Gradually Changing the Capture Process

Our client is currently scanning lab test requests at their California office. These are prepared by having a PDF417 barcode label affixed to the document, which contains the main metadata value, called the Accession Number. Accessions (i.e., lab tests) are scanned, processed by the PaperVision Capture software to recognize the Accession Number, full-text processing is performed, and then the processed data is uploaded to ImageSilo for access from any office. They would like to begin processing their EOBs and other backup documents as well, so they are included on ImageSilo.

These supporting documents physically arrive at the office at a later date than the lab results, of course. The objective is that a single search of an Accession Number on ImageSilo brings back the lab results and any relevant backup documents, if available. It is important to note that some supporting documents, notably EOBs, contain information about multiple Accessions, and therefore must be duplicated so they appear in more than one Accession search. Ideally, this duplication process will not take additional space on ImageSilo.

Currently backup documents are sent for manual scanning and indexing before processing. Hard copies are then sent for manual hand-key entry into the billing-management system. This hand-key process consists of entering at least one unique reference then hand-keying individual line-item details.

Now, you can see the duplication and labour-intensive issues here, and, as a technologist, it’s easy to make the jump straight to sophisticated forms-recognition functions auto-populating the practice management system in the background, thereby eliminating errors, reducing labour requirements and making everyone’s life a lot easier. But it’s often not so clear cut. The user is already expending the labour, and even when you can show a clear ROI, they may not be ready to make the capital investment in forms recognition software, or they may not think their staff are ready to support the new process, or there may be concern about third-party vendor cooperation or even whether the third-party applications have the capability to back-end volume data imports, and the potential cost implications of those applications, et cetera, et cetera. So we go down a different road, the available road, and we begin to gently transition the process to better, at least, if not best.

Step 1: Immediate Changes to Capture All Supporting Documentation

The first step does not significantly reduce the amount of effort currently being expended, however remember that this wasn’t the primary objective. The main goal is to bring all supporting documents onto ImageSilo, so that lab results and supporting documents can be located with a single search.

In PaperVision Capture we create a new capture Job for scanning supporting documents. This new job has similar index fields as the primary lab results scanning job, with whatever additions are required, if any. The output data will load to the same project as current lab results so all documents are in the same place. (We considered different projects and global search methods, but it’s not really practical on this job, especially with the existing search integration from the web-based practice management application.) The scanning process will differ from the current barcode-breaking mechanism to include manual document breaking (we are investigating other methods, and whether barcodes could be made efficiently at this stage; I don’t think so, but possibly). We also add the document “duplication” process during indexing using PaperVision Capture Detail Sets functionality.

PaperVision Capture Detail Sets define a collection of indexes that allow multiple sets of field data to reference a single document. This will allow the user to create X number of “duplicate” database entries (where X is based on the number of accession references required per supporting document), and where the duplicates are only database entries pointing to the same image file(s) and not physical copies of the image. With the appropriate number of duplicate entries, the user can then begin manually indexing the various accession references that are present on the scanned document. The unique reference field (EOB reference or similar) automatically carries across all documents and is not indexed manually more than once (but will need to be indexed manually each time the detail set changes). Indexed documents are submitted and uploaded to ImageSilo automatically.

And our first objective – getting all the data online and accessible – is met.

Step 2: Automating the Indexing and Merge Process

At this point we will seek to change the process so that keying of data into the practice management system occurs before scanning. In this way, all the data entry has been completed and the indexing data is available for us to run database updates.

In short, this process would allow users to scan each supporting document, index only the unique reference number, and then use database update functionality native to PaperVision Capture to create the appropriate number of items in each detail set, and populate Accession references across all of those items with the data that has already been hand-keyed once.

So, we start getting more efficient on the data-entry at this point – instead of keying into the imaging system and then re-keying into the practice management application, we’re going to hand-key from hard-copy into the practice management and reverse the population of data into the imaging system (whereas normally we would seek for an imaging system to populate the accounting system. Remember, baby steps.).

