This article series has focused on some key elements to consider when crafting a request for proposal (RFP) for digitizing paper documents. In this final installment, I will spotlight the differences are between day-forward and backfile conversion efforts. Additionally, I will discuss image enabled workflow and if it might be right for your organization, and finally I will highlight various types of reporting. The overall goal of the series has been to help you and your organization gain the most value from your imaging RFP and provide a bit of education along the way. Read Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.
Critical Element 7: Day-Forward Conversion Versus Backfile Conversion
According to Webopedia.com, day-forward conversion is defined as “The process of scanning, indexing and storing documents to an imaging system as they are produced or received in the normal course of business.” A good example of this would be an AP department receiving a daily, steady volume of paper invoices and related documentation that requires people to take action (i.e. pay the bills). As an organization looking for a vendor to provide day-forward conversion services, you will want to consider those downstream processes that will impact how your organization does business. How will the vendor you select interact with those downstream processes? Will the vendor need to play a role or provide any additional services or resources to facilitate those downstream activities? This needs to be clearly defined in the RFP you create to ensure that you get an accurate and valid response. Day-forward conversion efforts should be viewed as a partnership with the vendor you select as the vendor will become a key contributor to your organization’s daily business activities.
Backfile conversion often involves scanning older documents that reside in a file cabinet. Specifically, backfile conversion is the digitization of files that need to be retained; however, the initial or primary purpose of the document has been fulfilled. A good example of this would be an active service contract. The contract may have already been initiated (signed and executed) and personnel in your organization do not need to access the document regularly to perform business activities. These types of documents are converted to digital format and retained until their retention schedule says otherwise. Backfile conversion efforts are typically performed within a finite period of time and for a fixed cost (per image, per page, or per contract). As a rule of thumb, selecting a vendor that bills based on volume, as opposed to a fixed flat project fee, is the prudent choice to ensure you don’t overpay for a backfile conversion project.
Critical Element 8: How do You Know if You Need Image Enabled Workflow?
Image enabled workflow generally applies to day-forward conversion efforts. There are many third-party products that can be used to control workflow; however, choosing the right-sized platform for your organization can be challenging. In the event you find yourself having to articulate the workflow needs of your day-forward conversion effort, you should take some time to map out and study how each related business unit conducts normal activities to get a sense of what will be involved. Good starting questions include: Are there a large number of variables in how work gets done? Are there many people involved in processing a transaction or related business activity? How long does it take to complete the document-driven transaction, and can this be improved through automation? In order to fully understand the needs of the business area being impacted, it is always best to get insight and feedback from the employees who deal with these documents on a daily basis.
Critical Element 9: What Reporting Metrics are Right for You?
When looking at reporting as a deliverable from your vendor, you want to specify what information your organization needs. Reporting metrics from conversion projects can be classified into two categories; operational (quantitative) metrics and informational metrics.
Operational metrics deal with volumes, processing time and error rate, including how many files were converted, how many pages comprised each file and the duplex rate. These metrics help ensure that the project billing is on par with expectations as well as enable you to establish a project completion rate and gain insight into how the operation is running.
As a buyer pursuing a conversion effort, you have the ability to specify if there are informational metrics you wish to capture. Informational metrics are data about the documents (i.e. dates, dollar amounts, contract numbers, city and state, etc.). This information is contained within the actual document. These types of metrics can drive decisions and play an important role in how your organization transacts business. Extracting this information has become increasingly less expensive and typically proves worthwhile to most. Nevertheless, dictating what metrics you need will have an impact to the bottom line of the project. So be wise in determining what information you actually need versus what information you may want.
Developing a comprehensive RFP for conversion services is no easy task. My objective this series was to provide you with a mental checklist of how to approach crafting such an RFP. In the end, it really comes down performing a proper internal assessment, defining and vetting requirements with stakeholders and end users, then clearly articulating those needs to imaging services providers.