This is the fourth and final article in my series focusing on intelligent data capture. The concept of the series is that effectively managing document processing activities is critical to business success. It can help raise employee productivity, reduce the cost and cycle time associated with processing documents such as invoices, strengthen security and enhance customer service. Intelligent data capture is an approach that can help you streamline document processing and realize these and other goals.
In my previous articles (read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) I focused on the potential business advantages of intelligent data capture, including five steps to successfully implementing a solution. I also spotlighted two case history examples that illustrate how businesses are leveraging the intelligent data capture process to achieve substantial benefits. I’ll now examine a third case history example of intelligent data capture in action and close with a discussion of the pros and cons of managing data capture internally versus outsourcing the process.
Capturing Data for Prospective Students
My third case history example, highlighted in Figure 1, concerns an educational institution that needed help in capturing data connected with transcripts and other admissions documents for prospective students.
The admissions documents represented an income stream; as such the decision was made to perform the scanning functions on-site. One challenge was that, while the university had an enterprise repository and capture solution in place, these were not optimized for batch ingestion. As a result, the school was scanning one page or one document at a time.
The school’s capture process was redesigned using technology that was already in place. This included creating a process for receiving mail directly and automatically opening envelopes and extracting the contents. Next came the only pure manual step in the workflow: validating original documents. This step was required in order to meet the internal business rule that original transcripts must follow a different workflow than copies. Original transcripts are frequently stamped with a raised seal that might not be recognized during an automated scanning process.
After the validation, the documents follow a similar scan and data extraction process as highlighted in earlier examples. The data is then moved further along the workflow to a point where it is accessed by a university team that evaluates the transcripts. It is important to note that previously the school was using highly skilled labor to manually perform these document processing tasks. Because the new automated capture process requires less manual processing and staff, the school was able to reassign employees to perform activities better suited to their skill set.
Managing Documents Internally Versus Outsourcing
In a previous article I stated that the first step in successfully implementing an intelligent data capture solution is to centralize intake. I noted that a key to this step is for an enterprise to clarify the business model it wants to use for managing the capture process: internally or outsourced. Let’s briefly examine some pros and cons of each model.
Figure 2 spotlights some of the advantages and disadvantages of managing documents, including the capture process, internally.
On the plus side, the organization maintains control over implementing and maintaining the capture process. Further, the company’s IT department controls the installation, which occurs on an internal network.
There are several issues on the minus side. First and foremost, the company has to bear the entire cost for the implementation, including hardware, software, training and project management. Another challenge related to implementation is that many IT departments do not have the requisite expertise with capture systems to ensure a smooth install process. Additionally, implementation might require transitioning from legacy systems. Depending on the age of the systems, such a transition could be costly. And looking ahead, as the need to scale up arises due to changes in the business, the company may need to purchase additional equipment, software licenses and incur other related expenses.
Figure 3 depicts some of the pros and cons associated with an outsourcing model.
The “pros” of the outsourcing model include the fact that, because an organization is leveraging the expertise, processes, technology and economies of scale connected with a service provider, there is the potential to realize a greater return on investment over time. Additionally, a service provider often provides the latest technology upgrades and security updates as part of an outsourcing agreement, freeing the organization from these concerns. Another significant benefit is access to a service provider’s pool of technology and processing experts, who can help ensure the success of future projects.
The main potential drawback to the outsourcing model is that — due to security concerns for documents containing sensitive data such as employee benefits and compensation — some document management activities may need to occur offsite, away from where employees are located. However, there is a “political” issue connected offsite document management. Some executives are simply not comfortable with an offsite, outsourced model because they believe that this generally poses a higher security risk. However, in our experience, offsite operations managed by a services provider are often protected with greater security than a company’s internal, onsite systems because the provider’s offsite facilities have to meet a much broader range of industry regulations and guidelines.
Whether your company is looking to reduce document processing costs, boost employee productivity, safeguard against business interruption or respond to internal and external customers faster, intelligent data capture can help achieve these and other critical business objectives.
Developing a document management strategy that will help you achieve these goals requires expertise and best-in-class technology. For an organization lacking these assets, engaging a services provide that offers years of experience providing end-to-end imaging, document conversion and indexing services may make sense. But whether managed internally or outsourced, you will find that intelligent data capture is among the best investments you can make for your business.