Capturing Success

By Chris Riley, ECMp, IOAp posted 06-30-2011 16:44


We learn a lot from others mistakes.  Many of the best practices established in the document capture space have been the result of something gone wrong, and finding a solution to prevent it.  However that is not the only way to learn from experience.  It’s also good to look at successful projects.

In order consider a project a success in the area of document capture; the entire process from the idea, technology acquisition, implementation, and some period of production must all demonstrate progress and wins.  This unfortunately is too rare an occurrence.  Of course all projects come with bumps in the road; it’s how the bumps are handled

I recently came across an implementation that I wanted to highlight.  The judicial system in Johnson County Kansas is an exciting example of document imaging and content management success. I had the pleasure of hearing the story from Tim Mulcahy, the director of Johnson County Information Management System (JIMS), and a local bay area ARMA event.

What is so interesting about this success story, is not that brilliant and unique use of document imaging technology, it’s a great example of the proper process of architecting a solution, and winning.  It is also a stellar example of “build” versus “buy”, which I recently wrote a blog post on.  The JIMS was a home grown capture project that is currently used in production and exceeding expectations.

As with all successful projects, it began with a lot of planning and discovery.  Tim and his team made a very clear decision at the beginning of the project to focus on the users, and usability.  To do this they conducted exhaustive interviews of end users to discovery how content was created, passed, and consumed throughout the organization.  They even went as far to research the ergonomics of technology in a court room.  This very likely was the key to their success.  They identified their end users as:

•        Clerk’s

•        Judges

•        Judges’ A. A.s

•        D. A. Staff

•        Court Service Staff

•        Sheriff’s Staff

•        Correction’s Staff

•        Law Enforcement Agencies

These users could be located throughout the county.  The problems they were trying to solve were identified as:

•        Lost files

•        File security

•        Duplication of same original

•        Slow process of passing information

•        Hard to get access to files

•        Paper is consuming significant space

•        Public access necessitates physical access to Courthouse

On a daily basis there were around 10,000 new documents filed by Court Clerks, District Attorney Office, Sheriff’s Office, and electronic filings.   The annual cost of dealing with paper was in excess of $250,000 a year.

By clearly Identifying the opportunity, the constituents, and the challenges, Tim and his team were able to architect a solution that not only decreased costs, storage requirements, and increased efficiency, but it also made the judicial system more accessible to other external parties such as General Public, Attorneys, and Title Companies.

Some of the challenges that needed to be overcome during the implementation of the system were:

•        What should the document types be?  Should they be established based on security or accessibility

•        Challenge of teaching users new technology, document imaging.

•        Establishing confidence in the security of the system

•        Should they convert old documents?  Only day forward?

•        Users are comfortable with paper

•        Setting up the right committee to establish requirements

•        Setting policies and governance for the new system

•        Gaining buy-in

The solution was developed as a home built backend, client site viewer, with document imaging technology in the front end.  They started out with basic document imaging, with hopes to move to more advanced capture in the future.  The resulting solution:

•        Allowed for multiple access to documents

•        Eliminated duplicates

•        Improved work flow

•        Increased timeliness

•        Increased security

•        Cleared valuable space

•        Made knowledge workers more efficient

Now the district is scanning 10,000 pieces of paper a day, as soon as they are received, a total of 38+ million to-date. I fondly remember Tim commenting that with the empty file cabinets they would sell them to another judicial system still locked in the world of paper. 

The beauty of learning from a success story like this is that you not only get answers to concrete setup questions, you also learn the methodology.  Ultimately it’s never the fault of technology that systems don’t succeed.  It’s most often poor planning, poor discovery, and not focusing on the proper goals. The JIMS case study show cases the concepts that I regularly talk about a lot which are:

•        Utilizing a requirements committee

•        Focusing on the users

•        Plan, plan, plan

•        Fail fast

•        Succeed in bite size steps

Congratulations to Tim and his team for entering the paperless world gracefully.  To view a presentation from Tim go here.


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