By Andrew Anderson, Managing Director of Celaton, www.celaton.com
Firms are changing the way they deliver services to clients in a drive to improve their profit line by generating and dealing with documentation of all types faster and more accurately than before. Manual, paper-based processes do not lend themselves to this and automation is the way forward. Businesses have to be able to deal effectively with all types of communication, whether electronic or paper-based. Even now, despite the hype about the paperless office, approximately 80 per cent of documents used by business are paper-based. And, according to Gartner Group, documents claim up to 60 per cent of office worker time and account for up to 45 per cent of labour costs. Even more startling is the fact that document management claims between 12 and 15 per cent of corporate revenue. The scale of the issue is considerable and it is here that many organisations could make real savings for the corporate coffers.
Done effectively, companies can transform their business by optimising efficiencies, reducing costs, and increasing shareholder value. Severe market demands drive enterprises to reap these benefits, realising significant cost reductions and efficiencies by streamlining business process flows, automating workflow and eliminating non-value-adding human interventions. This allows enterprise applications to communicate intelligently and seamlessly share information. Essentially, they need to find ways to organise, manage and distribute information effectively, migrating from paper-based to digital processes.
Reaping the benefits of automation
Technology affords businesses the means to truly transform their operations and the ROI can be substantial. Reduced costs, improved cycle times, improved customer service and communications, and 24×7 access to information for decision support all play their critical part in the business’ transformation.
By converting forms from paper to electronic formats, companies can view and print documents as they are needed. This helps to reduce the costs of ordering, inventorying and distributing forms while often paving the way to eprocurement.
Workflow can be automated to enable a business to manage more effectively specific processes across the company. Providing complete searching, tracking and reporting capabilities are essential and deliver the potential for huge savings. Automating can help to reduce processing costs, errors and cycle time while helping to address departmental spending and better manage expectations across the organisation.
Putting the processes in place
The true challenge is translating the idea of improved processes to a reality that works within the day-to-day operations of a company. In automating business processes, organisations need to do more than put forms online. There needs to be a thorough examination of the existing processes and a focus on developing an intuitive system for users. Automation for the sake of it is not the answer.
By capturing transaction information — structured and unstructured — in an electronic format, managing it through a completely digital workflow, and archiving it in dedicated content management systems, organisational efficiencies can be achieved. Together these complementary technologies enable business processes that integrate people, systems and data to form a platform for capturing, linking, routing and managing information as it moves through a business process.
Dealing with the unusual
Of course, documents come in all shapes and sizes and many different formats. The ability to capture the information that is stored in these forms is quite complex to achieve. After all, a form might be a lottery ticket or it might be a complex examination paper. It might include multiple choice tick boxes or perhaps a number of hand written sections that enable convenient entry of information in a semi structured format. These forms work on one level because as a consumer we are very familiar with their layout and content. However, for the company required to process the information the task is really quite significant. Although paper continues to be the universal common denominator for communications, the digital world is the domain of business today. Somehow there has to be a bridge between these two worlds as one bends to meet the other.
When processing high volumes of forms containing various handwriting styles, the need for efficiency is greater than ever, especially if quick responses need to be created and sent based on the content. Regardless of how neat and tidy each form is received, high cost, delays and probability of errors are all issues related to manually entering this valuable information into your systems.
What is needed is a system that solves these issues by enabling you to streamline and automate the entire process of handling and processing forms, reducing the operating costs associated with manual data entry, increasing efficiency and providing automated response and integration with various CRM, membership and legacy systems.
In this way, technology components are substituting and/or supplementing manual processes to manage information flow within an organisation to lower costs, reduce risk, and increase consistency.
Organisations that have committed to business process automation have been able to achieve significant and meaningful business benefits including increased efficiency in processing transactions across business systems, greater employee productivity, an overall increase in operational efficiency, reduced operating costs and improved customer service. In highly competitive markets it is clear that using business process automation technology can provide a substantial competitive advantage in all areas of operations.
No matter what the format of information entering an organisation, it must be captured, identified, processed and routed based on the workflow rules that apply to its media and content. With full traceability from entry to completion, every action for each transaction forms part of a comprehensive audit trail.
By automating business processes in this way companies can reduce costs, cycle time, user frustration, and input errors, while at the same time increasing speed of transactions, productivity, information integrity and access to relevant information. Within automated business processes, information flows seamlessly through the company, minimising the number of steps needed to complete a transaction and the amount of time spent manually entering, correcting, and searching for data. The result is an efficient, productive, smart and competitive business.