Wasted Money – The Cost of Manual Document Verification
How much does it cost to verify that documents are error-free? Most organizations don't really know. Document verification that occurs after events such as a document composition software upgrade or a conversion or migration to new printing engines is usually handled in one of three ways:
- Output is created from the legacy system that is currently running in the production environment. The same job is then printed from the new system after it has been installed in the test environment. Someone then sits down in a conference room with two piles of paper and progresses through them to visually compare corresponding pages one at a time.
- Output from the new system is generated and given to a programmer to review. The programmer, knowing where to look for the most likely errors, thumbs through the stack of paper and checks those areas, completely ignoring other, unknown areas where the new system may have generated incorrect results. Sometimes the validation does not even feature physically printed output. Screen-based error checking saves paper but makes it difficult to catch some mistakes such as overflow pages or print that drifts into the margins where it could be trimmed off during finishing operations.
- Actual page counts from the new system are compared to expected page counts. The actual printed output is given a cursory review. If the counts balance and there are no glaring errors, the conversion is deemed a success.
None of these methods is effective at catching any but the most obvious mistakes. Careful and comprehensive quality control using manual verifiers requires multiple individuals who are allowed frequent breaks. The project must be spread over several days to combat the fatigue that comes from this mind-numbing work. Even then, results from human verifiers are not entirely trustworthy.
Long Hours and Expensive Resources
Just the labor allocated to the attempts at manual verification is costly, especially when highly skilled programmers are involved. These are some of the most expensive people in the company – their technical skills are in high demand. Using them to perform manual document comparisons is poor use of a valuable resource. Programmers and technical analysts may view the clerical work as demeaning, affecting morale and eventually contributing to employee turnover.
Delaying Product Introduction
Relying upon manual document verification processes also affects time to market. This is particularly true in industries where regulatory guidelines require supporting documents such as contracts or consumer disclosure statements to be approved before a new product can be offered to the public.
Missing out on a new source of revenue for an extended period of time or allowing a competitor to come to market first can severely affect the profitability of products that may have already cost millions to develop.
Because of the time and expense involved in manual verification, organizations only do them when required, and only to the extent necessary to make managers comfortable their documents are accurate enough to avoid the most unpleasant circumstances. This incomplete approach leads to another cost of document verification that is often overlooked – the cost of mistakes that slip through the “cracks” of manual document verification processes.
The Cost of Uncaught Document Errors
Correcting uncaught mistakes can consume excessive labor, materials, and postage. Once errors have been made and documents distributed there may be additional expensive and damaging consequences beyond those connected with issuing new documents. These costs can be substantial. Organizations may find themselves liable for fines and subject to lawsuits as a result of uncaught document errors.
Keep in mind that printing mistakes connected with customer privacy or identity concerns are popular news items. The negative publicity from such incidents can damage the reputation of the company, making it more difficult to sign up new customers and retain current business. Companies experiencing publicized privacy breaches often expend extra time and resources responding to inquiries and reassuring concerned customers.
Automated Document Management and Testing
Manual output verification methods are costly and highly risky in today's fast-paced and litigious business environment. Companies invest many millions of dollars in state-of-the-art software, printers, and personnel to create highly customized and targeted customer documents. Given the cost and risk exposure connected to document errors, it makes sense to abandon outdated legacy testing procedures and invest in modern automated solutions to verify the output. Failing to do so can result in embarrassing and expensive situations.