Converting documents is never a straight forward task when you deal with the level of iterations that we do on a daily basis. At CloudX we handle things like accounts payable invoice processing, accounts receivable remittance processing, check processing, sales order processing, credit memo processing, and a variety of things in between. As an upfront disclaimer, none of these are standardized documents like you encounter with HCFA or UB forms, which are other items we’ve processed. With that said, there are some key things to remember when it comes to document processing in terms of making a process air tight, streamlined, and effective.
Here are five key things to remember when pursuing automated document processing:
- Capture items upstream in the process. The further things float downstream, the more complex it is to deal with them and the more time elapses on documents that are generally tied to time sensitive processes. When you really boil this down for invoices, as an example, it affects both AR and AP departments from a time to cash and a days payable outstanding standpoint depending on which side of the coin you’re looking at. Therefore, don’t waste time by letting either of these doc types stagnate in a manual process, instead get them into a data conversion queue from the process outset.
- Ideally capture these electronically. Why wait until documents arrive in your organization as paper. Then the onus is on you to scan and convert these and that involves mail handling, and scan prep…yes the annoying practice of having to pull out staples, paper clips and post its. If you can get your suppliers or customers to push you their business documents upstream electronically you’re going to get better capture, faster…period. Another popular alternative to email is doing things by way of a vendor portal, but these can be tedious when you have to maintain multiple logins for each vendor or customer.
- Go with OCR over data entry. This is a known technology that generally yields up to 70% higher processing output metrics on average and has been used for years in Accounts Payable automation along with more recent usage in Accounts Receivable automation. It’s also been used in healthcare insurance claim form processing, mortgage loan application processing, and even sales order processing. One challenge with OCR is the learning curve required to bring it in house, as well as the cost. Finally, the differences in OCR is huge with old school OCR providing zonal approaches to data capture whereas new methods draw upon layout and learning technologies for improved capture and performance.
- Dual validation is a must. Even with OCR, manual intervention will be required for exceptions, and to ensure high process accuracy getting two independent operators who are unsure of the other’s validation is the best way to arrive at quality data throughput. In the event data can be captured and processed after dual validation, you guessed it, time for escalation to a third party as a data supervisor for interpretation.
- Process ownership…the biggest deal. This is where the rubber hits the road. If you attempt to automate accounts payable, receivable or the other processes we’ve listed, you’ll get nowhere in a hurry if you don’t have a capable and competent anchorman (not Ron Burgundy, and yes women excel at this too). Seriously though, they are the lynchpin to tying down the technology and the people required to advance any worthy cause and we’ve seen more than our fair share of projects go sideways due to inept leaders managing a process. Conversely, the ones that have extracted the most benefit from document processing and automation efforts have been the ones where you have a strong, consistent, and thorough person handling the nuances and managing the process and stakeholders in the process.
There are myriad business advantages to automated document processing, but arriving at the right solution for your business is by no means a one size fits all approach. We at CloudX are certainly advocates for document process outsourcing because we believe it represents the highest in blended values from a technology and human touch perspective, while offering unparalleled affordability, but whether or not that works in your environment is a fundamental choice left only to you. Whatever you decide, know that successful document process automation is a worthwhile effort when done correctly and will yield lasting results.