In the summer of 1994, Provost Brighton appointed a University-wide Imaging Committee to review current and near-future imaging technologies to determine how they can best be applied to meet University requirements. The Committee held numerous meetings with University personnel, imaging technology experts, vendors, an external consultant, and businesses that use imaging technology extensively.
"Imaging" refers to the management of paper documents, records, forms, photos, and drawings by capturing, storing, indexing, retrieving, and distributing them electronically. Images are created by electronically photographing a document, photograph, color slide, or other material with a device that is usually called a scanner. Scanners record images digitally rather than on paper or film. The areas of imaging reviewed by the Committee included optical character recognition (OCR‹capturing data from documents for input into databases to eliminate data entry functions), document imaging (storing and accessing digital images of documents instead of paper), and future applications of these technologies. The primary focus of this Committee's efforts was document imaging which can effectively substitute for paper and offers many opportunities for improving storage of and access to information at Penn State.
The Committee believes that document imaging technology is especially valuable to Penn State because we are a geographically dispersed institution. Not only can imaging enable rapid and accurate access to information throughout the University, reduce duplicate (redundant) files and related maintenance costs, but we are strategically in a good position to leverage imaging technology with our current information technology infrastructure.
Imaging solutions require some fundamental changes in business processes to ensure successful implementation. An essential principle to successfully implementing imaging technology is interoffice cooperation and coordination. Imaged records should be shareable so that more than one area can retrieve and read them, and they should be protectable so that information is maintained in a trusted, legally accepted format. To maximize the benefits of investment, offices must reexamine their business practices as part of implementing an imaging solution, and cultural changes will have to be made in the way Penn State runs our business enterprise. These and other important implementation issues and strategies are discussed in Sections II and III.
Despite the potential advantages of imaging, it is not a solution to all problems. As we discuss in Section IV of this report, there are many instances when microfilming, even though it is an "old" technology, continues to be the best solution for document storage and access. The longevity of the data being stored, the frequency of access, the cost of updating imaging technology and maintaining content, and the amount of retrospective material are a few of the variables offices must evaluate.
Imaging offers several exceptional opportunities for improving efficiency and effectiveness of University operations, and the Committee recommends their exploration. The University can leverage its resources to support and promote the appropriate use of electronic imaging technologies by:
Providing a vision of the use of this technology for the University community to embrace;
Encouraging the cultural changes in attitudes toward information necessary to achieve the interoffice cooperation and coordination essential to effective use of imaging;
Encouraging offices to investigate opportunities for imaging by developing partnerships with key imaging vendors, by exploring centralization of some common functions, and by ensuring appropriate sharing throughout the University through the definition of imaging standards.
In the summer of 1994, Provost Brighton appointed a University-wide Imaging Committee to review current and near-future imaging technologies to determine how they could best be applied to meet University requirements. The goal of this review was to provide guidelines to offices considering imaging solutions. Over the course of the 1994-95 academic year, the Committee held numerous fact-finding meetings. Representatives from major imaging technology vendors held day-long sessions at University Park to discuss currently available technologies and offer suggestions on how they might address University problems. An external consultant spent a day with the Committee discussing imaging strategies and appropriate applications. Members of the Committee and representatives of their organizations visited businesses that use imaging technology extensively to see the technology in action and to learn from their experiences.
"Imaging" refers to the management of paper documents, records, forms, photos, and drawings by capturing, storing, indexing, retrieving, and distributing them electronically. Images are created by electronically photographing a document, photograph, color slide, or other material with a device that is usually called a scanner. Scanners record a digital image of the material that can be stored electronically rather than on paper or film.
In its earliest deliberations, the Committee decided that it would not consider leading edge applications in depth, since the University Libraries and the Office of Computer and Information Systems (C&IS) are already aggressively exploring these options. The Committee chose to focus on immediate and near-term applications of imaging technology that could improve productivity and reduce costs. The areas of imaging reviewed ranged from optical character recognition (OCR‹capturing data from documents for input into databases to eliminate data entry functions) to document imaging (storing and accessing digital images of documents instead of paper).
