Frankie-the-frustrated worker: Making Salesforce better with Automatic Data Entry

frankie the frustrated iconFor this particular blog post we would like to use a light-hearted approach to a major problem.  The problem is lost productivity and user frustration around populating data into Line of Business applications via Manual Data Entry versus Automation.

To illustrate my point let’s take one of the most popular Software as a Service (SaaS) applications ever, Salesforce.com.  And while the application is absolutely simple to use and easy to manage, what lacks is the ability to take information from paper and/or an image and put it directly into Salesforce.com database fields.

 

1.  Let’s take a moment to go through the steps to import data into Salesforce.com and follow the steps Frankie-the-frustrated worker must take to get this task done.
 ftf1_crm_import_wizard
2.  Commentary of Frankie-the-frustrated worker:
“Frustrating!  Step 1 of 7????”
ftf2_step_1
3.  Commentary of Frankie-the-frustrated worker:
“MORE FRUSTRATING!!!  WASTING TIME!!!”
ftf3_step_2
4.  Commentary of Frankie-the-frustrated worker:
“MORE THAN EVER FRUSTRATED!!!!!!!!!  WASTING TIME, MONEY, AND ENERGY!!!!!!!!!!!” 
ftf4_step_3
5.  Commentary of Frankie-the-frustrated worker:
 “FORGET IT!!!!!!!!!!!! 
 THIS WILL NEVER END!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
 WHY IS IT LIKE THIS????? 
 ISN’T THERE AN EASIER WAY????????????????” 
ftf5_step_4

 

Education and modern technology reduce Frankie’s frustration

Are we still living in the stone age when it comes to data entry into computer systems?  Isn’t there a more efficient method to automatically populate data in your software application instead of costly manual data entry?  It’s 2014 after all, not 1914.  Why do we accept such primitive methods of data entry?

 

Answer:  Because we need to educate the market on the capabilities of capture technologies.  We also need to strive to make integration and usage as easy as possible.  If you build it, they will come.

 

frankie the frustrated 2014 slide
Eliminating Frankie’s frustration with Ubiquitous Information Capture
Realizing the dream of Ubiquitous Information Capture directly into applications is much easier than you might think but we must educate the market on current capabilities. The idea is simple, yet highly effective.  Embed the ability to take photos with a smart phone and/or capture paper documents from a scanning device directly into your software application.  Note that all I’ve done in the screen prints below is add a small icon of a camera and scanner directly into my CloudConnectMashup software application.

 

ftf6_cloudconnectmashup
Now, I can offer my users a truly great user experience because contributing information is nearly effortless and removes pain associated with manual data entry.  This translates directly into reduced operational costs, improved efficiencies and an overall better work environment.
ftf7_uic_600
Think about all the lost opportunities to drastically reduce labor costs, most likely in the billions if not trillions of dollars, associated with manual data entry in just the use cases below:

 

1.  Transportation applications with Bills of Lading, Proof of Deliveries, Trip Sheet or Scale Tickets

 

2.  Field Service applications with Proof of Work delivered, Vehicle Identification Number, Work Orders or Assessment documentation

 

3.  Contracts Management applications with Amendments, Terms and Conditions or License Agreements

 

4.  Invoice Management applications with Invoices, corresponding Packing Lists or Proof of Performance

 

5.  Sales/Contact Relationship Management applications with Business Cards, Agreements or Correspondences

 

Do you know a Frankie in your organization?  Do you have a story, good or bad, to tell?  We’d love to hear your feedback.

Systems of Record and High Collaboration for Box

 

Use Case:  Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems, or probably a better description, Systems of Record have a long heritage of providing niche functionality that allows organizations to effective access via search, securely retain and destroy with retention schedules and enforce business policy with governance rules.  Your organization desires to utilize all the benefits of the System of Record, yet you also want to encourage collaboration among your users because you know there are many business processes that involve sharing of information on a particular piece of content before it needs to officially enter the ECM as a “record”.  The best solution to offer both a solid ECM solution as well as a highly collaborative environment is to use Box outside of your corporate firewall to enable users to efficiently share information, then once the content needs to enter the ECM you can either have the ECM system monitor a watched folder and bring it in, or you can have your users declare a record and push it immediately into the SOR.

