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Preparing and Evaluating a Vendor List

Now that the majority of the fact gathering is done, organizations can prepare the vendor list. Initially, they should be broad and look for prospective vendors that fit just the type of processing in question, either fixed or semi-structured document processing. Vendor lists should include the vendor name, their contact information, and the product they have that might be a fit. Organizations should set the number of iterations and evaluation criteria that are used for each vendor based on the above research. Once there is a completed vendor list, the evaluation process can begin. Because of the nature of the technology, there are several areas where vendors should be tested thoroughly.

Do They Provide Demos?

Vendors should give organizations the option to first see a canned web demo of the product in question. Once a canned demo has been given, vendors should accept sample document sets and be willing to perform some basic setup on the samples. When this has been done, seeing a demo based on the organization’s sample set will clarify the potential of the technology. Many vendors have websites where organizations can simply upload documents to test. When evaluating the demo with the sample set of documents, organizations need to understand the complexity of the setup that was done. How long did the vendor take to do the setup? What was the skill level of the person who performed the setup? Finally, what were the challenges during their setup?

Do They Provide Trials?

Does the vendor allow organizations to try the software for a period of time in a production environment? Often, the complexity of data capture software can be such that a trial of the software without guidance or initial setup is more harmful than good. If this is the case with a particular vendor, they should offer to do a setup for the organization and provide a trial that is operator mode only, or clearly explain the skill level required and what one may expect to encounter when performing setup without training.

How is Their Support?

The trial period is an opportunity for organizations to contact the vendor’s general technical support line. It is important to know if the vendor’s technical support team is responsive and can answer their questions or escalate requests promptly.

Test the Metrics of the Software

Test the Metrics of the Software Many vendors have different versions of the data capture product they offer. Organizations need to find the package that is the best fit for their needs. Differences in packages are usually associated with the volumes they can process, and it comes down to cost. During the trial of the appropriate packages, it is the organization’s responsibility to test all of the metrics: installation, speed of recognition, accuracy, and export file formats. Export formats are sometimes the primary focus of an organization. Organizations should not pick data capture products based on export format but be concerned only that the export gives them all of the data required to get to the desired format. Sometimes the data capture software provides not only data but also image file results. If this is the case, then image format capabilities and resulting file size will be an additional consideration. Many packages include compression and file tools that offer companies the ability to go directly from a data capture process to an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) or Document Archive System without any additional steps.