Imaging technology can be especially valuable to Penn State because we are a geographically distributed institution. Imaging can enable rapid and accurate access to information throughout the University, eliminating much of the duplicate information handling and administrative inefficiency currently resulting from our geographic distribution. Penn State has already made sizable investments in personal computers and networks that can be used as part of a University-wide imaging system, and we have pioneered the use of electronic forms and electronic approvals. Strategically, we are in a good position to leverage these past investments in the following areas:
With our centralized administration of a distributed university, shared access by authorized users to information is critical to many of our key programs (e.g., recruitment and admissions, human resources management, finance and business operations, development and University relations). For example, access to images (copies) of travel receipts and invoices could be shared by those who review and approve requests for reimbursement. The Graduate School, one of the early users of imaging technology at Penn State, is already experiencing some of the benefits. They are creating a single student file that will be shared by the Graduate School, individual academic departments, the Office of International Affairs, and the Ritenour Medical Center.
There is significant redundancy in record keeping and file maintenance across the University. For example, during a faculty recruitment at a campus, the academic unit and campus need access to "copies" of candidates' resumes, letters, and other information. Now, each location keeps their own paper copies, which is increasingly expensive. The human resources, materials, and equipment consumed by this redundant effort could be allocated to higher priority issues, including the improvement of services to internal as well as external customers. In many cases, the redundancy of records results in confusion and unnecessary complexity when users request information or service.
Imaging offers the opportunity to better manage personnel costs. If people can be reassigned from tedious, duplicative paper-oriented work, it would improve productivity and responsiveness. Human resources represent the largest portion of the University's budget as well as a continually increasing cost; imaging can help contain this cost. Both USAA and Blue Shield found that deploying imaging systems enabled them to limit growth in labor cost.
Information needs to be available independent of time and location. Imaging can enable an employee to access information when it is needed rather than when some other office employee can provide it.
Imaging offers a potential solution for both administrative and academic applications. Typically, organizations seek to use imaging in administrative operations; however, there are also ongoing digital projects that will directly benefit researchers and offer an opportunity to dramatically redesign the learning environment. Through the Penn State network, collections of drawings, photos, and other visual material will be accessible to students and researchers working from their offices, residence halls, and homes.
The following report summarizes the findings of the Imaging Committee and its recommendations on how the University should approach the implementation of imaging technology.
Repeatedly, in our meetings, we were told that the greatest benefits of imaging are realized when work processes are examined and reengineered as part of the imaging implementation. Repeatedly, we were exhorted against viewing imaging as an "add-on" solution. Clearly, a commitment to imaging will require a significant commitment to self-evaluation and change on the part of the University.
As this Committee brings forward its recommendations, we seek a commitment to leadership in the area of imaging technology. Investment in this technology is a logical direction for a multi-campus university such as Penn State, and we believe that Penn State is poised to redesign its business and support operations to enable dramatic improvements to many operational programs. The greatest challenge will be to bring forward a commitment to leadership and to instill a willingness to promote change.
The following guiding principles describe the attitudinal and behavioral changes that will be necessary for imaging to be an effective workplace tool. Not surprisingly, many of the following changes are also closely tied to Continuous Quality Improvement principles.
Interoffice cooperation and coordination are essential. Many of the opportunities enabled by imaging technology come with the sharing of records between offices, thus interoffice cooperation and coordination are very important to the adoption of this technology.
Records need to be shareable. Records need to be shareable to the extent that the imaged data can be retrieved and read at other pertinent work areas. This sharability, however, must be controlled by a system of security authorization that both ensures that those who need access to records can view them and that privacy is protected within the scope of relevant laws and regulations.
