Imaging presents a window on the future
MANY organisations, both in the private and public sectors, are investigating ways of adopting imaging technology to meet their own requirements.
The potential impact of imaging on modern office information systems is extensive.
Much as the invention of database management systems has brought a new era to the business community, imaging represents yet another era in the revolution of computer-based information systems.
Being one of the most expensive places in the world, Hongkong-based organisations should look at imaging as a solution to reduce the storage cost of the massive amounts of paper generated during daily business activities.
If properly implemented, an imaging system will also help to improve work efficiency and enhance quality of service.
In the United States, we have already seen automated legal offices where lawyers can retrieve document images on their own desktop computer instantly, without going through a manual search process.
In fact, witnesses in court proceedings are beginning to testify from documents retrieved on a screen, rather than in the traditional paper format.
More and more records management departments across different industries, such as publishing, banking, financial, medical, and education, are making use of this technology in order to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Choosing the right imaging system is a complicated task.
A dedicated imaging system is not just a database management software package which is capable of storing graphical images or fields of up to one gigabyte of data.
A lot of fine tuning in the software architecture of the engine is required in order to balance the performance and integrity of the system.
Investors must not be blinded by the marketing jargon of vendors who claim that their products are imaging or multimedia based.
Apart from looking at the different types of standards that the product supports, the built-in input, processing and output facilities have to be carefully examined.
For organisations which are looking for departmental or enterprise-wide imaging solutions, expandability and transferability of the system are both important factors.
If integration with existing information systems is required, it is essential for the imaging system to have an application program interface (API) extension.
An API allows one to build applications which combine indexing data from an imaging system and data from other database systems into one common user interface.
Instead of going into different systems to retrieve the required data, the user can work with one single interface and does not need to pay any attention to where the data originated.
Nevertheless, the crucial component for a successful implementation of such a system is an innovative development team which consists of ''a patient system analyst, a responsible developer and a friendly graphics designer''.
Simply putting an imaging system on-line will do very little in helping users to improve job performance unless the system is carefully designed and implemented.
This is especially true when the bespoke application is orientated towards work flow.
Work flow imaging software will fundamentally change office operating procedures, and substantially increase the productivity of the white collar workforce in the coming decade.
Finally, a word of advice. One must not be overwhelmed by any advance technology and rushed into IT investment decisions before understanding the pleasure and pains of what the technology brings.
Remember that technology alone has no ''real life''. At the end of the day, it is people who can make it work.
Ms Grace Au is a lecturer on business information systems at the Hongkong University of Science and Technology. The article reflects the opinion of the author, not necessarily those of the Hongkong Computer Society.