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Integrate Scanning Software with SharePoint 2013

Filed under SharePoint

On a recent project I had a requirement to integrate scanning software with SharePoint to provide an end-to-end solution for getting paper and electronic documents into SharePoint with meaningful metadata applied. The metadata columns in SharePoint included Managed Metadata columns for document categorization and business units, as well as an External Data column connected to a SQL Server database.

The issues I needed to solve were:

  • How to have metadata enforcement using mandatory fields while making the user experience quick and easy.
  • The scanner software did not provide a good user experience for setting Managed Metadata columns or External Data columns so these columns needed to be set in the SharePoint form. I needed these columns to be mandatory so if they were not filled in by the scanner software then the documents would remained checked out and only visible to the owner of the document.

These are the possible solutions I came up with:

  1. Use only a content type that contains mandatory Managed Metadata and External Data columns and therefore the scanned document will be checked out and only visible to the service account that the scanner will be using for all documents. Then have a link to the SharePoint page that displays “files which have no checked in version” and the user will need to select all and click “take ownership of selection”. Then the check outs will display to that user in the document library and they can set the remaining mandatory metadata in the SharePoint edit form.
  2. Have the user login to the scanner so the user can be passed to SharePoint and therefore scanned documents will be checked out and only visible to the user that logged into the scanner. Then the check outs will display to that user in the SharePoint document library and they can set the remaining mandatory metadata in the SharePoint edit form.
  3. Change any SharePoint columns not set in the scanner workflow to not required.
  4. Change scanner form to set all SharePoint metadata.
  5. Create a new content type containing only the fields that the scanner can set and then the user will go into SharePoint and change the content type and enter other metadata.

Here is my decision making process for these solutions:

  1. Not a great user experience and it is difficult to explain to users why they have to do this.
  2. Trying to minimize extra work this would require additional configuration on the scanner, would require more user entry and may cause additional problems when users forget to log out, etc.
  3. Mandatory columns supply a certain level of data integrity and enforcement. They also allow for assumptions to be made when using the metadata.
  4. The scanner support for setting Managed Metadata columns and External Data columns was limited so this was not an option.
  5. Using the standard SharePoint Document content type, the document could be uploaded (and checked in) with a meaningful file name and then the user could bring up the SharePoint edit form, change the content type and set the remaining metadata.

Ultimately, solution #5 was deemed to be the best for user experience, simplicity and working within the budget/schedule. Also, it provided a consistent experience with uploading electronic documents directly into SharePoint.

If you have any other alternatives in mind then please contact me.

Happy SharePointing!

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