An Index Field is a piece of data associated with a document or set of documents in a document management system. These fields can be assigned prior to the document being placed within the system, through the use of a front end document capture application, or can be direct indexed while in the repository. The process, called indexing, can be manual or can be fully automated through the use of other technologies like OCR, OMR and ICR . Index fields are usually mapped to a particular type of data that corresponds to a database, and include text, currency, integers and memo type information. Many organizations have outsourced this process of indexing to document scanning service bureaus, or business process outsourcing companies due to its intense time demands. The term “index fields” varies, depending on the type of system being utilized, and can also be called metadata fields, columns (in SharePoint) or many other names. The primary purpose of these fields is to establish search criteria and filtering capability when searching for documents within the system. Here are some general criteria when establishing index structure for a particular type of document:
- Limit it to 5 fields – anymore than 5 fields is overkill, and adds unecessary time to the indexing process.
- Utilize a Date – date ranges are common search criteria, and allows for complex searches required in audits and legal cases.
- Use a unique identifier – although many types of documents do not have a single unique ID, try to establish a field that can ID that exact document. An example might be a contract number, or an invoice number in AP invoice processing.