Get used to it, paper is not going away

Several years ago I managed an electronic forms (eForms) product that supported many of the industry form standards – PDF, XForms, HTML, and even InfoPath, the Microsoft product. The story around electronic forms was that it enabled businesses to replace many of the manual paper based processes with electronic processes, saving company’s valuable time and money. There certainly is truth to the statement, but at the same time I remained convinced, for several reasons, that having a solution to intelligently capture and process paper documents is still extremely important.

The reality is that few businesses or business processes are truly “paperless”. While many of our documents have become electronic, from e-mail to business documents to web-based forms, studies show that paper consumption has remained constant or is continuing to grow in many industries. That means paper cannot be dismissed as yesterday’s problem.

So why can’t we box up our scanners and make every process electronic? Well I’ve decided to revisit some key points that I’ve talked about for years to see which are still very relevant in today’s discussions.

Much of the paper that businesses deal with comes from outside an organization – The point is you have no control over it, so you have to learn how to deal with it.  For example, insurance companies generate insurance policies that are printed by customers when applying for an auto loan. The lender then receives the proof of insurance document from the customer, and has to process and store the information as part of the loan process.  The paper generated in this case is coming from well outside the bank and cannot be controlled.

Some industries will always need paper – There is a lot of truth to this statement and the point I’m making is that some processes still need to be designed to support both electronic and paper. A good example where this is true is within government: government agencies service a very large constituent base where paper is still required to do business.

Many government agencies have instituted electronic processes for their most common processes like renewing a driver’s license. But even drivers license renewals can be done by mail.

Another key point to remember is that many businesses and government agencies have hundreds of processes. Some are more common than others, thus the higher priority ones usually become electronic first, while hundreds of other processes remain paper-driven.

eForms are great, but don’t forget about supporting documentation –  Even when you create an electronic process, paper documents are a necessary evil. You complete an electronic form, but then you are asked to submit photocopies of your driver’s license, birth certificate, pay stubs, proof of insurance, letter explaining employment, and so on. Somewhere in the process the business is going to have to deal with that paper. One common example is the loan origination process. Anyone who has bought a house lately or refinanced a mortgage knows what I’m talking about.  There is a lot of supporting documentation that is required to get a loan these days. For example, showing proof of income requires copies of tax returns and pay stubs.

Please sign here – Yes electronic signatures are great in certain environments, but that’s still a small percentage. To get a signature often requires the individual to print a document and sign it. Yet another example of where paper is generated.

Infrastructure not there to support electronic processes – If we are dealing with processes that are in other parts of the world, there are situations where the paper medium is the most practical and logical way to get things done, and still the most trusted by many people.  Even in the US, you do not need to look far. In the US, our election process is still handled on paper in most places. In other cases, businesses need to still support paper as an alternative to some of their most critical business processes.  In other parts of the world computers and technology are still years behind us making paper the only way to reliably do business.

That process is extremely complex – Let’s face it, if we had a goal to make every process and processing step entirely electronic, we may never achieve that goal for some processes. All you have to do is look at the reasons above and you will find many situations where it is just not practical.

So there you have it, all the reasons why paper will be with us for years to come. That’s not to say we shouldn’t set the bar high and strive for the “paperless” office; we just need to look at the big picture and understand where paper still plays a role. Yes, electronic forms and workflow automation solutions are needed, but organizations would be wise not to discount the importance of capture solutions to dramatically improve their business process. Given that capture can transform paper into valuable electronic information, you’ll save time, reduce operational cost, and improve productivity. In the end, your paper will no longer be a liability; instead it will be a valuable asset that you can leverage as a business advantage.

Thoughts on Recent Digital Mailroom Roundtable Event

I recently spoke at a local field event in New York City, the topic – Automate Your Mailroom with Intelligent Enterprise Capture. Overall a great event both from attendance and the questions that were asked.  It was an EMC / Paragon Solutions co-sponsored event where I kicked things off talking about the digital mailroom concept, the capture technologies that are important, and the benefits the Captiva intelligent enterprise capture solutions can deliver.

Paragon also provided great insight into their experiences working with clients on various digital mailroom projects. They talked about the different stages of implementing a digital mailroom – establish requirements, define overall future state, establish priorities, develop a business case, and define a roadmap. Each stage is important and when followed enables companies to achieve their goals and objectives.

The other aspect of what Paragon does for organizations when implementing Captiva and other technologies, is how they assess the maturity of an organization. This helps to evaluate people, process, and technology relative to document processing efficiency and to create a pragmatic roadmap to achieving a greater level of maturity. What comes out of this approach by Paragon is a set of deliverables that detail important things like  future state, process flows for the mailroom,  gap analysis, implementation strategy, and future state technology architecture/blueprint.

Digital Mailroom and  ROI

A big part of this roundtable event was to talk about real world deployments and the savings organizations have been able to achieve with the EMC Captiva intelligent enterprise  capture solutions. I have many examples I can sight, but the ones that Paragon talked about clearly demonstrate the ongoing need for intelligent enterprise capture for the mailroom.