We have a few questions on this part, of course, mainly around the best point of entry for accessing the hand-keyed data. Does the commit on the data entry process immediately generate a transmission into a reference database? Or are we waiting until the actual data merge takes place to pull data from the web-based application? We’re looking at methods now and our decision will, as ever, be based on the most efficient method for users.

But we also open up a couple of other areas of potential efficiency gains. Particularly we’d like to eliminate the hand-keying in the imaging system altogether, as well as improving the document break method. So at the data entry point, can we generate a unique 2D barcode reference that applies to the supporting document and kills two birds with one stone: the barcode becomes the automatic document break and populates our unique reference field, enabling automated details sets and bulk updates of accession references. That’s the question we’ll be asking ourselves in weeks to come.

One step at a time. But the sooner we can get to at least this step, the better for the client. At which point they will be a lot more open to re-visiting the ROI on a proper forms-recognition module that eliminates all hand-keying from the process entirely. Especially considering that they are seeing those volumes rise on a weekly basis already.

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Integration and the Ratchet-X AppSpace

We’ve recently completed an integration project using Ratchet-X, the code-free integration tool from RatchetSoft. And once again it has proven to be one of the most useful applications I’ve come across. RatchetSoft claims to be able to integrate your desktop applications with anything, and after my experience with them it’s hard to argue that they wouldn’t be able to. The interface definitely requires some familiarization – you likely couldn’t come in off the street and pick up this application – but that doesn’t mean it’s difficult, just that you’ll need some guidance. But with the eminently affordable professional services options available to you from RatchetSoft and from Scanfree, you can’t go too far wrong.

Vantari Genetics, a genomics testing company based in Irvine, CA, provides lab tests for various hospitals and doctors across the United States. Vantari chose ImageSilo after a poor experience with another document management provider. Scanfree’s long time partner HSMG specializes in document management and integration projects for healthcare service providers, and brought Scanfree in to install and manage a premises-based scanning solution using PaperVision Capture. They use PaperVision Capture for processing lab results with automated uploads to ImageSilo taking place multiple times per day, for immediate access by staff at any Vantari office.

As usual, the PaperVision Capture implementation went smoothly. Using some internal databases we started generating 2D bar codes using the PDF417 format, which are applied via labels as test requests and results come in to the mailroom. Currently we’re only reading a 10-digit accession ID as the primary index value, but the PDF417 format ensures we can expand that data capture, should they feel the need to do so. They already worked with a batch mentality so it was easy enough to convert their paper-process batches to PaperVision batches. They work with relatively small data batches, submit each set of docs as it is scanned with a visual verification checking all the bar codes have read correctly (with no failures thus far, that’s after a few weeks of running high numbers of documents = not too shabby) – PaperVision processes the data, cleans up images and uploads to ImageSilo in an automated process; within 30 minutes of batch submission the data is online and accessible.

But that was only half the game for Vantari. One of Vantari’s main line-of-business applications is developed (and hosted) by Xifin, a San Diego, CA-based software company that provides a popular practice management, revenue management and billing solution for labs, radiology clinics and more. Xifin offers a series of hosted web services and portals, and Vantari use Xifin MARS, Xifin’s web-based billing solution. There were 6-8 key screens that Vantari wanted to integrate so that users could immediately access lab results when required. But as MARS is a hosted system in a shared architecture, integration options, while available, were going to prove costly if we had to get developers involved. Simple integrations should not have to cost so much. Enter Ratchet-X.

In a nutshell, Ratchet-X works at the desktop level, analysing and interpreting (nay, dissecting) the Windows desktop environment (not to mention browser windows, and, more recently, Java environments). Operating in this space gives Ratchet-X a detached sort of freedom – they call it, aptly, the AppSpace. In this space, Ratchet-X can read and analyse data and relative positioning of that data on specific screens to extract or transfer (i.e., paste) that data wherever it needs to go, incorporating scripts and API’s if required. If it sounds a bit like screen-scraping of yesteryear, you’re not a million miles off… but it’s light years beyond screen-scraping. I can’t possibly do it justice here, but suffice it to say that the level of depth and the options available to the Ratchet-X “developer”* will almost certainly fulfil their (and your) ambition to “integrate everything.” *(note: development skills are not strictly required, but an understanding of programming logic would be beneficial)

