By Malcolm Hart, CTO, i1 Solutions
South African organisations such as insurers, healthcare companies and government agencies still depend heavily on paper forms and documents for many of their business processes. Constrained by regulations, budget and legacy systems, they cannot yet completely digitise all of these processe. That is according to Malcolm Hart, CTO at i1 Solutions.
Yet paper-based processes are slow, expensive and introduce scope for human error. They also damage customer satisfaction and tie up corporate resources that could be deployed to areas of the business that add more strategic value. To address these challenges, South African businesses are starting to look towards distributed document capture solutions.
“These solutions enable companies to capture documents anywhere, digitise them immediately and eliminate the inefficiencies of moving paper. They streamline the capture, recognition, and classification of business documents and to quickly and accurately extract important information from those documents for use by business users and in applications,” says Hart.
Using distributed data capture, organisations can capture documents where data enters an organisation, for example at point where a field technician gets the customers sign off on a job or where a salesperson closes a contract with a customer.
Thus, rather than relying on centralised scanning operations, leading companies are taking advantage of the latest solutions that turn MFDs, mobile devices, and network and personal scanners into secure, easy-to-use capture workstations continued Hart.
Key functionality of a distributed data capture solution
A good distributed data capture solution will improve efficiency by automating three key areas:
· Classification: The software should streamline document preparation tasks, such as manual sorting of documents into classes before scanning. It will enable users to scan a stack of mixed documents that will be automatically sorted.
· Data extraction: It must also be able to extract information from unstructured documents dynamically, or use templates for forms-based documents—eliminating wasteful, error-prone manual data entry.
· Validation: Finally, it should also provide multiple methods to automatically check captured data to verify accuracy.
Marketing-leading solutions like IBM’s Datacap use advanced cognitive computing technology to streamline management of documents. Using natural language processing, text analytics and machine learning technologies, these solutions automatically identify, classify and extract content from unstructured or highly variable documents that usually require manual intervention. This can help significantly reduce labour and paper costs.
Benefits of distributed data capture
In a distributed data capture environment, employees and customers can perform capture tasks with easy-to-use interfaces on familiar devices. For example, new customer on-boarding or new loan applications can be concluded inside a mobile app rather than the paperwork going to a data capture hub.
As a result, important documents and data are fed into business processes and analytics systems quickly and accurately. Pre-configured workflows can be used to automate processing. This, in turn, reduces costs while enhancing the business’s agility and efficiency.
Distributed data also help reduce expenses by eliminating document shipping, paper handling and storage as well as decreasing manual data entry and the costs of indexing errors that cause lost or misrouted documents.
It also provides a dependable audit trail of who has captured the documents. Another potential benefit lies in better customer service. Customer-facing employees can process information quicker and more accurately, as well as easily access information electronically to answer customer inquiries.
Hart concludes that for South African organisations, distributed document capture can deliver rapid return on investment by boosting customer satisfaction, easing compliance and improving efficiencies. It is a technology that addresses one of the biggest challenges organisations face: taming the costs of paper and accelerating business processes to the pace of a digital world.