Here’s one great example:

Top five life and annuity insurance company:

  • Receives 1,500 new account application packets per week and require classification of 180 different work types that integrate with their AWD platform. Prior to implementing Captiva, 100% of the data entry was manual, and average new account processing time was three days.
  • The solution – implement Captiva to create a digital mailroom where documents are automatically classified and data extracted, and integrated with AWD and Nba using ACORD standard messaging formats.
  • The results – reduced average account opening time from three days to one day, and reduced processing cost by 35%.

Why Now?

As a main entry point into a business, the mailroom is typically a complex environment. Manually managing the flow of paper is labor-intensive, and however efficient teams are, delays in processing remain, ultimately affecting the service businesses are able to deliver. This environment is likely not going to change anytime soon so long as businesses continue to accept and process paper that comes from the outside. Many business processes like new account opening, claims, loans, and others, still have rely heavily on paper. So even if a process starts electronically with a phone call or an online application, a bi-product of this initiation is paper documents that contain required signatures, additional data, and other supporting documents.

What EMC Captiva can do for businesses is “intelligently” capture, classify, and deliver information to the right people and into the right systems. By eliminating manual document sorting and data entry, Captiva helps organizations minimize the risk of error, reduce costs, and boost productivity. Thanks to enterprise capture’s automation, businesses can take control of their mailroom, whether documents arrive by mail, fax, or any electronic format.

To learn more on this topic, check out the Captiva Ideal Office site. I’m looking forward to doing this event again in other regions given it is definitely a topic people want to discuss.

evaluate people, process, and technology relative to document processing efficiency to create a pragmatic Roadmap to achieving a greater level of maturity

EMC Launches New Captiva Site – Stopping Paper From Slowing Down Your Business

We recently launched a new site for organizations and partners to learn more about the Captiva intelligent enterprise capture solutions and the value that document and data capture delivers.

The new site, called the Captiva Ideal Office, provides an interactive place where people can go and learn about the EMC Captiva products and solutions, the benefits, what analyst are saying, experience the products through demos, understand why companies choose Captiva over other offerings, and read about customer successes.

The theme for the site is “Stop Paper From Slowing Down Your Business. Capture Connect, and Go.” Built to look like a very modern office, the IDEAL office takes you digitally on a tour of four different areas, each focused on a single business problem and how Captiva solves it.   The four areas are:

  • Taking Control of Your Paper
  • Accelerating Your Paper-based Processes
  • Automating Your Mailroom
  • Getting Your Paper into SharePoint

Also new is the Captiva Intelligent Enterprise Capture video map, which includes more than a dozen videos with our own product experts.

Whether you are a business looking for the right capture solution, or partner working with a customer, you will find an abundance of information including white papers, data sheets, solution overviews, best practices guides, product demonstrations and the Captiva benefits calculator.

I encourage you to check it out today.

Capture, connect, and go.

SAP and EMC team up to Deliver New Solutions that Automate Paper-Intensive Processes

EMC and SAP have just announced the expansion of their global strategic alliance which will now have SAP reselling newly developed solutions that leverage EMC Documentum enterprise content management, EMC Captiva intelligent enterprise capture  and  Document Sciences customer communications management.

The initial solution (SAP® Insurance Broker Statement Processing by EMC) will focus on the insurance broker reconciliation process where there is a need to capture broker related paper documents that enter into an insurance company either by mail, fax, or email. By utilizing Captiva as a first step in the process, broker related documents and data are digitized and delivered into the reconciliation process, thereby increasing the insurance brokers productivity and reducing the cost of errors and manual workarounds that are typical with manual paper-based processes.

Additional solutions will cover time-consuming paper handling and manual intensive processes required to manage a loan.  By utilizing Captiva to digitize the paper information early and creating digitized loan folders, banks can accelerate the loan origination process and potentially increase their loan sales production and closure rates as well as enhance customer communications throughout the loan lifecycle.

In a recent study by Harvey Spencer Associates, it was reported that over 20 million tons of office paper is produced and consumed every year in the US and Europe. Much of the paper that is generated today can be tied back to critical business transactions like claims, loans, and account management, demonstrating the continued need for automation. And while many companies have invested in various capture technologies for the simple benefit of storing and accessing information electronically, strong growth and investment in capture solutions continues to be focused on business process automation where advanced capture capabilities (e.g. automated document classification and data extraction) deliver a very strong ROI.

To read more on the EMC and SAP global strategic alliance, check out the full press release.

Los Angeles County Children’s Medical Services Streamlines Costly Paper Handling with EMC

Thousands of active patient cases, 65 remote locations, thousands of  documents each day, and hundreds of nurses, physical and occupational therapists. At Los Angeles County Children’s Medical Services (CMS) they receive on average 5,000 pages of documents from several providers via fax and mail each day – patient records, lab reports, claim forms and so on. Previously these documents were manually sorted and put into physical folders. That presented several challenges including the manual effort involved in filing paper, misfiled and lost documents.

