Hidden value propositions

Mar 03
2016

Document automation has it’s obvious value: to decrease the cost of running a paper base business, but there are some other areas to gain value from document automation technology which is not always monetary and some companies are finding it to be even more important.

Improved Employee Efficiency
Very often organizations have salaried employees who’s job description is not data-entry but are doing data-entry work. It’s often overlooked because the data-entry portion of their job is ad-hoc and not at tremendous volume. When the data-entry task is removed from these employees plate they are able to dedicate more time to their job responsibilities and increase their efficiency. This is most often seen with accounts payable clerks. The value of this is that the salary paid to these employees is now used on more critical thinking tasks.

eDiscovery Ready
No one wants to be involved in a lawsuit, but they happen. When they happen, being ready is critical. Courts will expect you to produce data that is accurate and produce it quickly. You will want to be able to produce that data at a low cost, and at the same time, not produce more information than you have to. Document automation and OCR technologies are a critical part of this. Paper in file cabinets are very costly to review and collect for a case, but OCRd documents that are properly filed are easy to search and retrieve. This makes you eDiscovery ready at a lower cost and greater efficiency. The value is a reduced cost and risk when and if a lawsuit happens.

Compliance
Regulation can come from government or industry. Companies who are not compliant risk penalties or even worse. Document automation technologies help companies become compliant faster and more accurately. Instead of having a large staff to manage compliance, they can dedicate computer time to do the data-entry work on documents having compliance risk, and a small staff to maintain their presence. Similar to eDiscovery, this preparedness mitigates potential risk and cost of not being ready.

Reduced Workers Comp Claims
The lesser thought about value of document automation is workers compensation claims associated with document handling and entry. Companies with large data-entry staff can dramatically reduce claims associated with data-entry especially cases such as carpal tunnel, back pains, and eye strain. The staff’s duties will shift to more body friendlily activities that are less redundant. Every year companies are spending a lot of money on workers compensation claims, and the administration of them. This reduces that cost and risk.

As you can see, there are many areas where document automation can help companies and there are even a few more that are industry specific. Often companies find that the ROI is secondary to the above benefits of document automation.

Chris Riley – About

Find much more about document technologies at www.cvisiontech.com.

Barcodes, time savers, and wasters

Feb 17
2016

Barcodes are a great technology. You can fit a lot of information in a barcode, they can be read at any angle, and they are also very accurate. You have to degrade 30% of a barcode before it’s unreadable. In data capture, barcodes are commonly used for batch cover sheets, document separation, or printed on the document themselves. This has been proven to be a time saver both in quality and because they can be read very quickly using both software based and hardware based solutions. What organizations often don’t think about is the additional time and cost that barcodes add to the capture process.

Organizations usually don’t connect document creation and prep time with data capture time. The total time and cost associated with the capture of documents is not just from the point of scan to export. It is all the additional steps leading up to the scan to get the document in the state it needs to be fore scanning. If an organization uses barcode pages to separate documents, it’s the time it takes for an operator to generate the pages and put them manually between documents. If organizations use barcode pages as batch separation, it’s the time it takes to create the unique barcode for each batch and place it on top of the batch prior to scan. These are just the two most common examples but there are many more.  This is a common misconception because it’s not the same person doing the barcode creation and separation as the person scanning, or the barcodes are created in advanced and the time it took is forgotten.

Because organizations are not counting this into the total capture process they are missing out in the real data capture time and cost. It’s no surprise then when they are maintaining high paper cost and not reaching the ROI they expected. Barcodes are a great tool, but should be used when their benefit is greater then their time cost. Benefits can be accuracy, and process molding. Very seldom are barcodes alone responsible for substantial cost savings. Very often organizations don’t realize that they could in fact do away with barcodes by using advanced data capture. Accuracy may surfer slightly but the time savings is substantially more.

Chris Riley – About

Find much more about document technologies at www.cvisiontech.com.

Clock is ticking

Jun 30
2015

When considering the ROI on a data capture integration, setup time is one of the most important and often miscalculated factors. Not just the setup time for initial integration, but the setup time used for any fine-tuning and optimization may sometimes postpone production.

The difference in setup time between a fixed data capture environment where coordinate based fields are used and rules based semi-structured environments is substantial. It’s not usually the fixed data capture environments that pose the biggest challenge in calculating ROI or predicting it. It takes an administrator on average between 15 to 45 seconds to create and fine-tune a fixed form field. In semi-structured processing, the field setup time can take between 60 seconds and hours, depending on the complexity of the document and the logic being deployed. It’s this large gap that throws a wrench in some ROI calculations.

For experienced integrators, the ability to put a document and it’s associated fields into complexity classes is usually pretty easy. After doing so gauging, the average amount of time to setup each field, and thus all fields should be accurate. There is always a field or two that requires extra fine-tuning. The key is a complete understanding of the document. Sometimes document variations are obvious, other times they sneak up on you and you have no idea the variation exists until you start working with it. Knowing all variations is the easiest way to understand the additional time any field will take to setup. Variants are the biggest contributor of time in semi-structured data capture setup. Second is odd field types, such as fields that take up one to many lines, or are continuous across two separate lines, and finally tables. The third and final largest contributor to setup time is poor document quality. This means the administrator has to be more general when creating fields and likely has to deploy multiple logic per each field to locate information in several possible ways.

