Oct. 30 2011 12:00 AM

We are always told that business
requirements come first and software requirements come after. Data capture,
however, can benefit from a converse view: If you have a capture system driving
one data-centric business process, can the same principle, and indeed the same
system, be applied to all of your data-centric business processes? Automated
capture upfront of any business process is likely to produce cleaner data,
resulting in higher quality information, less exception handling and better
process management. The more important the process is to your business, the
greater the impact such improvements will have.

In a 2011 survey of AIIM community members, we explored the decision-making
issues of capture-to-process versus capture-to-archive, measured the breadth of
media capture and levels of integration across common business processes and
looked at the issues that managers face when endeavouring to broaden the
application of capture-to-process.

In this survey, only 23% of organizations
outsource any of their scanning and capture needs — we normally measure over
30%. Back-file conversion was the most popular outsourced task. Less than 3%
use outsourcers as the primary mechanism for their scan and capture processes. Surprisingly,
16% of the largest organizations answering this survey have no formal mechanism
for systematic scanning and capture, compared to 28% of the smallest.

Most companies now find themselves dealing with
incoming correspondence in both paper and electronic format. Although the
character recognition process itself becomes unnecessary with an all-electronic
file (as opposed to a scanned document or fax), these documents are frequently unstructured
or semi-structured, and capturing data from the file for indexing or further
processing will still require an intelligent capture process. Of those
organizations scanning-to-process, nearly three-quarters also capture data from
electronic documents, such as emails, web forms, PDF files, etc. Only 4%
capture exclusively from electronic documents. Those not currently capturing
electronic documents show a strong intention of moving in that direction.

Even among the respondents of this survey,
40% of organizations have only capture-enabled up to three processes, and for a
quarter, it is just one or two processes. In many cases, these will be
high-volume applications dedicated to one or two core functions of the business
and may have been in place for many years. As we would expect, smaller
organizations are likely to have fewer enabled processes, but even in the
largest organizations or business units, 21% have three or fewer processes.

In terms of the types of process being
capture-enabled, as we would expect, external line-of-business forms processing
is most popular (60%), then invoices and finance (52%) and then dealing with
customer correspondence (42%).

The biggest impediment to greater use of
scan-to-process would seem to be a lack of awareness on the part of the
business process owners, along with the technical issues of interconnection
with other enterprise systems. Given that in 37% of organizations, business
process owners are the most likely group to make decisions about
scan-to-process projects, this lack of awareness is obviously an issue. However,
despite this general
lack of awareness, there is a strong appetite among our respondents to move
forward in this area.

DOUG MILES is director of the AIIM Market
Intelligence Division. He has over 25 years experience of working with users
and vendors across a broad spectrum of IT applications. For the full report, visit www.aiim.org.