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Frequently Asked Questions

©2002 by Charles A. Plesums, Austin, Texas, USA

People ask me questions. No surprise - that is what a consultant does for a living. However, some of those questions have been asked again and again. Therefore some of the more common questions (and answers) will be listed here. As time allows, or as interest is shown, this list will be extended, and perhaps some of the topics will be expanded into articles or papers.

If you would like to ask a question, or disagree with my opinions and answers, please share your ideas by writing to Charlie@Plesums.com

Work Management - Workflow

How do you manage user reaction to a work management system?

Many people worry about how users will hate the work management system. Although there will be people who dislike any change, overall the end users like the technology, especially in an environment open to change. Users are given the best item to handle when they request work. No pressure to choose the best item, or criticism for choosing the wrong item, or pressure to handle several things at once. They know that they are doing the most important item at any time. They get work they are qualified to handle, and can normally complete the work. They know the system will record their productivity, so that they will receive proper recognition.

Managers may not be as open to a work management system as their users. Many managers have built their careers on reviewing all the work and assigning it. Now this is done automatically, and they can concentrate on coaching their employees and handling problem cases, rather than the simple routine task. And the span of control may be come larger - in one company workflow allowed managers to supervise 20 people rather than 8, thus reducing the number of managers or increasing their apparent workload.

What workflow project should go first?

Some organizations want to start with a small work group to try the technology. But the best solution for a small workgroup may be a filing cabinet for the documents and a clerk to keep track of the work. Far simpler than a work management system.

I normally recommend starting with the most important mission-critical application in the organization. It will justify the cost of implementing the system. It will get the management attention and support required. And it will create the benefits that make it worthwhile. That doesn't mean that everyone starts using it the first day - but as long as it meets expectations along the way, it means that the project isn't done (and the benefits aren't counted) until the major benefits expected are there for this major application.

Document Imaging

What is a pixel?

A pixel is a picture element - the tiny part of a picture that can be described as a single value. Many people think of it as a dot, but it is usually a square, like looking through one hole in a screen door. The key is that the hole must be small enough that you can consider what you see through that hole as all one solid color. It could be pure black or pure white - as is common in office documents, fax, and microfilm. It could be a shade of gray (part of a "black and white" picture). Or it could be a color.

What is resolution?

As a picture (perhaps a document or photograph) is broken into the tiny square pixels, a large number of pixels are required to accurately reproduce the original. The larger number of pixels (thus the smaller each pixel is) the more accurate the digital copy. The resolution is normally measured in terms of pixels per inch horizontally, and pixels per inch vertically. Often the numbers are the same, but they don't have to be - they are not in a standard fax.

Normal office documents have print as fine as about 6 point type, so need lots of pixels (high resolution) make an accurate picture of the original document. In practice, this requires at least 200 pixels per inch (about 8 pixels per millimeter). A letter size sheet of paper is 8 1/2 inches wide. With 200 pixels per inch, there are 8.5 times 200 = 1700 pixels across a page. Likewise, at 11 inches high, there are 2,200 pixels vertically on a page. At 200 pixels per inch resolution in each direction (called 200 by 200), if we take a picture of the whole page at once, we have 1700 x 2200 = 3,740,000 pixels.

If we consider a photographic snapshot, the picture of the car, person, or mountains, doesn't have detail as fine as 6 point type. In fact snapshots were traditionally 3.5 by 5 inches. The pictures in that snapshot are similar to pictures on a TV, which roughly has a resolution of 640 by 480 pixels. Therefore a reasonable photograph can be reasonably represented with 640 times 480 = 307,200 pixels. In terms of the snapshot, this is a resolution of just under 150 pixels per inch.

Why do digital cameras "need" millions of pixels?

If a snapshot or TV picture can be represented in 300,000 pixels, why do people buy digital cameras with millions of pixels?

When we went to the store to get our pictures we normally bought 3.5 x 5 inch snapshots. Since we have color printers at home, we now often print 8.5 x 11 inches. But we look at the paper just as closely, so still need 150 pixels per inch. Now our photos require 8.5 x 150 x 11 x 150 or 2.1 million pixels, not just 300,000 or so. And what if we want to trim off some of the "blank" space around the masterpiece? If we only trim 10% off each side, we need to start with over 3 million pixels if we want to have 2.1 million left for a "fill page" picture. And if we just want to select one person out of the middle of the group, we better either start with a lot more than 3 million pixels, or be happy with a picture that is a lot smaller than a full page.

Do your friends a favor. If you are showing your snapshots on the web or as e-mail attachments, where they will be viewed on a computer screen (or actually just part of a computer screen), reduce the resolution before sending the picture - better that you reduce it before it is sent, than having the recipient reduce the large file so that it can be displayed. A good starting point is 300 pixels high (which is often about 450 pixels wide), for a total of 135,000 pixels. Pictures that were in files from 60,000 to 2,000,000 bytes or more, will not only require about 25,000 to 30,000 bytes, which makes them download much faster. Unless your friends were planning to print a mural, they will thank you.

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©2002 by Charles A. Plesums, Austin, Texas USA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. If you would like to make or distribute copies of this document, a nominal royalty payment is required, as specified on www.plesums.com.