We have all heard the term “Garbage In, Garbage Out,” and usually nod our heads when we hear it because it applies to most applications in life. When it comes to information management, most of the emphasis is placed on the repository/workflow portion of the application or system. There is no denying these systems are vital to your business — they run your business by housing all your critical business data. But regardless of how good your back-end system is, what happens when you feed it garbage? NOTHING – and that’s the problem.

While the back-end systems market great capabilities like fancy reports, a mobile app, or some other kind of industry-specific sizzle, there are some things that get left behind. Often, what gets left out is the process necessary to capture/validate/normalize the data feeding your myriad of systems. Why invest in software if you must fight people to get relevant data into it? Remember, Garbage In – how do you plan on convincing end users to adopt a new process that is more cumbersome than your old paper process? I have heard so many times through the years, “We got this new system at work, and I hate it, it was so much easier the old way.” The issue is that no consideration was given to the amount of effort/people it would take to get information into the system, then further exacerbating the problem by having more than one system into which data is entered. Putting together a solid process for capturing documents is essential to successfully managing your information. The process must be simple, concise, repeatable, and most importantly it must be easier than “the old way.”

When attempting to accomplish an enterprise capture process, you must determine the data that is critical to your company needs. Whether it’s customer information, product information, or running a specific kind of report, that information needs to be garnered from somewhere. Those points of capture are expanding, and include email, forms (paper and electronic), snail mail, Word, Excel, information generated by business applications, mobile devices and websites. Short of standing behind every employee and telling them exactly what they need to do with every document, a set of rules need to be put in place, and those rules are enforced by software. This creates a rules-based capture environment. Whether you are capturing invoices, HR records, patient records, or anything else, it is being done the same way across the board. Secondly, the experience remains the same across all platforms, whether you are capturing data from a mobile device, copier, website or your computer. Now, it is easier to find information because you know exactly how it was stored. Employees come and go, but the process stays the same.

Finally, and most importantly, the integrity of your data goes through the roof. Once that data is collected, it can be delivered to multiple destinations with the press of a button. By putting these practices in place the ability to gather and process more information is possible, without the need to hire additional employees.

Lance Elicker
Lance Elicker

is a professional services manager for Van Ausdall & Farrar. Contact him at LElicker@vanausdall.com