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How Electronic Documents Are Changing Businesses Q&A: Part 1

How_Electronic_Documents_Are_Changing_Businesses_QA_With_Document_Imaging_Report_Editor_Ralph_Gammon_Part_1.jpgAs the editor of the premier publication covering news and trends in the document imaging industry, Document Imaging Report, Ralph Gammon has a unique perspective on the market.

We spoke with Ralph to discuss important issues surrounding document management. Below is the transcription of the first part of our Q&A session.


Q: As you’ve watched the industry evolve, what do you see as some of the most important document management features today and into the future?

As we move forward, cloud capabilities are at the top of the list. One of the stats I like to quote is from an organization called Better Cloud. They interviewed a number of businesses recently, and 62% expect to be running their IT completely in the cloud by 2020, compared to just 12% today. It gives you an idea of what sort of ramp-up we should expect to see over the next five years.

The numbers I’ve seen say document management as an industry is only about 4-5% cloud-based right now, but I really think that will ramp up rapidly over the next few years as people get comfortable and understand that a cloud deployment is going to be more secure than an on-premises deployment. People will start to get comfortable with Office 365 in the cloud and throwing their documents in there. The next natural step is moving them into other clouds for more advanced document management functionality. 

We have also begun to see more rapid adoption in the market of advanced capture for automated classification and extraction. These technologies can really cut down on some of the indexing, data entry and manual labor associated with document management, while also helping to bring much greater workflow efficiency

Document management is no longer about store and retrieve, which is how many people initially used it. As we have started to move more electronic documents and other types of input into this document management chain, the focus has really shifted to how information you capture can behave more efficiently. 

I think workflow and advanced data capture are the two things making the most headway within cloud-based document management. These should develop the most over the next five years.


Q: What are the key drivers for pursuing document management? What makes the pursuit worth it?

The key driver in today’s market is improving transactional processes. What does that mean? It means faster turnaround time on invoices or customer onboarding. For local governments, maybe it’s sending agendas to meeting attendees. Within higher education, maybe it’s processing transcripts more quickly.  

It’s really all about making things happen faster, with less manual labor. There are other benefits such as document security and better record management, of course, but efficiency is really the main driver that makes the investment worth it.

If you can reduce an invoice process from 30 days to two days, it enables you to take advantage of more early-pay discounts. That’s where your ROI is really impacted. Imaging can also enable improved customer service: When someone calls for support and the call center rep can find their documentation faster, you’re able to provide a better customer experience.

The people really pursuing these capabilities on an individual basis are those in charge of these processes – your customer service managers, HR managers, accounts payable managers and such. These people are really benefiting from these improved processes.


Q: What role does mobile play in a business’s path to document management software,and how is mobile influencing new software features?

Interestingly enough, mobile hasn’t had a big impact on document management yet. In some cases, we’ve seen that people may need access to documents from their mobile devices. If they’re away from the office, they may want to look at something. If it’s a service-type application, they may want to reference a document.

Mobile approval is one more prevalent feature. If, for instance, you have a purchase order process but a key stakeholder is traveling, that person can still have the ability to approve an order and keep the process moving forward. I actually read a story about the Miami Marlins having trouble getting invoices and purchase orders approved due to people traveling throughout the baseball season. So they enabled certain employees to access their document management systems on their mobile devices to provide simple approval.

There are also mobile capture applications that can complement self-service capabilities, with mobile check imaging being the big one. Companies are starting to add mobile document capture features as well. Customer onboarding is a big potential application, helping people sign up for services or apply for a loan on a mobile device, either themselves or with a field agent. In both, images of certain documentation might be needed to support the application. It’s all about making it easy for potential customers to switch and increasing the number of onboarding transactions. But to do that, you have to make the process easy, and mobile capture makes that possible. 

I haven’t seen a ton of applications out there, though. The main statistic to take away is one I read from AIIM26% of people they interviewed for a recent report were using mobile ECM, but another 40% had no mobile access to content.

While mobile capture has gotten a lot of buzz, whether people are actually implementing it yet is another question. Realistically, mobile is still very much in the early stages. Not a lot of heavy lifting is being done with mobile right now, and I don’t know if that’s going to change.


Q: What document management features do you see as being underrated or underutilized?

Historically, workflow features were underutilized. People are starting to get a better feel for it now and it’s starting to pick up momentum. But the key thing to think of is this: if you’ve scanned a document and it’s now digitized, what can you do with it? What can you automate to really save money?

I think you really need to look at workflow and change the way you do business to really take advantage of this.

Automated capture is another area that’s starting to gain momentum. For many years, OCR technology was underutilized, and only really used at the high end of the market. In many cases, it was complex and took a lot of ramping up and professional services to get it to work correctly. This technology has been around for 15 to 20 years, but only now you’re starting to see more widespread adoption. 

Another feature that comes to mind is web-based capture. People are still doing traditional client-server-type capture, but not taking advantage of the ability to capture through a browser interface. A browser-centric capture application really simplifies management. 

Lastly, records management is quite underutilized as a whole, but there’s a lot of good technology out there that can really help you clean up your file stores. If you don’t need a document sitting around after its useful life cycle (or even if you don’t have regulation to comply with, but your regular business practice is to get rid of it) there are many great records management policies that can automatically eliminate these documents. They help you save on storage costs by enabling you to de-duplicate documents, as well as protect you against liability.


Stay tuned for part 2 of our interview with Ralph Gammon.


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