Records need to be protectable.. That is, the information in the records must be maintained in a trusted authenticated format, acceptable for legal and accounting purposes. Quality control is vital to this concern: it must address such issues as accuracy checks on input, proper functioning of scanning devices and storage media, and the degree of information loss in compression and decompression algorithms. In addition, long-term archival accessibility of some imaged records must be considered as part of the design.
Cultural changes in the way we run our business enterprise will need to occur. People will have to become less paper dependent. We will have to change our traditional parochial view of individual offices and more aggressively share information across units to benefit the University. The following are some of the key areas that must be considered in order to effectively apply imaging technology.
Penn State needs to understand that investments in imaging are investments in the future. Imaging is not a one-time investment that results in "savings" to the University.
Information needs to be acknowledged as a University asset, not as a fiefdom of individuals who seek to control rather than manage it. Organizations must move away from the concept of "owning" information as a source of power.
Timely access to information must be embraced as a critically important goal by the University. A faster flow of information inevitably results in improved responsiveness to user needs.
Paper files can be eliminated. The dependency on paper files often results from a personal need to feel in control rather than from an actual need. Copies of many documents rarely need to be retained‹or even received‹by everyone using the information. In a scannable image file, documents can be read, printed when needed, but stored only once, in digital form.
Penn State needs to place a high value on training and educating its employees (i.e., faculty/staff development) to make effective use of information technologies. This is a recurring need with recurring costs, and it should be incorporated in budgets and staff plans.
Privacy, confidentiality, and other rights related to information need to be respected and reinforced in policy statements.
Current University policies that do not accommodate the needed cultural changes in our business operations should be rigorously examined and either updated or eliminated. Penn State should be a leader in national, collaborative efforts (e.g., with the AAU, the CIC) to press for changes in laws and regulations that might impede successful uses of imaging.
In addition to these guiding principles, there are a number of specific implementation issues and strategies to consider. The following issues and strategies were considered critical factors for success by the successful imaging technology users the Committee met with.
Imaging standards require regular review. Imaging, as a records management solution, is a dynamic environment, and standards change rapidly. Current standards of the day need to be regularly reviewed with an eye toward future solutions.
The life-cycle funding requirements of technology and information need to be considered. The initial investment in imaging is only the beginning. Maintenance dollars as well as transition dollars required to move a record-keeping system to a future solution must be planned. It is vital to consider life-cycle funding not only as a technical issue, but also as a planning issue to maintain the necessary functionality of the records.
Appropriate training is a key to successful use of imaging technology. Training will need to focus on not only the technical issues, but also on how to rethink the way work is done. Training and development will be important to assist faculty and staff in changing processes, sometimes radically, and in being visionary in using the technology to cooperate and coordinate across the University.
There is a need for prototypes. Prototype projects should focus on discrete but expandable problems so that offices can gain experience without a crucial process breakdown if the project does not work.
Vendor alliances need to be coordinated. It is in the University's own best interest to develop alliances with key imaging vendors. Coordinating alliances in the exploration and purchase of imaging products will benefit the University and individual offices.
Decisions about retention of records must be based on legal and audit requirements, administrative need, and historical value. University Policy AD-35 covers reformatting of records to either microform or digitized images.
Imaging offers a significantly improved records management opportunity. Retention periods and records can be easily linked when this information is included as part of the indexes that enable retrieval of imaged documents. Instead of the externally referenced records retention and disposition schedules that are required with paper and microfilmed records, imaging enables this information to be directly linked with imaged documents, permitting easier disposal of non-archival documents whenever stored images are refreshed.
Imaged records will be legally acceptable if the
University can demonstrate that the records and the reformatting
were created in the regular course of business and that the paper
reproduction created from a digital image is an accurate and
complete copy of an authentic record.University Policy AD-23
covers the shareability of electronic information and
covers computer and network security to protect records in
electronic form. These policies (and
for student records) must be consulted during design and implementation of imaging projects.
