Modified by Scott Blau email@example.com
I recently had the occasion to meet with several banks who are contemplating, in the course of implementing, or have gone live with the capture of documents in their branches. For reference, in a recent Celent survey, the number of banks indicating they were highly likely to replace/refresh core system over the next 3-5 years jumped from 17% in 2010 to 24% in 2012. Credit unions responded similarly, nearly doubling from 13% to 24%. Each of these implementations is unique, as they reflect the different cultures of the banks involved, as well as specific business and IT issues.
Nevertheless, the migration of document capture from central locations to branches has some universal themes tying all these implementations together. Compared to "traditional," high-volume, centralized scanning, branch capture may herald the future. Here's why I think that and what the implications of the transition are...
20+ years ago when the document capture business got started - it wasn't even called "document capture" then, "forms processing" was the preferred name - it was all about bulk processing. Documents were being brought together anyway, so instead of keying data from them, we helped customers scan them and use recognition to automate the keying of data, or capture of data (as in "Datacap").
The focus of centralized scanning is batch efficiency. Larger batches means less overhead between batches. Some customers take this to the natural extreme of "continuous scanning." In that scenario, fast, high-volume scanners are kept working constantly. Rather than having an operator scan a batch, then stop and put it to the side while loading a new batch in the scanner, multiple batches are loaded together with only a batch separator sheet between them. The software takes care of the details in the background.
Branches don't have the kind of volume that necessitates continuous scanning, or even necessarily have "batches" that consist of many pages. Typically in a branch a "batch" is just a single transaction with a customer, perhaps an account application form, ID card, or other documents that are associated with one customer. And, of course, there may be lots of these batches, not necessarily at any one location, but from all the branch locations of a bank.
So one characteristic of branch capture is small batches, but lots of them!
Not only are the batches small, but there is a completely different dynamic associated with processing them. After all, the customer is waiting for the teller or bank officer to respond to what they just submitted to them. In contrast to most bulk scanning operations where processing times of a few hours are considered not only acceptable, but big steps forward in efficiency, with a customer drumming their fingers on the counter, branch capture has a near real-time requirement. 30 seconds, a minute, maybe two, but longer than that and people start to get impatient.
Branch capture systems have to be tuned for very snappy turnaround. Reduce the already short time to process a document and the branch quickly acquires a new customer or retains an existing one with higher satisfaction. Make them wait, and... the negative consequences are immediate!
Capturing lots of small batches remotely with minimum latency puts new demands on a capture system, including the time it takes to transfer images for centralized processing and then to make them available to the branch user to complete a transaction.
But I don't think this is something that is going to be limited to the branch banking. By processing customer documents, while the customer is there in person, any business can improve customer acquisition, retention, and satisfaction. You can never get enough of those metrics!
" Lets continue the conversation connect with me on Twitter @captureguru "
Modified by Scott Blau firstname.lastname@example.org
4 Non-Trivial Questions to Ask before Committing to Production Document Capture
In late 2009 and I got a call from the brother of a good friend. He was a researcher at IBM's Watson Labs - soon to became famous for the "Watson" artificial intelligence engine that spectacularly beat the top humans on the trivia game-show, Jeopardy!
My friend was trying to solve a problem and thought that my company, Datacap (the acquisition of Datacap by IBM was not even on the horizon at this point), could help, since we specialized in optical character recognition (OCR) and related document capture technologies.
I said, "great, let me ask you 3 or 4 questions about what you are trying to do:
1) What is the volume of documents/pages/images you need to process per day, week, month, or year?
2) What data do you need to extract from those pages, any special considerations to take into account?
3) Are the pages consistent in format, variable, something in between?"
He said he had 5000 pages. Clearly to him that was a big number, but he was a bit deflated when I asked, "is that per day?" In the production document capture business, it is definitely common that a volume like that may be literally processed "before breakfast."
But 5000 pages were all he had. Not every day or week, or even every month, just once. I was a little skeptical, but I wanted to learn more.
He needed to extract information from an English language pronunciation guide. He wanted to read the word to be pronounced, and then the linguistically precise definition of the pronunciation, including diacritical marks (accents) commonly used in those definitions. In other words, this was not just straight English language OCR. My skepticism increased.
I wasn't surprised when I next learned that the pages were not at all consistent, that the definitions for a specific word could wrap from one page to the next, or that the pages to be scanned were in bound books...
That was it. Did he really expect to use a production capture product to process - one time - 5000 pages with specialized text and words on them and no fixed format? Well, yes, he did. He had a real challenge and his expectation was not unreasonable... it just is not what production document capture is about.