As a matter of fact, let me quickly expand on that: I used a pre-built ImageSilo integration script codenamed RX4PVE; other similar scripts exist for a variety of products in lots of different verticals. These can be used to perform simple integrations like the Xifin to ImageSilo link we created in 2 short days. But the raw product, Ratchet-X sans scripts, is so deep, and so powerful, that there’s almost no limit to where it can be applied. Scanfree’s next Ratchet-X project is already lined up: we will be integrating PeopleSoft with a workflow tool to simplify data entry for a large healthcare provider.

Frighteningly, I see huge potential uses for it in everyday AP and HR Microsoft Excel-based nightmare scenarios. You know what I mean – those spreadsheets that companies have used since spreadsheets were invented, that let them manage and manipulate data sets without having to involve IT or build complex databases. I say ‘frighteningly’ because I’m not one to encourage use of the Excel spreadsheets, but let’s face it – they’re still incredibly popular in companies of all sizes, and in that sense Ratchet-X promises more stability and consistency than a lot of other user-developed ‘solutions’ that are currently employed. And it can’t be beat for cost, so I can see a genuine value there, even if I think the spreadsheets are a nightmare.

But I digress. Working with RatchetSoft’s senior support staff, we quickly identified available integration points in the Xifin MARS browser-based interface. Using regular expressions we pinpointed the windows, frames, and data areas from which we wanted to extract the search criteria. Then we used the pre-written ImageSilo scripts to lock in our search criteria and entity/project information for each type of search. It took us a few short hours with RatchetSoft to get up to speed on the best methods to use for the Xifin portions of the integration, and we continued on our own thereafter. By the latter half of the second day we had integrated all of the relevant screens and we ready to package up our integrated solution. And this, I have to say, is incredibly slick.

I won’t go into too much detail, but the packaging process that is built into Ratchet-X allows you to collect and compile all components of the integration you just developed. Remember, no code has been written and no changes have been made to either of the integrated applications. At the end of the packaging process you are left with a self-contained EXE or MSI. You can then ask any IT person to install across as many desktops as required, or use push mechanisms to install on client machines across your network. And with RatchetSoft’s “not-concurrent” licensing mechanism, that means you can push it out to everyone and really get more bang for your buck. Contact us to learn more about that innovative licensing model.

The next time users logged into Xifin, they were greeted with the Ratchet-X ‘magic button’ (unfortunate naming, again, I know, but it is sort of magical considering the lengths you might otherwise have to go through to get two hosted products integrated). Here’s what the ImageSilo magic button looks like:

Ratchet-X Magic Button

That magic button (in the upper-right, next to the minimize button) only shows up when the user is on an integrated screen – optionally, when it shows up an audible little chirp plays to notify the user they are on an integrated screen. When the user clicks the button, the document automatically opens in a separate window. Magic.

This installation, which, all told, took 3-3.5 days including roll-out and support, has run for nearly three weeks as of this writing, and we’ve had almost no support issues. Those we did have were very minor and easily resolved (not specific to the integration but rather to unique settings on certain user desktops). And the client is absolutely over the moon – the cost-savings, both in development costs and now, with integration fully functional, in the time savings for their personnel in finding these documents, has been immense. Vantari has already approached us about their next integration project and we look forward to working on that before autumn settles in.

You’ll hear about it here first. All the best til next time.

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Compliance Part deux

We had a chance to go over the latest release from Rex Lamb last week, and, in a resurgent business climate where growth inevitably leads to increased levels of (or, minimally, concerns about existing) regulation and oversight, the time is definitely right for Rex’s latest product: ComplyTrax.

In a nut shell (and I’m probably not doing it justice). ComplyTrax is a hosted compliance workflow solution that helps you manage risk and ensure compliance with your industry. It is industry-agnostic, so the technology (and the attendant compliance policies and rule sets) can be customised for any type of business, with any level of oversight. We’ve already got two great opportunities in the financial services industry, but it will be just as easily applied in private health, public transport, manufacturing and education.

