Page White & Farrer (PWF) are London-based patent and trademark attorneys. Working with Capital Capture, a specialist provider of electronic document and data capture solutions, PWF sought to streamline its labour-intensive invoice administration. It also wanted to ensure that essential case files were organised and easily accessible, through the introduction of a centralised document repository and retrieval system.

Upgrading document capture and file management

Prior to engaging Capital Capture in 2011, PWF had relied on a limited digital scanning solution, which was predominantly used by its accounts department. Realising that updating the capture technology and introducing a new document management system could improve the way the business sorted, processed and stored its key documents, PWF IT manager Nick Wright planned a phased upgrade.

A key requirement of the project was to use the technology to scan and file incoming supplier invoices and save all outgoing invoices as documents within the OpenText eDocs DMS system. In addition, PWF also felt that introducing a more wide-ranging document management and storage solution would enable it to leave behind the challenges caused by its existing drive-based internal network storage system.

“We use a lot of foreign agencies to help us file patents, trademarks and designs internationally for our clients,” explains Wright. “By improving the way these invoices were managed and linking them to the relevant case files, we knew that we would be able to deal with them more efficiently. In the longer term, we hoped that as well as capturing these incoming supplier invoices electronically, we would also be able to import the data directly into our system – improving accuracy and efficiency.”

The second part of the project was to upgrade PWF’s existing Kofax scanning and MS Windows file storage solution with a view to making the most of newer document management functionality. “We operate as a case-based firm, so rather than organising documents according to each client, we store and locate them by individual case number,” explains Wright. Previously, each of these thousands of folders had been saved on a network file share. As such, it was very easy to drag, drop and move them. Sometimes, this made it hard for users to find the folder they needed.”

Two-phased project

To improve PWF’s ability to capture incoming invoices and make the process of storing and retrieval of case files more efficient, Wright contacted Capital Capture.

“I knew that it would be feasible to extract the data from incoming invoices but I was keen to find out what options we had in terms of using it,” says Wright. “Equally, I also hoped to use the document capture and management system to make it easier for users to store emails alongside the usual Excel and Word files we stored.”

In order to reach a solution that would best meet the needs of the business, Wright gathered together a working group, which included stakeholders from the senior team. Capital Capture met with the group to demonstrate the functions of OpenText eDocs and explain why it would offer a more effective alternative to the existing network drive-based storage system.

Afterwards, PWF engaged Capital Capture to deliver a trial document management system to test the solution’s viability and get more users on-board. “Part of the purpose of the document management trial was to come up with a specification, including what information needed to be searchable and demonstrate it to different groups,” says Wright.

Following this test phase, PWF and Capital Capture worked on a permanent strategy to migrate existing case files from the network drive and into the new OpenText eDocs document management system. As it involved business-critical documents, the solution had to be delivered in the fastest possible timeframe to minimise any disruption to the business.

Working closely with Wright, Capital Capture implemented Kofax Capture and Kofax Transformation modules, enabling incoming invoices to be processed automatically. An automated import module was also included so that outgoing invoices were also automatically captured and imported into the DM system.

Document import and scanning was separated into three separate process streams or batch classes: outgoing invoices and cost sheets, incoming invoices and eDocument scans. Using the new solution, invoices are scanned and processed through the Kofax Transformation modules, with any exceptions presented to an operator for review and manual key entry or correction.

After they are validated, the software creates text-searchable PDFs of the invoices, which are automatically saved into the OpenText eDocs system. Other day-to-day business documents are manually imported into OpenText eDocs, ready for storage and retrieval.

“From the outset, the Capital Capture team worked really hard to get the project delivered on time and on budget,” says Wright. “As the existing storage system was fast becoming unsustainable, it was crucial the project went ahead. Over time, users have become more receptive to document management and understand the importance of version control. In our line of business, this is really essential, especially when we’re drafting patents, for example, as they will typically go through several iterations.”

Efficiency roadmap

A few years on and Wright now hopes to make the most of the system’s scalable design by extending the capability of PWF’s document capture technology. Specifically, he plans to use it to capture incoming post and automate and sort email data according to each case file.

“We were deliberately cautious about introducing change gradually so as not to disrupt the business,” he says. “However, by not releasing all of the functionality available, we could be missing out on features that users would be really receptive to. The next logical steps for document management will be to improve how we categorise files, make searching easier and explore features such as dynamic case management, which could really work for the business.”

Unlike before, Wright believes that even in traditional industries such as his, senior teams are becoming more receptive to the important commercial potential that new technology offers: “In many professional services companies, attitudes towards technical change tend to be more reactionary than pro-active,” he says. “However, people are now increasingly recognising initiatives that are designed to maximise efficiency need to be considered. This will be important in helping us to weather the challenging economic climate.”