Features Benefits
  • Records management, retention schedules and business policy
  • Content collaboration outside of firewall
  • Security behind and outside the network
  • Better adherence to compliance laws
  • Ease of use encourages high user adoption
  • Piece-of-mind that information is secure without exception

Solution Description:   You have done your due diligence and over the years have tuned your ECM system into a well-oiled records management machine.  While this system is operating nicely you find that there is a lot of content that is changing often, especially early in its lifecycle, and does not necessarily need to enter your System of Record until it goes through these initial rounds of changes.  Therefore, you will setup a solution where a highly collaborative environment outside of your corporate firewall using Box is established.  Then you will do one of two relatively simple integration methods to allow content from Box to easily flow into your ECM system.  You will allow the users themselves to declare a record and send the content immediately from Box into your ECM or, as a good technical architecture rule in general, you will have your ECM automatically reach-out and look into Box to review the status documents and retrieve any that may have inadvertently not been declared that should have been.

System Requirements:

Note:  This is a conceptual solution and will require some level of integration work, although could be minimal to achieve the end result.

  1. Box account
  2. ABBYY OCRSDK.com  or ABBYY FineReaderOnline.com service account
  3. System of Record/ECM system

 

Steps/Architecture (Complexity = Moderate to Involved):

  1. Create a general collaboration shared work area, or areas, in Box
  2. Then create sub-folders to mimic your existing organizational infrastructure such as Accounting, Marketing, Sales, etc. and use Box folder permissions to invite collaborators for each folder
  3. These first two steps are to create areas for collaborative work.  Now you want to create an Upload folder for finished work to be sent to your System of Record
  4. As users complete collaboration on a particular piece of content they would simply use an integrated ‘Upload to ECM’ button within their application to upload the document
  5. At this point, depending on how the solution is integrated, the solution can do one of many things utilizing ABBYY hosted services.  Often there are two options:
    1. Unattended, where once the user presses the button then the content is processed is converted and stored with no further user interaction
    2. Interactive, where the content is processed and information is extracted yet you would want to have the user verify the accuracy of the data captured
    3. For the conversion process itself, and in particular for Systems of Records integration, a popular method of conversion is Image and a corresponding XML file with the extracted index fields
    4. Now, again depending on the method of integration, there are typically two scenarios that can deliver the images and extracted results to your System of Record
      • Push:  Push, as the term would indicate, means that there has been an integrated procedure within Box where once files are sent to the Upload folder then they are immediately sent
      • Polling:  Polling means that the System of Record is actually checking the Box Upload folder at some interval to see if there are new files to import.  Each method has its pro’s and con’s, it just really depends on an organizations specific requirements

 

User operation (Complexity = Easy):

  1. Since the logic of the document workflow, as well as, the technical integration to get content moved between various folders will have been done by a systems integrator/software developer, the user operation is as simple as pressing a button
  2. It is important to note that while this solution is extremely easy from a user operation standpoint, one of the most important things to consider is operator training on how to utilize the system most effectively.  Especially as the number of users, departments and processes increase this creates not only great opportunity for highly efficient collaboration, it could also introduce a level of confusion that you would like to avoid

 

Associated screen prints on this solution:

1.  Box general collaboration area

2.  Box sub-folders and access permissions

3.  UPLOAD folder

4.  Integrated ‘Upload to ECM’ button

5.  Technical workflow transparent to the user

6.  Data quality verification

7.  XML file output results

8.  Push and Polling transfer methods

9.  Simple user experience with one button operation

We’d like to hear from you on this innovative idea.  Does our suggestion of incorporating the best qualities of traditional systems with the best qualities of ‘disrupted’ systems appeal to you?  Can you think of other mashup concepts?  We would appreciate your feedback.

Exploiting Big Data with Indexes for Box

 

Use Case:  In today’s business environment, more than ever, it’s simply not good enough to be average.  Organizations of all sizes have to strive to create competitive advantages, understand trends and gain better insight into operational efficiency.  One of the most useful techniques to accomplish these goals is to Exploit Big Data through analysis.  However, this is challenging due to the volume, velocity and variety of content that must be analyzed.  Image-only files are useless in data analysis.  Therefore, in order to take the all-important first step in exploiting all of your content is to apply indexes so that computer systems can properly begin to understand the information.