ComplyTrax presents users with an intuitive web interface fashioned in the Azure mold, and it is easy to train users. The highest level options allow the company to define Risk Management categories, Policies and Procedures, and to build internal Training and Notifications. Additionally, a powerful Incident handling mechanism allows you to track and manage issues that risk a compliance breach, all chosen and customised by your company, to meet your very specific needs.

ComplyTrax Compliance Solution

The screenshot above hints at the simplicity and elegance of the compliance solution, but it does not do justice to the depth and power of ComplyTrax – another nod to Rex here for the foresight and planning that went into the development of this product. Without getting into a highly technical review, let’s just briefly discuss the Risk Management area of the application.

The Risk Management configuration section uses a three-tier hierarchy to help companies clearly define their risks and the potential impacts associated with them. The three-tier architecture breaks down to

  • Risk Area: used to identify all the various areas where a company has risk or compliance issues (e.g., Human Resources, Customers, Legal, Information Technology, etc.).
  • Risk Category: Within each risk area, a number of catgories can be defined. For example, an IT Risk Area can be further broken down into Disaster Recovery risks, Personnel risks, Hardware risks, and many more (as many as you need, in fact).
  • Risk Item: You can further break down the Area–>Category into the individual items for each category, so the IT–>Disaster Recovery section might include items such as (a) Customer Notification Plan; (b) Offsite Backups; (c) Reconstruction Plan; etc.

Risk categories can then be enabled, assigned to users, and review dates scheduled. Once enabled, risk items are tied to the policies and procedures that givern that risk. Risk Items are then scored in terms of importance and probability, and Training programs (also built in ComplyTrax) and Internal Audits are directly tied to these Risk Items and Categories. And, of course, since we are talking about Compliance, all activity associated with each risk item – that includes Internal Audits, Policies, Policy Changes, Procedures and updates to Procedures, Staff Training and Reported Incidents – all of it is tracked and reportable.

Have a look at this dashboard view to get one idea of how all of this data builds into a highly effective and visually engaging birds-eye view of where your companies risks lie:

Compliance Heat Map  and Reporting Dashboard
Every once in a while in the software industry you run across features that are great for client demonstrations, but sometimes lack in real world application. This is one of those rare occasions where not only does the feature look the part, but it’s an incredibly useful tool, and the data it represents can be used for stand-alone evaluation, or can be built into other portals and reporting structures to present a clear map of what needs to be prioritised, and when.

There’s so much more to talk about here, and we’ll be learning a lot more about this product in the weeks and months to come. We hope to be linking up with Rex on a formal level before the end of the month and to start introducing it to clients and partners in the UK by Autumn, followed quickly by expansion into the regulation-heavy European market. We’ll keep it all updated here.

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Compliance articles and news

Financial Services is at the forefront of our thoughts these days, with compliance being a big focus – both in the industry and at Scanfree, where we’ve read some good articles just recently. We’ve got our presentation coming up in a couple of weeks, and with the level of activity around the offices these days I’m sure it will be upon us before we know it. But we’re bringing it all together, and some of our research is winding up in this post.

We’ll start off with this article; it’s not 100% compliance related, but it ties in. According to a recent PwC report released at Infosec, the average cost of a data breach is now anywhere from £600,000 up to £1.5M – that’s up almost 40% from just last year. And there’s worse news for smaller companies: although the amounts are smaller (£65,000 to £115,000), percentage-wise that is almost double from a year ago. Getting behind your compliance initiatives and locking down that important data is getting more and more important, as if you didn’t already know. But as recently as 2012 over half of UK businesses who haven’t already suffered a breach still seem to think it’s not that important.

The Data Protection act is changing. As the UK regulation folds into the EU General Directive, there are a lot of questions about how this affects UK companies. There’s some valuable information on Data Protection in the UK and the EU in this article from Cordery. We work on a number of data processing projects and our clients are directly affected by these rulings. Cordery is a great source of information.

And then there’s this piece about Merrill Lynch and the fines they’ll be paying out. Read it as “overcharging” but it’s the oversight they were lacking that led to it. Just one more of the big providers getting nailed for non-compliance.

