As a continuation from my previous post, here are some fundamental questions to ask yourself - and others - as you embark on a distributed capture endeavor:
- Is it “Usable?”
An intuitive user-interface is essential to facilitate distributed capture. Typically, the people receiving documents are customer-facing, not dedicated and trained capture operators. The solution should provide a clear and simple series of steps to that assure a legible document image…
- Can it be “Read?”
A poor image quality or, worse, 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). This is where most mobile telephone cameras struggle to create high enough quality images to avoid laborious manual effort later in the process. For a step up in quality, select a portable scanner – some are no larger than a thick ruler – that attaches to a laptop or mobile device.
- What document is it?
The first, 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, etc? That question 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 automatic document classification. Remember, your mobile and distributed workforce are not trained capture professionals, so take a belt and suspenders strategy on this one…
- Is it Accurate?
Determining the accuracy of content extracted from a document is of prime importance. Whether the extraction is manual, or automated with OCR, you need a set of checks and balances to assure users that the solution can be relied upon. For example, if the software is uncertain, how does it notify a user, and which user is it that gets notified?
- Is it Safe?
The security of data is essential to consider, especially when handling customer or other sensitive data. Distributed capture must be considered moving capture into high-risk environments. Make sure you understand what the risk exposure is if a mobile device is lost or stolen in the field.
- Is it Faster?
The speed at which the captured document is transferred from the mobile device to your repository or LOB system determines the speed at which it can be processed by the application. The old saying, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” comes into play here. If there is, in fact, a bandwidth limitation for remote users, then the advantages of capturing remotely may be lost in the transfer.
- Is it Capable of Handling Anything a User Throws at it?
There are always exceptions and how you manage them is the test of a capture system. Can you add attachments? Can you add a new document you weren’t expecting? 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.
- Will it work for me?
In most cases, a mobile capture solution will both archive the document images, and route them into a line of business system – as fast as possible for customer satisfaction. For example, an invoice, resume, or contract will be sent to the ERP system. An insurance claim will be forwarded for adjudication. A loan application may link to a case management system, where underwriters will review. A medical document will be appended to the patient’s electronic health record. Make sure your distributed capture system can connect to your business systems and deliver image and data seamlessly.
After all these years in the capture business, I thought things had settled down. People have been saying that document capture is a “mature” technology. And, of course, it is, but the world is changing around us, creating new opportunities. So don’t be shy: if you see a way to shorten the cycles, to deliver better customer service, to improve vendor relations, or to change just about any existing process by capturing documents sooner at distributed/remote locations, then take advantage of the opportunity. Just ask the right questions - and get credible answers – as you navigate to a successful implementation.
Note: An earlier version of this post appeared in April 2013 on John Mancini's Digital Landfill blog.
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