Dismantling information silos and giving employees easy access to knowledge they need to drive processes and complete projects should be a key objective of any office automation initiative. With the right tools, your organisation can unlock the value of information assets and improve collaboration even if your employees deal with hundreds or thousands of documents each day.
The discovery process that kicks off office automation efforts identifies and resolves bottlenecks that make reengineering document-intensive processes seem overwhelming. As you’ll find out in the following examples, solutions like ours have been used to meet information management challenges in practical and innovative ways.
At the end of the post, we offer seven best practices to help you get more from these digital tools.
Artificial intelligence enhances the value of a customer portal
Mengali Accountancy, a leading accounting firm in Northern California, initially implemented a solution to streamline their work processes and become a paperless office. The firm found even more efficiencies by giving their clients online access to a portal and authorising them to submit and approve documents electronically. The firm reclaimed countless hours by providing its clients with this self-service portal, enabling their staff to process 66% more documents with the same number of employees. The organisation strengthened its own internal controls and improved fraud protection for its clients.
Since client information now comes to them in a digital format, Mengali uses a predefined workflow. Clients scan their documents and send them to an FTP site for the firm to import. Indexing is done through Intelligent Indexing which automatically searches each document for relevant index terms. The system indicates that it recognises all of the data fields in a document that it’s scanning with a green light icon. If the light icon is yellow or red, the firm’s data coordinator confirms the information or corrects it. Using this feedback, the system learns to recognise document types and the next time a similar document is imported the index terms are filled in automatically. The service uses crowd sourcing, so once an invoice from a certain vendor is mapped with index terms, the template is available behind the scenes to index other documents with a similar layout.
Nonprofit focuses on its mission, not administration
Quality Services for the Autism Community (QSAC) is a nonprofit that supports children and adults with autism. As a nonprofit QSAC is funded by many different sources and faces very stringent requirements regulating the use of its funds. With over 1,500 employees and a budget of £42 million, it is essential to monitor complex accounting processes and allocations, as well as oversee grants and donations. QSAC chose the solution because they needed something that could be tightly integrated with FundEZ, a financial and accounting software for nonprofits, and it would allow them to automate indexing, improve document security, as well as create custom complex approval workflows.
QSAC receives most of their invoices electronically. The solution’s importing service works in the background to monitor the accounts payable email, extract the invoice and bring it into the main system. The documents are indexed using Intelligent Indexing which automatically searches each document for relevant index terms, such as vendor name, date, and amount. When a document type is first indexed, an employee confirms the suggested information or corrects it. Machine learning technology remembers each document and the indexing corrections, so every capture increases the speed, accuracy and reliability of the tool. Once indexed, invoices are automatically routed through a multi-level approval and allocation process.
Barcodes improve custom order documentation
AquaPhoenix Scientific is a leader in water test kit and reagent manufacturing as well as a distributor of thousands of testing products and supplies.
The majority of their business is generated through custom orders. The company wanted a digital document management in order to improve customer service and easily access all the documents that pertained to each order.
They utilise the system to connect related documents associated with their high volume orders, improving productivity and workflow. Sales orders, invoicing, quality control documents, and more are easily stored in the system, boosting customer service. Once an order is shipped, the completed sales order along with the shipping document is scanned into the system where it is matched with customer purchase order and quality control documentation using the barcoded sales order number and customer number printed on the sales order form.
Seven office automation best practices
1: Harness the power of artificial intelligence (AI). Optical Character Recognition (OCR) templates are a useful tool but they have limits. Advanced software, such as Intelligent Indexing, takes it further and uses AI to automatically process documents when data fields like invoice numbers and company name are in different places on the document depending on the supplier. The software can scan electronic and paper documents for key terms and convert that information into searchable indexed data.
2: Take advantage of automated workflow capabilities. Digital workflow ensures that documents maintain their original integrity so that you don’t have to worry about managing multiple paper copies or have multiple electronic copies edited by different people offline. With electronic workflow you can identify the steps in a process and connect them with actions. These actions can be automated based on business rules or decision points for an employee. All pending workflow tasks can be shown in lists that update automatically.
3: Use barcodes to speed up indexing of paper documents. If you attach a barcode to the first page of every document that should be grouped together, you can scan all your documents in one batch. Each new barcode identifies a new document type. In addition, they separate documents when scanning and when importing large batches of documents. For example, if you receive a lot of invoices that you would like to scan and store in one step, you can use a barcode to identify the invoice number field and send every invoice to a specified folder to be reviewed and approved.
If documents are sent out for someone to process and return, barcodes can automate the separation and indexing of these documents at the same time. If a unique ID is assigned to the document, a solution can be configured to look up and populate the rest of the indexing data.
4: Automate import. Use automated import to send documents to a monitored folder from which they can be automatically and correctly stored. This is particularly useful when you are using network scanners or ERP software that create many PDF documents. Automated import is beneficial for companies that process large volumes of documents.
5: Use version control. With version control you can make sure that everyone who makes changes to a document is working with the most current version. Older versions can be viewed in the version history which shows also the version numbers, the status, the storage date, any comments, and the user who saved the document.
Restrict access to older versions of a document to avoid confusion. When someone is working on a document, it can be checked out and locked. Other users can view the document but cannot edit it until it is checked in again as a new version.
6: Follow consistent naming conventions across the organisation. Stick to a consistent method for naming files and folders. Use broad headings for folders rather than getting too specific. Paying attention to this detail will increase searchability.
7: Use an automated related documents feature. Linking documents that are part of the same business process can be done easily by creating a common data field. Associated documents can then be retrieved in one click.
For more information about how to get started with automating business workflows, click here.