Overcoming scalability obstacles in document processing

The word scalability is almost guaranteed to come up in any discussion of tech solutions. The idea of growth is encoded into the idea of business itself, and so any business tool worth the investment has to account for that. For large, data-hungry organizations—think: insurance companies, financial services providers or business process outsourcers (BPOs)—tech has to fulfill a dual role of facilitating and then handling growth.

BPOs present a perfect example. The value they provide is in handling another business’s processes. In order to grow their own revenue, BPOs need tech solutions that help them tackle these processes quickly and efficiently. At the same time, that solution needs to be able to handle the increased workload that results from growth without interruptions or downtime—and often without warning. While scalability has become a buzzword, serious data processing organizations ignore it at their own peril. 

When scalability is the product itself

For BPOs, the use of scalable tech solutions isn’t just a kind of future proofing: the ability to take on huge new workloads is the product. BPOs are in a particularly unique position, essentially taking over the tedious—and often custom—processes of their clients through a commoditized service. Competing on price alone is not a long-term growth strategy; guaranteed service level agreements (SLAs) and turnaround time are just as important. And, a solution that can be quickly onboarded will win out over one requiring new infrastructure and related delays.
This need for seamless scalability is not only the ticket to winning new business, it’s also vital to keeping that business. If acquiring new customers adversely affects the level of service a BPO provides existing customers, they’ll quickly run up against the limit of growth. To remain competitive and viable, a BPO needs to be able to add to its workload without any service disruptions.
This ability to scale operations in an instant isn’t solely a need of BPOs. Think of any organization that needs to ingest, organize, and index data—insurance companies, tax preparation services, hospital systems—and consider how they can see huge fluctuations in workload over the course of the year. It could be a seasonal need, like in the weeks and months leading up to the April 15 tax deadline. Or it could be something unexpected, like a natural disaster causing a spike in insurance claims. In both of these cases, and others just like them, the ability to scale up with almost no runway is crucial.


Four obstacles to scaling document processing

Achieving scalability is the proverbial white whale for any organization that processes large amounts of documents to extract data; it’s elusive, even when you have it in your sights. For BPOs and other companies with heavy document processing needs, any or all of these challenges might be holding them back:

1. Limitations to their existing tech stack

The two main technologies involved in document processing—Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI)—have drawbacks when it comes to the accuracy at which they can “read” documents.How the technology receives the scanned document image makes a huge difference in the data capture results. OCR has been a game-changer, but only for type-written and legible documents; accuracy drops off sharply with handwritten, poorly imaged and/or faxed documents. AI can act as a stop-gap solution for what OCR misses, but even then accuracy tops out at about 95-98%. A 2% error rate might not sound like much, but remember we’re trying to scale up here: errors, unfortunately, come along for that ride.
In order to meet SLAs for both turnaround time and accuracy, human intelligence—often referred to as Human In The Loop (HITL) functionality—is required to manage these exceptions and reach the highest levels of accuracy. As you likely know, scaling your workforce up is a lot slower and more expensive than scaling your tech.

2. Staffing challenges

There is, of course, the inherent challenge of finding, hiring and training good people, but if you’ve gotten to the point where you need to hire more people to meet SLAs, it’s already too late. Remember, a BPO needs to be able to add workload without disruption because their customers often have volume spikes that BPOs should anticipate. The goal is to avoid document processing disruption.
This is why any conversation about scalability is also a conversation about keeping your staff happy. A company is only as agile as its workforce. Disgruntled and / or overworked staff won’t take kindly to sudden changes of direction. BPOs in particular are starting to get wise to this, and are focusing on keeping their employees engaged. A motivated and valued employee is better able to “go with the flow”—a key component to scaling operations.

3. Regulatory requirements

BPOs inherit and are responsible for the compliance requirements of their customers. A medical practice in the U.S., for example, is subject to HIPAA requirements, thus any healthcare BPO must adhere to the same rules. Any business inside the EU is required to keep their data within those same geographical borders; the BPO they engage must follow the same rules.
While these aren’t necessarily complicated problems to work out, they add another layer of complexity to the scaling process whether the resource is tech or people. The nature of cloud computing and virtualization of servers means that data could be residing anywhere, and organizations need to do their homework to make sure they’re not running afoul of their requirements.

4. Workload spikes

Whether through seasonal spikes or unexpected causes, spikes in document processing workloads generally require more people on hand in order to maintain agreed-upon SLAs. Even in the case of a known/expected surge in documents, hiring new help to meet the demand is a process unto itself—and a costly one. The investment in time and resources to onboard and train new employees becomes especially untenable when the need for them is short-lived.
This is one of the trickiest balancing acts to maintain—you don’t want to overwork your current staff, but you don’t want a larger workload to cost you more than it generates.

Intelligent document processing services built to scale

At ScaleHub, our flexible document processing service relies on a mix of OCR, AI, and the largest network of 24/7 global crowd contributors to transform information stuck in documents into indexable, addressable data at any scale. We use software to break document images down into discrete bits that our AI digitizes before being securely error-checked by the crowd. An increase in workload just means a bigger crowd—which we’re able to offer instantaneously on-demand—no new hires or training required. Because it’s a service, there’s no software to install (and, without software, there’s no need for hardware) and you can start distributing document volumes in days, not weeks.
This makes our managed service an ideal solution for BPOs and other businesses that traffic in paperwork and forms. We’ve helped a variety of customers meet their SLAs, both through periods of normal traffic and extreme surges:
  • ScaleHub customer Community Brands has a Financial Aid division for families seeking tuition assistance at private K-12 schools. Once a year, their application deadline necessitates a spike in processing needs. With ScaleHub, Community Brands was not only able to handle this increase in documents without bringing on any new staff, but also increased the speed of capturing these documents, from two weeks down to two days.
  • NOVENTI, another ScaleHub customer, is the leading billing and software company for Germany’s healthcare industry. With the number of data fields to be processed increasing by as much as 2,500% in the span of a few days—and spikes like this occurring a couple of times each month—it’s nearly impossible for any team to handle the workload efficiently. Our highly scalable, GDPR-compliant and ISO-certified managed service gives NOVENTI the flexibility to handle these increases without disruption, nor the cost of adding temporary staff.

Seamlessly scale document processing

There’s no magic or hidden tricks to what ScaleHub provides customers. Security, privacy, and scalability are built into the DNA of our managed service. To better understand this, and to see for yourself, register for our June 12 webinar, Maximizing Efficiency: How BPOs Achieve Seamless Scalability in Document Processing.
We’ll walk you through how brands like Community Brands and NOVENTI gain flexibility during peak periods  without concern for implementation hassles, unforeseen costs, new hires, or burdensome infrastructure upgrades. Don’t let the title fool you: BPOs are getting called out by name here, but any organization that has tedious data entry processes—and wild fluctuations in inbound document volume—will benefit from attending.
Watch the webinar recording to learn how ScaleHub can help you effortlessly scale document processing. 

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