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The paperless office and decisioning

This article in ComputerWorld - Paper cuts: Renewed efforts in the move toward the paperless office - made me think about how companies are using decisioning to replace paper pushing.

Decision automation is key when you need to re-engineer the underlying process - something identified as key in the article when thinking about eliminating paperwork. Without decision automation all you can do is speed the movement of information between manual decision-making points. While this might help, it is hard to describe such a semi-automated process as "re-engineered". If I can automate some or all of the decisions that used to be made by hand then I have the potential to move transactions through without touching them (Straight Through Processing) and really re-engineer my process. This means not just getting data off paper and into systems but also putting the rules that determine what to do next into a business rules management system and automating them. Experience is that 85-95% can be automated for many decisions (claims payment, cross-sell offers to make, underwriting decisions etc).

I also noted the comment that having customers sign forms slows everything down. I have to note though that even if you find other ways to identify customers and authenticate them, you can only get "accounts open and ready for a transaction in minutes" if the process is automated. This is the case with those instant credit processes and with many financial services transactions. Again, simply eliminating the form will not get you that much back for your buck if someone still has to manually review all the data.

Lastly a comment on why people won't use web forms instead of paper. Well sometimes it is access to the Internet from the location at issue (though this is declining with the growth of mobile technology), but sometimes it's just because there is a crappy UI for collecting data. If I have a paper form I can add comments, ignore irrelevant sections etc when I fill it out. If I have to use a dumb UI then I might have no way to make comments, no way to leave out data I know is not required etc. Likewise if I call someone I get an interaction during which my answers drive more targeted questions making for a more efficient process. If you can develop a SmartForm so that your web UI exhibits some of the characteristics of an interactive conversation then you might get more people to fill them out.

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