Going "green" with electronic data capture
A way to green your organization while improving efficiency
Milind Joshi, CTO, IDEA TECHNOSOFT
With rampant greenwashing, it is not quite certain exactly what actions by an organization qualify as “green.” So, when vendors make the claim that their technology will help an
organization go “green,” it is not immediately obvious what they mean.
Two examples come to mind where I had to stretch my imagination and try hard to understand how a company that claimed to be “green” could actually benefit the environment. One, a marketing communications company that claims to replace a small percentage of ink used on marketing literature printed for customers with vegetable-based inks instead of petroleum-based ones. Two, a grocery store claiming to be green that will now charge customers for plastic bags. I’m quite sure all of us have stories in that vein.
With electronic data capture, the case is often simpler, though sometimes not as obvious. There is the popular “green” slogan “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Sounds quite reasonable that if I can reduce my impact, reuse more and recycle what I would otherwise throw away, and enough people participate, there should be some noticeable positive impact on the environment.
So let’s examine that for electronic data capture. Electronic data capture is technology or processes by which you don’t have to capture data from paper sources manually. It is usually a part of something bigger, like market research, accounts-payable automation, cheque processing or HR automation.
So what does it reduce, what does it reuse and what does it recycle?
“Reduce" from Electronic Data Capture
Storage Space The space needed to store a digitally scanned image is far less than the space needed to store the paper form itself, and that gets multiplied as the number of pieces of paper climbs. The consequential costs of saving space translate to lower rent, lower heating and cooling costs and a lighter environmental footprint
Access Time An electronically scanned image, when indexed properly, can be accessed in far less time than trying to find the proverbial needle-in-the-haystack document in your paper records. When paper records are stored in an offsite location, the cost of retrieving the record often includes the cost of trucking the paper to the storage location, and then back again whenever it is needed. Greenhouse gases all the way.
Eliminate Paper-based Processes Over time, as an organization gets more and more used to not pushing paper, innovative methods for eliminating the paper usage are possible.
Inefficiencies Even the examination of a business process in preparation for automated data capture results in reduction of inefficiencies, most often because the people asking the questions have no bias of “it’s always been done this way here.”
“Reuse" from Electronic Data Capture
Systems & Processes An electronic data capture system can often be extended to capture other forms of data, other forms or document types.
Human Effort For something more productive, do more with less.
Learning The takeaways from automating a business process with automated data capture can often be applied to other processes. Often the cost, data quality and turnaround expectations that arise from electronic data capture-based automated processes result in higher expectations and more creativity all around, often even when dealing with unrelated processes.
“Recycle" from Electronic Data Capture
Paper The typical filing cabinet has several trees worth of paper stored in it. By using electronic data capture, the paper is not needed any more, so more can go to the shredder and the recycling plant, and in time, less trees are cut. Here’s a quick statistic. There are at least 20 million office workers in North America. Assuming each office worker has a small (4ft X 2 ft X 1 ft) filing cabinet, then each office worker has the equivalent of about one-third of a fully grown pine tree in their cubicle. That is 6 million fully grown trees. And this estimate is very conservative. We haven’t even started counting those organizational filing cabinets yet.
Information The information stored in electronic forms can often be reused in different forms without having to duplicate on paper and ship to its destination.
In addition to the “greening” effects, electronic data capture enables an organization to be more agile, more responsive and reduce cost and time to implement changes to key business processes. It is possible to make the incoming data more accurate, get it in faster, and increase transparency in dealings with customers, associates, partners and employees. Electronic data capture does not only apply to data that resides in paper, but also to content in PDF, such as analysis, reports, bills and other unstructured content including spreadsheets and other electronic documents.
IDEA TECHNOSOFT is a leading provider of technology solutions for data capture. With solution sets under the ixtract platform that cover paper capture, PDF capture, and legacy format capture, IDEA TECHNOSOFT offers a wide variety of solutions for the Government Forms Capture, Banking Payment Transaction Processing, and Insurance Risk Analysis sectors. IDEA TECHNOSOFT solutions have also been deployed in the Legal, Health care, and other verticals.
For banks, financial institutions, insurance companies and government departments and agencies who need to convert large amounts of unstructured data – such as PDFs, paper-based forms, other electronic file formats—into normalized structured data such as a database, in a rapid, accurate, and secure manner, IDEA TECHNOSOFT offers a solution especially designed to extract, convert, and output data from unstructured inputs more accurately, faster, and much more cost-effectively than any competing technology or service.
Unlike conventional OCR and capture technologies, IDEA TECHNOSOFT’s ixtract data conversion platform is especially designed to extract latent structure in flat data files, handles both scanned data and electronic formats, and allows for continuous improvement of the conversion algorithm, which improves accuracy and speed of data conversion. Unlike manual input through off- or near-shoring, IDEA TECHNOSOFT ensures lower per-unit costs, data security, higher levels of accuracy, and more rapid turnaround. And, unlike generic IT consulting firms who offer data conversion advice and implementation services, IDEA TECHNOSOFT’s platform has a ready fit-for-purpose toolkit designed for these customers’ difficult data conversion problems, being able to deliver the conversion solution at less than 30% of the cost of generic consulting firms.
Milind has spent over a decade working with information capture and retrieval systems, and over two decades building computer software. With an education in Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, and interests in Statistical Machine Learning and Computational Linguistics, his focus is to try to find elegant, practical, if somewhat non-traditional approaches to AI-hard problems. He recognizes that the technology for most solutions that work has been around for a long time, and is often a part of the public domain. When he strips away the buzzwords and trademarks, the concepts are startlingly simple. He is a Professional Member with AIIM, ACM, and the IEEE Computer Society. He strives hard not to become an “expert” and retains his curiosity and works to find better ways of doing things by continuing to design and write software code himself and testing others’ work.