Distribute Your Scanning Operation, Already!

Imagine a typical branch interaction. Your member walks in the door and hands a document—maybe a signature card or loan application—to one of your employees. What happens to that document? If yours is like many credit unions, the transaction is processed right away, but the physical document may wait hours, days or even weeks to be scanned into a centralized, digital repository and made available for retrieval. The document is, in fact, processed twice, with a significant availability gap in the middle.

How did such an inefficient process arise, and why is it still so common? Historically, document imaging systems promoted the use of centralized scanning departments staffed with dedicated scanning specialists. High speed document scanners were expensive, difficult to maintain, and required quite a bit of real estate on the desktop. Indexing was cumbersome and protocols were complex and error-prone, requiring extensive training and expertise. As a first-generation, direct replacement for a paper-based workflow, this centralized model made sense.

A closer look at centralized operations.

Under the centralized scanning model, documents from a branch are first collected for transport, then sent to the scanning department, perhaps at the end of each day or even the next day, depending on the location of the centralized scanners. Upon arrival, documents await processing alongside documentation from every other branch.

What happens if an employee needs a specific document in the meantime? Two choices: wait until it gets scanned, checking status frequently, or submit a request to the scanning department for document retrieval. The former creates an unacceptable delay for your member, and the latter creates a ripple effect on scanning operational efficiency.

Your employees are well aware of these shortcomings. And if the document in question is time-sensitive or critical, they are probably making copies and keeping their own ghost filing systems. Not only does this violate regulatory and security standards, but if any work is done on the ghost copy of the document, you face the issue of multiple concurrent versions with no controls in place for quality and accuracy. Every step in this process generates hidden, or not-so-hidden, costs.

Finally, let’s not forget that centralized scanning also incurs direct costs for courier fees to transport documents and dedicated scanning department staffing.

Times have changed. Credit unions should, too.

Today, enterprise content management (ECM) software is available with document import settings to control scan quality, indexing, and naming conventions for any file type, no matter how the document comes into the credit union. At the same time, high speed, high quality document scanners are available at a much lower cost, and can be placed on an employee’s desk in less space than a traditional file tray. Perhaps the only reason to continue running a centralized scanning department today is “because that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

In 2011, Helena, MT-based Rocky Mountain Credit Union was facing significant scanning delays in its legacy, centralized document imaging operation. Employees compensated by keeping duplicate paper records and filing systems. These ghost files helped them deal with the delays, but didn’t contribute to Rocky Mountain’s strategic goals of member flexibility and enterprise efficiency. After the credit union adopted a system that allowed documents to be scanned from all locations, authorized employees gained immediate access to everything, from everywhere. This not only reduced paper and saved time, it accelerated member response time and created new opportunities for collaboration among departments. Read more about Rocky Mountain’s journey in the full case study.

The bottom line about distributed scanning.

Technology evolution brings distributed scanning—and all of its benefits—into your reach. Credit unions can eliminate duplicate and redundant copies, manual errors, courier costs, and dedicated scanning operations. All these savings can be funneled into programs and services that support your members and your credit union’s growth.  

This was Part 3 of a 5-part series about capturing waste in unexpected places, freeing your resources to attract and serve your growing membership.

In Part 4, we will delve into the technological and human obstacles to getting your documents and other content into a centralized repository.

Sign up to have the articles in this series delivered to your inbox each week. You will also receive a technology evaluation checklist that you can use to compare your own current system to today’s industry best practices. The checklist makes a useful guide for creating an RFP and selecting a document imaging system vendor.