Apryse Announces Acquisition of AI-Powered Document Toolkit Provider LEAD Technologies

How Document Processing Helps Pave the Way for Ethical Efficiency in Lean Times

By Valerie Yates | 2023 Feb 28

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8 min

How do you shift from growth to efficiency in uncertain times — without cutting corners in your business? Improving document processes offers one way. An interview with Andrew Varley, Apryse CPO.

Introduction

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Pandemic. Climate change. Supply chain breaks. War. And now economists see a recession on the horizon. What’s next? Whether you think 2023 will bring a hard or soft landing, the evidence indicates dynamic change is here to stay as a feature — not a bug — of the business climate.

And with the hire fast and fire fast phenomena we’re seeing in the current round of tech and media layoffs — with 102,000 U.S. tech workers let go in mass job cuts in 2023 and counting — there must be a better way to anticipate, respond strategically, course correct, and weather storms of all kinds.

So, how can you bring leanness into your operations — without sacrificing quality?

To shed some light on the topic, we sat down with a Chief Product Officer (CPO). Apryse CPO Andrew Varley has a deep record of accomplishment helping customers find efficiencies and save money by enabling a better way to work while VP of Product at Codility, a technical interview and hiring platform, and at QuickBase, a low-code platform for building custom software applications.

During the interview, Varley shared insights on how organizations can reduce OpEx and build for resiliency, by eliminating paper and complexity in document workflows, systems, and processes. Here are some insights.

Key takeaways

  • Investors reward companies that create a healthy business through efficiencies instead of growth without cost discipline
  • Operational efficiency and document processing are for everyone, SMBs included, not just "the big guys"
  • Change is a constant, and a lean cost structure is key to being agile in meeting market changes
  • People and document processes must be kept coordinated across workflows and the entire document lifecycle to avoid SaaS sprawl and waste
  • Paper processes and legacy workflows are a source of compliance risk, to the tune of $25k per infraction in the case of US HIPAA violations
  • Organizations don’t have to choose between security and efficiency
  • Leveraging emerging tech like API-first services, low-code app platforms, and less-buzz-worthy SDKs all provide robust pathways to driving down OpEx
  • Cutting the go-between (the server) for document processes that don't require a server yields many low-hanging fruit with regards to improved security and efficiency

Now, let's get to the questions, and Varley's answers.

Q: What major challenge do organizations face today?

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All businesses of all sizes always face change. Change can arise seemingly out of nowhere, like technological disruption, recessions, and even global pandemics. Change can present in the form of trends that build over time, like moving to the cloud, shifting from CapEx to OpEx, and the importance of data and cyber security strategies. These changes fundamentally alter how we work and run our businesses.

Businesses can meet change with flexibility and agility, adapting to maneuver in a dynamic market, or meet it with inaction or resistance. In our experience, the most competitive organizations built operational efficiency into the foundation of their business, structuring their operations in a way that allows flexibility, the ability to anticipate and respond to new market inputs, as well as achieve more with less.

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“Investors reward companies that strategically implement efficiencies to create a healthy business instead of achieving growth without cost discipline.”

Q: What’s an overlooked opportunity to improve operational efficiency?

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Businesses run on two key things: people and documents. Gaining efficiency in your business depends on addressing and improving the bridge between these assets — specifically the workflow and entire lifecycle of documents.

Addressing only single facets of the issue, like digitization, one piece at a time can result in SaaS sprawl and fragmentation of tools and processes, which are detriments to operational efficiency. Businesses that integrate, consolidate, and streamline the entire document workflow, from creation, digitization, extraction, intelligent document processing, and security have fewer vendors and therefore fewer supply chain weaknesses, and a more efficient workplace.

Given how much paper businesses still use — to the tune of 40M tons annually — with the average cost to process a non-complex paper form being $4.56, this represents a huge opportunity for efficiency enhancement.

Q: How are organizations benefiting from operational efficiency in the document processing space?

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Enterprises benefit in three key areas when they enhance their document workflow.

Cost

As we discussed above, getting your cost structure in line is part of being agile and flexible, key ingredients in being able to pivot to meet market changes.

Many companies experience spiraling costs from cloud infrastructure and paper processes. According to a 2022 Flexera report on the State of the Cloud, organizations waste an estimated 32% of cloud spending. Combining expensive cloud storage with the processing costs of numerous document conversions, clicks, collaborations, workflows, and signatures, results in unexpected cloud bills. Adding inefficient paper processes to the mix spells yet more costs.

Trimming wasteful spending yields immediate results. You could start with low-hanging fruit like massive cloud bills from overprovisioned virtual servers, cluttered storage, and inflexible, consumption-based licensing.

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“Getting your cost structure in line is part of being agile and flexible, key ingredients in being able to pivot to meet market changes.”

Productivity

Inefficient and paper processes, legacy documents, and tool fragmentation waste human capital. McKinsey reports that employees each spend 1.8 hours every day gathering information from documents, which represents over 1 day per week per person.

Creating infrastructure improvements maximizes productivity gains and operational efficiency. Imagine transforming the document workflow for internal and external stakeholders and what this can bring to your organization in no time at all.

Security and Compliance

Companies, particularly those in regulated industries, may be reluctant about document processing solutions for fear of falling out of compliance or experiencing a security breach. In truth, paper processes and legacy workflows are riskier for enterprises. In the US, HIPAA violation fines can be issued up to a maximum level of $25,000 per violation category, per calendar year. That could be one paper document left on a table or improperly disposing of a paper document that contains sensitive information.

