SSON: Kevin, let’s start with a bit of background: can you let our readers know a little about yourself and your role?
Kevin Traynor: I am project manager for Health Corporate Network (HCN) required to manage the development and implementation of an end-to-end Electronic Document & Records Management System (EDRMS) for shared services within the Western Australian Department of Health. This system requires three core systems including: scanning solutions to capture physical and electronic documents using Kofax Ascent Capture; Document and Records Management solutions for storage of electronic documents using Objective; Workflow Management solution for the dissemination of electronic work to staff using Objective. I have been employed on this project since 2005; it finishes at the end of this calendar year. My previous background includes senior roles in business and systems analysis, implementation management, and project and business management where I contributed to the development of major internal and online computer systems for other government departments.
SSON: What were the key challenges in implementing the HCN, and transitioning the HR, Supply and Finance services?
KT: My principal role in this project relates to the delivery of EDRMS services within HCN. Health is a very large business concern and HCN naturally faced many challenges from the inception of shared service initiatives. In such a large business endeavour HCN was first challenged to attract the best people in order for HCN to form quickly and move forward. At times the pace to meet shared service expectations has been very challenging.
Health is a diverse organization with many site-by-site differences that evolved over time. HCN devoted significant effort into identifying all HR, Finance and Supply shared service responsibilities. It is very time-consuming identifying business practices, processes, systems, applications and software in use, but a greater challenge stemmed from the consolidation of those services, and the identification of business practices and process improvements through stakeholder consultation. These were paramount milestones and the extent of this work was enormous but necessary to identify benefits and savings capable of delivery through shared service developments.
SSON: Could you explain what the drivers were for implementing the Kofax scanning solution; how did you go about doing that, and what led you to doing so?
KT: The prime driver was a government initiative to centralize common services throughout the West Australian public service: in particular, Finance, Human Resource and Supply services. The aim was to improve services and reduce costs. HCN use of a scanning solution was driven by the same need. Scanning would first help HCN to move towards a paperless office and reduce processing costs. Scanning electronically married well with HCN needs to develop an end-to-end system that would further deliver additional business process efficiencies through improved storage, retrieval and reporting. The end-to-end solution is also to provide benefits and savings to HCN customers.
It is important to note with regards to what HCN has developed to date, that this is still an ongoing solution that will evolve. Whilst our shared service initiative started in 2004, the HCN solution will continue to be enhanced. The project I manage you could class virtually as Phase One. There are other intended directions HCN want to develop to build on and diversify this foundation. HCN is currently implementing an online solution for select HR services. HCN has been considering alternative customer service delivery mechanisms like Kiosk arrangements for customers out on the sites. HCN also wishes to implement an E-forms solution. It is early days for HCN, and as the solution evolves HCN’s reliance on scanning will reduce.
SSON: Was scanning something that you could implement from the beginning of the HCN implementation, or did you have to standardize some processes before you could introduce the scanning system by Kofax?
KT: HCN was newly formed as a shared service within health and scanning is one part of the end-to-end solution HCN implemented. This project adopted a phased implementation of select business areas and for each implementation the project analyzed and determined all shared service processing needs from scanning, document management, records management and workflow management.
SSON: Is the system something that can work for both HR, Finance and Supply – and could you explain if there is a difference in how they operate for each function?
KT: I suppose the best way to describe this is that Kofax provides common scanning functionality that can be utilized and customized. The scanning process is very much a defined function and small processing variations or decisions apply relevant to a business area or document. Each business area implementation required HCN to model scanning solutions to meet the differing expectations and processing needs of a business area or document.
There was a basic underlying expectation that scanning would cover all input sources including hard copy mail, faxes and emails. Scanning differences come about more in relation to the unique requirements of a business area or document. For example, workflow management may use different metadata to deliver a particular task to alternative electronic locations for different business areas or persons. The scanning needs of one business area or document may vary in relation to another. These decisions will affect how work is prepared, what is scanned, how it is scanned and what outputs are necessary to be captured to deliver different types of work to different locations or people to process.
Many of these variances are simply catered to with the development and configuration of business or document specific scan batches to process different categories of work. Kofax is customizable to meet this need.
SSON: Why did you decide to use Kofax scanning solutions instead of another vendor? What made it a more appealing option?
