Document Management and Digital Transformation

One step ahead with digital transformation

At a time when digitization and social media play an ever greater role in our daily lives, clients demand access to information and advice at the touch of a button. Digital experiences and consumer services have become part of everyday life – and not only for digital natives. Consumers of all ages now shop online and use their mobile devices to take advantage of offers and services on a daily basis. They order goods in real time, keep track of their orders and expect to be notified instantly if there are any queries or problems. Many businesses are however ill equipped to meet these expectations.

Numerous client transactions and the associated processes, such as simple changes of address or mortgage applications, cannot yet be handled in a cross-channel manner and are therefore rarely dealt with within a single working day. Companies thus struggle to provide adequate customer services in a multi-channel environment that includes e-mail, chat, SMS, fax and letter post.

In many cases, backoffice and support staff are most affected by these shortcomings, as their processes are not seen as part of the core activities of the company, although they are vital for its survival. While the manufacturing industry has embraced automation, many service providers are lagging behind and are not yet making full use of the many benefits that digital transformation can bring to their business models as well as their transaction and information processing tasks. In the meantime, technology is progressing towards intelligent automation.

Intelligent automation – the next step in digital transformation

By implementing self-learning automation solutions, end-to-end processes can be automated, allowing for much faster and efficient control. The advantages of intelligent automation are particularly evident in connection with routine processes such as data input, verification and validation.

While the term automation still conjures up busy robots along an assembly line, this image is outdated. Robots and other automation systems that perform only the tasks for which they have been programmed will soon be history, as they are being replaced with intelligent automation solutions with self-learning capabilities similar to those known from artificial intelligence. These systems are able to learn as they go, driving forward automation to an ever higher level. Powerful automation tools will soon revolutionize all routine work, as manual processes will be gradually taken over by IA systems, freeing up manpower for more demanding tasks. Automatic OCR scanning and processing of structured data, such as information entered in forms or details printed on invoices are already well-established practices.

Every year, large corporations all over the world are digitizing billions of documents for internal distribution, validation and processing. Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) service providers use semi-automated systems to speed up the scanning and data capture. The faster the documents are processed, the quicker CFOs and other decision makers have reliable figures available to make accurate forecasts.

With intelligent automation, things can be taken one step further, as this technology caters for the scanning and processing of unstructured data and information contained in documents such as e-mail messages and letters. Until now, these types of documents needed to be read and processed by people, i.e. human intelligence. Intelligent automation solutions are however able to identify, classify and interpret information in unstructured documents, be it e-mails, PDF attachments, Word files or Excel spreadsheets. A typical example of such a document is a letter of complaint from a customer. Upon arrival, it is scanned and processed with the latest technology. The relevant data is then forwarded in a digitized format to the business management system of the client so that the person in charge of the account can take action.

Intelligent automation thus offers unimagined opportunities for more efficient yet cheaper processing. Staff members can now focus on customer support as they are no longer tied up with time-consuming data input. As a result, customer service is improved and satisfaction levels increase.

What to look out for

Document Management and Digital Transformation

To maximize the benefit, Intelligent Automation solutions must always be customized to suit the actual needs of the organization. In addition, it is imperative that the entire process from end-to-end across all divisions and departments of the company is analyzed in detail, so that all elements of the solution are fully integrated, as subsequent adjustments and reconfigurations can be very costly. The most effective IA solutions combine various digitization techniologies as well as tried and tested process models, that utilize both outsourcing options and in-house integration of the digitized workflows and processes.

Many companies are required by law to document all interactions with customers, irrespective of communication channel. These requirements cover not only forms, but also queries and meeting minutes with customers. To achieve compliance, workflows must be fully digitized and all documents must be archived in an electronic format, and simultaneously Intelligent Automation documents all steps along the process chain. Modern technology ensures that all relevant data is forwarded to and stored in the relevant data analytics systems, and compliance queries can be answered through improved visibility of and access to relevant information.

IA solutions must also be future-proof, so that they can be upgraded and extended in line with the latest technical developments and changing business requirements. It is therefore necessary to adopt a holistic approach, as all aspects of a process must be taken into consideration. This cannot be achieved with standard software, and even bespoke IT solutions require huge input to keep pace with the latest technical developments.

Another crucial issue is of course the availability of know-how and expertise, as the actual technical component is only one part of the solution. For the successful implementation of an IA solution, processes need to be carefully analyzed and evaluated on the basis of industry-specific knowledge, taking into account best practice cases from other sectors. After all, intelligent automation aims not only at the automation of processes but also at optimization.

Of course, it is not just about evaluating technology for document management. Also important  are the needs of the company with regard to its internal mailrooms and operations. By optimizing these processes, a company is taking the first step towards future automation, and is laying the foundation for whenever the need occurs.

Optimization alone can result in significant cost savings, as this example from New York shows. A renowned market research firm, and client of SPS, has been able to reduce its office floor space by fifty per cent over the last few years. Lower costs are however only one side of the story. Equally important are the many opportunities for clients to improve their service offerings. To succeed in today's markets, corporations need to offer their customers professional and future-proof services while cutting costs.

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