With the document serving as a Digital Transformation (DX) information container, is it really dead?
This is Part 5 of our DX Series. We have examined what digital transformation means; digital transformation and its document automation challenge; prioritizing processes in the DX journey; using a document automation Proof of Concept (PoC) to drive transformation; and whether the focus on document automation should stop at paper.
A significant amount of document-based information involved in processes undergo transformation. There are some useful constructs with which to measure and rank one process against another. It is not just a matter of solving the paper problem. Documents exist in many formats, more often than not, in digital yet still unstructured form.
At the heart of any consideration regarding document-related information is the need to focus on mapping; we need to map the various modalities of data that are most useful for business processes from two perspectives: gathering data AND using data.
Document-based Information Collection
In some processes, use of an app or an e-form might be the most effective means of data collection. Parascript just completed a digital transformation engagement where two scenarios were evaluated to streamline a current process: one using e-forms technology and another using intelligent capture on scanned forms. This is an example of document-based information collection. Since the organization owned and controlled both the process and the forms, the decision to go with of e-forms and get rid of paper to improve processes and increase accuracy was the obvious choice.
In this case, the need to collect data did not require a paper document. The ability to migrate from paper forms to e-forms did not change the manner in which this data was presented. They used the data in systems of record and also used it in digital form. The value of information in document form all simply depends on the use case and the end user.
Document Automation: Data Streams Subdivided into Modalities
This perspective provides a useful construct when looking to automate processes where documents are involved. If a team reviews a process and the information involved, data streams can be subdivided into different modalities. This includes how systems and users interact with this data.
If the process deals with external stakeholders where use of systems or specific requirements cannot be enforced, document-based information modalities might be most effective allowing a variety of information collection and sharing. This is true especially where the data cannot be structured or easily defined. Where more standardization is involved, initial data collection might come from both e-forms and traditional forms that are then converted into easy-to-maintain and control digital documents for further processing.
Sophisticated Data Processing
Use of documents in any scenario does not mean the resulting automation cannot involve sophisticated data processing. If supplied by the ultimate recipient of the information, digital documents (such as PDF or Word files) can include built-in validation of information. They even support form-based information. Where there is no control, simply expanding acceptable input formats to born-digital documents (including email) can significantly speed up processes that otherwise would be paper-based. These would normally involve time-consuming and insufficient OCR-based processes.
Ultimately, exchange of information—and the methods of doing so—should be based on the objectives and needs of specific processes. Some may easily make use of structured data repositories while others require information containers such as documents.
If you found this article interesting, you might find these two eBooks interesting. One focuses on how to develop a successful proof of concept project to evaluate and select the right technology for your document automation. DX Demystified examines digital transformation in the context of document automation.