How to Assess Your Capture Operation

By Richard Medina posted 03-25-2013 20:39


If you own or manage a capture operation you probably want to know how it’s doing.Whether you do capture in-house (using Captiva, Datacap, Kofax or others) or outsource (to Xerox, Pitney, SOURCECORP, Swiss Post Solutions, or others) you probably want to know how you’re doing. Maybe you have an in-house operation and you’re thinking you should outsource it. Maybe you outsource and want to know if it’s worth it. Or maybe you’re a for-profit service provider and want to know how your operation compares to both your competitors and your prospects (in-house capture operations).  

So how, specifically, is your capture operation doing? This post outlines which criteria you should be evaluating. We’ve been doing “capture benchmark assessments” for years and believe we've landed on a comprehensive set of criteria. Their purpose is to analyze and compare an organization’s capture operations, capabilities, and pricing. The benchmark always compares the firm against its peers and provides a set of recommendations.

We evaluate eleven criteria, starting with the obvious “core” factors relevant to capture and then moving out to the factors that are less obvious, but still necessary. We start by focusing on the core capture processes and technologies (like what capture software is used) and then move out to operations (e.g. measuring staff productivity), HR (e.g. measuring staff turnover and cross-training), financial management (measuring capture job costing), and several other factors. Here’s the complete list of criteria:

  1. Primary Processes
  2. Supporting Processes
  3. Primary Technology Capabilities
  4. Supporting Technology Capabilities
  5. Operations
  6. Quality Mechanisms
  7. Human Resources
  8. Customer Satisfaction
  9. Financial Management
  10. Vendor Management
  11. Business Continuity

And here are the questions we ask, in more detail:

1. What are the primary capture processes?

We look at the followingMailroom, Scanning, Fax, Indexing/Data Entry, Quality Assurance, and Release/Commit.

Best practices for this criterionWork is segregated in groups for efficiency, percentage of all transactions are verified for QC, ability to automatically escalate work for exception-handling, process design is conducted prior to implementation of a new application, product management takes an active role in advising clients on their options and encouraging document re-design, real-time reporting/exception monitoring.

Typical challengesManual paper sorting; not using technology to reduce paper sorting and complexities, too many unique and complex manual processes.

2. What are the supporting capture processes?

We look at the followingError and exception handling, records management (paper storage and retrieval), work scheduling, customer service, product management/product development.

Best practices for this criterionAutomated routing based on index assignment, real-time reporting and exception monitoring, workload balancing based on volumes, capacity, and SLAs.

Typical challengesManual work scheduling, poor product management discipline, most supporting processes are manual or supported by a variety of Microsoft Office tools.

3. What are the primary technology capabilities?

We look at the followingAuto-indexing via OCR/forms recognition, distributed capture and indexing, acquisition channels (color scanning, fax, email, EDI), workflow and automated routing.

Best practices for this criterionApproximately 30-60% of document volume is automatically indexed (1+ fields), distributed capture capabilities are provided to high-volume remote locations, intelligent forms redesign, bar codes, intelligent forms recognition, auto-processing and workflow.

Typical challengesPoor use of available technology to provide efficiencies; too many scanning processes and ingestion technologies; lack of automated tools for processing, reporting, and maintaining.

4. What are the supporting technology capabilities?

We look at the followingDedicated capture software, service-level or application billing, online reporting, integration (“tight coupling”) with downstream ECM repository and workflow.

Best practices for this criterionUse of capture solution specifically designed for input function; capture solution is multi-functional, with ability to e.g. front-end multiple systems with tight integration;, full error-checking and control; real-time reporting; queue workload management; end-user online reporting.

Typical challengesInconsistent reporting mechanisms, lack of dedicated IT resources within the capture area, no online reporting or visibility provided to business units.

5. How are the operational factors managed?

We look at the followingSLA conformance (cycle time, quality), device utilization, employee productivity, shifts/hours of operation, percentage of temporary labor.

Best practices for this criterionDaily work volumes are monitored through various functions via online reporting to identify bottlenecks; temporary/contract labor represents 30 percent or more of workforce; equipment, software, and staff utilization level are reviewed quarterly.

Typical challengesEquipment, space underutilized (in anticipation of volume spikes), high number of “same-day” turnaround requirements result in excess capacity.

6. What quality mechanisms are in place?

We look at the followingItem-level automated error tracking, statistical manual sampling, feedback reporting (closed-loop), certifications.

Best practices for this criterionReal-time, automated tracking of quality statistics within each function; third-party quality assessments via samples sent to external data entry firms; Six Sigma Black Belt quality reviews on a periodic basis.

Typical challengesLimited ability to systematically diagnose problems using automation, feedback from business unit customers is informal, inability to effectively and efficiently scale the manual QA processes.

7. How are the HR factors managed?

We look at the followingTraining, turnover/tenure, variable compensation and incentive systems, management.

Best practices for this criterionTrain all staff on each function to address peaks in the flow of work, retain only the staff that finds piece rate incentives attractive, rotate management and supervisory staff across various functions to increase end-to-end process knowledge.

Typical challengesInability to introduce incentive systems, inability to create formalized and consistent training due to tremendous amount of unique processes, diversity of work mix extends training period and limits use of temporary staff.

8. How is customer satisfaction managed?

We look at the followingBusiness unit satisfaction (internal customer), IT satisfaction, compliance/internal audit satisfaction, customer satisfaction survey methods.

Best practices for this criterionUnderstand the dynamics between customer satisfaction and unit costs, actively solicit input via surveys and phone interviews, and statistically monitor progress.

Typical challengesLack of regularly schedule customer surveys, need to increase promotional efforts internally.

9. How are the financial factors managed?

We look at the followingApplication / service level pricing, reinvestment levels / profit levels, job costing, variable pricing (based on SLA or time period).

Best practices for this criterionProcess design is conducted prior to implementation of a new application, product management takes an active role in advising clients on their options and encouraging document redesign.

Typical challengesToo many manual tools and man-hours to create the financial analysis, pricing does not sufficiently vary by service level, o significant investment in new technologies to improve process and reduce overall cost.

10. How are vendor factors managed?

We look at the followingCentralized relationship management, measurement, review and evaluation processes, contracting process, escalation process and issue resolution.

Best practices for this criterionAll vendors are accountable to SLA performance, and incentives and penalties are used, contracts are renewable annually to encourage renegotiation and review.

Typical challengesNot fully leveraging the capabilities of the current vendors, internal IT unit is not treated or managed as a vendor formally, with regular performance reviews, goal setting, etc.

11. How is business continuity managed?

We look at the followingDocumented strategy, policies and plans, site redundancy/dedicated backup location, third-party backup site, IT system availability

Best practices for this criterionBusiness continuity exercises are conducted twice a year; manual, paper-based processing is conducted once a year; critical and non-critical documents are identified and prioritized for business continuity

Typical challengesCapture process is not considered a high priority for the overall business continuity plans, system incompatibilities limit the number of business continuity options available or result in workarounds and added cost

If your capture operation is large or you anticipate that it will grow in the next year, we recommend that you assess the operation against these factors and manage against the benchmarks you set for yourself. If you have a smaller operation, this set of criteria can function more simply, as a checklist to ensure that you’re not missing anything important.


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