Why Scanning Documents To a Server Is Not Equivalent To An Electronic Document Management System

In our recent articles we discussed the main objections users raise when confronted with the choice of processing and filing hardcopy documents versus digital processing and filing documents in an Electronic Document Management System (EDMS).

Within these discussions we pointed out a number of benefits that an EDMS can offer in comparison to traditional hardcopy filing and processing.

In conversations with end-user businesses we often get told “we already scan everything to our server and don’t need an EDMS”. So what are the differences between a folder structure on a server and an EDMS?

At first glance it appears that with a modern Multi Function Device, end-users can do everything that is required to store documents using common folder structures offered by standard server operating systems like MS Windows. They scan hardcopy documents with preset file parameters like file format, resolution etc. to existing target folders on different servers that can be located locally, remotely, or even in the Cloud. If required, many MFDs allow creating new folders instantly and offer the option to enter document names for each scan.

However, at a closer look some shortfalls of folder structures become apparent. Searching is restricted to file name and file location, whilst an EDMS can offer searching by metadata and content as well. For the latter, searchable PDF may be a solution but you likely already know this file format can be converted into editable content again and therefore doesn’t meet some compliance standards for digital storage. If you have a larger quantity of documents to scan at the same time you will quickly miss the automation features for batch scanning that an EDMS can offer.

Now what about document processing? Let’s look at incoming invoice approval as a typical example. Yes, you can move the digital document to a target folder. Your next step is then notify the approver manually, e.g. by email, that they have new documents. The approver can attach a digital note with their approval and then move them to the next folder. Then, in order to check the invoice approval you can search the original folder. Limitations of this method mean that you need to manually track the approval and, if required, send reminders. You also face restrictions in regards to folder privacy, and therefore to document security – every folder has to be open to the submitter and the approver, and you only have a very basic audit trail.
 So what about invoices that require multiple approvals based on invoice value or invoice type? Processing digital documents manually requires a lot of user knowledge about the processes as virtually all automation that an EDMS can offer is not available

At second glance, you may see that there are some pretty serious restrictions for your organisation if you opt to use a folder structure to store and process your scanned documents.

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