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Baby steps: getting document capture right (part 1)

May 29, 2012

Although document capture is about as mature as it gets as far as enterprise content management (ECM) domains go, you wouldn’t necessarily know from the number of organizations I see out there struggling with it.

So I figured it was high time I penned a series of posts on how to get document capture right if you’re one of the many organizations struggling with it right now.

Baby and bathwater

To be fair, lots of folks have gotten it right. Pull back the document capture curtain of most large U.S. banks, financial services, or insurance organizations, and they’re probably doing pretty well: most core front-office processes are paperless and automated; many are evolving towards born digital, self-service delivery (think snapping a photo of your check and uploading to make a deposit); barcoding and optical character recognition (OCR) are the norm; and whether by outsourcing or optimizing internal capabilities, processing costs have dropped and are approaching (and in some cases have reached) commodity levels.

But move outside this demographic to mid-sized (or non-U.S.) banking, fi serv, and insurance organizations, or to “non-traditional” ECM consumers, such as manufacturing or mining, engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) or oil and gas, for example, and it’s like we’re back in the 1980s on the frontier of taming the document capture wilderness.

Miracle worker

It sounds crazy, but these are folks who find the automaton of the AP process a miraculous breakthrough…and when you tell them that it can be done with mature, fairly inexpensive off the shelf software in 3 – 6 months, they practically hug you. And when you suggest that their core business processes could benefit from similar (albeit less mature, more complicated to deploy) technology capabilities, they simply can’t believe that they’ve been doing business in a paper, manual world for so long.

But I can believe it, and for good reason: honestly, document management isn’t core to what they do to make money, so why would they pay any more attention to it than they absolutely have to to keep the lights on? They wouldn’t, and they haven’t…until now.

Straw and camel

The reason for this surging interest in document management among non-traditional ECM consumers, I think, is that they’ve reached a point where the good old fashioned document management practices that have worked for them in the past are no longer working (or are going to stop working shortly), putting their core, value chain activities at risk. And as soon as something threatens the value chain (i.e., the money), you can bet that folks will get serious about fixing it.

Way forward

With that having been said, I want to introduce a diagram that I sketch on the whiteboard at least once a week to help organizations understand the path they need to take to improve their document capture capabilities.

Figure 1 – Process Management Maturity Model

It essentially maps out a four step maturity model, from paper based, manual processing, to born digital, fully automated processing. And although it’s not rocket science by any means, for organizations at the beginning of their document capture journey, it’s a simple, powerful way to structure their thinking about how to tackle the likely overwhelming number of opportunities for using document capture to improve their front- and back-office operations.

The final word

I want to dig into this model a bit and step through some ways that I’ve seen clients use it to build (and execute on) actionable document capture roadmaps. So for now, I’ll leave it at this and look forward to hearing from you all out there: heckle, ask questions, share your own thoughts and experiences—jump in and get the conversation started.

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