Those three questions can help anyone quickly assess a document capture problem. In this case, the answer was simple, but perhaps wrong. I advised him that it would not be economically feasible for him to invest in production document capture, but in giving that answer I missed a great opportunity.
Turns out I should have asked a 4th question, "why do you need to read a pronunciation guide?"
I learned later that my friend was working on a major artificial intelligence project, one that would need a computer capable of blurting out words under extreme time pressure. He was, in fact, working on giving "Watson" a voice. It was that voice, having been trained to enunciate thousands of words, that went on prime time to beat the best human players at a live game of Jeopardy!
He eventually used a desktop OCR program and a lot of patience to translate the pronunciation guide from paper to something Watson could understand. Although my 3 questions helped me quickly assess the value of the opportunity, by skipping the 4th question, I missed the opportunity to brag how Datacap helped to give Watson a voice!
Is production document capture and imaging right for you? Click here to learn more on using capture solutions.
Modified by Scott Blau email@example.com
I have been involved in document capture for 26 years - since well before it was even called "capture." I am often asked about how I came to found Datacap. So taking advantage of my impending exit from the stage (read on for more!), I thought I would share some background on the founding of Datacap as the first true document capture software company.
The microprocessor revolution was in full swing in the mid-1980s when I joined a hospital information systems startup. We concentrated on data collection in operating rooms using what was then cutting edge: IBM PCs networked directly together with TCP/IP. We got sterilized computers into the operating rooms... but we struggled to get nurses to use them.
Turns out that not only was the nursing staff more comfortable working with pen and paper (usually on a clipboard), but they resented having to literally turn their backs on the patient - particularly when they were being asked to enter what was essentially inventory data for billing purposes (the materials and instruments being used during the course of the operation). We also had a back up system in case the PCs or the network didn't work (which was often). It used... paper.
It was in this context that I was struck down with a very nasty virus: chicken pox. You may think of chicken pox as a childhood disease with some discomfort - or even as a great opportunity to play hooky from school - but adult chicken pox, as I quickly learned, is an entirely different beast. I ran a high fever, and for several days I literally could not raise my head off the pillow.
At times I became delirious. And it was in a delirium that Datacap was born. I had visions of paper forms filled in by nurses in the OR dancing around... but, more interestingly, of the data on the pages coming unstuck from the paper and floating off. I saw individual characters very clearly and how they could be segmented to be understood by the computer as data.
Once the fever had burned itself out, I got back to work. One day not long after, a guy I had brought in to help us with some of our tougher user interface challenges showed off an early document scanner. He was building a driver to run the scanner from a Mac for another client of his. It seemed an amazing piece of equipment... and it struck me right there that if we could scan the nurses' sheets, then we could segment the characters and turn paper into data!
Once the wheels started spinning, there was no turning back. Along with Noel Kropf, the guy with the scanner, we founded Datacap and we set to work building our first product, Paper Keyboard, releasing it in 1989. It all seems so inevitable now, but at the time there were nothing but hurdles to overcome: porting to Windows 3.0, adding machine-print OCR, tying multiple machines together to distribute the work, etc., etc.. It kept a growing team of developers busy for the next two and a half decades.
And, of course, we faced increasing competition as the "forms processing" business became a recognized speciality in the quickly gowing document imaging industry. Some vendors edged into scanning and data entry automation from related areas like manual data entry (Textware, later Captiva), while some started the long transition from hardware to software (Kofax).
Eventually, Datacap became part of IBM in 2010, giving us the opportunity to put down a global footprint. What started off literally as a “vision” in a fever, has become a global reality, used by customers worldwide to ingest millions of pages each day. In some ways, for me, that fever never passed. It has energized me for years – and I like to think I have “infected” a few others. If so, then maybe my job is done. I can let a new generation of visionaries take what we have done with IBM Datacap to a new level. That's part of the reason why I decided to step aside from my current role into retirement at the end of this month, not long after I push the "Publish" button on this blog.
I still have a vision for the future of document capture, one that is increasingly mobile and distributed, and one that will make the steady transition from "on-premise" to SaaS for many customers. But I'm sharing it with you now so that you can help make it a reality while I spend some more time on my bike and doing the many things that I haven't had the opportunity to do since I first caught the Datacap bug!
