Author:Michael Slattery

January 18, 2022

Scaling a Mountain...of Paper

Leveraging automation to shorten the path

4 min read

How a digital workforce can complete quality checks and data entry taks,saving your organisation time, money and rescources.

Scaling a Mountain…of Paper

In the last year, I have reflected on all the ways my life has changed during the paradigm shift that is this pandemic. Being someone who traveled often for extended periods (for both business and pleasure), the biggest differentiator has been adjusting to working only from my home office.

Considering this, I thought about all the experiences I had over the last decade, spanning different locations and roles. One engagement stood out to me from a time when I was still wet behind the ears and a novice to the traditional working world (no more lifeguarding in the summers). I was told I would be “investigating anomalies” in expense reports and would be “using data to target individuals as well as policies that are impacting this company”. Immediately I was excited not only to travel for work, but also to use data to solve issues. Flash forward to that next Monday: I was dressed in a full suit and tie in the scorching heat of Orlando. The actual project plan was laid out: I would be carrying boxes into a conference room with no windows and assisting in data entry. After our initial findings from sampling, the team size grew from 6 to more than 30! Day in and day out over the next 3 months our life was data entry and quality control (QC) of entries. At the conclusion of this effort, the team shrank to 3 and everyone else was on their way to their next “initiative”.

Paralleling this to today and looking forward, it is astonishing that the majority of this necessary work can be completed leveraging new technologies and packages in the Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence space. Instead of hiring a team of 30+ people over several months for data entry, a smaller team may leverage these tools and rely on machines with a greater degree of confidence in their results.

In the last year, my team and I have looked at this problem more intently: when confronted with a mountain of paper, how can we leverage technology to “scale to the peak” without an enormous amount of time-consuming manual effort? Given the current pandemic setting, it is unreasonable to think project teams could mail boxes of receipts, loan applications, you name it, to someone’s apartment for review only to send them elsewhere for QC. Even if these documents are scanned, routinely sifting through pages upon pages of PDFs while at home all day would be a recipe for disaster, and a nightmare to validate. The need for traceable, digitized, and automated work is more acute than ever.

With the investment of our time, these thoughts steered us towards our solution: Digital Workforce. This solution has already helped several clients digitize their own documents governed by business logic and rules to help find points of interest and areas for action. Imagine being given a stack of paper over 700 feet tall to review (that’s ~2m sheets, which was a small sample in a real engagement). We no longer calculate the average amount of pages per day an individual can review, and the size of the team needed balanced against deadlines and budget. Instead, our clients set their own rules, and kick off the process at scale. You don’t wait weeks for your team to check and double-check (and triple-check the batch done in hour 15 of the day…) every individual document and enter data elsewhere. Now you can go to bed at a reasonable hour and wake up to see a live stream of results on a targeted dashboard with a large degree of confidence. This is just one area where employing technology trained for day-to-day tasks can better improve a team’s quality of life and the bottom line. There are so many areas where the problem is evident, and we are excited to explore them all.

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