Monday, October 1, 2012

System Conversions - What to look for in a vendor

by Angela Childs

With so many IT / imaging service providers out there, how do you select the right one when you have an imaging system you need converted?  You need a partner who has the experience to handle everything, but what’s everything?

There are a lot of players in the content management space.   Literally thousands of different software packages used for storage and retrieval of content – images, COLD (green bar reports, statements, etc.), electronic documents, etc.   Everyone is unique.

The variety of products, versions, resellers, operating environments, etc. is what led Imaging Office Systems to develop a platform independent process.  You need a partner that looks beyond the pretty wrapping to the underlying database and repository.  Once you peel back the covers, the various imaging systems start to look the same.  

You need to ask your prospective partner to describe first how they determine that they are qualified to handle the conversion. 

There should always be an in depth system review before you are given a proposal or any pricing.  Even two companies with the same software will have systems that are different and each must be treated as a unique system, just as no two companies are exactly the same. 

Our first step with any project is analysis followed by design so we can provide a specific project plan with timeframes, any assumptions/constraints, and associated pricing.   IOS’s Professional Services Group won’t provide a scope document, or any pricing, for a system conversion prior to confirming that the project will be a success.

Always require a detailed scope of work document prior to purchase.  This document should outline the structure of the system to be converted:
  •  How are the documents stored in the software?
  • What is the underlying database?
  • How are the images and other electronic documents stored?  Are they in a proprietary format?  Are they on platters?
  • What are the index points?
  • Are there annotations and, if yes, how will they be handled?
  • What are the document and image counts?
  • How will the documents be mapped from the structure of the source system to the structure of the destination system?
  • What will your responsibilities be?
Ask to see a list of the systems that the vendor has converted.    What are you looking for in this list?  Because of the variety of products, versions, resellers, operating environments, etc., and the fact that even two systems with the same product may be vastly different, the vendor’s experience with your software is not as relevant as:
  • Review their conversions experience:  You’re looking for a vendor with a breadth of experience.
  • Examine their process:  They should have an outline of their due diligence review and not want to engage with you until they are certain they can do work.
  • Require a scope of work:  They should give you detail about your current system, the new system, volumes, tasks for conversion, and anything they expect you to do to make the project as a success. 
Finally, what do you do when one of your prospective vendors is internal IT? 

All the same questions need to be asked whether it’s an internal service provider or an outside service provider.  You have a project, the system conversion, that must be completed accurately and within a fixed timeframe.

You still need the project documented and you need to see a few sample images and their associated indexes.  Simply ask your internal IT department to perform a test, and, if successful, provide a scope of work outlining their role, and yours, the tasks, and a timeline – when could they start, how many hours will be required, and when will the project end. 

From this you will know the internal costs, timeframes, and resource availability within internal IT.  And, finally, ask yourself about the competing internal projects the IT staff has on their plate.  Where does your project fall?  Often there isn't the luxury of time and a system must be converted before a support contract expires, or the hardware fails, or before auditors arrive.

Click here to learn more about IOS's conversion experience.

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