Whatever I’ve done, I’d like to thank the hundreds, and probably thousands of individuals that have made the document capture space a thriving business arena. Whether you were with Datacap, with IBM, with one of our many partners, or even with a competitor (ha, I know you are reading this!), without all of you, we would not have such a vibrant and successful capture community!
Scott - @CaptureGuru
Modified by Scott Blau firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm just back from a trip to India. Until fairly recently, I would never have imagined significant opportunity for document capture in the very place where outsourcing of data entry has been most successful. That's relevant to the document capture business because when a document is "captured" two things happen:
- the paper document is digitized (usually scanned, but sometimes an already electronic document is converted to a standard format), and
- data is extracted from the document - either manually or using OCR - so the document can be filed, and sometimes to populate a line-of-business application.
Call it what you will - indexing, verification, keying - it is a data entry requirement that allows a document that has been digitized to be sent to locations around the world where labor is less expensive. It is exactly in this type of work that India has excelled. A vast, trained workforce has taken on the tedious task of manually extracting information from documents. Even compared to "automated," OCR-assisted data entry that requires relatively expensive labor in North America or Europe, a very competitive alternative has been to take advantage of the much lower-cost labor pool in India (and other countries) to manually enter data, without the help of automation at all.
So why was I in India? To some extent, you can say that the success and breadth of outsourcing initiatives over the last 20 years have changed the underlying economics. Although labor continues to significantly less expensive in markets such as India, China, Philippines - the usual suspects - costs have gone up substantially. They have gone up enough that it is no longer a given that throwing more manpower at a problem, such as manual data entry, is going to be less expensive than investing in automation technologies to help assist in the effort. Many organizations are coming to the same conclusion.
Even banks with far-flung operations and massive workforces are exploring ways to automate aspects of the document capture process: the volumes of documents to be captured are staggering once a bank wades into the world of branch capture. (My thoughts on how branch capture is technically something new in document capture: http://ibm.co/13i74bl.) Automation not only reduces costs, but speeds up the process, ultimately helping improve customer services… and most importantly, customer satisfaction. (And if you are skeptical that customer satisfaction is the underlying benefit of document capture, let me try to convince you: http://ibm.co/10bwmsJ.)
Put another way, in large-scale document capture operations, there is a premium on reducing complexity, including the number of people involved. Globally, the Holy Grail is to grow the number of documents being captured, while meeting that growing need with existing staff.
From my perspective, document capture has come of age when it is being adopted globally, even in markets traditionally noted for the low cost of labor.
To continue the conversation, connect with me on Twitter @captureguru.
Modified by Scott Blau email@example.com
It's that time of year - beautiful days in New York, flowers, clear skies… and Smarter Commerce in the air. A year ago I was in Madrid at the IBM Smarter Commerce Summit - I haven't been the same since! It wasn't the protesters teaming in the streets calling out the effects of austerity on youth unemployment, or the luxurious resort (in fact, just another airport hotel) setting for the Summit. It was the conference content...
The keynote was the most interesting presentation I've ever seen at a technology conference (and I have been to many over the past 25 years)! To signal something special was coming, the lights in the large auditorium were turned down. A hush fell over the otherwise bustling room as two people gingerly made their way up onto the stage. One was clearly bind and it felt a bit awkward to watch him feel his way up multiple steps and across the open space. This was clearly not going to be a standard set of Powerpoints...
Over the next half hour the blind presenter on stage held the audience spellbound. His role concerned customer experience management at ING, the Dutch bank. He started off with a simple statement of the problem he faced: since the financial crisis started in 2008, customer trust of banks had hit an all-time low. But without trust, how can you have active, and growing, banking relationships?
It was not the blind leading the blind. This fellow could see clearly that for businesses to thrive, to acquire new customers, to retain existing customers, business didn't need technology that could reach further into a customer's wallet, but a perspective on the customer which focused on creating an individual customer experience... for every customer. Although this was a technology conference, he hardly spent a minute, and not a single slide, on technology.
The focus was on the customer… The presenter told the story of a customer who gets distracted by a phone call while withdrawing cash from an ATM - and walks away leaving the cash in the machine. Apparently, this happens thousands of times a year. As the presenter pointed out, this aborted transaction leaves a lot of anxiety behind. When the customer finally realizes what they have done, a minute, an hour, or a day later, the first thing they want to know is, "where is my money?" Of course, the bank knows: for years cash machines have sucked the money back in and re-deposited it. But the customer doesn’t know that and is left in the dark.
The solution - the customer-centric solution - to this problem was easy: send the customer a text: "Sorry you missed withdrawing €150 from our ATM at X branch - come back again when you can, as we have safely re-deposited it into your acct."