Compliance with federal and state regulations as well as University policies is essential. In some cases, federal and state laws or regulations mandate specific retention periods and methods of disposal. Monitoring changes in these laws, regulations, and policies is important. Where regulations and policies are too limiting, attempts should be made to change them.
Despite the potential advantages imaging offers, it is not a panacea. When units are evaluating potential applications, care must be taken to ensure that imaging solutions are only recommended when they are appropriate. Users need to carefully review the purpose of an application before adopting imaging. In many instances, users need to capture data components from within a document, rather than simply "taking a picture" of it.
Even when the best solution is to "capture a picture" of a document, imaging is not always the best answer. Microfilming, although an old technology, may still provide the best solution in certain situations. Microfilm is ideal for storing copies of vital records when they are infrequently accessed or when access is needed at only the site where the microfilm is stored. Microfilm is also a good solution for preserving deteriorating paper materials because it lasts a long time with little or no maintenance, other than a proper storage environment. Imaging, on the other hand, is better suited to frequent access from multiple sites. Microfilm is not networkable, so access from multiple campuses or multiple offices requires duplicate sets of microfilm.
The following key considerations should be reviewed before selecting imaging over microfilming:
Speed of access and frequency of use: For documents requiring fast access, frequent use, and/or concurrent use from multiple remote locations, imaging technology is greatly favored. Conversely, when document access isn't especially time sensitive, when the frequency of use is very low, and when the use is generally in one location, technologies such as microfilming are favored.
Importance of graphic information to the document: Documents for which graphic information (as opposed to textual content) is vital favor an imaging solution. Technical information, photos, charts, and graphs may be considered in this category of information.
Cost of technology refreshment for imaging applications: Another significant consideration is the cost of the periodic "technology refreshment" necessary for imaging applications. Technology advances occur so quickly that a technology refreshment program is needed every three, five, or seven years. This is necessary because users won't want to store documents using five-year-old storage technology or access documents using five-year-old access mechanisms. Thus, in calculating the cost of an imaging solution, it is essential to include both life-cycle funding costs and the cost of performing the technology refreshment.
Longevity of the data: If the data is static (e.g., no new documents will need to be added to a particular file over time) and is to be kept for a long period of time (10-20 years or more), microfilming should be considered. The reliability of microfilm as a long-term storage media, without the need for "technology refreshment," is a major cost consideration.
In many cases, a hybrid solution, utilizing the strengths of both image technology and microfilm, is the best solution. For example, technology is available to create both an image and microfilm simultaneously where short-term, rapid, and shared access is justified and long-term information retention is also required.
Imaging offers tremendous opportunities for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of many individual units, programs, departments, and offices. There are also several areas of exceptional opportunity that span the breadth of the University that the Committee feels should be explored. Below are the Committee's recommendation on how the Administration should support and promote the appropriate use of imaging technologies at Penn State.
Recommendation 1. As a first step in moving the University forward in the use of imaging technology, the Committee recommends that the University openly encourage offices to explore potential imaging applications. Visible support and encouragement from the University administration are essential to encourage offices to move forward in Penn State's risk-averse environment. This encouragement should include central funding support for modest prototype demonstration projects. These small, prototype projects should be selected from discrete and well-contained applications, but at the same time should offer the opportunity for expansion if the projects prove successful. Offices should avoid attacking the largest problem they have, or one that could compromise the mission of the organization if it proved troublesome.
Recommendation 2. The University needs to explore the potential value of centralizing some imaging functions rather than distributing all functions to individual offices. Our meetings with successful implementers of imaging technology showed that some economies of scale could be realized by handling some imaging functions centrally. In fact, the Committee found that some applications (e.g., imaging and transmission of a significant proportion of traditional mail traffic) could only be achieved with a central infrastructure investment. The concept of "centralization" is a functional one, rather than a physical one, and does not necessarily imply the creation of a large central enterprise.
Recommendation 3. The University should encourage the sharing of imaging infrastructure investments across unit boundaries. Many offices may not have the resources to independently support investments in imaging.
