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Automating Data Capture for the State of Hawaii with TeleForm

  • July 01 2004, 1:00am EDT

REVIEWER: Aaron Peterson, senior project director for SMS Research.

BACKGROUND: SMS Research is a market research and consulting company based in Honolulu. SMS has a variety of clients in the public and private sectors, including tourism, insurance, banking and many other fields.

PLATFORMS: We are running Verity TeleForm Enterprise on several operating systems including Windows 2000 server, NT, Windows 2000 and Windows 98, housed on a RAID-5 storage system.

PROBLEM SOLVED: SMS has a contract with the State of Hawaii to scan and process data from approximately 3 million forms each year. Every person or party flying into Hawaii must fill out an agricultural declaration stating whether or not they are bringing banned plants or animals into the state. Along with that declaration is a survey, which SMS processes. Handling such a large number of forms and data requires a system that can be used to scan and organize the data and can handle that kind of volume. We also have dozens of other scanning projects throughout the year. TeleForm handles all of it very well.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: SMS uses TeleForm to scan the forms in batches (one batch per flight), which allows us to easily manage the forms and data both pre- and post-scanning. The forms have hand-written characters on them; and TeleForm has good character recognition and lets us know which forms need to be looked at and which are good. We use TeleForm Verifier to check the fields that TeleForm is not sure of, and then it automatically exports the data to SPSS. In order for us to meet our deadlines, we need a system that can run 24x7 without problems, and TeleForm can do that. We have TeleForm evaluate forms during the day and export the data to SPSS all night long. We can also monitor the efficiency of our employees using some of the statistics reports.

STRENGTHS: TeleForm has good hand-written character recognition, which often correctly evaluates numbers that the human eye would need to look at twice. It can handle tremendous volume, which is a requirement for us. It can be customized depending on the needs of the survey. BasicScript allows us to customize our system even more to improve efficiency. Every time I look through the settings, I see something new I can use to make the process more efficient.

WEAKNESSES: The learning curve for the software is rather high. There are many steps that need to be performed when you make a change to your setup. If you miss one, you can end up with problems such as missing data; therefore, you need to be especially careful.

DELIVERABLES: From TeleForm, we have several key products that we use, including an SPSS database filled with the data from the scanned forms and images of the scanned forms, which we deliver to the client.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Vendor support from Verity and from Digital Documents, the reseller, is good. We have used support through e-mail and phone, and they are usually very responsive and knowledgeable. The Web site is useful as well.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is okay, but it could be better. It is good for someone with a moderate level of understanding in TeleForm, but is difficult to understand for a beginner; and if you have an expert-level problem, it often doesn't have the level of detail you need.

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