"Easy" conceptually, but monumental for the bank. Why? Because branch and ATM services, although they have access to account information, do not have access to customer contact details squirrelled away in account management and customer service systems. Addressing this challenge requires a willingness to break down long-standing barriers between data silos in the bank.
As I listened to the presentation, it dawned on me what Smarter Commerce was all about. It means engaging with customers in a way that makes the customer feel special, because they are individuals, rather than just a number or one of many.
My head was swimming by the time I walked out of the auditorium. After so many years of focusing on document imaging and capture, I could now see that the value we are offering our customers is not just improved productivity, but the opportunity to help our customers serve their customers better!
I'll share more on this topic soon, but for the time-being, the 2013 version of the Smarter Commerce Summit just finished last week in Monaco. You can follow @IBMSmarterCommerce. And here's a perspective on the conference from someone who started thinking about these things a long time before I did - Buy Sell Market Service - When did ECM become a Monte Carlo Celeb?
Customers expect anytime access to their statements and invoices. And as a company trying to engage customers better while meeting their needs quicker, you’ve probably looked into at least one electronic management solution – and rightly so; the ECM market is projected to hit nearly $8 billion by 2019, namely thanks to ECM’s ability to replace paper-driven processes with digital content delivery solutions.
But buyers beware. It’s not enough to simply meet customer expectations, such as delivering anytime access to invoices and statements digitally, for example. That’s only the first layer. Instead, a company has to ensure it’s delivering these solutions and services effectively – for both itself and the customer.
This means choosing an electronic content management solution that streamlines report distribution, automates and optimizes storage management with compression capabilities, and supports multiple platforms with a robust, scalable architecture.
And time is also of the essence. With less than 1% of companies having deployed an ECM solution, your company has an opportunity to gain a real advantage in the marketplace with stronger customer engagement and better cross-selling capability.
Read more on the importance of an ECM solution that’s secure, reliable and scalable enough for efficient content management. And why you should no longer be content with paper-driven processes: https://ibm.biz/ondemand_cb
Modified by Amrita Ganguly firstname.lastname@example.org
Today's guest post is courtesy Jill Taylor, Program Director - WW Demand Generation, Enterprise Content Management, IBM
Customer expectations are higher than ever before. People expect you to know them as individuals, they demand relevant, timely promotions, easy-to-use self-service options, and seamless, integrated experiences across every touch point, whether they’re using smart phones, tablets or computers. And they assume that these exceptional experiences will remain consistent before, during, and after they make a purchase.
How well is your organization keeping up with the soaring demands of today’s customers? Most companies say that “the customer comes first,” but do they follow up on that statement with the way they align their business?
Customer-focused organizations create systems of engagement to drive excellent customer experience. That’s because mere customer loyalty isn’t enough. You need to create brand advocates—people who are willing to share their positive opinions about their interactions with your business to everyone in their extended digital network. They’ll remain devoted customers, and they’ll also generate more business for you, as well as higher revenues. Here are three pillars of a strong customer engagement system:
Understanding: Get to know your customer in the context of their journey. Observe the customer and really listen to what they want, both on and offline. Use this understanding to drive your front and back office operations, to respond to increases and decreases in demand, or to create innovative products and services.
Connection: Unite your entire business ecosystem across every interaction channel in order to enable conversations with the customer and seamless integration with suppliers, trading partners and service providers.
Engagement: Deliver the best action, in context, using the right content and channel to create the best customer experience. Use the right interaction channels, powered by the knowledge you have about your customers, to engage with them in unique and personalized ways. Connect with your suppliers, trading partners and service providers and provide visibility, knowledge and context to focus on customers.
What can you do to provide these kinds of customer experiences in order to build lasting loyalty? Join IBM Content 2014, coming soon to a city near you, to get the answers. Learn how IBM’s enterprise content management solutions can provide a complete view of your customer so you can anticipate their needs, and discover how secure, reliable self-service solutions can help create satisfied customers—and evangelists for your brand.
In the past 4 weeks I have read multiple posts, spanning a few years, by ECM experts declaring the death of ECM. To clarify, none of them really meant that ECM is a dying (or dead) technology, but rather that it is transitioning.
Almost every ECM expert acknowledges that the way we have approached managing enterprise content will have to change. The change is driven by the demands of users who require a better class of enterprise application experiences; they demand the same level of simplicity and sophistication at work that they find in the various apps on their phones and tablets for their personal use.
