Compart - Document- and Output-Management

Development and Technology

Central Conversion Service: Digitization of Data

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Digitization of Data Means Standardization

As digital transformation efforts continue to grow within organizations around the globe, one particular area getting a lot of attention is Customer Communication Management (CCM). CCM is the process of managing customer communications across a wide range of media. In organizations that have been around for a while, there are troves of data in various formats and systems. Making that data accessible or usable, usually through data conversion, is critical in document and output management. Considering all the hype surrounding this topic, you would think we would be awash in success stories. But nothing could be further from the truth. It starts with a basic understanding of how digitization really works. Many companies believe that capturing incoming documents electronically lays the necessary foundation for a digital transformation. Their motto? "Just a little scanning, no problem!"

But one thing is clear: creating an image of email and attachments destroys information. You can't extract metadata from a "dead" image format, and it's the metadata you need for automatic downstream processing.

But that is just one aspect. Strictly speaking, many companies simply do not have the technological foundation to digitally transform their document processing. As a company, how do I automate my processes from end to end, from incoming to outgoing communications, without a central control instance? So much for the data.

Data Digitization, Document Conversion and Archiving

In reality, many companies are only just beginning to standardize their document production. Media discontinuity, redundancies, and decentralized data management abound.

Most companies understand they need a data hub. But the reality is different. Batch-produced documents may be archived, for example, but without meaningful metadata.

Mergers and acquisitions leave large companies with extremely heterogeneous IT structures. Not only are there multiple archiving systems running simultaneously and asynchronously, but frequently they are "dinosaurs." The stored documents are in formats so outdated that extracting and digitization of the data needed for further processing is a real chore.

And then there's the good percentage of documents that are archived decentrally, i.e., stored locally on a processor's computer or a field agent's notebook. That's not central data management; it's chaos. Bits of information are often stored in CRM applications, others in ERP or archiving systems. In light of this situation, how can you possibly produce a reliable analysis of document processing? There's no way to seamlessly track the communications history with a customer including all the correspondence.

Scanning without Metadata Is Old School

All in all, this is a poor prognosis for universal automation. Particularly in the financial, energy supply, and public administration sectors, the burgeoning volume of communications makes automatic processing of as many documents as possible extremely attractive.

Digitization in document and output management requires dealing with the data first. The goal is to create a control center for standardized archiving. That means storing documents uniformly, centrally, and in a searchable format.


It is no longer enough to just scan a piece of correspondence and then store it as an image file. It's all about intelligent documents enriched with structural information. In a perfect world, they would also be universal accessible in accordance with the PDF/UA WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) standard. As of this year, accessible documents are mandatory for government agencies, so companies may as well start tackling the job, too.

Document / Data Digitization / Conversion

Data Digitization and Central Archiving

But setting up a central archiving instance is by no means the end of the story. Consistent metadata records must also be made available. Only this type of database forms the necessary foundation for standardized, automatic processes – from incoming document processing to output management. It is virtually the bedrock without which any attempt at digital transformation in document processing is doomed to fail.

The following illustrates this perfectly. Until recently, the individual businesses of a well-known insurance company archived all their documents separately and in different formats (AFP, PDF, PDF/UA, etc.). The situation came about due to acquisitions of competitors.

Central Data Conversion / Archived Documents

Today, however, an enterprise-wide, central conversion platform is in place. The result: All documents generated and received in the company are, without exception, archived centrally in a consistent format, namely PDF/UA. Insurance customers can download a desired document from the company's web portal onto their PC, and the document is reconverted (on the fly) as needed for on-screen display.

Central and Standardized Data Digitization Is a Start

It's often the baby steps that lead to success. Central and standardized conversion (rendition service) can be a start. What is needed is a smart, unforced strategy that first identifies the points with the greatest optimization potential.

Selecting the right IT technology makes sense only after the fundamental questions regarding archiving format, workflows, and permissions are resolved. In any case, a data conversion service as described above is a viable solution approach for a sound digital foundation.