I have a confession to make (and one I believe many of you, too, will have to admit): I sometimes fall into the trap of taking capture for granted and simply focus my attention on post-scan issues. Maybe it's because the maturity of the market results in gradual improvements that give the impression that capture has peaked. It's rare to find a piece of jaw-dropping technology that redefines the market.
Well, Kofax has done just that with its Document Scan Server (DSS), new hardware and software that was introduced last month at AIIM (see Judith Lamont's related article in this issue). DSS has redefined distributed capture (capturing documents at their entry point in the organization) through its service-oriented architecture.
Service-oriented architectures (SOA) and other strategies for building accessible, adaptable technology platforms are familiar subjects in IT discussion circles. In the world of scanning, however, they are relatively new. That isn't to say that there aren't ways to dynamically mix and match scanners, users and applications in a typical capture setting. But successfully doing so generally requires specifically configuring computers, scan stations and applications to support strict protocols such as ISIS and TWAIN, individually managing every scanner being deployed, and detailed training to make certain new users know how to take full advantage of the scanning software. Fortunately, the flexibility that is moving into the mainstream of IT is also making its way into scanning.
That shift could allow capture to be added to almost any critical business application, make the scanning function available to distributed office locations or instantly extend the capability to a group of new employees who have just joined an organization via acquisition.
The Kofax Document Scan Server connects to a network on one end and a USB scanner on the other; thus, it can be easily installed, managed from anywhere and make scanning available to anyone with access rights.
That is appealing to IT managers, who can now treat scanners as ordinary network devices and subject them to standard policies for compliance and control. The innovation, however, lies in the use of Web services and XML to connect the attached scanner to the applications calling it, and of HTTP to talk to the users' desktops. That is made possible by the Kofax Document Scan Server Web Services SDK. In its design, Kofax has eliminated the need for drivers, runtimes and special hardware that has confounded imaging professionals for years. Now, any SOA-compliant application can control a scanner, and any user platform (e.g., Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Solaris, etc.) can connect to one as well.
With the Kofax Document Scan Server, applications can be scan-enabled with as few as five Web services calls, and developers can roll out new applications in a matter of days. As evidence, Kofax points to its own experience with a Web-based CRM solution, a hosted application that by its very definition lies outside organizations' direct control. Using the DSS Web Services SDK, Kofax added a "Scan" button to the CRM interface that, when clicked, causes the application (running remotely, remember) to send a scan request to the local Document Scan Server. The page is then scanned, and the resulting file is uploaded directly into the CRM system.
Facilitation of new workflows, some never before even imaginable is what qualifies the Document Scan Server as a legitimate KM solution. (Special thanks to Kofax's Michael Troncale for assistance with this piece).