Yesterday, I presented in one of the Momentum at EMC World sessions in which I talked about the use of capture in a distributed environment. While a large percentage of documents are often processed in a central facility, a fair number of paper document transactions start remotely. This could be an employee at a bank branch office opening up a new customer account, an insurance agent in the field taking care of a claim, or the interaction with partners/advisors where paper is often part of the process. Regardless of the situation, a paper transaction that starts remotely is best handled where it originates rather than having documents mailed in for processing.
I’m making my fifth trip back to EMC World (May 9th – 12th) this year, and I’ve been given an opportunity to speak on one of my favorite document capture topics, which is about bringing capture to the front office. Why do I enjoy this topic? Well I like it because it gives me the chance to talk about the value of moving capture beyond simply using it in a centralized mailroom, and highlight the significant benefits that can be achieved. Companies are doing this today, and when I see how it has transformed their operations it makes complete sense.
I recently spoke on an AIIM Webinar: “Paper That Works – Get Started With Distributed Capture”. I was joined by Bernard Chester, IMERGE Consulting, who discussed the various approaches and benefits to distributed capture. Several questions came up during the presentation, and I thought I’d share my answers.
Q: In a distributed environment, how do you deal with push back when trying to establish consistent standards in implementation?
A: This is a very good question. One of the challenges many organizations face is getting employees to adopt a new way of doing their job. The problem is compounded when trying to roll out a solution that spans many offices and potentially hundreds of employees. Employees hate change especially when it requires using some new application. Rolling out change to a distributed workforce can be painful if not done right. When it comes to moving capture to the front office, the one critical theme needs to be “keep it simple”. These remote workers may not understand document imaging like those who work in a centralized back office scanning environment. Therefore, you need to ensure there is no confusion around how remote office workers are going to use the new technology to get their job done quicker. For example, if you require a couple key pieces of data be indexed at the time of document scanning, then apply business rules that enforce it. If there is data like a purchase order number that ultimately drives the downstream process, then apply a database lookup to ensure the PO number is correct. Make the document capture software do all the heavy lifting and let the users simply point, click, and go.
Q: Where do organizations usually perform indexing activities for documents captured in a distributed environment? Is the trend towards central indexing or distributed indexing?
A: The simple answer is that there are benefits to both approaches. Organizations really need a capture platform that supports both a distributed and centralized capture model given some document capture driven business processes need to be centrally managed versus others can be handled in a distributed capture environment. One advantage to remote indexing is remote office workers often have more knowledge of the information being captured, then someone at a central location. That knowledge may be important to ensure all the relevant documents and data are captured. Furthermore, at the time scanning and indexing remotely you could apply validations against the information being indexed to avoid any downstream problems. The other approach is to simply have remote office workers perform the scanning, and letting indexing occur centrally where you have a team that is tasked with that step in the process. Another part to the process to consider is documents that are scanned remotely can pass through a series of automated capture steps that get run back at a central server. That could include classifying documents and performing data recognition. This saves time during the indexing step and in some cases indexing or validation by an individual may not even be necessary in which case the documents pass that step and get exported.
Q: How well can current technologies automatically classify documents that are not structured applications or forms?
A: If there is one area where document capture has greatly improved over the recent years, it is in the area of document identification. The benefits to using automated document classification can result in huge cost and time savings for organizations. Document classification also has its benefits in a distributed environment as well. As I mentioned earlier, documents that are scanned remotely can be passed to a central capture server where the documents undergo document identification. This can be especially important in a document capture process where you are dealing with hundreds or even thousands of different document types and supporting document attachments.
Q: How large a volume of scanning should be run using a copy/scanner before considering a production scanner?
A: One of the topics discussed on this AIIM Webinar was around using multi-function peripheral (MFP) devices. These all-in-one devices not only perform copying and printing, but can also serve as a capture device. With that said, these MFP devices from manufacturers like Xerox, HP, Canon, Ricoh and others are not intended for high volume scanning. But they certainly can be used in remote offices where scanning volumes are relatively low. The same can be said about desktop scanners. They are fine in the case of low volume scanning, but not fit for higher volume scanning.