Avoid the most insidious offenders—manual interventions and integration breakdowns.

How does your credit union get documents and other content into your document management system today? A simple question without a simple answer.

Document imaging solutions were originally built to digitize paper documents by way of a scanner. Today, you receive content many ways: in person, by snail mail, by fax, by email, directly from electronic systems such as a loan origination or e-signature platforms, and even through social media.

As delivery channels and file types proliferate, and consumer habits shift, credit unions and technology vendors struggle to reactively adjust their legacy systems. The resulting workflows become highly customized and hard to manage. Worse, they almost always include manual interventions to get content from where it was created, through processing and into archives. Each manual intervention represents a weak spot, a place where the flow of information is vulnerable to errors, delays and waste.

Common culprits.

Let’s start by looking again at scanning and indexing. We talked about the high cost and inefficiency of centralized scanning operations in Part 3 of this series. Because first generation indexing protocols were complicated, manual and error-prone, credit unions frequently developed separate quality assurance operations to view and verify each document before making it available for retrieval.

Another common failing is found in lending departments. Email between loan officers and members, pictures of cars and home, and other types of information accrue during the loan process and should be stored together in the document system. With first-generation document technology, there is no way for them to get there without manual intervention. Printing and scanning emails and pictures is time consuming and the scans are often poor quality. The result is split files, with some information about a loan in the document system and other information in physical files or on network drives.

A third example of broken processes occurs when there are two or more separate document systems. Because legacy systems can’t be made to integrate with each other, productivity losses and member delays become common. Such was the case at San Diego-based Cabrillo Credit Union, which we talked about in Part 3. Cabrillo had implemented an e-signature solution alongside their older document imaging solution, but they were still printing and manually processing every executed document. Members were receiving convenience, and the credit union’s loan close rates were climbing, but at what cost to back office efficiency?

There are significant labor costs and member service implications in all three of these examples. Double processing means additional delays, while each manual intervention brings risk of errors and misfiling. This is what happens over time as credit unions add products incrementally and miss the opportunities afforded by advanced technology.

Stop reacting and get ahead of your breakdowns.

The solution lies in changing from minimizing, reacting to, or “patching” an inefficiency such as misfiled documents, to eliminating the error before it happens. Today’s technology recognizes file types and “reads” content on scanned documents using OCR software. This allows the documents to be automatically indexed and filed, with all the appropriate quality settings but without the manual intervention. Today’s technology also integrates multiple, distinct systems in such a way that no electronically-born document need ever spend a moment of its life being printed or handled before it is appropriately indexed and accurately stored.

Yet according to a 2014 study, more than 80% of credit unions still do rely all or in part on paper documents, multiple electronic systems or both. Electronic storage of documents is relatively high compared to electronic origination of the same documents, while e-signature adoption appears to be evolving independently. This patchwork of paperless and paper-full operations indicates that many credit unions are stuck with inadequate systems integration and excessive manual interventions.

The bottom line about eliminating manual interventions.

Today’s systems aim to prevent misfiling and document losses from occurring in the first place. The consolidation of cumbersome, multi-step, multi-employee tasks into a seamless, single-step, automated process frees employees from administrative tasks, allowing them to focus on the members they are serving.

This was Part 4 of a 5-part series about capturing waste in unexpected places, freeing your resources to attract and serve your growing membership.

In Part 5, we will look at how to move to a truly universal repository for documents that spans all your content and department boundaries. We then wrap up with a look forward to how the latest document technologies position credit unions to move forward toward meeting the next wave of member demands.

Sign up to have the articles in this series delivered to your inbox each week. You will also receive a technology evaluation checklist that you can use to compare your own current system to today’s industry best practices. The checklist makes a useful guide for creating an RFP and selecting a document imaging system vendor.