Monday, October 1, 2012

Records Management for Schools

The Typical Situation
Too often, School Districts waste money and fail at records management.  Many purchase a software or hardware solution from a copier company or reseller and think they have solved a problem. This approach is expensive, and usually ineffective.  Support staff is tasked with the ominous assignment of effectively classifying, scanning, and managing the data.   Since many records types need to be kept, a medium size District will need to scan hundreds of boxes of records.  All too often the project never gets off the ground, and the expensive up-front cost to purchase the software and hardware is wasted.
Other Districts do nothing.  Soon enough, records pile up and eventually become unmanageable.  Eventually the District or County Office runs out of space, fails to comply with a state mandate (often costing millions of dollars in a failed audit), or an employee is injured looking through vast amounts of disorganized boxes to find a single record.  Eventually, the cost of doing nothing becomes more expensive than effective records management.
The Best Approach
Identifying the best approach for records management requires focusing on three core elements:  1) Document Management: K-12 Records Retention Standards, 2) Affordable Technology, and 3) Scanning and Data Services.
1.) Document Management: K-12 Records Retention Standards
First, records need to be identified and classified as follows:
  • Class 1—Permanent Records
  • Class 2—Optional Records
  • Class 3—Disposable Records
 This is the foundation for developing a records management system and ensuring that all guidelines are satisfied.
 2.) Affordable Technology
Minimizing the cost of technology is essential, especially up-front costs.  Records management shouldn't require a huge initial investment.  Further, technology should utilize non-proprietary solutions that afford greater flexibility and reduce on-going maintenance costs.  
3.) Scanning and Data Services
With very few exceptions, outsourcing the backlog scanning is more cost-effective for schools.  This should be where limited budgets are focused.  A process for capturing on-going records also needs to be identified that maintains consistency with other electronic forms of data.        
For more information about how SyTech utilizes this approach for Schools Records Management, please visit our website.

Friday, August 31, 2012

10 Reasons to Adopt the Cloud

It seems like everyone is talking about the cloud these days.  Here's 10 reasons why you should start listening, and how adopting the cloud can help you:

Save Money:  Do we have your attention yet?  Adopting a cloud solution can not only save on software licensing costs, but it frees up your IT resources (staff, servers, etc.) thus creating savings for your bottom line.
Ease of Access:  Personnel can be more efficient if they can access information from anywhere.  With the cloud, they are no longer tied to their desktop computer, but can retrieve data using their home computer, laptop, tablet, or even smartphone.   
Updates: Imagine having all of your version upgrades and software updates completed automatically, regardless of the workstation or the user. Yeah, it's kind of like that.  
Backup: While data stored locally needs to be backed up occasionally, storing in the cloud provides its own backup.  No more worrying about servers or computers crashing and losing data.     
Security:  While cloud solutions have differing security levels, at a minimum they require authentication via username and password.  In many instances, that is more than what is currently being utilized.      
Ease of Use:  Ever used software that wasn't user-friendly?  With the wide adoption of the internet, people in general are familiar with navigating websites and finding information. 
Simplification:  Cloud-based solutions can help eliminate the need for multiple systems and add a little simplicity for you and your organization.
Flexibility: Cloud computing has provided more flexibility than other computing methods.  It can help organizations adapt quickly in an ever-changing business climate.
Increased Storage: Digital storage is cheaper than it's ever been.  Gigabytes and terabytes are typically cheaper in the cloud than paying for and maintaining that data locally.    
IT Focus: Once the IT Department experiences more freedom from troubleshooting, updates, and other computing issues, they can focus on other needs, such as innovation.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Document Conversion Process: Quality Control Metrics

Our quality control process is composed of several steps that have been developed and refined over the last decade to limit or eliminate errors in the conversion process.  In addition to our own in-house tools, we utilize industry-leading software to manage the process from start to finish.  Our software provides batch tracking and workflow management throughout the entire conversion process.

Document Preparation

Documents are separated by specially coded sheets referred to as separator sheets.  These sheets include a patch code on all 4 edges and are generally yellow in color.  Additionally, the sheets are typically 8.5” x 14” in size so that they can be easily removed and reused to keep customer costs down.  Because these sheets are added to a batch for the purposes of separating documents, they can be counted.  This count can be subsequently used to verify that the same number of documents are processed at both the Scanning and Indexing stages of the process.
Document Scanning

Documents are fed into our high speed scanners in sets of up to 500 pages, depending on the paper quality and page weight.  The scanner operator ensures that every page is captured and that the image drawn on their monitor is an accurate representation of the physical page.  This process returns a total page count generated by the document capture system, and verifies the document count with those provided during the Preparation stage.


