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.

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