We’ve also heard that Rex Lamb, the man behind FileBound, and ImageMax before that, is back at it. FileBound sold to Upload Software not that long ago, and instead of retiring or taking a back seat, Rex has dived right back into software with a new compliance SaaS that promises to be great (if his track record is anything to go by). We’ll be linking up with Rex in the next week and trying to incorporate his product into our offering. When I’ve learned a bit more about it, I’ll be posting about it here.

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Scanfree on target to deliver golden Financial Services solution

Scanfree have been shortlisted for an exciting opportunity in London’s financial services sector. Financial Service remains the largest industry in London, and over the years Scanfree have been fortunate enough to be involved in a few projects in the City. But our experience with financial services goes back much further.

While banking functions are much the same, parochial banking in the States, at least at that time, was different from banking here. In the UK we have primarily the very large banks, NatWest, HSBC, Barclays, and a few smaller banks and building societies. The US has very large banks of course, but the country is covered by smaller, regional banks. Even some “large” banks do not cover the entire country. And many banks and credit unions (similar to a building society) only have a one branch, or just a few.

One of my earliest installations in this industry was for Mountain States Bank out in Colorado. It’s now a part of the much larger UMB Bank, one of the largest banks in the nation, but at the time it was two sleepy branches nestled in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. Not much happened around that part of the mountains and I get the feeling the locals liked it that way. The Glenwood Canyon and the surrounding areas are beautiful places to visit, by the way – and an outstanding place to drive. But I digress…

Mountain States had a small document management installation, what would have been called a document imaging system at the time. They had a single scan station at one branch, and were rightly proud of the T1 line they had run out into the mountains, which also linked both branches. A total of 3 bank managers had access to the system and were struggling to piece it all together. As with any company, they had become accustomed to the standard practice, and this idea of being paperless was really a light-years leap for them, despite the T1 line. I distinctly remember a conversation about whether opening image files could launch viruses. (Note: At the time this was actually unheard-of. Viruses needed to be executable in some manner. Can JPEG’s have embedded viruses now? That’s a story for some other blog or forum.)

I was with Mountain States Bank for just a few short hours, but from walking into a group of people very hesitant to change, I was able to walk out with some wholehearted believers. It was simple, really – we just showed them what they would be able to do. It was as easy as: scan it here at branch 1 and the manager at branch 2 can see it within seconds.

Things have changed dramatically since then, of course, and Mountain States and other banks and financial services institutions are using significantly more advanced capture and routing technologies. But the essence is still the same: Once companies learn what they can do with sophisticated capture and document management technology, there’s is always that eyebrow-raising moment…

oh, I see what that means. I can do my job better, and it’s become a lot easier.

New technology is so often seen as a threat or a challenge, but with every document management installation we’ve been involved in, there’s always that moment of realization.

People generally want to do their best. Give them the tools and see what they can become.

By removing the tedious, menial tasks, the people at Mountain States were given the freedom to concentrate on serving their customers. Whether it’s removing “filing” from the equation, making it easier to get to the data you need when you need it, or building full forms recognition and processing engines to drive data integration.

And that’s just one reason I’ve stayed in this industry so long: when you’re working with an end-user, and you get that moment of realization. It’s a genuine pleasure to help other people work smarter.

Which brings me back to the shortlist opportunity. Shortlisting in and of itself means very little, of course, but I am confident our solutions can tick all the boxes. And no one will work as hard as Scanfree to ensure a successful project launch. We just need to make it an easy choice, and before autumn has ended we’ll witness one or two more of those moments of realization. I’m looking forward to doing it all again.

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PaperVision Capture Code: Find Duplicates in Batch

Scanfree develops PaperVision Capture Code and Custom Functions for End-users and Service Providers.

A few Scanfree clients run very large batches through their PaperVision Capture stations. In some cases they’re running PaperVision Capture Automated Import Queues (AutoImport1.xml and AutoImport2.xml) that get created nightly. Others run large manual imports via the PaperVision Capture Operator Console. Whether automatic or manual, a scanning bureau will often find they have duplicates in a batch. Either duplicated images or, at the document level, duplicate metadata (index) field values.

