Getting it Right: Distributed and Mobile Document Capture

Distributed and Mobile Document Capture carries with it a very similar paradigm shift that the FedEx overnight delivery service and the facsimile machine had in the 70s, 80s and 90s.  The rise, proliferation and ever increasing bandwidth of the internet, along with new hardware devices such as multi-function printers (MFPs), desktop-personal use scanners, digital senders, tablets PCs and smartphones make it possible to capture documents at the point-of-origination, or “the first mile”, a phrase coined by Kofax.  Despite all of the innovative technology available today for implementing distributed and mobile document capture, there is a lot more to it than the common marketing slogans of, ”Put your paper in the automatic-feeder, push the button and walk-away.”  In reality, “Getting it Right” takes a great deal more fore-thought, planning, execution and on-going support to make the usability simple for end-users while ensuring the end-to-end process is fast, secure and visible to those who handle exceptions and/or need self-service access to the documents.

Below are five key points that will help you prepare for a Distributed and Mobile Document Capture Project:

1.  Where do the documents originate?

  • How are things done now and who will be impacted?
  • What technology is already in place today that might possibly be used or re-purposed?
  • Is this a de-centralization of an existing post-process, centralized scanning process, or the incorporation of distributed capture with the centralized capture operation?
  • How will the documents be batch-prepped, indexed, separated and will there be a need for auto-document classification and data extraction?

2.  What specific business processes could benefit?

  • Front-office (RE: sales) and/or back-office (RE: Accounts Payable)?
  • What does your distributed landscape look like: branch offices, distribution and/or manufacturing facilities, in-the-field employees, agents, suppliers/vendors, customers, business partners, etc.?
  • If the process is compressed from weeks-to-days, days-to-hours, or hours-to-minutes, how would the business benefit and what does this mean financially?
  • How will end-users and the process be supported from end-to-end?

3.  What is the real point of origination and can we effectively move it there?

  • How can mobile technology make it possible for self-service, 24 x7?
  • Will support for multiple types of input devices be required: scanners, MFPs, smart phones, etc.?
  • Can customers, agents, suppliers, etc. initiate the documents submission process?
  • How do we ensure quality of input?

4.  Is there a business case and how do we justify it?

  • Compress cycle times; time-to-revenue; secure early pay discounts; avoid late fees
  • Improve the accuracy of data input while reducing data-entry input
  • Deliver better, timely customer service and/or self-service capabilities
  • Provide process visibility to resolve exceptions and issues in a more expedient manner
  • Drive out inefficiencies and costs: courier fees, fax telecom fees, printing, paper, etc.

5.  Technology and Process Considerations

  • LAN/WAN & Internet Bandwidth: imaging requires more bandwidth than just data and especially so if VOIP is being used; this needs to be assessed and if necessary, upgraded, to support the additional load images will place on the network, as well as, not adversely affect other business applications and communications
  • Connectivity: the initial assumption is that connectivity won’t be an issue; in some cases remote workers may be in buildings or locations where connectivity is non-existent or of poor quality; therefore, options for “dis-connected use” should exist with the ability to sync at a later time; furthermore, the capture software and system should have fault-tolerance and the ability to effectively recover from connectivity issues
  • Security and Confidentiality is an essential part of the project planning process; for example, what happens to the images and data once it is sent from a smart phone or what is the end-user supposed to do with the paper documents? Whether the images and data are in a resting state or being transmitted, how will the electronic data be secure, encrypted? What happens if the laptop, smartphone or tablet PC is stolen?
  • Not only does the software, hardware and network need to be evaluated in relation to security requirements, the end-user processing procedures need to be evaluated as well; for example, what if confidential documents are left out at the MFP because one was interrupted to take a phone call or required to have an impromptu discussion away from the MFP; or, if the branch office receptionist is assigned to do the scanning at an MFP down the hall, who is going to monitor the office reception area
  • Input Device Selection: key considerations include how the device deals with image quality, re-ordering pages, supported file formats, integration with the capture software, etc. In today’s world, the likelihood of supporting multiple devices is high which increases the importance of understanding capabilities and limitations
  • Document Capture and Mobile Software is very much like going to the health club for a workout; if the system is easy-to-use and the process is straight-forward, then end-user adoption and processing success is virtually assured, if not, the results will be disastrous; end-users will need to understand in no uncertain terms the document batch prep requirements; such as, is there a barcode cover sheet, document separator pages, how are errors detected and corrected, etc.
  • System Administration: when going distributed and mobile, it is absolutely critical to understand how the software will be kept up-to-date, how applications will be modified and how new applications will be rolled out; the same is true for the input devices as they will also need periodic updates; ideally, updates are pushed or pulled from a central location to be consistent and keep IT support time and costs down

Those who have been successful have found the business benefits and financial results extraordinary.  As you have read, there is a lot to consider when implementing a distributed and mobile document capture system.  It is a complex project that doesn’t have to be a perilous journey; and, it is probably one of those projects that you may not want to DIY – Do It Yourself.  This is where ImageSource provides exceptional value for its Customer Partners who are seeking the specialized expertise mentioned throughout this article.  For nearly 20 years, small, medium and Fortune 1000 corporations, along with government agencies and higher education, have found ImageSource to be their source, their consultant and trusted advisor to “Get it Right” when it comes to Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and today’s cutting-edge distributed and mobile capture projects.

John Smetana
VP of Sales, Strategic & Emerging Markets
ImageSource, Inc. 

John W. Smetana