Imaging Horsepower

What’s under the hood of a new generation of document imaging systems.

February 8, 2011

Best practices in document imaging were defined by large, clunky, and expensive scanners for images and optical jukeboxes for storage. In the early 2000s, centralized scanning and research was the norm due to limitations in networking technology and the associated hardware costs.

Desktop computing has morphed into notebook computers and mobile devices. Every year, U.S. businesses generate more than two trillion documents.

At our current rate of information exchange, that number will increase every three years. On the average, a credit union manager can spend 30 minutes to three hours a day (three months per year) searching for documents.

Internal intranets have replaced local area networks as the preferred method for businesses to share information. This translates into many more documents and many new document types for credit unions to manage.

To deal with increases in content, document imaging and Computer Output Laser Disk (COLD) have been replaced by Enterprise Content Management (ECM).

More documents to manage on Internet time means availability and access to documents must be fast and secure. Lower-priced scanners and the proliferation of multifunction printers make it easier to capture documents at their source.

Plus, privacy policies and ever-increasing regulation and compliance pressures compel credit unions to use ECM effectively to manage their documents.

Best practices for an ECM system must address several key areas:

Ease of use

A successful ECM implementation means credit union staff must find the software easy to use. An ECM application using the ubiquitous browser is a good choice for searching for documents. Who isn’t familiar with the Internet browser? This reduces the cost and time to train employees, especially in positions with high turnover.

To compete and to communicate effectively in our new world, documents must be easily accessible to employees from a multitude of sources.

Today many documents are “born digital,” where documents include e-mail, e-mail attachments, text, web content, word processing documents (such as board minutes and spreadsheets for accounting), digital photos, and video.

The web is always on. Members have online banking and can conduct transactions anywhere, anytime. Therefore, credit union employees need access to member documents anywhere, anytime.

With ECM software, branch employees could retrieve images of their ID or signature card for identification purposes. If there’s no ID on file, they could scan it locally at their desk.

Staff can scan loan applications, place them in an electronic folder, notify the credit department to process the application, get it approved and send it back to the branch employee to complete the loan. This can reduce fraud, save time, and satisfy regulatory compliance requirements.

An ECM product can also employ an eSignature application, which allows members to eSign deposit and loan documents. Instead of printing to a laser printer, the print job is sent to the eSignature application.

All pages appear on the display for signing on a digitizing pad or tablet PC. One major advantage to an eSignature solution is the capability to predefine all signature areas, initials, and number of signers on a document or document set.

The signing process can’t be completed until all signatures and initials have been completed.

This saves time, especially if the employee has conducted the signing at the member’s home or office.

eSignature can eliminate or substantially reduce printing costs. The credit union’s eSigned copy is automatically stored to the ECM archive. The member can opt to receive the eSigned documents by e-mail, on a thumb drive, or with printed documents.

eSignature comes with the added benefit that documents no longer need to be printed, signed, and then scanned into the ECM archive. This saves both time and money.

Next: Ease of implementation

Ease of implementation

Credit unions rely heavily on the information technology (IT) department for the latest and greatest technology necessary to compete with banks and comply with ever-increasing government regulation. An ECM application that’s easy to deploy (one-click installation) and receives unattended updates via a secure web server is ideal for a busy IT department.

ECM applications, once written for the desktop PC (legacy applications), are now written for the web. Today’s ECM platform should include one-click technology to deploy the ECM application across the enterprise to multiple locations easily and efficiently. Again, time and money saved.

Many community bank branches have invested in multifunction printers, which can scan documents. An ECM system that’s compatible with multifunction peripheral devices is a plus. The availability of bar-coded documents from most new account and loan origination vendors make scanned documents easier to identify and archive.

Documents can be captured (imaged) in the branch, then indexed and stored centrally by the ECM system and accessed by any authorized user across the enterprise.

The ability to drag and drop “born digital” documents into the ECM system, and easily identify and file these documents from a multitude of sources, is essential.


Some people believe making documents available via the browser is risky. But which is more secure: A file folder on someone’s desk or encrypted documents in a secure file folder stored on a secure server in a secure location accessible only via a private network?

Many credit unions have multiple lines of business, which require multiple levels of document security. For example, someone in new accounts might not be allowed to access loan documents.

Other personnel may need to access both new accounts and loan documents, but only member-related documents. They may need to be restricted from access to employee-only documents and human resources.

With an ECM system, it’s possible to implement multiple layers of user security down to the document level. Only those who have been given the rights to view the document can do so.

Compliance & audits

Internal audits, as well as audits from state and federal regulators, can be conducted much more quickly and efficiently with ECM. An ECM system that employs document tracking allows the credit union to define which documents are needed for every type of deposit or loan transaction.

Document tracking can determine if all the associated documents have been archived or if documents are missing.

Reminders are created and e-mail or printed notices are sent when a recurring document (such as financial statements or certificates of insurance) is needed. If documents are missing, notices are sent to the responsible employees and managers. Logs show an audit trail.

Your ECM vendor must produce and keep current a vendor management package. The package must include information such as SAS70 certification, audited financials, a security agreement, acceptable use policy, password policy, termination policy, and a disaster recovery plan.


An ECM system should include a log that will record when a document has been viewed, printed, or e-mailed, or whether a document has been revised. It will display by default the current version of the document and also keep older revisions.

Document retention policies can be set on each document type as to the length of time the documents will be viewable, when they’re moved to long-term archive, or when they’re destroyed.

Documents will not be moved or destroyed without the administrator of the ECM system being notified and given the option to change the document status. Any eSigned document that is altered will cause the eSignature to be replaced by a large red “X” in the signature areas.

Disaster recovery

A co-location facility is recommended to be either manned by a third-party provider with the technical skills to back up your mission-critical applications and be located within one day’s vehicle travel from the primary facility.

Credit unions that can’t use the latest ECM technology due to cost or lack of IT resources can employ an ECM solution from a Software as a Service (SaaS) provider. Most SaaS models will include disaster recovery, which is essential to an ECM deployment.

Go green

ECM software can cut down on the cost of printing, reprinting, faxing, postage, and courier runs. If everyone across the enterprise can view the documents they need, there’s no need to keep “shadow” copies of documents and files in multiple locations.

This saves money and creates good will. Credit unions that already have “go green” initiatives or wish to implement one can say with confidence their ECM product saves trees.

ALAN J. WIESSNER is president/CEO of Integra Business Systems Inc., a banking systems and software developer based in Safety Harbor, Fla.