KT: The WA government uses an I-Procurement model which provides recommended providers, products and solutions available in the market place. We adopt a very thorough tendering process which strictly encapsulate expectations to be assessed for suitability. The prime considerations we look for include pricing, value for money, supply and installation, licensing, interoperability with other applications, ability to upgrade, high availability, warranty, training, local capacity, local content and technical support.
HCN reviewed a number of scanning solutions and tender submissions. Sigma Data, a local WA company, was recommended to provide HCN with the Kofax scanning solution.
SSON: What were the main challenges in implementing the solution?
KT: Initially there were technical challenges to overcome. For example, HCN had to determine how to best deal with faxes and email inputs and understand what customizations if any needed to be considered for a HCN end-to-end solution.
Whilst product training was provided there was still a big learning curve for people to navigate to develop scanning solutions and undertake application and infrastructure administration and support.
HCN took a phased implementation approach to each business area. A Pilot release to the Executive Branch preceded Supply, and then Finance and then HR. Additional implementations are still planned. This was preferred to lessen the overall change impact upon business.
Big implementation challenges related to analyzing and identifying document types and processing needs for a business area. Whilst HCN scans approximately 6,000 documents a day, the scanning solution deals with a significant variety of document types which when capable of being classified and recognized by scanning provide added value. HCN therefore embarked on a significant exercise to revise and redevelop structured forms and templates which bear their own maintenance overheads.
HCN developed many templates to recognize and process Supply invoices. That work was time-consuming. We elected to identify our top 100 suppliers by volume representing approximately 90% of invoices received. For these we developed scanning templates in order to recognize and process capture metadata from invoices. Template development is part of the Kofax solution.
SSON: Can you specify what some of the limitations are, Kevin?
KT: Whilst Kofax is very good at recognising printed text, it is not so flash on handwriting. Of course that being the case, handwriting does involve a lot of manpower in order to correct and validate the information that scanning cannot accurately identify.
Overall, Kofax services to scan, quality assure, correct, validate and release documents require a level of manual interaction commensurate to ensure the accuracy of the data within document, records and workflow management systems. The manpower required to attend to these services can be large and whilst these tasks can be transitioned as a business area responsibility, HCN reduced the impact of this limitation somewhat by using interfaces during validation to pull data from external databases.
Whilst Kofax scanning can process emails, it cannot open documents attached to emails and scan them.
SSON: And of course you are probably dealing with documents that are very old as well, that have been there for years, not just recent ones?
KT: At this time HCN has adopted a business position [that] only documents received since the inception of HCN from May 2007 would be scan processed. Mind you, having said that, with a phased implementation of business, old document scanning still could not be avoided. For HCN, this involved the development of a dedicated document back-scanning solution. To implement this also required the pre-preparation of old documents by business. This process currently continues.
All new documents are scan processed and workflow management tasks are delivered within 24 hours of receipt by HCN.
SSON: From conversations recently that we have been having with other organizations, many believe that fifty percent of the issues are also change management issues. Have you had to deal with any of those upon implementation?
KT: Change management demands a high priority and cannot be over-estimated. For the HCN end-to-end solution it was a challenge to actually convert business to make change and adopt a different way of doing work. Prior to implementation, Supply could take anywhere up to 30 days to process invoices. Immediately after implementation Supply were not in favour of change, had previously not fully embraced change management or recognised their shifting process needs. Backlogs built along with staff dissatisfaction. In time, Supply made business process changes and can now process invoices within three days. If you now ask Supply staff what they think, the position is totally reversed….they refuse to go back to their old ways.
SSON: Did your organization consider outsourcing any other transactional activities, or is that something that may be further down the line?
KT: This project investigated outsourcing scanning prior to the tendering process. At the time, HCN did not consider this to be a viable option for a number of reasons. Costs were considered excessive. Outsourcing could not add value to the process. Internal expertise could not be easily transitioned to resolve issues without access to other source business applications and databases only available internally. Also, at the time HCN had defined goals. Even at that early stage HCN recognised that, over time, the preferred path would eventually see a reduction to reliance upon scanning services. Scanning will always be required – but as previously mentioned, HCN is currently delivering online HR services, plans are in place to develop E-Form solutions, HCN has considered external kiosk arrangements and online I-Procurement services are being rolled out to Suppliers. Nothing stands still for long.