Recommendation 4. Efforts need to be made to develop University-wide alliances with key imaging vendors. Our experience with other information technology projects has demonstrated that developing alliances with key vendors has resulted in advancing more quickly and more cost-effectively. To achieve this, it will be necessary to coordinate imaging alliance activities at a University-wide level. The Committee recommends that the focal point for coordinating with imaging vendors be the Office of Computer and Information Systems in conjunction with the Office of University Development.
Recommendation 5. The University needs to establish technical standards to ensure that imaged information can be easily shared throughout the institution. Adopting standards for University imaging systems will be a critical element of success.
Recommendation 6. To facilitate the recommendations listed above, the Committee recommends that the Provost empower the Committee to continue its work to:
Serve as a continuing University resource for information on imaging systems and applications.
Explore the benefits of centralizing some imaging services.
Adopt and disseminate information on University imaging standards.
Continue to explore new opportunities for imaging as technology advances.
Recommendation 7. The Committee recommends that the Provost disseminate the Committee's report throughout the University and use it for guidance in setting imaging policies and funding imaging applications.
The Committee feels very strongly that, over the long term, the potential benefits to Penn State of investing in imaging technology are immense. The most immediate benefit of an aggressive program for the appropriate application of imaging technology would be a significant improvement in the University's productivity. This will require a serious and sustained effort by organizations to re-engineer their business processes, an effort that will require focused support from the University administration. We need to make the effort because, over the next several years, imaging technologies will be key to the University's success in areas ranging from learning technologies to digital libraries to global competitiveness.
"Imaging" refers to the management of paper documents, records, forms, photos, and drawings by capturing, storing, indexing, retrieving, and distributing them electronically. Images are an exact, digitized replica of an original document. Images are superior to paper documents because they can be searched, transmitted, coherently linked together, and manipulated using information technology. In particular, images can be stored in one location and readily accessed by multiple users working at different locations.
To create an image, a document, photograph, color slide or other material is photographed electronically with a device that is usually called a scanner. Scanners resemble a standard photocopier or camera except that they produce an electronic or digital image of the material rather than a paper or film image. Scanners vary according to the material that they can scan, the speed at which they scan, and the quality of the resulting images.
In their simplest form, electronic images can be stored exactly as they were scanned. For many applications, scanning is all that is necessary. However, images can also be processed or enhanced to make them more readable. This is useful for archival work where the quality of the original paper images may have faded or be defective in some other way, making them difficult to read. Photos of historical value can be captured for digital use and can often be "enhanced," providing users with better copies than the deteriorating originals. Finally, images can also be compressed so that they consume less storage space on the final storage medium (e.g., computer disk). Currently, however, images cannot reliably be manipulated in the same way that normal text or numeric data can be manipulated by a computer (see 2. below).
To focus our study, the Committee divided imaging technologies into the three general categories below. Of these, Document Imaging is our primary concern.
Optical Character Recognition. Using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology, it is possible to "read" the contents of a document as it is being scanned and convert the content into a standard computer format so that it can be manipulated just as if it had been typed in manually. OCR works well with typewritten material or material that has been printed on a laser printer, but the majority of the documents most organizations need to image and capture data from are not of that quality. Handwritten text provides an even more significant challenge. At the current state of technology, the error rate is usually too high for effective application of OCR in most situations.
Document Imaging. Document imaging, which substitutes for paper in storing and accessing information, offers many opportunities for improving access to information. A comprehensive, topical "file folder" can be created by grouping images in digital form together with other information such as computer text, spreadsheets, graphics, and even audio and video. This accurate and complete record can be easily and quickly accessed from anywhere on a network. For example, the backup documents for a travel payment could be stored in image form, along with the accounting record used to produce payments to travel agencies and the traveler, all in one location. The Controller's Office and the other administrative offices involved could efficiently access this information as needed without requiring it to be duplicated in each office and filed in multiple locations.