ERP has been around for a long time (including its evolution from “Accounting Systems”). Document Imaging has also been available for quite a while. However, fully integrated ERP with Document Imaging—without needing customizations or third-party add-ons—is relatively new but is proving to be tremendously successful. Therefore, you shouldn’t buy a Document Imaging system that is not thoroughly interfaced with your ERP, and you shouldn’t buy an ERP without a fully integrated Document Imaging system.
What should you look for in a fully integrated ERP/Document Imaging system?
- You should be able to search for and launch documents from either system.
- A good Document Imaging system, using optical character recognition (OCR), will allow you to search based on any word contained in a document. If the ERP system has populated meta-data with each document, you can also search for any ERP related data within the Document Imaging system. There will be times when it is extremely convenient to perform an extended search for a document from within the Document Imaging system using both OCR data as well as ERP meta-data.
- You should be able to launch documents from within the ERP system. For example, if you’re drilling down on a voucher (vendor invoice) in your ERP system, you should be able to launch the image of the vendor’s invoice from within the ERP system. You shouldn’t be forced to separately look up the document again in the Document Imaging system if you’re already looking at the related transaction.
- The ERP system should be able to create a reservation for a document in the Document Imaging system. If the payables clerk receives a paper vendor invoice, s/he should be able to enter the invoice into the ERP system and the ERP system should create a reservation in the document imaging system. While creating the reservation, the ERP should populate meta-data in the document imaging system so you can search for documents from within the Document Imaging system. You should then be able to san, in bulk , the documents later in the day when time permits. It is disruptive and inefficient to have to scan documents one at a time while entering vouchers. Be leery of a system that doesn’t have some mechanism to allow you to bulk scan documents and parse them properly into their individual documents.
- You should be able to enter a document into the ERP system while looking at a scanned image. For example, it’s not uncommon for vendors or remote employees to email invoices directly to the Document Imaging system. The payables clerk can then launch these documents and enter the ERP transaction. However, it is very important that the ERP system update the Document Imaging system at this point with meta-data to allow more advanced searches from within the Document Imaging system.
- It’s important to know who will maintain the interface. New versions of ERP systems and new versions of Document Imaging systems are released all the time. If the interface is built by a third party, you may have trouble upgrading until the third party gets around to upgrading the interface (assuming they are still around). It’s best to have an interface that is maintained by either the ERP manufacturer or the Document Imaging manufacturer, who are much more likely to keep the interface up to date.
You will be amazed by how much efficiency can be gained by having a Document Imaging system that is fully integrated with your ERP system. After many decades of “talk”, the paperless office is finally becoming more of a reality.