Wilmington Insight has cut the time it takes to capture and process data by more than two-thirds, from 5 days to just one and half.
When your core business is information, the way that this content is collected, stored, managed and accessed is paramount to the quality, responsiveness and cost of the service provided to clients. At Wilmington plc, intelligent digital management of content is a strategic priority.
Wilmington plc is a network of companies that delivers knowledge, expertise and tools to help businesses gain competitive edge in the digital age. Founded in 1995, it specialises in four areas: Finance, Legal, Risk & Compliance and Insight.
As part of its offering, Wilmington Insight provides the charitable sector with analysis of technical, financial and marketing data relating to 160,000 UK charities, 1.5 million UK charity supporters and all charitable legacies within the UK, worth over £12bn in 2014 – information that charities use to drive their own legacy administration and marketing programmes.
Intelligent content management Over the last decade, Wilmington Insight has worked with EASY Software to implement highly efficient and intelligent digital content management solutions.
The relationship began in 2005, with a move to improve back-office efficiency at a group level, through the scanning and storage of financial documentation relating to purchases, and integration with internal resource planning systems. More recently, Wilmington Insight has applied digital automation to the way it handles high volumes of documents for a specialist data service aimed at charities.
The service receives printed documents from external third parties – in volumes of around 5,000 each week – from which it extracts and processes key information that it sells on to charity clients in database form.
Before automating data extraction, staff in London would have to leaf through pages and pages of documents to find the data they needed, then courier the files to another building where they would be written into the database by teams of copy typists. The quality and format of the incoming documents varied greatly, adding to the time it took to identify the data needed for extraction.
“We had to collate both contact and financial data manually, and there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing,” says Polly Avgherinos, managing director of Wilmington Business Intelligence. “To type up one set of information took one person a whole week.”
This was a laborious, mundane exercise given the high volume of content involved. The job couldn’t be rushed either: charities pay to have access to the data which they use in vital income generation work, so the accuracy of the data is critical.
In addition to improving efficiency and data reliability, Wilmington Insight had competitive reasons to improve its processes. “Although no one else offers the service that we do, the market is demanding more information from the source material we handle,” Polly explains. “As long as we were restricted to manual processes, we couldn’t hope to meet these additional needs without employing more people. But charities have finite resources, and couldn’t have tolerated the higher prices we would have to have charged.”
Joining the digital dots
Based on Wilmington’s positive experience of working with EASY Software, the Insight organisation approached the document management specialist to see if there was an affordable technology solution it could implement to automate and accelerate data capture and management processes.
EASY engaged technology partners Abbyy and Fujitsu. Abbyy, which specialises in optical character recognition, document capture and language software, provided its Flexicapture data capture and document processing solution. This ‘reads’, deciphers and intelligently picks out key information from scans of incoming paper documents captured on Fujitsu scanners. “The combination of technology EASY recommended has proved a great fit and really captured what we needed,” Polly says.
To increase accuracy and efficiency, EASY and Abbyy established four different templates to cater for common differences in the way source data is submitted. Scanned images and extracted data are sent through EASY’s own EASY Documents workflow solution. This prompts final checking and correction of any inaccurate data and adds the ability to quickly and easily search and retrieve content. Once verified, the data is sent via XML to Wilmington’s database.
Maintaining business advantage
“From having an old-fashioned, manual process, our situation has been completely revolutionised,” explains Polly. “It now takes the same person just one and a half days to process a workload that took an entire week previously. It means we can handle greater volumes of data with fewer people, and deliver the extra information our clients crave.
“We’ve increased the data populations for all of the documents we get in, which means we can put more data products out there, making us even more competitive. We were already unique in what we do, but now we’ve further sharpened our edge, maintaining our advantage.”
EASY’s digital content solution has been live at the Business Intelligence organisation for 18 months, and Polly already has her sights set on further enhancements. “We hope to upgrade the Abbyy software soon, as the latest version is even more intelligent. For example, it can recognise where a letter should be a number and vice versa,” she explains.
It is also preparing its systems to cater for original content that comes in digitally, as suppliers begin to automate their own processes and submit source documents electronically – a development Wilmington fully supports. “It will save further administration time at our end and save on paper costs, by eliminating the need to print or scan source content, only to re-enter it manually,” Polly explains.
In the meantime, EASY has been helping Wilmington Insight migrate to a new database. It has replicated the existing database software so that workflow can be comprehensively tested to make sure that it will continue to work seamlessly in the new, improved repository developed by an external third party. “EASY has pulled out all the stops to smooth this transition for us, ensuring that the XML feeds still work,” says Polly.
All in all, Polly judges the EASY digital content management solution to have been a great success, even before the benefits of these enhancements are realised. “We’re definitely unlocking savings from all the efficiencies we’ve gained, and that doesn’t even take into account the additional value we’re able to offer our clients,” she says.