Gold Fingers: The Most Expensive part of document scanning

May 20, 2022 Matt Dragatsis

Posted on: March 2, 2021 by Mike Hurley

The most expensive part of an Enterprise Content Management system (ECM) is not the software. It’s not the implementation, training or project management. Not the servers, scanners, integrations or web services either. No, not even the support, maintenance or upgrades.  After 25 years working with companies on ECM, workflow and Intelligent Capture (OCR) I have come to realize that the most expensive part of these systems is something rarely discussed. The real cost for most ECM and workflow systems is fingers of gold on keyboards.

Gold Fingers

Gold Fingers? Yes. Fingers touching keyboards to data enter indexes and keywords are one of the most expensive, yet rarely discussed, elements of ECM and workflow systems. Most ECM and Workflow vendors, consultants and customers rarely consider data entry in their cost benefit analysis, but the numbers are compelling. In fact, even a small staff of three to index documents typically costs over $150,000 when salaries, benefits and other costs are factored in. But that’s only part of the cost, data entry slows down mission critical processes and can introduce keying errors that can wreak havoc on downstream processes. Slowing processes and introducing errors most certainly impacts impact customer experience negatively.

1 in 67 Characters are Keyed in Error

One in sixty-seven characters is keyed in error. That does not seem too bad until you consider the “1-10-100 rule”. This rule states that if it takes 1 unit of work to complete a task on an item in the mailroom, it will take 10 units to correct that error mid-process.  If the item makes it all the way through the process to the end and fails, the rule goes on to state that it will take 100 times the effort to correct it. Thinking about this in terms of dollars, keying errors early in the process can cost 10X or 100X the errors that make it into an ECM or any other system.  Those fingers on keyboards really are gold. So why are these costs not figured into most systems?

The Shiny New Object

My experience is that our obsession with technology fuels a “tools first” approach to problem solving. Let’s face it, since the caveman sharpened his first axe, we have been fascinated by tools. Some are mesmerizing.  I recall going to a local Chicago Nabisco factory on a school trip and watching Oreos being made by the thousands by machines that were hypnotizing (#bestfieldtripever). Tools are shiny and new. They hold out the hope of a “silver bullet” – that ONE thing that might finally solve the problem. But the truth is that most tools need much more.  They need people and processes surrounding them to be effective and efficient. Many ECM and workflow buyers, bedazzled by the possibilities of these new tools, fail to consider implications of keying, quality errors or downstream costs. Most vendors and consultants are complicit in facilitating tools to be purchased and implemented without the hard work of a real (bean-counter approved) cost benefit analysis. Every self-respecting accountant knows that people costs and process changes must be factored into a return on investment calculation to understand a tool’s true value.

The Missing Link in Most ECM and Workflow Systems

The good news is that an approach that gained popularity in the 1990’s has, within the last five years, been cleverly combined with artificial intelligence and machine learning to address this problem. It offers the realistic possibility to reduce data entry by over 90% while trapping expensive errors early in the process. The combined technologies are called Intelligent Capture and represent taking the best of Optical Character Recognition (OCR), Handwriting Recognition (ICR) and partnering them up with AI to create a truly intelligent component missing in most ECM and workflow systems. The combination is remarkable and can radically reduce the cost and complexity of ECM and workflow processes. For example, we just completed a project that recognized handwritten enrollment forms with over 87% accuracy. After some tuning and machine learning, this solution will likely reduce data entry by well over 90% with higher quality than the previous process.

Reducing The Gold Content in Data Entry

I commonly hear the “It Ain’t Broke” story.  You may have heard it too. It goes something like this: “Why should I spend time on Intelligent Capture? My ECM and workflow seems to be working fine. Nobody is screaming at me. Plus, change is tough. Intelligent Capture sounds like change to me, plus we’re in a pandemic. It ain’t broke. We ain’t fixing it.”

Sorry to relay here that most systems are indeed broke. Additionally, the toughest change to deal with is the change that is unexpectedly thrust upon you by a competitor or market conditions. You need not look further than the recent unprecedented frigid weather in Texas as an example of an unanticipated event causing unexpected danger. Now apply that kind of event to your organization and you might find your ECM and workflow systems unprepared. Approaches like Intelligent Capture provide process agility for times when change stresses your company. They also can dramatically reduce entry costs and the 10-100X increase in downstream process costs that can be caused by errors.

Take the Golden Fingers out of your ECM and Workflow with BRYJ

Interested in learning more? Reduce the costs of entry and errors in your ECM and workflow systems. Give us a call. We offer assessments of existing Capture, ECM and Workflow systems to identify the opportunities to reduce costs with Intelligent Capture and can help you implement changes if they’re needed.  If you are interested in discussing, or if you simply have a comment, reach out to Mike Hurley at

AboutMatt Dragatsis