When calculating the ROI on your data capture project, make sure to be aware of these sometimes sneaky factors that can eat at integration time. Bottom-line, know your documents, and know the technology before any work is done. If you are unsure, seek professional assistance.

Chris Riley – About

Find much more about document technologies at www.cvisiontech.com.

You gotta spend money to save money

Feb 03
2015

I’ve been surprised about the nature of the economy and its impact on technology that saves money. OCR and Data Capture have a clear benefit to companies that process even an average amount of documents a day. Paper cost is high, the time of entry is slow with manual entry. Often times companies don’t even realize they are paying none data entry salary for employees to do data entry work as documents are a big factor in many higher paid jobs.

Even though Data Capture and OCR saves companies money, companies today are in spending freezes. You have to spend money to save money in a poor economy. The trick in this economy to get the best bang for the buck and to start saving faster is to take baby steps. Start automating slowly at a low volume. This keeps the cost down and allows the organization to introduce technology faster. At the same time, the organization is building a data capture and OCR infrastructure. Automate the easy documents, take it in steps. The other trick is to pick Data Capture and OCR packages that are robust and provide the general functionality that you would have to find in several packages. For Data Capture and OCR this would include image capture, image clean-up, archive, compression, and export to repositories. Each of these could potentially be a separate software product you would need to purchase but there are many applications out there that contain them all.

Organizations need to free up budgets that would allow them to save money in a month’s time.

Chris Riley – About

Find much more about document technologies at www.cvisiontech.com.

The wrong question – “How accurate are you?”

Dec 16
2014

Organizations seeking full-page or Data Capture technology have a serious need to estimate accuracy before they even deploy a technology, as this is a primary variable in determining the range of return on investment they can expect to achieve. When organizations try to understand accuracy by asking the vendor “How accurate are you?” they have gone down a path that may be hard to undue.

Accuracy is tied very closely to your document types and business process. While even asking for an accuracy on a document similar to yours is fair, it should not have much weight. An organization’s business process dramatically impacts OCR accuracy as well. Instead of asking “How accurate are you?” you should be asking “Can I test your software on my documents?”.

A properly established test bed of documents is the ideal way to evaluate the accuracy of a product. You want to know the worst case scenario. Build a set of documents that are samples of your production documents and make sure your collection is proportional to the volume you intend to process and the number of variations. Of that, 25% of them should be the “pretty” documents, 50%, should be your typical documents, and 25%, your worse documents. Use this sample set on all products you test. If you are able to compile truth data ( 100% accurate manual results from these documents ) then you are even better off in your analysis.

While I would hope no vendor answers this question directly, the question itself means that you don’t understand yet the problem you are trying to solve. Today, the ability to test is essential and the vendor should grant you that right. Taking the time to test will save you much pain and time later.

Chris Riley – About

Find much more about document technologies at www.cvisiontech.com.

Exceptional exceptions – Key to winning with Data Capture

Dec 02
2014

Exceptions happen! When working with advanced technologies in Data Capture and forms processing, you will always have exceptions. It’s how companies choose to deal with those exceptions that often make or break an integration. Too often exception handling is not considered for data capture projects, but it’s important. Exceptions help organizations find areas for improvement, increase the accuracy of the overall process, and when properly prepared for, keep return on investment (ROI) stable.

There are two phases of exceptions; those that make it to the operator driven quality assurance step, and those that are thrown out of the system. It would take some time to list all the possible causes of these exceptions but that is not the point here, it’s how to best manage them.

Exceptions that make it to the quality assurance ( QA ) process have a manual labor cost associated with them, so the goal is to make the checking as fast as possible. The best first step is to use database look up for fields. If you have pre-existing data in a database, link your fields to this data as a first round of checking and verification. Next would be to choose proper data types. Data types are formatting for fields. For example a date in numbers will only have numbers and forward slashes in the format NN”/”NN”/”NNNN. By only allowing these characters, you make sure you catch exceptions and can either give enough information for the data capture software to correct it ( if you see a g it’s probably a 6 ) or hone in for the verification operator exactly where the problem is. The majority of your exceptions will fall into the quality assurance phase. There are some exception documents that the software is not confident about at all and will end up in an exception bucket.

Whole exception documents that are kicked out of a system are the most costly, and can be if not planned for be the killer of ROI. The most often cause of these types of exceptions is a document type or variation that has not been setup for. It’s not the fault of the technology. As a matter of fact because the software kicked the document out and did not try to process it incorrectly it’s doing a great job! What companies make the mistake of doing is every document that falls in this category gets the same attention, an thus additional fine-tuning cost. But what happens if that document type never appears again, then the company just reduced their ROI for nothing. The key to these exceptions whether they are whole document types or just portions of one particular document type is to set a standard that indicates an exact problem that has to repeat X times ( based on volume ) before it’s given any sort of fine-tuning effort.

Only with an exceptional exception handling process will you have an exceptional data capture system and ROI.

Chris Riley – About

Find much more about document technologies at www.cvisiontech.com.