Each document is displayed on the monitor of our data entry staff.  A predefined schema—specific to the document type—is used to generate a form to prompt the operator for the index values.  The operator captures each field from the document and saves those values to the database using a streamlined data-entry workflow.  We have the capability to “double key verify” this information, which requires each document pass through another data entry station.  On the second pass, a different operator repeats this step.  The system responds to the second operator whenever an index value does not match what was entered by the first operator.  The second operator must then review the two entries and make a decision as to the correct value.  The purpose of this “double key verification” process is to minimize or eliminate data entry errors, which produces accuracy rates exceeding 99.99%.

Final Quality Control Review
Once each step of the conversion process is complete, every batch is passed to a special team whose sole task is to find discrepancies in the process.  Our QC team consists of team members with years of experience in all three steps.  They follow a strict procedure for verifying the accuracy of the process as a whole, as well as ensure that every document has been scanned and classified as accurately as possible.

Count validation

Counts from each process are compared to ensure that every document was   handled at each step.  Any count discrepancy triggers a full box review where every document is reviewed for accuracy and completeness.  Issues at this stage of the quality control process are generally related to errors in the recognition of separator sheets and can be resolved quickly by a trained QC team member.

Random Sampling

Documents in a batch/box are randomly pulled and compared with the corresponding image files.  QC team members review every page of the document to make sure that the image is present, its quality is good, and that the document is complete.  An additional check is made to verify that the data entry that was completed for the document is accurate and complete.  Any errors caught during the random sampling triggers a full batch/box review.

Three Types of Accuracy Metrics Measured During Conversion

Completeness: every document was captured.  This measurement is made to determine whether all documents present in the batch/box are captured and represented as an image file in the final deliverable.  Metric target level is 100% of all documents captured.

Image Quality: images are accurate representation of the original file.  This is a measurement of the difference between the quality of the original document and its electronic representation.  This measurement is adjusted for concessions made in consideration of cost and usability.  For example, the best representation would be made using 2400 dpi full color scans that were then run through a gamut of image enhancement algorithms.  The resulting images however would be unusably large and cost multiples of the acceptable rate to capture.  Capture settings are therefore adjusted to presets for the types of documents being scanned.  Metric target level varies depending on the document type.

Index Accuracy: images are classified and indexed accurately for search functionality.  This is a measurement of verification alert events and final QC findings.  This is the most difficult metric to measure as some index information may be left to interpretation, such as handwritten data.  We recommend capturing a minimum of 3 fields per document to ensure that each document can be found even in cases where index values are subjectively interpreted.  Fields that are “double-key verified” achieve 99.99% accuracy. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Top 5 Reasons To Manage Your Records

Most businesses don't make money from managing their records.  As a result, document management may not be high on the priority list.  However, there are several key reasons why business should start paying attention.  Here are our Top 5:

1. Lower Operating Costs

Let's face it.  It costs money to pay for file cabinets, warehouses, office space, and staff to manage it all.  An efficient document management system will not only save space, it will save time looking for information.  Savings in space and time mean savings for the bottom line.     

2. Improved Efficiency and Productivity

This is closely linked to #1.  If staff is able to quickly access information, they can do their jobs much more efficiently, leaving room for improvement in other areas.  No only will they be able to easily access information, an effective document management system can help avoid losing vital records and time spent looking for them.   

3. Compliance

Depending on your industry, record keeping regulations may be through the roof.  Implementing a secure document management system can help ensure compliance with required laws and regulations.  Failure to do so, may result in severe penalties, fines, and even legal action.  

4. Minimize Risk of Litigation

As previously mentioned, litigation can result from poorly kept records.  If a secure document retention policy is firmly in place and followed, the risk of litigation is decreased.  Document management systems can follow retention rules and automatically destroy electronic documents once a certain date has passed.  On the other hand, it can ensure that essential records are not destroyed prior to their retention date.       

5. Security

Last, but certainly not least is security.  Document Management systems, if properly maintained and backed up, help ensure against loss of vital information due to catastrophes or other disasters.  It also provides a mechanism for managing access to records by certain staff or others outside the organization.   

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Cost of Paper

We know we don't have to convince you of the benefits of paperless records management. The statistics from a Coopers and Lybrand study speak for themselves:
·         Office documents comprise greater than 80% of corporate memory.
·         90% of documents that are handled in an office are merely passed along or shuffled through.
·         The average document gets copied 19 times.
·         50% of a professional’s time is spent looking for information. Only 5-15% is used in reading the information.

·         $20 to file a document.
·         $120 to find a misplaced document.
·         $220 to replace a lost document.

·         7.5% of all documents get lost.
·         3% get misfiled.

In other words, If your company generates 200 documents a week, you will lose 15 of them (costing the company $3,300), and misfile 6 of them (costing $720). 

Looking at the big picture, there are over 4,000,000,000,000 (4 trillion) paper documents in the U.S. alone. They are growing at the rate of 22% a year or roughly 880 billion a year.
What about you?  How is your records management?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

FAQ's About Document Management

When it comes to Document Management, our clients have asked a lot of questions.  With over 12 years of experience answering them, here are just a few:

Why is document management important?

