Public sector and private sector organisations have, over the years, made heavy investments in back-office systems such as customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software in the effort to elevate business efficiency. Yet much of the information they process day-to-day still flows into the organisation in the form of unstructured data such as application forms and customer contracts rather than directly into their business systems.
In many industries, these documents—whether captured in electronic formats or on paper—are often still manually processed, leading to low productivity, human error, high costs, and security and regulatory concerns. To improve efficiencies and reduce costs, organisations should be looking at ways they can use technology to streamline the capture and management of this information.
Here are a few examples of the pain-points caused by manual data capture and how they can be addressed by modern scanning solutions and information capture software.
Processing forms Thousands of forms may flow through a large organisation’s business each day – for example, account applications or customer registrations, plus supporting documents such as proof of identity and proof of address. All too many organisations still process these documents manually, with admin workers printing out or scanning hand-filled forms, validating them against supporting documents, and keying customer information manually into the system.
With today’s information capture solutions, a great deal of the manual work can be automated. For example, customers could fill in a digital form on a portal, so that the data does not need to be manually captured. When this is not possible, the form can be designed for easier electronic capture and categorisation.
Supporting documents can then be directly scanned into the relevant repository, and the documents can be automatically compared and validated against the form. Data extraction, too, can be automated, with the information indexed, and directed to the right application. This can vastly reduce processing time, costs and the margin of error in what today remains a manual process in many organisations.
Capturing contracts in a CRM system Capturing customer contracts from paper or a PDF file is, for many organisations, a multistep process that spans from manual scanning to inputting data and metadata into the CRM system. Not only is this a costly exercise, there is the risk that the operator may make data errors or process a contract with incomplete information as he or she switches between multiple screens and applications. With a modern information capture solution, several steps can be removed from the process by scanning the file or document directly to the CRM application.
Centralised scanning Many organisations run centralised scanning facilities to streamline the processing of the documents they collect. The documents are typically sorted by type for scanning, then manually indexed and validated before they are routed to the document management system (DMS). The manual work of preparing and sorting documents can contribute to up to 40% of the total cost of the process.
Today’s technology can make this headache disappear. Automated information capture solutions can automatically identify the type of document to be scanned, after which the indexing fields can be validated against any database before it is routed to the DMS. Another efficiency can be achieved by scanning documents at the point of origin, wher they enter the organisation, rather than transporting the paper to the facility.
Closing words: the quest for efficiency To achieve true operational efficiency, organisations need information capture solutions that integrate with their business applications. Such solutions are not only key to driving productivity and reducing costs, they also help organisations to stay in compliance with data privacy regulations and data retention requirements. Capturing and managing information in a smarter and more efficient manner will help any business to become more competitive and deliver a better customer experience. This area is not as glamorous as some aspects of digital transformation, but the return on investment can be material.
By Yolanda Huebner, Regional Manager Southern Africa Alaris, a Kodak Alaris business