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The PIPELINE

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Front-End vs. Back-End Scanning

By Ed Olsen, docSTAR Insurance

Industry Manager (518) 346-7799

Many agencies begin using docSTAR with the back-end scanning methodology. Although this approach has its share of benefits, more agencies are now beginning to move to front-end scanning and they are seeing even greater over all advantages. In this article, I will share the issues and the pros and cons of each method.

First, let’s be sure we have a common understanding of terms. In back-end scanning installation, the paper documents continue to flow through the agency as they did prior to incorporating docSTAR into their workflow. CSR’s continue to work from paper and they typically print a barcoded coversheet at the end of their transaction input. This cover sheet is attached to the documents to be scanned and the document is set aside for scanning sometime later. The actual scanning is typically completed by an administrative employee such as the agency’s receptionist.

With front-end scanning, the paper documents are scanned as they are received by the agency. Again, this is typically done by an administrative employee. The employee will sort the mail by CSR and scan the documents into each CSR’s inbox within docSTAR. The CSR opens their docSTAR inbox and works with the electronic image of the document rather than the physical document. When the CSR is finished with the electronic document they would select a docSTAR template that will link the document to the specific policy within their agency management system.

Advantage & Disadvantage to Back-End Scanning

The advantage to back-end scanning is that it provides the agency with a way to eliminate paper files without a significant impact on CSR workflow. Since the CSR continues to work with paper as they complete each transaction, the CSR only needs to be taught how to produce a barcode cover sheet so that the document can be scanned. This typically is done by a couple of mouse clicks or by use of a function key. The disadvantage of the back-end scanning is that the agency is not able to take advantage of a more controlled management environment that front-end scanning would provide to them. Since paper is still flowing through the agency, there is little improvement with back-end scanning in physical document security or agency workflow efficiency.

Advantage(s) & Disadvantage(s) to Front-End Scanning

Since documents are scanned as the first activity with front-end scanning, thereafter, the agency has management control of the electronic documents. This means that every document’s path through the agency is automatically tracked by docSTAR. This provides the agency with information as to what was done to the document, when it was done and who did it. With front-end scanning the agency will also find that locating documents that are in process will be easier to find especially if the assigned CSR is not available. It is also easier for agencies to manage CSR workflow since docSTAR allows documents to be shifted between CSR’s inboxes with a click of the mouse.

The benefits of front-end scanning are significant but there is some impact on the agency- particularly on the CSR. The CSR will need to learn how to work with the inbox of docSTAR and will have to work with electronic images of document rather than paper documents. For most CSR’s this transition is fairly easily accomplished and they quickly understand the benefits that help them in their work. Agencies can assist CSR’s in this new environment by installing dual monitors that allow the electronic image and the agency management screens to be displayed simultaneously. The docSTAR document management solution includes a feature called “stay on top” which allows the user to view both the electronic image and the management system on a single screen but the dual monitors are easier on the CSR’s and will further increase their efficiency. As the cost of dual monitors continue to decline, agencies should consider this upgrade for their CSR’s.

In addition to agency workflow efficiencies, front-end scanning also offers some additional E&O protection since it provide a formal, manageable, and measurable process for handling documents and therefore establishes an environment that should result in more consistent accuracy in handling customer transactions.

The docSTAR document management system’s flexibility allows agencies to support either front-end or back-end scanning very effectively. The ultimate decision as to which scanning method is best needs to be made by each individual agency. However, over time, I believe that a growing percentage of agencies will move to front-end scanning in order to achieve the full benefit of document management within their business.