Standing still in business can be costly – even terminal – in competitive price conscious industries where the demand to deliver for customers and other stakeholders is high. The late Andy Grove, Intel’s third employee and its former CEO and chairman, had a succinct and memorable motto for how organisations should act to stay ahead: “Only the paranoid survive.” He wanted to encourage experimentation among his managers and help prepare for the future. Methods have to change. Focus has to change. Values have to change. The sum total of this change is transformation – exactly the kind of thinking which explains how he steered Intel from making memory chips to microprocessors in the 1980s thereby helping to usher in the age of the PC.
In the world of document management, transformation is very much on the agenda, too. In a recent survey by the Association for Intelligent Information Management (AIIM), 62 per cent of organisations said they “are committed to digital transformation” with 79 per cent of firms stating that it is important to them, 53 per cent see disruptive times ahead, yet many acknowledge that there’s still an ongoing gap when it comes to their effectiveness to change.
This is partly explained as the volume of paper documents still remains a huge source of how information is shared despite widespread computerisation. Rather surprisingly, over 46 million fax machines are still in use worldwide meaning nearly 17 billion paper-based faxes are sent each and every year. The same with printed forms. US firms alone spend more than $120 billion a year producing them, with global invoicing also still primarily paper-based. Research shows that at least 550 billion invoices were issued worldwide in 2019, with this expected to quadruple by 2035. Two-thirds are received in unstructured formats like paper or PDF – a significant portion of which then have to be handled and dealt with manually.
Indeed, over the next two years, organisations predict that the volume of all paper they are likely to deal with - not just invoices - will actually grow. In some cases, this could be up to four and half times. And then there is, of course, the vast amount of content shared in emails and email attachments.
Dedicated automation solutions can reduce the processing burden
As result, firms need to find ways to eliminate tedious and unnecessary pre and post-scan labour which – according to AIIM - eats 76 per cent of total capture costs and majorly drains operational efficiency.
Ever-increasing data volumes demand exponentially faster processing. Capture automation is one way of dealing with this ongoing tsunami of electronic and paper-based information particularly after scanning with cost effective and modular recognition technology readily available to help deal with this structured and semi structured data. Typically, this involves documents which have a set layout - designed by organisations themselves - such as proof of delivery notices (PoDs), application forms, insurance claims paperwork or simple variations of them.
Recognition technology means barcodes and patch codes can be processed, logos detected, ICR enabling handprint data to be read, along with OCR capability to handle machine print. Meta data can then be extracted quickly – like customer reference, account number, date and amount - to automatically populate downstream line of business applications like ERP and CRM systems or any number of financial packages without staff having to waste time manually rekeying it in.
And gone are the days of having to do this using expensive all singing, all dancing enterprise capture software which has a big ticket purchase price typically involving software licencing fees, annual support costs along with dreaded ‘click charges’ - typically a per image fee each time a document is processed. This adds a variable cost – a bit like putting fuel in a car once you’ve purchased it - which adds up as paper volumes grow and can become difficult for some to plan for and then fund.
Getting started isn’t complicated with significant ROI possible
Competitively priced recognition solutions are available - running on dedicated servers which can scale up as required based on the number of server cores utilised. IBML’s PostScan DocNetics is one such option. For SMEs or BPOs looking for a point solution to speed up workflows, it can literally be plugged into pretty much any existing scanning platform or capture environment. Given an open architecture, intelligent automation is then quickly and easily accessible without existing investments in hardware or software having to be thrown away which clearly isn't realistic given the tough commercial climate all organisations currently face.
Return on investment is swift. For SMEs or larger corporates who have yet to install capture automation, recognition solutions speed up data capture processing, enable SLAs to be met as well as making operators that more productive – at least a threefold improvement based on experiences in the field is very possible. Think of it as doing the heavy lifting as manual processes are removed. Clearly this type of technology avoids the necessity to hire additional headcount if and when quantities grow. With recognition solutions now lower cost, implementing this kind of software around one department’s needs or even to support a key corporate application or workstream makes practical sense.
For BPOs driven by margin, lowering the cost of capture is crucial. Recognition technology offers real flexibility for bureaus wishing to cater for a myriad of customers all with different needs. It can be applied to specific client projects rather than running paperwork through whatever enterprise capture platform is in use – with all the variable operational expenditure that this often entails. This just makes sound commercial sense as money is saved.
Transitioning to using recognition technology isn’t a complex process either. To ensure smooth rollout, there’s clearly a job to do to assess and get to know the documents to be processed in terms of volume, quality, design type, the business rules which need to be applied and where the meta data then needs to be sent. Categorising documents is an important step to ensure any system is properly scoped and set up correctly. Adding a server-based solution between an existing capture platform and line of business application is quick to do with minimal IT professional services required to get everything set up and running and integrated properly.
Ultimately, a lightweight standalone recognition technology solution will help organisations embrace the opportunity of automation by applying it to a variety of defined situations. It helps organisations to transform, evolve and change for the better, improve efficiency, stay sharp and keep on top of ever changing commercial imperatives. Andy Grove would no doubt approve.
Ashley Keil, Vice President Sales EMEA and APAC, IBML