ABBYYForce for Box

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
Features Benefits
  • Pre-built templates
  • 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.

 

System Requirements:

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.

  1. Box account
  2. ABBYY technology (depending on specific requirements)
  3. Salesforce Force.com account

 

Configuration Steps (Complexity = Software integration required):

  1. Subscribe to ABBYY Online Services or login to access the services account
  2. Review the Configure Services menu
  3. Create Custom Objects in Force.com
  4. Create Custom Fields with Data Types in Force.com
  5. Create an input device copy and paste code
  6. Paste the code into your application
  7. Notice the new input device icon now embedded into your application
  8. Configure your back-end connectors
  9. Add new document types or create a new form
  10. Depending on your subscription services you can Create a Conversion widget or Create a Data Capture widget which has field mapping capability to map Data Capture index fields to database fields in the back-end application
  11. Reporting of all subscription services with easy renewal

 

User operation (Complexity = Easy):

  1. User clicks a capture icon or hyperlink to acquire an image
  2. Verify the extracted data for high accuracy
  3. After confirmation then the data is saved immediately into the back-end application

 

Associated screen prints on this solution:

  1.  ABBYY Online registration form

  1. Login to access online services

  1. Configure services

  1. Create Custom Objects in Salesforce

  1. Create Custom Fields with Data Types

  1. Configure input device with copy and paste code

  1. Paste code into your application

  1. Capture device icon embedded into application

  1. Configure back-end connectivity

  1. Document Type Configuration

  1. Creating a new form

  1. Create a Conversion widget

  1. Create a Data Capture widget

  1. Reporting

 

  1. User clicks the icon to acquire an image

  1. Verify extracted data

  1. 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.

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.