This guest blog was contributed by Pamela Doyle | 7/31/13
The first prediction of the paperless office was actually made quite some time ago – in 1975, the same year Jimmy Hoffa went missing. Here we are, 38 years later, and we still haven’t found Jimmy Hoffa … or the paperless office.
The reality is, paper continues to persist for most organizations today. Paper is still relied upon for historical reference, as proof of business activities and to demonstrate compliance.
Initially, organizations used document imaging technology to scan and archive documents, which helped them move toward a “less-paper” office by reducing physical storage requirements and ensuring business continuity. Paper-based information, however, continued to clog business processes. Many mission-critical business processes are initiated by a single piece of paper – a purchase order, invoice, resume, or credit application, to name just a few.
With time, organizations realized the benefit of pairing scanning with workflow in order to scan-to-process or otherwise transact, which enabled them to achieve a significantly greater return on their investment with a net result of business process agility. Further enhancing scan-to-process was the transition from scanning in a centralized location to scanning and initiating a workflow from the point of the process origin, which could be a field office, branch office or virtual office.
Additionally, two other elements fueled this trend: smaller, less expensive scanners and major advances in optical character recognition (OCR) technology, which enabled key pieces of information to be extracted and interpreted in order to initiate the appropriate workflow with little to no intervention on the part of the knowledge worker.
Over time, the combination of scanning and workflow technologies has become known as transaction capture, and it is revolutionizing transaction processes such as accounts payable, accounts receivable, purchasing, human resources, lending applications handling, insurance claims handling and onboarding new customers.
Transaction capture enables faster access to actionable data, reduces the number of lost or misplaced documents, and ensures process integrity and accuracy. Significant cost savings are realized by reducing reliance on courier services, eliminating latency and substantially improving cycle times.
The natural evolution of transaction capture is to capture at the point of mobile origin using smartphones, tablets or portable document scanners, enabling organizations to capture more critical content early in the business process to further extend benefits and cost savings.
Successful deployment of transaction capture technologies requires careful planning and alignment with your organization’s business goals and objectives. Below are eight critical steps to consider:
1. Assess the business need
There are a wide variety of transaction capture applications. Begin by identifying a single paper-intensive business process to automate. Do a thorough assessment and identify the strategic imperatives required to support your business objectives, such as cost savings, increased efficiencies, risk reduction and/or customer service improvement.
2. Seek expert advice
You do not need to do this alone. Seek the assistance of knowledgeable system integrators who can assist in assessing, designing, implementing, training and supporting your transaction capture initiative. The information technology professional you select should have vast experience in both scanning and workflow automation technologies.
3. Document the process
In conjunction with your selected technology partner, document the process. What documents need to be captured? Where do they come from? Who handles them? What rules and regulations affect the process? What are the exceptions, and how should they be handled?
Documenting the process gives visibility to inefficiencies, bottlenecks and problems. Now redesign the process to focus on the desired result using scanning and workflow automation tools.
4. Identify your technology needs
Transaction capture is not a single technology. It is a combination of hardware and software. You will need some, if not all, of the following:
* Capture hardware such as scanners, smartphones or tablets
* Capture software, including recognition technologies
* Workflow automation tools
* Tool kits to integrate with back-end applications such as ERP, CRM and accounting
5. Identify the requirements
Identify both the functional requirements (such as design tools, parallel processing, recognition and image enhancement) as well as the nonfunctional requirements (such as ease of use, training and technical support) you will require.
6. Careful vendor analysis
Again, working with your selected IT professional, carefully analyze a number of potential options for your transaction capture project. The options should be compared across a number of different criteria, such as their fit with your strategic objectives, cost-benefit analysis results, scalability, ease of use and implementation risks. Require a demonstration of your content being handled by the considered hardware and software solutions, then select the solution that best meets your requirements.
7. Deploy the solution
Deploy the selected solution. Focusing on a single paper-intensive business problem should make it easier to demonstrate proof of concept. Test, refine the process, and test some more. Process improvement should be an ongoing goal and objective.
8. Leverage the investment
Once the process is fully operational, do a thorough benefit realization to prove that all expectations from the project have been met. Measure both the hard-dollar savings and soft benefits realized. I think you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to demonstrate the return on investment. Now leverage that investment to address another paper-intensive business process and take another step toward a less-paper office.
Pamela Doyle (@PamKDoyle) is the director of education for Fujitsu Computer Products of America’s imaging products group. In this role, she is responsible for forming and driving key imaging industry relationships as the worldwide spokesperson for Fujitsu. In her capacity as Fujitsu’s industry luminary, she frequently shares her imaging experience at numerous events, including global conferences such as AIIM, JIIMA, and ARMA. She currently serves as chairperson for the TWAIN Working Group and is an AIIM Ambassador.