM but almost all of them contain the same elements or modules.


Elements of EDM

An EDM solution is NOT just scan to file, but the storage and retrieval of the images.



Input is relatively straight forward with three major options to input documents: Scanning, COLD and application documents.


Scanning: This is the most frequently thought of action when discussing EDM and usually the least time or budget consuming aspect of the entire process. Scanning entail simply acquiring a scanner that can accomplish the expected volume at the quality required. Scanners vary in speed from HP ScanJet at 2-3 Impressions Per Minute to a BancTec scanner at over 2,000 IPM. Some important features to keep in mind however are: scan speed and at what resolution, Document feeder, maximum original, minimum original, duplex capability and color or B&W. Additionally, many of the newer digital copiers can also be used to scan with additional hardware in some cases. The only issue with adapting a copier is that in some cases the additional hardware can cost 2 – 3 times as much as a good stand alone scanner. Additional items to consider are interface cards and software. These items allow the images to be viewed at a computer and automatically clean up the images.


COLD: COLD stands for Computer Output to Laser Disc, however technically it does not go directly to disk and not everyone still uses laser discs for storage. It is however, the direct output from a computer, typically a report. This type of input is particularly useful for organizations that are used to printing out reports for distribution and storage.


Application Files: EDM systems can be used to store electronic documents that were never paper.


The easy part of EDM is the scanning and storage of an document. Many off the shelf programs contain these two elements and you can even get them for your copier. The difficult part is the indexing. Indexing is the process of creating a database that contains customized field(s) of information concerning the document. These fields are used in order to retrieve the documents. To illustrate how important this function is, let us look at the situation where there is no index. Company A produces approximately one 4 drawer file cabinet (approximately 20,000 documents) of paper per month and is using a scanning package that came with their copier to electronically input the paper and a desktop computer to store them. They are managing to eliminate the cost of space by scanning the documents but they have no way to retrieve any given document other than by naming the file in such a way as to help them find what they are looking for. In this example let us assume that they needed to retrieve an invoice for a computer that needs to be returned under warranty. No one is quite sure when exactly it was purchased but it was probably somewhere between a year and two years ago. Because this company has been using a date based file structure, that would require some one going through approximately 240,000 documents in order to find the invoice. Without an index, you are going through the electronic version of taking those files and dumping them into one large pile.


Indexing itself however is still no guarantee. This element requires some careful planning in order to ensure it’s success. The two key areas that need some severe planning are:




Storage is broken into two major areas, the repository and the database.


The repository is the physical storage device for the images and files. Although this device could be a simple hard drive most system use one or all of the myriad of mass storage devices here are just a few:


The key differences between these storage devices is level of permanency, speed of retrieval and of course cost. RAID drives offer the fastest retrieval time but the least level of permanency. Whereas the tape and laser disks offer better permanency but slower retrieval times. The keys to designing these storage systems lie within a clients document needs for archiving and actual retrial figures. In most cases not all data needs to be kept live permanently so usually a mix of two or three storage types is best. Additional considerations needs to be paid for legal requirements. If there are legal documents within the system level of permanency will take precedent over retrieval speed.


Database File

A great deal about this function was discussed above in indexing however there are a few more thing to keep in mind. The Database file is the roadmap to the files contained within any EDM, KM or CRM system. Without it there is almost no way to retrieve documents and information. However, even if you have a database file there could be serious problems when it is time to transition to a new software or have this system talk with other pieces of software. First, any database needs to be ODBC or open database compliant. That basically means that it can communicate with other databases. This does not always mean that it will not need a third-party software to do so but at least there is a method to let it communicate. In the early days of EDM very few databases were ODBC. This lead to massive communication and transitioning costs. Second, you need to determine what systems you want your EDM to work with BEFORE you select a vendor. Not all systems ODBC or not play well with all programs. Some were designed to work better with certain pieces of software than others and a considerable amount of time needs to be spent in this area.



Retrieval is the process by which the documents, the data (in the case of COLD) or the index gets retrieved by either the end user or a third-party piece of software. The one common theme throughout this process is that at any level most advanced programs will allow a system administrator to set security levels for the interfaces by end user. What that really means is that you can let an end user have access to the whole system but not to all information contained within a document or database. For example if a hospital wanted to implement a EDM system to organize all patient records they would face the issue of non authorized personnel looking at the patient name and SSN. These advanced systems would allow the administrator to mask these field within an image or file so that only authorized personnel would be allowed to look at them, thus gaining compliance with the new HIPPA laws, while streamlining their paper processes. Retrieval has been broken into four parts for our review.



The viewer is simply the interface that allows the end-user to search through the system to find a document or file. Most manufacturers use a simple web-browser to do this, however some use a proprietary viewer to do so. This is the only place where we will tell you that proprietary will really make no impact. If the software that fits your needs uses a proprietary viewer it really will only impact the roll-out of the program.



Workflow is the use of an EDM system to replace a paper process. Typically most systems do this through a pre-defined system for paper and e-mail notification. To illustrate this let us look at our Company A. If Company A had workflow in place at the time of placing their computer order, the original PO would have been stored and the system would have prompted shipping to scan in the shipping manifest, the end user to enter the serial number and scan in the original warranty and accounting to scan in and pay the invoice as well as the check number. These documents would have been grouped all together for the IT manager whose is trying to process the warranty return. Workflow is very popular with organization who have defined paper processes as part of their core competency. The systems allow for organizations to track paper flows and department efficiencies. Imagine the end of, “well my department didn’t receive that”. Now you would be able to see that the department did receive a notification that their process was ready on the 15th and that on average that department takes a week from notification to get to a process.


Outside Software Applications

Outside Software Application can gain access to an EDM program to help eliminate the need to create two databases or open both systems to simplify the processes. For example, if the computer issue at Company A originated in Accounting, an end-user could find the original PO in the accounting system, press an interlink button within the program and immediately pull up all document relating to the PO.

ERP Programs


In all examples above we have been using the EDM system as the hub of information bridging the gap between sales automation systems and accounting or patient billing and patient records areas. In the case of ERP programs such as SAP or PeopleSoft the opposite is true. These ERP systems will act as the hub and the EDM system will act as a spoke. The only difficult part is that ERP systems use special databases that the EDM systems cannot share. So, in order to get every thing to work together you need to use a third party software to get the two databases to synchronize. The only issue is that not all EDM’s work with all third party synchronization pieces. If you are running an ERP, plan on a lot of extra time to get an EDM to work with it.