PaperVision Capture maintains the old “Merge Like Documents” from PaperFlow 7.x days, This handy function checks index values and merges documents where all values imatch. But what does a scanning bureau manager do when not all index fields are identical, but certain values need to be checked for duplicates? Browsing the batch in the Operator Console is tedious. It’s not always easy to track down those dupes.

Scanfree has developed a solution. It is available now for any PaperVision Capture user. Service bureaus, in particular, will benefit from this (we use it in our scanning bureau), but so can end-users running PaperVision Capture scan stations.

The process is simple. The PaperVision Capture admin creates a job as normal in the Capture Administration Console. In the appropriate Operator workstep, insert a Custom Code command and import Scanfree’s PaperVision Capture Duplicates Report code. Then it’s just a matter of changing a few settings.

A setting within the code will tell the function which fields should be checked for duplicate values. It looks like this:

private string[] PVC_FIELDS_TO_SEARCH_FOR_DUPLICATES = {“Field1”, “Field2”, “Field3″}

Just change the quoted values to the exact field names of the PaperVision Capture Job. Don’t need to check three fields? Just add the one (or two) you’re after. A second setting in the code will define an output location for the report written by the custom code:

private const string REPORT_ROOT_FOLDER = @”C:\Reports\”

In this example we use a folder named Reports on the local C drive, but it could just as well be any accessible network location.

And that’s really all there is to it. The scan operator logs in to the PaperVision Operator Console and processes their batch as they normally would. When they’re ready they select the Execute Custom Code command within the Operator Console. A message will pop up to say the report has been written (or a message to say no duplicates exist). Open the report (which is time-stamp named) and the following report appears:

duplicatevalue1,3
duplicatevalue2,7
duplicatevalue3,4
etc…

OR

dupeval1a,dupeval1b,3
dupeval2a,dupeval2b,7
dupeval3a,dupeval3b,4

These examples show reports with one or two index values being tested, respectively. The final numeric value displays the number of duplicates found for each row item.

To learn more about PaperVision Capture visit our Products section. To learn about Scanfree’s Duplicates Reports go to our Development pages. (INSERT LINKS IN THIS SECTION TO CORRECT PAGES).

And incidentally, you can now run multiple instances of this report wll within the same batch, within the same workstep. For example, first run a duplicates test on Field1/Field2 combined, and then separately run a duplicates test on Field 3. In fact, you can now run as many pieces of custom code as you like all within a single operator workstep. We’ll write more about this one soon, but you can get a tech overview today by visiting the project page for the PaperVision Capture Functions Buttons (INSERT LINK HERE FOR THIS PROJECT).

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WordPress Revisited

I’ve been taking advantage of the slow half-term week to update the Scanfree website. It half makes me want to dedicate more time to WordPress development for companies, especially when I see the state of some of the websites in the document management industry.

I’ve recently expanded my marketing into the PaperVision reseller channel, looking to provide alternatives in the professional services market. This is something we’ve been doing for years, of course, but our recent trip to Colorado only confirmed that there are plenty of PaperVision Capture scanning bureaus that need additional work and support. And there are plenty of old-style PaperFlow bureaus out there, too, still hesitating to make the jump to PaperVision Capture. On some level they know they should make the transfer, but they haven’t quite made the mental leap. The point being, I’ve been googling PaperVision in cities across the world, finding potential partners and resellers who might need Scanfree services, and the state of some of these websites is positively paleolithic.

Which brought me back to my own site – for the better part of a year or so I made do with Design Wall’s Page template for WordPress. It was a single page website with a great design to it, but it limited what I could do somewhat. Oddly it wasn’t until we put a load of time in recently on the financial services tender (which it seems we’re in line to be awarded) that I recognized the need to rebuild. Well, that and the evaluations from AdWords campaigns we’ve been experimenting with. Between Analytics and AdWords you can sink an inordinate amount of time in criticizing every aspect of your website, no matter how tight you think you’ve made it.

