Document Imaging, SaaS, and a Service Bureau – An Excellent Starting Point

By Bud Porter-Roth posted 03-18-2011 10:51


I have recently had several clients who wanted to get started with document imaging but didn’t have a big budget and lots of business or technical resources. I thought this was a perfect opportunity for a service bureau to come in and provide a SaaS solution. In a nutshell, here is what you would get from a service bureau that offered an SaaS solution:

  1. You would not have to buy software or hardware, and all images would be available via a secure Internet connection.
  2. The service bureau provides the document management software package, which is typically one of the software packages you would have purchased if you purchased instead of going SaaS.
  3. The service bureau would set up your application(s) including indexing, workflows, records management, and anything that you would normally set up during an in-house implementation.
  4. The service bureau will pick up your backfile documents/boxes and scan them at their facility.
  5. The boxes could be returned to you for post-scanning actions, or kept by the service bureau and destroyed according to your records management program.
  6. You would access the documents by the way the system was set up for your work, which could include account number, keyword search, full-text search, etc.

Your cost would be (and this will differ from vendor to vendor):

  1. The cost to set up applications such as indexing, workflow, etc. This is usually based on a fixed-price quote after they have analyzed your application. (BTW, remember that they do this for living and most likely will be faster than you could do it.)
  2. The cost of the scanning on a per page basis, which (vendors will vary) may be a single price that includes pick up, scanning activities, post-scanning activities, paper storage, and return delivery.  For example, eleven cents a page may be your complete all-inclusive cost for scanning documents.
  3. The cost of magnetic storage on a per gigabyte basis such as $25/gigabyte (which you may buy by the gigabyte.)
  4. The cost of any special applications/operations that have to have requirements development, programming/building, testing, and implementation. (For example, you may want a special weekly backup made and stored off-site or at your facility.)

You get all of this for, most likely, a quarter of what you would have paid had you purchased a standalone system and brought the system in-house and did all the scanning/conversion yourself. In addition, you can:

  1. Do your own on-going scanning, let the vendor do it for you, or do the hybrid – you do some and the vendor does some.
  2. Bring the system in-house and own it/maintain it if that is a future plan.
  3. You can quit the service and have a copy of all the files and indices at any time (per the contract).
  4. You can add more work or less work as your business grows or shrinks. This means you may not be buying new scanners, hiring new capture operators, and adding other costs.
  5. You can add additional departments and applications when your budget allows (such as start with AP and add AR and contracts at a later date).

BTW, if you undertake to do this on your own, chances are it will be a one year effort (or more) from the time you start thinking about the project to the time you scan you first document. With a service bureau, that time could be as little as three months. (Factor that into your ROI!)

This may sound too good to be true, but a service bureau can provide all the functions above, and more depending on their software and specialty/expertise. And, this would be at a lower cost to you which means that your ROI will be sooner and higher. The long-term ROI is subject for another posting but suffice it to say that your investment will be good for a number of years and possible more.

You, as the customer, really can get into imaging (workflow, OCR, and all that) for a very reasonable price, learn the business, determine if there is a payback or not, and based on your experience, determine where to go next.

There are many service bureaus that provide this service. Some of the service bureaus are national and have a presence in many states (good for you if you are a multi-state operation) and some of the service bureaus are local to your area or state. AIIM’s Digital Landfill has a nice posting that may be helpful to read: 8 Reasons to Consider a Document Management Service CompanyAlso, search for the terms: document scanning service bureau or some combination of those words.

If you are a service bureau with this type of service and are reading this post, please hit reply and tell us who you are, where you operate, what services you provide, and any success stories you can share.

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