REVIEWER: Mayland Lin, core systems manager, Department of Technology Services, Montgomery County Government, Rockville, Maryland.

BACKGROUND: Montgomery County is proud of the services it offers, which include some of the best in the nation. More than 30 executive branch departments and agencies help to deliver services to county residents. Libraries, public works, transportation and police are just a few.

PLATFORMS: Windows 2003 Enterprise Server Edition on virtual machine.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Montgomery County Government desperately wanted to improve the accuracy and efficiency of its time sheet processing. With more than 10,000 time sheets to process every other week, we devoted up to five people to the task, each of whom spent five days processing the time sheets using an inefficient optical character recognition (OCR) solution and manually keyed-in data. The process involved two days of scanning, followed by three days of correcting errors and verifying vital information, such as employees’ identification numbers. We also needed to make scanning more efficient for Accounts Payable to process and pay invoices for other departments, such as the county-run liquor stores. We initially set up a pilot program with the ABBYY FlexiCapture solution to improve our time sheet processing, but it has since gone on to transform our invoicing and accounts payable procedures into an adept system that dramatically reduces inefficiencies and greatly improves accuracy.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We use ABBYY FlexiCapture functionalities to quickly and accurately process all of the Department of Liquor’s invoices. We also use it within the Accounts Payable department, so that every vendor submitting a bill to Montgomery County comes directly through the ABBYY system. FlexiCapture intelligently automates data extraction from each of these invoices without the need for manual presorting or manual keying. Its customizable interface guides our employees through each processing step and enables them to use FlexiCapture as needed on a case-by-case basis. If we are looking to extract an employee ID or date from a document, we simply tell FlexiCapture what to look for. FlexiCapture has allowed us to reduce time sheet scanning time from two days to six hours and quality assurance (QA) time from three days to four hours.

STRENGTHS: The FlexiCapture technology intelligently analyzes the elements and data on the county’s time sheets and invoices and captures the critical data elements the county needs to do its work. Previously, if a document wasn’t aligned perfectly - even if it was off by just a hair - the old OCR system was incapable of reading it. FlexiCapture is incredibly forgiving of human and technical foibles, and the end result is consistently and highly accurate. The product is also very flexible. We were able to seamlessly integrate FlexiCapture with our existing ZyLABs ZyIMAGE imaging solution. Another major benefit was the scalability of the product. We found that the solution’s visualization environment required no programming skills, cutting the cost of software development significantly and allowing us to expand it into other departments.

WEAKNESSES: FlexiCapture isn’t 100 percent accurate, and some manual correction is still necessary. However, our employees spend just four hours manually correcting misread data from scanned files, where it used to take three entire work days.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We required a solution with the ability to handle the many disparate paper-based systems the county had in place. ABBYY was our ultimate choice because of the inherent flexibility of the solution, along with the incredible accuracy of its OCR results.

DELIVERABLES: The product produces electronic versions of documents with editable fields, and we are able to store the documents in our existing ZyLAB solution. Each part of every document is recognized through FlexiCapture, so we are able to go back and change only what we need to. After scanning or importing images from hot folders, FlexiCapture intelligently classifies the incoming mix of pages by document type. Data is then automatically located, extracted and validated using rules or database lookup. Extracted data is verified and then exported to ZyLAB.

VENDOR SUPPORT: The product itself was very simple to set up and deploy, and it provided easy-to-use design and template creation tools to make preparation simple. We were given template creation software that allowed us to create specific templates for the forms we would be processing. ABBYY also provides a vendor support site and telephone hotline for complete technical assistance.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is by far some of the easiest we have ever dealt with.

ABBYY FlexiCapture
47221 Fremont Boulevard
Fremont, CA 94538
(510) 226-6717

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