Organizations need to do more than simply secure digitized documents — they need to reimagine the user experience and workflow involved in processing documents. In our experience, successful companies build security into project planning. They also align with vendors whose technology is inherently secure, removing a major risk from the document workflow.

Q: What kind of organizations and audiences benefit the most?

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Small businesses tend to think that operational efficiency and document processing are for the “big guys” and large businesses and organizations believe themselves too entrenched to address and fix the issues. In fact, this improvement applies to all businesses.

The greatest benefits go to global companies and organizations with many stakeholders involved in the document workflow. Within these groups, the companies that are moving the fastest in this respect are those with operational efficiency “champions” in the form of executive sponsorship to drive objectives.

Is a Strategic Plan for Document Processing Right for My Business?

Ask the following:

  1. Are we still creating paper documents in our processes?
  2. Do we need to store data in older documents, whether digital or paper?
  3. Do we need to comply with regulations or focus on accessibility?
  4. Do we need to archive?
  5. Are we interested in how AI, ML, and NLP could help us serve customers?

If the answer is Yes to any of the above questions, then your organization should have a strategic plan for document processing.

Q: What kind of use cases benefit most from operational efficiency enhancements?

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Here I'll cover three major use cases that reap the greatest benefit from digital document processing.

High-Volume Processes 

If your organization has processes that involve high volume, server-based processes — particularly in the cloud — your OpEx may be unnecessarily high. Fixing this issue helps address the cost structure item I discussed in Question 3 (How are organizations benefiting from operational efficiency in the document processing space?). 

Think about the end user’s actual workflow.

We find that most workflows do not require a server at all — but the organization isn’t aware of a more efficient alternative and thus incurs needless costs.

To illustrate:

An internal employee uploads a PDF, converts it to Microsoft Word, edits it, and then reuploads it, using different tools for each step. This process presents two problems: it consumes conversion and upload resources and is not streamlined for the user.

An efficient scenario looks like this:

Directly manipulate the original PDF in the browser, by building or integrating an app, using a client-side approach if possible. You streamline the user's workflow, keep costs down, scale cost effectively, and ensure security when data doesn’t leave your app.

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“We find that most workflows don't require a server at all — but the organization isn’t aware of a more efficient alternative and thus incurs needless costs.”

Collaborative Processes

If many stakeholders and reviewers collaborate on documents, a streamlined workflow can translate to significant efficiency gains. Think of all the touchpoints when many individuals contribute to a document during its entire lifecycle, and all the opportunities to make work faster, easier, and error-free.

Sensitive Data

The nature of sensitive data is that it can’t leave your network. Some organizations thus default to the thought that to gain security, you must give up efficiency.

Instead, I encourage you to examine alternatives that enable powerful document experiences without leaving your network or browser. Fixing this workflow alone makes other efficiencies possible.

Q: What solutions are companies adopting to drive efficiency?

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Lately we’ve seen a buzz in API Economy, Low Code, No Code, RPA, AI/ML. Some organizations are adopting these approaches to focus on the user and customer experience, and to drive operational efficiency.

API-First

According to TechCrunch, APIs are the next big SaaS wave. In an API-first approach, companies develop code once and then distribute services across digital channels, devices, and interfaces. APIs solve the build vs buy issue — Why would you allocate scarce and costly developer resources to recreating something inhouse that’s built better elsewhere when you could be focusing instead on creating a differentiated product?

Many of today’s global companies built their businesses using scalable developer services that let them abstract big and small processes. Several highly successful API-first companies come to mind, such as Twilio, which is now a $63 billion market cap company, as well as Stripe and Scale. 

Low Code Application Platforms

Low code platforms allow users to create apps without writing code, using a drag-and-drop interface to build applications from a set of pre-built, re-usable components.

These platforms help businesses focus on delivering a high-quality application to their internal customers, with rapid iteration and agility, faster time to deployment, and lower development costs. 

SDKs

While SDKs for document processing don’t seem as buzz worthy as API-first and low-code/no-code, they’re no less important to delivering an exceptional user experience and driving efficiency.

SDKs:

  • Automate business processes.
  • Offer an identical and streamlined user experience for all internal apps.
  • Let you add new functionality to existing systems cost effectively.
  • Enable cross-platform apps.
  • Improve collaboration and productivity.
  • Improve infrastructure in scalable and flexible ways.
  • Improve security to protect user data and comply with regulations.

To future-proof your SDK, look for a single vendor that can scale with your organization, as well as an SDK that has a wide breadth of functionality and a roadmap or history of innovation.

Q: How do emerging technologies impact the document processing space?

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This takes us back to the first question, where change is the constant challenge for all businesses. Technology constantly advances, sometimes in leaps and bounds. The nature of technology is that it always both emerges and fades, making businesses forever deal with adoption and legacy.

Document processing leverages emerging technologies such as AI, ML, RPA, among others. To retire legacy processes and set up and deploy new technologies in your existing infrastructure, your organization needs careful planning and agile processes — or risks losing the competitive edge to more responsive competitors.

You’ll need to champion and build operational efficiency into the foundation of your organization, then align with vendors that can help solve your problems and future-proof solutions with innovation and a breadth of capabilities.

Finally, and not least, to leverage emerging tech in the document processing space, all the document assets of your organization must be available for extraction and processing — yet another reason to break from paper processes.

Whiteboard illustration of operational efficiency
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Valerie Yates

Sr. Content Strategist

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