Magazine Article | December 1, 2003

Eliminate Document Retrieval Runaround

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

By replacing its document scanning and retrieval system, an insurance annuities company was able to improve productivity 60% to 80% while improving customer service.

Integrated Solutions, December 2003

Sometimes simply having the right technology isn't enough. For example, Claremont Group, Inc. (Portland, OR), a financial management company, had a document scanning solution for six months before it discovered having technology in place wasn't enough. The company manages more than 60,000 pages of scanned documents. However, the scanning and retrieval system the company was using could not handle the volume. This negatively affected customer service and efficiency. To correct these problems, the system had to be replaced with one that could handle the company's extensive database demands.

60,000 Pages Of Documents Lead To Retrieval Problems
Claremont Group works with insurance companies and their customers affected by bank mergers and acquisitions. This is a document-intensive business, as each sale can generate from 5 to 15 documents. A few years ago, the company switched from filing paper documents to a scanning solution to cut down on storage space. However, this system proved to be unsuccessful. It simply could not handle the company's large database. Claremont was using excessive labor just to keep its database organized. "Reindexing allowed us to easily search the database. The problem that arose was once we exceeded 6,000 files, it would take 3 to 4 days to reindex. So, eventually we stopped reindexing," says Daryl Price, IT manager at Claremont Group, Inc.

Without reindexing, employees could not search files on the database for customers. So, the company had to alphabetize all of the records by creating folders in Windows Explorer. This made it difficult to find the right materials in a timely manner, which is important because employees search for 5 to 10 customer files a day on average. Also, since Claremont is an insurance annuities company, it must keep all records for a certain amount of time due to legal responsibilities.

Converting File Formats Creates A Challenge
After hearing about ColumbiaSoft's (Portland, OR) Document Locator software used to capture, track, and retrieve documents, Claremont tested the product in its own environment. After three hours of successful testing, the company chose to install the product. It took one day to install the Document Locator Professional software and a Microsoft Small Business Server 2000. The cost of the system was $4,000, plus 18% of the initial cost per year for support.

According to Price, the most challenging aspect of the installation was moving its scanned images into the new system. "We were using a format that was not accepted by the new system. So, ColumbiaSoft discovered a format we could use to convert our images to a full indexing image [TIFF4]," explains Price. This allows employees to search the full text of every document when they are looking up a file. After the installation, each employee was trained individually. The vendor taught all 15 employees how to access the system from their workstations. All training was complete in less than three hours.

Productivity Improved 60% To 80%
Since the installation in 2002, Claremont Group has measured the success of the system by looking at its 60% to 80% overall improvement in productivity. Document Locator helps the company store and organize all of its scanned documents (contracts, updates, correspondence, etc.). "Now when employees are on the phone with customers, they can look up a customer's file in about three seconds. Before this, the process could take any amount of time, upsetting the customer," says Price. With the old system, a file name had to be provided to locate a file. If the name of the file was entered incorrectly or forgotten there was no way to find the record, which led to an extensive customer wait. Using Document Locator, employees can perform a full-text search to locate what they need.

Another benefit for the company was the ability to implant its search engine into its Windows Explorer program. "Currently when an employee is in a blank Desktop screen they can access the search engine by hitting the F3 command," says Price. Since implementing this system, the company has reduced support costs and improved communications tracking. Claremont Group plans to upgrade the system to add remote access for its satellite offices.