For 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.
2. Commentary of Frankie-the-frustrated worker:
“Frustrating! Step 1 of 7????”
3. Commentary of Frankie-the-frustrated worker:
“MORE FRUSTRATING!!! WASTING TIME!!!”
4. Commentary of Frankie-the-frustrated worker:
“MORE THAN EVER FRUSTRATED!!!!!!!!! WASTING TIME, MONEY, AND ENERGY!!!!!!!!!!!”
5. Commentary of Frankie-the-frustrated worker:
“FORGET IT!!!!!!!!!!!! THIS WILL NEVER END!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHY IS IT LIKE THIS????? ISN’T THERE AN EASIER WAY????????????????”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Use Case: The Salesforce product offering now is much more than it once was just a few short years ago with the focus primarily on their core Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software as a Service (SaaS) capability. The ecosystem has evolved to where there are many useful, as well as, innovative SaaS applications built using the Force.com, and other platform services that Salesforce now offers. The ease of relative use from a development standpoint, the time to start utilizing an application as well as the decreased complexity is just a few of the reasons why the platform is so successful. An independent third-party CustomerSat Survey in July/August 2009 had the below interesting statistics to confirm these platform benefits:
The platform encourages new innovation with easy to use development environments and this translates directly into terrific technology solutions design opportunities for hardware manufacturers, mobile developers, SaaS providers and even Enterprise customers themselves to create custom mashup applications for their precise needs. In this particular solution we will use a similar platform concept with the exception that instead of CRM application logic and workflow, the ABBYYForce project is offering Conversion and Data Capture as a Service. Salesforce with their support of metadata and logic, in conjunction with ABBYY as a Service metadata extraction technology and Box secure storage and collaboration are an ideal solution for Enterprise organizations looking for best-of-breed functionality.
An animated version of the vision:
Use case scenarios:
Scanning device manufacturers and mobile developers: Devices that are capable of capturing images is quickly becoming ubiquitous. This includes not only all the dedicated or network-attached sheet-fed devices but also all the multifunction devices with scanning capability and especially mobile devices with smart phone cameras. The opportunity for device manufacturers, as well as, software developers that create integrated solutions using their tools and SDK’s is tremendous to offer more of a complete solution than just the capture device itself. Box is a perfect option because highly secure storage and effective collaboration on content is at the core as a least common denominator of customer expectations. Additionally, Box offers many methods to integrate with their service including Box API, Box OneCloud Platform or Box Embed so there are several different options depending on requirements.
Software as a Service (SaaS) providers: SaaS solution providers are revolutionizing the way that business applications are delivered with great potential in offering their customers improved operational efficiency without the time-consuming tasks of procuring, installing and deploying traditional on-premise software. Now organizations of all sizes can have robust, enterprise-level applications such as CRM, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or Travel & Expense (T&E) Management without the typical barriers to actually begin utilizing these applications. However many of the process workflows associated with most of these applications still involve manual data entry at some point or another. For example, manually entering business card data into your CRM, keying-in invoice details from a received invoice into your ERP or doing the time-consuming task of entering all the line items details from an expense receipt into your T&E system. Adding Data Capture as a Service which is a complimentary technology either embedded directly into your SaaS user interface, or as-a-service that can automatically populate index fields with relevant metadata takes improving business efficiency to the next level. By adding this efficiency improving capability, SaaS providers can provide the tangible return on investment in reduced manual labor costs to help moving forward sales quicker and/or justify subscriptions for additional seat licenses because of the improved total cost of ownership.
Enterprise customers for internal projects: Since nearly all software as a service applications offer integration possibilities via Web Services application programmers interface (API) this makes integration over the internet much easier than in years past. Traditionally, integration work to get two systems to communicate together was often an expensive professional services engagement that took time, money and intimate knowledge of these systems. Standards that Web Services utilizes such as XML, HTTP or REST open up the possibilities for a dynamic group of creative and innovation software developers to integrate applications with agility like never seen before. Savvy Enterprise customers could possibly already have the internal software development skills themselves, or can outsource projects to this new skilled set of Web Services developers. In this use case scenario an Enterprise organization can select best-of-breed applications for their particular needs and have a developer with Web Services skills integrate, or just finely tune, applications for tight interoperability. For example, a solution might use Apttus for their Configure/Price/Quote (QPC) Management system and Concur Travel & Expense (T&E) Management system which both already have Salesforce Force.com integration and then use the ABBYY Data Capture as a Service to integrate Data Capture capability into these applications. And since the Enterprise realizes that their workforce, and their customers, are highly active via mobile devices they use the Box Web Services API to store the images captured directly into Box. This way everyone interacting and collaborating on content can use any one of Box’s highly useful mobile applications.
Customization easily achievable
Fit your specific organization needs
Quick adoption for better return on investment
Reduce outsourcing development costs
Agility to fit precise business requirements
Solution Description: ABBYYForce is the concept of a pre-built collection of ‘Custom Objects’ within Salesforce that are basically different Document Types. For example the document types we will use are Business Card, Invoice Statements, Questionnaire and Banking Documents. These Custom Objects are packaged together in what Salesforce calls an “App” and are given to Salesforce administrators who then can install a complete suite of different document types in minutes. Capture is an extension of a business process so the first thing we’ll want to do is create the Custom Objects in Force.com. Once these Custom Objects are created we will then map our Data Capture index fields to the Custom Object fields.
Note: This is a software developer and/or systems integrator solution. While many of the concepts are achievable, there is some level of software integration that will be required.
Once confirmed the data is stored directly into the back-end system
This is a fairly sophisticated integration that can be achieved rather easily using modern platform development tools and various cloud services. Do you have any experience using platform services? Is this type of as-a-service for Conversion and Data Capture of interest to you? Do you have a specific use case scenario to share? We’d love to hear from you.