Another key component of this change is the very nature of content: volume, variety and velocity of content creation and consumption ("Big Data"). All of us are creating more content in different formats and creating it at a rapid pace and the solutions must keep up.
2014 should be the year to drive increased adoption of ECM in new ways by understanding the users' motivation for creating and consuming content and to –
Improve the user experience - from creation through consumption to disposition
Provide a social fabric for sharing and searching content
Make content accessible over desktop, web and mobile
In the increasingly intelligent agile business climate to deliver business value with ECM we have to address these simple and critical needs of the content consumers or ECM will truly be dead.
I will continue elaborating the three needs and challenges to address them in future posts and at IBM Connect 2014 this year a lot of IBM experts will be in sunny Orlando talking about client success with IBM ECM solutions from January 26-30 and it is not too late to register.
Happy New ECM Year – Adopt a social, mobile and exceptional ECM!!!.
Modified by Neil Parrott email@example.com
We have all experienced bad or indifferent customer service. Immediate reactions may include frustration and anger. This may be followed by a focused effort to seek out an alternative product or service provider.
But, the longer term repercussions may be much more serious for an organization. Customers may share their bad experiences with colleagues and friends. Truly awful experiences may result in derogatory blog posts and social media broadasts accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
The flip side is that good customer service can benefit an organization like never before. As this Time – Business and Money article states “We live in an age where a business can thrive or die based on how it understands and approaches customer engagement”. Customer Service, the stakes have never been higher.
I encourage you to read this post by David Jenness which discusses how happy employees can improve customer service. Plus, details about Information On Demand (IOD) conference tracks that will discuss how IBM Content Manager OnDemand is being used to Optimize Customer Communications and Self-Service.
When we talk about Social uses of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solutions, I immediately am reminded of Len Schlessinger. Back in the late 1980s, I was writing speeches for corporate CEOs. It forced me to stay very current on business theory and practices. For one assignment, the CEO of Arrow Electronics, a highly intelligent fellow with degrees from Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School, lent me a cassette tape of a lecture he had attended at Harvard. I popped the tape in and I haven’t thought about customer service in the same way since.
Leonard (Len) Schlessinger was the professor and his topic was customer service and he began by telling stories of good and bad customer experiences. Before joining the faculty at Harvard, he had been the CEO of an American coffee and pastry chain called Au Bon Pain. His stories came from his experiences as CEO and later as a consultant to many organizations in the fast food business.
In story after story, he portrayed the “moments of truth” between customer and customer-facing employee, driving home the point that the long term success of a brand hinges on the quality of the interaction at the “counter.” At Au Bon Pain, Schlessinger began to educate employees on the “value of the customer.” A woman may stop in for coffee and pastry on the way to work and spend $4. Yet if that woman returns 3 days a week, she spends $12. Over 50 weeks in a year, she’ll spend $600. And over 5 years, her loyalty will add up to $3,000. Schlessinger encouraged his employees to look at customers as a long term revenue stream.
Then he discovered something that seemed to contradict the philosophy of every fast food chain.
While most fast food restaurants are designed for interchangeable minimum wage employees, Schlessinger discovered that customer service levels went up when he rewarded employees with responsibility, provided a great work environment, and tools that empowered them to deliver customer satisfaction. When employees like a company, they stay longer, learn more about the products and services, and have a personal stake in making the customer happy. Schlessinger’s revelation is spelled out in the book he co-authored, “The Service Profit Chain.”
Of course, there’s a lot of moving parts in a program to deliver service excellence. A key part of it is providing tools that enable employees to work together better and that's where ECM comes in. Schlessinger emphasized the importance of giving customer-facing employees capabilities to help them anticipate and deliver satisfying responses to customers. This is something that IBM has put a lot of thought into as well. One of the tools that IBM has been providing for 20 years is IBM Content Manager OnDemand, a platform for managing customer inquiries on the invoices and statements they receive.
At IBM’s Information On Demand (IOD) conference (Nov. 4-7), you can attend sessions on Content Manager OnDemand, which gives Customer Service Reps (CSRs) in the call center access to images of the invoices and statements that customers most often call about at a single click. Now customers and CSRs are looking at the same documents. For example, attend session ECG-1518A – “Optimizing Customer Communications and Self-Service With High Performance” and make sure that your organization has the Social tools to deliver real customer service excellence.
If you have already signed up for IOD, use the IOD Agenda Builder.
If you haven’t signed up to attend yet, visit the IOD registration page and I hope to see you there!