Behind every successful Process lies a prudent Capture

By Sanooj Kutty posted 09-03-2010 20:18


Although, ideally, a process starts from the intent to do a particular task to achieve a specific objective or deliver a service, most of your processes would find itself literally commencing with the entry of data like filling an application. In short, it commences with the capture of information.

Filling an application is probably the father of all capture methodologies. Even with the paradigm shift from pen & paper forms to GUI data entry, forms have been the leaders in information capture.

Yet, under the prevailing perception of information management, capture is either scanning or scanning using Bar-codes, OCR, ICR, etc. And in most cases, its a simple scanning task followed by a manual indexing exercise.

While it is indisputable that all the methodologies described above can be classified as capture, it is disputable whether they can be applied in every circumstance. Also, the increasing requirement and implementation of BPM technology to manage your processes requires one to implement a capture system.

“The OCR isn't working.”

“The Bar-code's throwing an error.”

Both OCR and Bar-code's are proven and established technologies, yet, it is also common for you to hear the above two statements quite often. You may have also gone ahead and bought a more expensive software because you thought the cheaper software was ineffective. Remember, sometimes the carpenter can be bad and not necessarily the tool.

You don't carry a 'screwdriver and nail' or a 'hammer and screw.', do you?

I am sure it is an emphatic NO!

Over 90% of the information projects I have been fortunate to work on have seen itself attempting to replace paper with electronic content. And 100% of those projects have budgeted themselves scanners and OCR software even before you know your requirement. Just because you need to capture does not mean you rush ahead and get yourself a scanner and print yourself a bar-code or extract via OCR.

An interesting case I encountered had been an attempt to convert a paper-intensive process to a paper-less process. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were budgeted and invested in buying scanners and OCR software, for a process that starts with a hand-filled application form. Millions of dollars were then spent on automating this process where further documents were need to be physically signed.

Neither were the scanners helpful nor did the process go paper-less. Instead, the project went into a complete loss and also half-baked implementation adversely affected the operations. The very same operations that was error-free when running on paper, although, expensive and slow.

While many a reason contributed to the demise of the project, the core reason was the lack of understanding that its not always scanners that mean capture. Most applicants involved in the process were computer-illiterate. ICR was the technology to be used and not OCR. Then again, when the forms are received bilingual, English may be competent on ICR but, Arabic still has a long way to go.

The physical signature could not be made redundant because the regulatory environment was not ready for electronic or digital signatures.

Remember, when one assumes, one makes an ASS out of U and ME. Hence, it is advised to bear in mind when identifying one's capture method. A spoon of research, a cup of analysis and a jar of prudence is advised. As they say, “Look before you Leap.”

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