The highly public and underwhelming rollout of Healthcare.gov probably has many of you reflecting on whether your own organization’s complex IT initiatives will avoid similar problems of scale and complexity. I can’t address public healthcare — but I can provide some help if you are embarking on a high volume enterprise document capture initiative. Such initiatives comprise the first stages of the most important business processes that many organizations have, so it’s important to get these right.
We’re also at an inflection point in enterprise capture, as many organizations are trying to incorporate online ingestion and mobile device capture — radically opening up participation in the capture process, and greatly increasing complexity.
What Are Enterprise Capture Applications and Why Are They Complex?
You probably use capture for your line of business processes, like new customer enrollment, loan applications, insurance claims processing or order processing. You may also use it for enterprise resource planning (ERP) related processes like accounting, supply chain, customer relationship management or human resources.
Such capture operations may be ingesting tens or hundreds of thousands of documents per day, from centralized locations but also from distributed employees and customers and from multiple channels (paper, email, mobile). They typically involve extracting data from the documents, and then releasing the documents and data to downstream processes that are using enterprise content management (ECM), business process management (BPM) and business applications.
Many organizations, though particularly in financial services, insurance and other document-heavy verticals, have two to five “rings” of distributed document capture. For example:
- Most have a centralized operation, with big scanners and a dedicated capture staff.
- Then many have a few or many remote distributed sites, which may be departmental in scope and size.
- Beyond these are typically employees or independent contractors and agents who are capturing and submitting electronic documents — from multi-function peripherals (MFP), mobile devices, emails and other channels.
- Then capture gets more challenging as you widen the circle to include businesses (we’re still talking B2B) beyond your sphere of control — who are submitting documents like forms, invoices and other documentation.
- And finally you get to the outermost ring — which is pure B2C. Your “civilian” end user customers are capturing and sending you electronic documents. Such capture can be straightforward if the volumes are low (some trailing documents in a loan application), or if the variety is low (check capture with mobile devices), or if the stakes are low. But you probably need to ramp up the volumes, variety, value and risk with these multiple rings of distributed capture.
Most organizations have developed their rings of capture organically, without a lot of detailed planning for the challenges of increased scaling and complexity. As a result, most organizations who are trying to implement these multiple rings of enterprise capture face the following issues:
- No consistent, enterprise-standard process or input flow for documents
- No easy method for distributed staff or non-staff to upload electronic documents; only options are typically printing and scanning, or faxing
- No use of online-fillable dynamic forms
- Indexing and quality control (QC) are nearly completely manual for most areas; limited automation to reduce capture staff time and improve quality
I suggest that you approach enterprise capture with two fundamental principles to guide you: 1. Focus first on the back end rather than the front end (start from the inside). 2. Design quality control and exception handling to address problematic documents as efficiently as possible — which means at the front end rather than the back end (start from the outside).
1. Focus first on getting the back end right. (Design capture from the inside out.)
Many organizations focus first on the various front ends of the capture process. They try to roll out mobile capture or MFP document submission applications to one or more of the variety of distributed users, without first redesigning the centralized pieces. In our experience this is a big mistake.
If your production capture initiative has a significant degree of volume, complexity and value, you should focus on improving automation at the document processing layer first, rather than introducing change to the “front office” or customer facing outer rings in the near term. The biggest reason for this is that the most important challenges to address in most production capture operations are:
- Automation: Planning and executing as much automation in the process as you can effectively use, and
- Quality Control and Exception Handling: Identifying and addressing problematic document submissions as efficiently as possible; usually this means as early in the process (“upstream”) as possible.
Building a comprehensive submission front end with all of the logic to eliminate problematic documents at the point of submission is unrealistic as a first step. We recommend starting with clearly defining the rules and conditions for document processing, then introducing automation to start realizing benefits in the capture process, and determining just how far automation can go and what will remain manual or operator-assisted.
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