  1. Reporting:  Business executives are generally paid good money to make important decisions about the business and these decisions are often based on reports.  These reports are often compiled from various data sources such as spreadsheets, interviews with customers or employees and possibly other documents.  This method of gathering all this various data is not only time-consuming but it’s problematic due to the fact that the data is often presented in a inconsistent manner.  For this reason you will want to use a Big Data system such as Splunk where business executives and have instant access to sets of data from various sources that is real-time information and presented through dashboards or graphics that can clearly show trends or other information that is pertinent to the decision making process.
  2. Predictive analytics:  Historical reporting is fantastic to analyze information yet this information is typically in the past.  Imagine if you can proactively determine a trend or predict, with solid data, future events?  This is a major benefit of Big Data aggregation.  For example, given the right set of data you can probably predict where mortgage interest rates will increase or decrease in a particular geography.  You would use statistics such as current available housing inventory supply, real-time unemployment rates as well as possibly the latest transactions within a certain time period.  Also, using the same Big Data aggregation concept but for a completely different application is predictive analytics is in the field of Healthcare.  If you can feed enough Index information into a Big Data solution then healthcare providers can narrow down much quicker the proper diagnose on people with illnesses where this can enrich people’s lives.
  3. Business process improvement:  There is always room for improvement and this is especially true in the business world and the most effective way to effect positive improvement is through the visibility to business processes themselves.  Once you understand the process then you apply matrixes to these processes such as time needed to complete a task or steps needed to finish a project.  A Big Data solution such as Splunk is an ideal complement to the efficiency improving technologies such as ABBYY Data Capture with tangible return on investment through reduced labor costs associated with manual data entry and Box with highly effective collaboration where enterprise workers can get work done quickly and be overall more effective in their business activities.  Just by deploying a Big Data analysis system with Data Capture efficiency and Collaboration on mobile that is secure is absolutely one way to achieve better process improvement but just imagine all the possibilities that can be done with the data itself.  And it all starts by Exploiting Big Data with Indexes.
Features Benefits
  • Automatic indexing of relevant data
  • Full-page for complete index
  • Touch indexing for structured data extraction
  • Reduces costs associated with manual data entry
  • Ability to analyze all data sets
  • Offers ease of use for high user adoption

Solution Description:   This solution might sound gaudy and complicated but it’s actually straight-forward and logical.  There are three basic concepts which are Index Creation (ABBYY technology), Index Analysis (Splunk) and secure Image Storage (Box).  We will use several technologies to create indexes for various reasons and then we will feed our Big Data system all these indexes so that this software can do what it does best.  The Big Data system allows administrators to easily aggregate all this data and then create dashboards, reports and other useful business intelligence tools.  So the process is quite logical:  Capture indexes for all sources including existing databases, paper documents and, of course, images and send all these indexes to Big Data.  Then send the images to Box for safe storage, easy access and effective collaboration.

 

System Requirements:

Note:  This is a software developer and systems integrator solution.  We are using Splunk as our Big Data aggregator in this solution because it is so easy to configure, yet extremely effective.  Splunk can only perform well when you can provide lots of “Index” information.  As seen in this graphic, “Index” is at the core for Big Data to even begin analyzing different data sets.

  1. Box account
  2. ABBYY FlexiCapture for Automatic Data Capture
  3. ABBYY Recognition Server for Full-Page recognition
  4. ABBYY TouchTo for touch indexing
  5. Splunk Big Data software (free download)

 

Configuration Steps (Complexity = Moderate to Involved):

  1. Start Splunk and review choose Add data
  2. Depending on the output type and format of indexes select the proper Splunk Add Data function
  3. Now connect Splunk to your data source(s)
    1. For example, maybe Recognition Service you might choose ‘From files or directories’ and as an option Preview data before indexing
    2. …and for FlexiCapture you might choose the ‘any other data…’ then ‘Consume data from databases’ because you output to a SQL database directly
    3. …and for TouchTo you might choose the ‘a file or directory of files
  4. After connecting all the index data sources to Splunk it is advisable to review the Splunk Manager options to familiarize yourself with all the various settings and configurations available
  5. Now that you have configured Splunk to utilize Indexes from your various Data Capture and Conversion sources, you will want to gather information contained within Box.  To do this a software developer would utilize the Box API (Application Programming Interface) to import data such as tags, get comments or get file info
  6. A complete list of all the Splunk Indexes can be viewed in Manager
  7. Once all the indexes have been aggregated within Splunk then organizations can truly realize the benefits of Big Data with detailed reporting, predictive analytics and/or improved business process via simple visual tools such as dashboards

 

Associated screen prints on this solution:

1.  Splunk architecture with Index at the core

2.  Start Splunk

3.  Add data

4.  Splunk add From files or directories

5.  Data preview

6.  Any other data…

7.  Consume data from databases

8.  Splunk add A file or directory of files

9.  Splunk Manager

10.  Splunk Indexes Manager

11.  Splunk dashboard

What do you think?  “Big Data” is still a relatively new idea and many use cases are just coming to light.  How can you imagine using Big Data?  The possibilities to innovate in this area are tremendous, do you have a story to tell?