Today, 80% of all mission-critical data is unstructured, 7.5% of all documents get lost, and 3% of the remainder are misfiled. Organizations are quickly realizing that document management is becoming necessary in order to be more successful. Organizing documents and information through the use of technology ultimately leads to higher productivity, greater efficiency, and improved performance. With an electronic document management system in place, your organization will be able to spend its efforts on the more important and core aspects of your business.

What types of records are being imaged?

It runs the gamut: everything from student and personnel records to board minutes and engineering plans. Many of these records have retention requirements. For others, imaging helps streamline specific business processes.

What are some of the advantages of scanning records, as opposed to just storing them in boxes or filing cabinets?

There are numerous advantages to scanning records. Imaging critical documents results in significant savings in both time and money because information is organized. Once imaged, you can instantly access any record from your desktop computer. This can reduce storage space by as much as 80% or more. Document search time is also greatly expedited.  Requests for documents can be streamlined, completely processed, and printed, faxed, or emailed to the requestor in a matter of seconds.  In addition, organizing imaged documents in a database can help with security, by granting access to only authorized users.

How do I access information after it has been scanned?

Each record type can be setup with key searchable fields, such as date, first name, last name, APN number, etc.  In addition, optical character recognition (OCR) makes electronic documents searchable by every word, so that they can be mined for specific information.

How much does document conversion cost?

Price varies depending on size and volume of the documents. On average, scanning typically costs the same as a photocopy (a standard storage box measuring 10"x12"x16" holds approximately 2,500 pages).

What format is used for scanning files?

The standard format in the industry for scanned files is TIFF. However, records are also commonly scanned as PDF, PDF/A, and JPG, among others.

For more frequently asked questions, check out our website:


Friday, February 10, 2012

Case Study: California State Parks, Off Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division

The Business Challenge

Parks OHV (Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division) needed to better track and understand accident data from multiple state parks, many located in remote locations.  Fulfilling OHV’s public safety role, the initial challenge was to ensure timely and accurate data collection.  Once the data was input, Parks OHV needed an ongoing technology solution that would automatically and accurately extract vital report information and then tabulate the extracted information in easy-to-read, meaningful reports, charts and graphs.  Cost was a major factor.  Like most public agencies, OHV must maximize outcomes despite very severe cut-backs in public sector funding. 

The SyTech Solution

OHMVR partnered with SyTech to help streamline their access to mission-critical data from disparate locations. OHMVR began collecting California State parks data, utilizing "check-box" cards designed by SyTech for scanning. Meanwhile, SyTech quickly set up a Kofax document imaging system and software to accurately image thousands of OHMVR cards per year.

Initially, SyTech scanned approximately 13,000 California State parks cards each year. SyTech captured data from those cards via Kofax Ascent Capture, stored the scanned images in an Alchemy database, imported the captured data into Microsoft Access, and hosted an online query/reporting system to tabulate the data.  SyTech has now developed a more efficient process for gathering information.  Utilizing Android powered Samsung Galaxy 10.1 tablets, SyTech has developed an application for capturing injury information on location.  Key data is input on the tablet and uploaded to 1DocStop, SyTech’s cloud-based solution, built on Microsoft .NET Framework.  This data along with GPS location extracted from the tablet, is stored online for analysis and tracking.     

The online query system provides instant data to OHMVR for effective knowledge management and decision-making. It allows OHMVR users to run reports as needed that include a summary of the data and a visual representation of the data in the form of a pie chart. The system has multiple query options for real-time data collection. Users can specify  parameters to narrow the report to a specific location and time frame. Additional queries can also be written upon request, giving OHMVR unlimited query potential. In     addition, table data can be exported and copied into other applications, such as Microsoft Excel, Word, and Access. The visual representation of the data can also be copied into other Microsoft applications for reporting purposes, and converted into multiple formats (i.e. PDF, BMP, JPG, GIF).

SyTechdrilldown reporting. Users are able to view their data in additional chart types, such as bar graphs and line graphs. Comparison charting allows users to plot a chart with data from one year over a chart with data from another year. Moreover, customizable report formatting allows users to customize the appearance and format of their report.

Statistics Simply Meaningful

OHMVR is reaping many benefits through its collaboration with SyTech. SyTech's technology solution is accomplishing OHMVR's main goals to tabulate vital information and easily access data. Statistical information is available to OHMVR instantaneously via any web browser. This information is made meaningful via the visual charts that are automatically created. These charts can be immediately useful for analysis, presentations, reports, or other uses.

This solution was recognized at Government Mobility 2012 as one of the top 3 "Most Innovative Applications".  Click on the screenshots below for a closer look.

Paper Injury Card

Tablet Interface

Web Interface: Secure Login

Advanced Search

Search Results

Document Viewer

Document Properties

Dashboard - Charts

Dashboard - Charts

Contact Us
For additional information about this or other records and data management needs, please visit