We are currently in between phone systems, and depending on whether you dial my direct number or find me through voice mail, I see or do not see your Caller-ID. That means that I am answering more cold calls than I usually do. Very often, my answer to the brave sales person is somewhere along the line of: “no, we’re actually a pretty small company and I could never justify your (software, hardware, salary, rate/hr).” As we move toward the center of the ECM roadmap, we encounter Technologies and Classification; this is where being small becomes interesting.
When considering technologies, being small can be beneficial, but only if you are willing to spend some money. For example, I don’t need to spend five or six figures on a high speed scanner or OCR solution. However, I do need to provide hardware for scanning, and I do need to be able to scan things to a text-searchable result. You might be tempted to remind me that I could have people walk to a multi-function copier, scan to an image PDF and then open Acrobat and use it to recognize the text. Yes, I could do that, but that is going to cost more money over time than the investment in few desktop scanners with scan-to-searchable-PDF built in. Small companies often make the mistake of saving money at the expense of time – ultimately a fool’s game. Actually, in a follow-up to my earlier series on desktop scanners, we just purchased a small pile of Fujitsu ScanSnaps. We selected these scanners since the ScanSnap software that comes with the scanner, can create searchable PDFs directly in SharePoint. We have two capable workgroup scanners, and they are great for large jobs, but giving people the ability to scan to SharePoint without leaving their desk helps insure that documents get into repositories instead of to-be-scanned piles.
The only other element of the Technologies box that we are using is e-Forms, and we don’t use it much. In fact, I am not even sure most people would consider our activity to be an e-Form. Our activity in this area is the use of Surveys to gather information prior to events, to be used for planning; and surveys after the event to gauge the event’s effectiveness. Prior to SharePoint, we used web-based forms, PERL and .asp scripts and a fair amount of manual processing to collect this information. SharePoint surveys allow us to easily collect the information, and export it to Excel. Unfortunately, SharePoint out-of-the-box surveys are dull. On the other hand, we aren’t looking for a sexy process here, we simply want reliable utility and SharePoint give us that. When we relied on web-based forms, we lost countless submissions due to email failures at our hosted server. Since switching to SharePoint, we have collected 100% of the surveys completed. When you use technology to collect information, reliable outweighs sexy all day long.