Workflow automation: How printers are solving the paper problem

Incorporating paper-based processes into digital workflows may no longer be a roadblock to full automation.

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All those documents are detected automatically through intelligent recognition software and then relevant information is populated into fields in an e-Form. Rules set up within e-Forms may trigger a process—for example, if the request is over a certain amount it goes to a manager for approval. Any questions that the approver has can be routed back to the worker for answers.

All this happens within the applications that workers use throughout the approval and payment process. “This all used to be paper based. Now it is 100-percent paperless,” says Visva. “We now process clients within two to five business days. It used to take seven to 10 days. At the end of the day, we improved our client experience.”

“It serves our clients better, but I wouldn’t say it costs less [to provide services],” says Visva. “It allows us to put more resources direct service with our clients as opposed to back office tasks. We are more accurate, more responsive.”

FST’s cost so far has been about $300K for phase 1 and $250K to $300K for phase 2, not counting time spent by internal staff. That cost includes different software pieces, scanning of 500 bankers' boxes of paper documents, hosting of the software applications and consulting fees to implement and integrate the system over the last three years.

Productive incremental gains

From a technology and feature perspective, the workflow automation solutions from document imaging vendors might not seem like a big leap over what’s been possible with traditional document management systems coupled with workflow solutions. The value that they offer is in starting the automation at an earlier point in the process where it is the most labor intensive using the familiar copier or MFP as the focal point.

“Digitize as early as possible, and not just having an electronic image, but having an annotated and analyzed document.” says Nehring. “Don’t deal with paper more than you really have to.” That’s easier said than done, especially for smaller organizations like FST where the document imaging vendors are finding the most success with their solutions. Adding functionality through the copiers and MFPs and integrating it with core applications will accelerate adoption by keeping costs down and minimizing training requirements.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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