To address these challenges, Los Angeles County Children’s Medical Services (CMS) worked with EMC consulting partner Burntsand to tackle the challenges in managing all the paper associated medical records. Using Captiva, the documents received by fax and mail are captured, identified and indexed. Once transformed into digital content, documents and data are delivered to the Documentum repository and securely stored as part of an electronic patient case folder. Practitioners and case managers are notified when new documents are online. The integrated Captiva and Documentum solution has truly created  a modern-age digital office for medical records.

In a recent AIIM Survey that polled 882 information and records management professionals, IT staff and line of business executives; improved searchability of business documents was the highest driver for scanning, closely followed by compliance and business process improvement. Another interesting data point was forty-six percent of users reported ROI within 12 months with two-thirds seeing returns within 18 months.

You can read more about the CMS story by visiting EMC.com and viewing the full press release and case study.

Recap From Recent Webcast – “Why Captiva Over the Competition?”

Why Captiva over the competition?  Well there are lots good reasons (both technical and business) which I covered in a recent online Webcast. If you missed the Webcast, here’s the link to where you can listen to the recording.

Webcast: Why Captiva Over the Competition?

Enterprise capture defined

One of the areas I talked about in the Webcast is this notion of enterprise capture and how we define it. In a nutshell enterprise capture is about using a common document capture platform to capture documents for use by different departments, people, and processes.  Use of the software often spans across the entire enterprise supporting centralized mailroom/back office capture and distributed capture (front office, mobile workers, many devices).

There are a several key elements that make up a “true” enterprise capture product. Key elements would include:

  • Scalability – High volume processing of forms and documents. The ability to scale and handle large volumes of pages. One thing to keep in mind is what volume a single server can handle. Anyone can claim supporting high volume environments by simply adding more servers. But is that really the best approach? If one vendor can handle X volume with 2 servers, but the other vendor requires 5 servers (this is all hypothetical), wouldn’t my support and maintenance cost be more if in fact I had to use 5 servers? I’d probably opt for the vendor who can do the same workload but with less servers.
  • Speed (it’s blazing fast) – Time is money. And in some cases documents being captured are time sensitive. So the more effective I can breakdown and distribute the work, the better off I will likely be.
  • Flexibility– Providing lots of flexibility so that capture is well-integrated into your processes and systems, and the process flows meet  your business needs.  Nothing is more painful than finding out later that the software really can’t do what you need it to do and being forced to add unnecessary steps to a capture process.
  • Intelligent capture – Intelligent document classification and data extraction. This is very important! Some of the biggest savings will come from eliminating manually classifying documents and keying data. Manual document sorting and keying data  is very slow.
  • Integration – Open architecture, with modern SDKs (.NET, Web services) for building custom modules and integrating with other systems is very important.
  • Architecture that supports the full spectrum of capturing documents (distributed, centralized, scanners, MFPs, and other digital devices)
  • Modular / services oriented – if you take a closer look at some vendors who claim to have an enterprise capture offering, you are likely to find that it is not in fact modular. Rather all the functionality gets delivered in one application.

These are just a few key points to consider when evaluating an enterprise capture product. Keep in mind enterprise capture is not just associated with high volume implementations.  Sometimes we get caught up on this notion that unless a company is doing very high volumes, than enterprise capture is not for them. This is really not the case. There are many requirements that are part of the evaluation and selection process, that go beyond what your document volumes will be.

Independent competitive report shows how Captiva is better

The other topic of discussion during the Webcast is  a new independent study that is out which shows how Captiva is better than another competitor in the market.  The vendor (Wipro) performed a series of lab based test looking at all key areas – setup, production, management, and design. Captiva scored better in all areas than the competitor. The recorded Webcast will give you a good overview of the highlights from the report.

Enterprise capture made easy

This is really about delivering the best of both worlds. We’ve taken the flexibility and powerful capabilities of Captiva InputAccel, and added a simple drag-and-drop capture process design application to make it easy to set up and deploy a capture process with the new InputAccel CaptureFlow Designer application.  You can read more about this new application in one of my earlier post.

So there you have it…enterprise capture defined, the key enterprise capture technical requirements, how Captiva is the better choice according to the latest independent competitive report, and now enterprise capture made easy with the new InputAccel CaptureFlow Designer.

-Bill-

Key Findings from New Document Capture Survey by AIIM

A new survey from AIIM is now available on EMC.com.  The report survey polled 882 information and records management professionals, IT staff and line of business executives, looking at the issues and potential benefits of  different document capture approaches, and considers the potential Return on Investment (ROI) across various  application areas. A free copy of the report is available at: http://www.emc.com/CaptureStrategies

Some of the findings included:

  • Centralized in-house scanning and mailroom scanning are set for considerable growth compared to outsourced scanning and capture.
  • Knowledge management in the form of improved searchability of business documents is the highest driver for scanning, closely followed by compliance and business process improvement.
  • Forty-six percent of users report ROI within 12 months with two-thirds seeing returns within 18 months.

It  is safe to say that companies continue to find document capture one of the safest ECM (Enterprise Content Management) investments.

What do you think? Has your company invested in document capture? Are the benefits what you had anticipated?

-Bill-