Most organizations can be much more effective in addressing how they ingest information into their organizations – information that could be from customers, or suppliers, or partners, or from employees who are submitting documents to you. These days, this information comes in not just via paper – it’s also email and attachments, faxes, and input from social media, smart phones, etc.
So just how do you go about doing multi-stream capture?
Step 1 is to find a way to get these information streams into your organization.
Step 2 is mainstreaming them. By “mainstreaming,” I mean making them as efficient as your best paper capture processes, using OCR, automatic document recognition and classification, QA, and getting them into the downstream workflows just like the images of paper. Reduce or eliminate the exception-handling.
To do this, however, you not only have to treat these information streams the same as paper images, but also treat them differently when they should be treated differently. So for example, attachments have to be stripped from emails. And faxes may have to be treated differently if you are doing OCR on them. Faxes are TIFFS, but have a lower dot-per-inch count than paper images, so OCR is going to be more difficult.
If all of these incoming formats are a real problem for your organization, you might consider another option. An alternative to accepting multiple streams and dealing with all their respective complexities is to have a single mandatory or highly recommended way of ingesting information: a customer portal for submitting electronic documents, where you can limit – maybe down to just one! – the ways that documents get submitted to you. Some of our clients in the financial services sector are doing this successfully. They continue to use their capture technologies for classification, indexing, QA, and release to the downstream document systems. This kind of approach is great if you can do it, but you obviously need very compliant document submitters.
What’s important if you are doing any kind of complex or high-volume multi-stream capture is that you do some modeling and evaluation. As you probably know if you’ve been dealing with complex systems (like production capture and workflow that’s integrated with downstream business systems), it’s not enough that the technologies have to “work”. Sure, the scanner and capture software and OCR engines and imaging or document management systems have to “work” – but they also have to work together. The capture software has to run the scanners and other channels, and the OCR engines have to work with those things, and they all have to integrate properly with the ECM systems and downstream business systems and workflow.
But even that’s not good enough! The whole contraption has to work cost-effectively. Which is to say it has to save you money, or make you money. This is an extension about what you probably already know about when to do OCR, versus when to just hand-key the data from documents or forms: Sometimes you have too many errors, and QA and error correction makes OCR inefficient. It’s just more efficient to do it manually!
So there are lots of moving parts, and the way to make the right decisions is to model it using spreadsheets and some visualization graphics. Then do “what if” scenarios to see what happens – e.g. to see whether you should try to do OCR on faxes or just hand-key the indexes. Or maybe the OCR on faxes is inefficient, but you can still get your scanning crew, as opposed to the more expensive downstream employees, to do the QA – so it’s the best option even though it wasn’t immediately apparent.
And finally, as part of your planning and execution, you must pay attention to a lot more than just what technology to use. Here are eleven areas that we at Doculabs consider to be important to assessing any capture operation:
- Primary Processes
- Supporting Processes
- Technology Capabilities
- Supporting Technology
- Human Resources
- Quality Mechanisms
- Customer Satisfaction
- Business Continuity
- Vendor Management
- Financial Management
We suggest that you should be managing these and measuring them as you proceed.
Granted, eleven areas is a lot to bite off on. But note that Doculabs regularly conducts benchmarks of capture operations and service bureaus. We can provide you with information on each of these criteria – as well as an assessment of just how your own organization’s capture operation stacks up.