But it’s brought me back to the WordPress world, and I really enjoy it as a diversion. I decided to stick with Design Wall again, this time using their Simplex template, which has a lot of similarities to the Page them but with a bit more depth. Now it’s just understanding how to streamline it. The template has a lot of online shopping aspects and we’re not quite ready for that yet, and since we’re not really an interactive blog I need to work on that portion as well. Sometimes too many options is just too many. But there’s no question this is the right choice – I look forward to launching it soon. Will update on here when it’s ready.

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Private Education

Scanfree has been expanding its projects in private education. And by that I do not mean that my extracurriculars with my kids have expanded, although that is also true. In fact I write this blog post outside a half-term gymnastics class, wherein my 5 year old daughter tumbles and bounces. This is the most entertaining way to work, by far.

The American School in London contacted Scanfree in the summer of 2013 – a previous PaperVision installation had suffered some neglect and they were keen to breathe some new life into it. We brought them up to speed on the latest version, reviewed and reloaded existing data with new security parameters, re-established direct scanning for the Counselors and basically got them back to basics. ASL also had an existing set of document scans and other data types from a secondary, older document management system, which we were able to convert using a bit of data manipulation and a PaperVision Directory Manager. Shortly thereafter Scanfree completed a backfile scanning conversion of various record types for two different departments, one of them a new addition. The success of that scanning conversion and the improved document management and scanning functionality has seen the PaperVision user community grow.

Earlier this Spring Scanfree were brought in to perform a server upgrade and transfer – time to move into ASL’s new virtual server environment. Scanfree were able to perform most of the PaperVision transfer remotely, and went on-site for launch day to make sure no users had been affected. And as planned, other than asking counselors not to add anything new for 5 minutes (while internal DNS updated) no one noticed any difference – PaperVision architecture once again proving how well designed it is for these types of transfers – the software just doesn’t fall over if you get it right. I guess that’s one reason ImageSilo sees the high percentage of uptime that it does.

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PaperVision WorkFlow Designer

I’ve had the opportunity to use most aspects of the new PaperVision WorkFlow Designer in the weeks since its release, and I’m happy to see that it’s a real step forward in design and development. There are one or two areas they need to address, but the foundation is there for future enhancements to make it a solid application workflow engine.

To start with, the look is vastly improved, providing a .NET user interface that looks the part. In fact, it’s a look upgrade that could be well applied to the overall PaperVision and ImageSilo sites – maybe tone down some of the sharp edges and make the toolbars more ribbon-like. But I’m no designer, not in that sense. Suffice it to say that it looks the part, but more importantly, it acts the part.

The text based interface provides detailed workstep and task definition information in a structure that is simple to navigate – each workstep laid out nicely with the older, tab-based design now broken down to folders and tables. Multiple workflow definitions can be loaded in the interface, which simplifies edits that take place across more than one project or workflow design. The old PaperVision designer was less navigable on that point, so that’s a great improvement. One minor complaint is that workstep items are purely alphabetical as opposed to being organized primarily by the workflow order and then by alpha – this might be more difficult than I’m making it out to be, though, but it would be an improvement to bring it more in line with other Microsoft workflow tools, like Dynamics CRM.

The graphical interface is still available, but it’s had a major facelift and the controls over individual properties is significantly improved. Gone are the random mapping changes that were such an irritant – assemble your flows visually as you see them in your head, not as the old PaperVision mapping tool decided they should be. So now we can group items, lay them out more intuitively and… well, that’s about it. We’re still missing things like labeling groups or functions, no ability to control the workstep connection, no smart connections, still a small graphics library. So it needs work but it’s a step in the right direction.

One of our users needed some updates done recently in their workflow design, and I took about a half day to ‘rebuild’ a 50-user/90-workstep ImageSilo workflow routine into a visually intuitive representation of the workflow. The end product is so much easier to update and to understand, it was well worth the effort.

So, great new release, really pleased, even if it lacks of few things on my wish list. I look forward to future developments on this WorkFlow Designer on both PaperVision and ImageSilo, and I’ll let you know about them right here.

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