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Workflow automation: How printers are solving the paper problem

Michael Nadeau | July 17, 2017
Incorporating paper-based processes into digital workflows may no longer be a roadblock to full automation.

Content analytics potentially can do more, especially around the decision making that occurs throughout a workflow. The results of research done at its Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) facility are on Xerox’s product roadmap for its DocuShare Flex software. “We work with a large healthcare provider, and some information is sitting in its databases around certain areas that from a security perspective they need to highlight,” says Khan. “Does it have the right permission levels? Does it have the right security level access? Are the right people viewing it? That’s where we hold that content, but we need tools to understand what’s in that content whether it’s a keyword or an understanding of meaning behind the actual word.”

Canon hopes to apply artificial intelligence and analytics to its solution soon. The company currently partners with email collaboration solution provider MXHero and cloud storage and collaboration provider Box. Amorosano says that Canon is looking at ways to incorporate its imaging technology into those solutions. “When you start to put content into Box, you’ve got to be disciplined about how you tag content and where you put it to be useful with a particular business application or process,” he says. “Data stores can get so big, that if you haven’t architected your systems well you get to a point to where it gets more and more challenging to get the content you need out of the system.”

Using AI, Canon can alleviate that problem with what it calls “context management.” “We have technology that allows us to recognize not only documents, but also the context of the document and the content itself,” says Amorosano. “The system gets smarter over time. The system almost becomes intuitive in terms of knowing what you want to do. We’re looking at how we can apply that AI technology to the way in which customers are placing content in and using content within the Box ecosystem.”

The ability to integrate well with core enterprise systems is key to fully leveraging the value of content analytics. “If all you have is the document processing, you lack a lot of contextual data,” says Nehring. “You might be able to handle an invoice, but you have no idea if it’s been paid if you’re not integrating with the place where the payment actually happens.” SAP recently applied digital invoice management for its own procurement and was able to speed the process for what was already an automated process by another 50 percent, according to Nehring.


Automation sets professional staff free  

Paper documents were becoming a barrier to Family Service Toronto (FST), a government-funded non-profit, being able to provide its services. “We have existed for more than 100 years, so we had a lot of paper,” said Vani Visva, who has led FST’s digital drive as director, finance and business technology. What prompted its decision to digitize that paper and start automating some workflows, however, was moving its offices to a new location. The cost of moving the paper and rent for a space big enough to store it was prohibitive.


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