- Nov 04, 2015
Have you noticed the phrase paper pusher is used less now? Years ago, if you were to get a job as an office junior, the labourer mate would take the Mick (ah, ya little pencil pusher). Tell someone now that you’ve just started to work in a collar and tie job in an office, and you’ll have your mates ringing you up every time they’ve a problem with their laptop, desktop, or smart phone.
Data entry, pushing papers, sorting mail etc, are more widely automated. The office workers nowadays must be proficient with technology and know about data processing, and using automation features in the majority of Office applications.
As widely as the skills have increased for office workers, the technology they use aren’t always the latest available.
Data capture is one of those, but unless your organisation has the tools to enable documents to be managed efficiently, flow more freely and securely around your workplace, your staff won’t be as productive as you may be expecting them to be.
To get your people more productive, leverage technology to improve how they work.
Technology for document digitisation
Don’t beat around the bush debating the issue of whether to digitise or not. It needs to be done. Paper storage, use, and distribution is expensive. Deploying at least some form of data capture is the first step.
The more advanced your document capture becomes, the more functional your staff become and that is enough power to your company to put your competitors at a disadvantage because you will not have the massive overheads they do by using manual processes.
This isn’t the age of the robots (at least not yet anyway) when everything in your administration department can be automated. Much of the mundane work your staff do can, and that’s what gives you a competitive advantage. Your workforce can focus on more important issues, rather than photocopying, scanning, faxing, and retrieving documents.
Growing from scan and store to distributed data capture
Data capture can be put into four different categories. Depending on the stage your business is at, not every approach is going to be suitable. For example, if your base of operations is only one office, it’s unlikely you’ll need to be working with a distributed data capture system. The only time it may be beneficial would be if you have a field sales team needing to input data from mobile devices or tablets.
You know how you see the sales reps in highstreets? Perhaps collecting leads for a utilities supplier to follow up with a sales call, or a mobile phone vendor selling a switch and save service? Imagine all those people being able to capture the data on forms, snap a picture of it, attach the document to an email and then have a document management system sort through the data, extracting key points, making it retrievable in a searchable database and accessible to whichever department needs the information.
That’s what’s possible with enterprise level solutions. Something that’s guaranteed to speed up processing times, increase efficiency and sales (perhaps same day) and boost your organisations productivity.
There are a vast amount of solutions available to businesses, and with choice comes confusion over which is best for what. To simplify the data capture process, it can be broken into four different categories. You can think of the categories as the stages of business. Put your business into one of the four categories described here, and that’s the system to help your company digitise most of your paperwork.
- Scan and store
This is the most basic level of data capture. Scan a document, give it a title and press save to save it to whatever folder you want to save it too. Even home offices can use this to create digital copies of some of their paperwork.
As this is the most basic level and requires manual input and retrieval, it’s likely best for independent contractors. As the business scales though, the methods of document storage is best to scale with it, because there will be more manual input required for managing the documents.
- Expanding into basic recognition technology
As businesses grow, enter the first realm of actual technology. (scanning doesn’t really count as tech now as it’s what’s done with the digital information afterward that matters) This is the tech that actually cuts your manpower slightly. OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition and OMR stands for Optical Mark Recognition. Both are very basic functions in MFPs these days so no matter the model, you should be able to enable these functions.
With them, the tech can read certain data points in documents. They mostly work from pre-set document templates, so they will be useful for structured data on forms. Documents such as your invoices, and letters containing reference numbers in the same place. The documents you receive from the DVLA, HMRC, or any large organisation, you’ll notice there are usually reference numbers, or case numbers in the case of customer complaints assigned at the same place in all correspondence. There’s a reason for that. It enables a point of data entry to be captured automatically using the OCR technology.
OMR handles data a little differently because it uses marks within documents rather than specified areas. It’s useful when you have check boxes in documents, such as the forms you fill in at the doctors, hospitals, health clinics, and dentists.
At this stage, you’ll likely find yourself converting files and using scan to PDF to create a retrievable database in the backend of your system to help find documents.
It should be noted at this stage that data collection is not completely automated. There should still be some verification checks in place to ensure the data captured is legitimate. When using OCR and OMR, the pre-set templates can be set to highlight areas in documents making it easier for staff to verify the data, rather than manually entering information it into each form.
- Using advanced data extraction techniques
Things are complex by this stage. You need your IT team to work with you because the system will no longer be working with pre-set templates but instead have superior technology able to read multiple data points in documents, and even handwriting.
For suppliers’ invoices, there’s no universal format for invoicing so the more suppliers you deal with, the more data points you need your scanner to capture. Once the data is captured, it’ll be integrated with backend databases and other applications enabling you to store, archive, and retrieve documents with ease.
- Distributed data capture
This is when you’re entering into the technology designed for enterprise level document management. Multiple offices, or perhaps if you have sales teams out doing field sales, data can be directly input to your system from multiple places, and with multiple entry points, such as tablets, smart phones and MFPs.
Instead of having one central location where all documents are sent to be scanned and processed, distributed capture systems can be used to have staff input documents from anywhere.
At this level, the more advanced the text analysis of documents are, the more versatile your backend document management system becomes. The goal for this type of set up is to progress towards the ultimate paperless office. Something that technology is not too far away from allowing every business to be able to do with more MFPs being engineered to co-exist with cloud applications.
Unless you’re an independent contractor with few employees, chances are that you’ll need more than a single machine that scans and prints.
For those in developed and emerging businesses, you need a photocopier supplier specialist in all things digital. Everything from basic OCR and OMR, to fully functional distributed capture systems, you can call on our in-house experts for advice you can trust. We have a variety of multifunctional devices to cater to any size of business and different service solutions to suit a variety of needs too.
To find out how we can be of assistance to your business, give our team a call on 0208 901 4707.