In the paperless and non-digital world, data quality has a lot of non-answered challenges. But it’s the way data is captured and integrated into the systems that matters the most. If not done properly right at the entry point all the subsequent tasks (validation, audit or analysis) will suffer. You need to guarantee a non-corrupted, easy, agile and accurate way to capture information. Distributed capture and entry point are the keywords to consider.
Without good data, nothing else matters.
Document Capture and Distributed Capture
Advanced enterprise document capture software, and associated services, provides the ability to automate the process of scanning paper documents. Its goal is to reduce the amount of time spent in the capture process and produce metadata along with an image file, and/or OCR text. This information is then integrated into core systems, workflow frameworks and available for search.
Distributed capture is a technology that allows the scanning of documents into a central server through the use of individual capture stations, streamlining the process of acquiring and creating digital documents. The streamlining is a result of several factors including the lack of software that needs to be installed at every scanning station and the variety of input sources from which documents can be captured. This includes things like email, the legacy fax, or a watched folder.
Data quality from the very beginning
Converting a paper document into an electronic image has more ifs than we can imagine and it’s mandatory to decide where to spot the point of entry.
Where do you want to capture your data?
Best practices indicate that it should be done as soon as the document is received or created.
This distributed process it’s not so simple as simply snapping a photo. Before you invest on a solution, there are questions that have to be addressed to assure that data quality is granted since the point of entry:
- Did the information enter the system correctly at the entry point?
- Was the integrity of the information maintained during processing through the system?
- Can this information be reconciled between two or more systems in the organization?
- What is the validity of the information? Can it be trusted?
- Is the information used and interpreted correctly at the point of entry?
The first step to answering these questions and developing a “first-kilometer” data strategy is to identify where quality problems can exist. These questions are not always evident, and it is important to develop methods for detection.
Data quality must be ensured by your people on the field and not by professional capturers
First of all, the organization must assure the existence of an intuitive user-interface. This will be essential to facilitate distributed capture, because typically people that receive documents and work at the front-end, are customer-facing, they are hired to sell, not dedicated and trained capture operators. The solution should provide clear and simple series of steps that assure accurate data and easy up the process.
Image quality and document identity are also important pieces of the puzzle. “Partially-captured document will quickly undermine the benefits of distributed capture, especially downstream when it comes time to extract data with optical character recognition (OCR)”, says AIIM. For a step up in quality, the organization should use portable scanners, some are no larger than a thick ruler, ant they can be attached to a laptop or mobile device.
Regarding identity, organizations must be confident about the documents that are on the systems. The first and most important piece of information about any scan is the identity of the document itself. Is it an application? A claim? A change-of-address? An invoice? That questions might be answered by manual input from the person who scanned or took the picture of the document, but it also might be automated through advanced data extraction and automatic document classification.
The organization must never forget that information is its most important asset and that it has to put this valuable advantage to work for the business.
Determining the accuracy of content extracted from a document is of prime importance. Whether the extraction is manual or automated with OCR (optical character recognition). For example, if the software is uncertain about some document or data, how does it treat the exceptions/fallouts and how do you manage them? How does it notify a user? Which user will be notified? Can you annotate a document or route it to a supervisor for review? The closer you are to the customer, the more exceptions you will encounter, so make sure you have the flexibility to handle the unexpected.
In those distributed capture environments, security and data protection is also a big concern and should earn attention from the organization, especially when including customer or other sensitive data. Make sure you understand what the risk exposure is if a mobile or scanning device is lost or stolen in the field, for example.
Data is the fuel of your organization… data is knowledge
Companies should have present that the world is changing around them, creating new opportunities and challenging the old business models to evolve and be more competitive. To stay one step away from competitors, organizations must put the information to work and create a streamlined knowledge ecosystem. Assuring the accuracy, reliability and quality of data is an immeasurable advantage and an easy way to shorten the sales cycles, to deliver better customer service, to reduce back-office correction and processing tasks, improve vendor relations and to have more informed resources inside walls.
Addressing data quality requires changes in the way organizations conduct their business, considering processes, methodology, people and technology. But above all, it requires organizational commitment and a long-term vision.
Remember, capture as early in the process as possible ensuring data quality and accuracy. Start from the very beginning and go step-by-step, whether that is a branch office, a shop, or the mobile devices of your employees and customers.
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