I came to barcoding pretty late, but I have come to believe it is an important component of efficient document handling in an XPLAN environment. Barcoding as a feature was supplied very early in our time with XPLAN, and at that time our licensee produced some training materials, a webinar or two, and that was kind of the end of that.
Our 'Review' process
On a separate tack, I was wrestling with trying to automate document and report production in XPLAN. Being a very amateurish coder, it was important to me that these documents be available for my review and editing (only minor stuff) before being sent to clients. We could have a document automatically produced in XPLAN, which would be downloaded, reviewed, edited and sent back to XPLAN. It would then be taken by our admin team, downloaded again, attached to an email and sent to the client. Version control, or what precisely is the document the client saw became a nightmare. There were too many moving parts, much confusion and a great deal of disgruntlement in my team, so much so that they were ready to show me where I could put my software I think.
In my naivety, I thought barcoding would be able to help. The idea was that we could produce a document containing a barcode, scan the document on our handy dandy scanning device, then save the resulting file to a folder we had set up, and the document would be automatically saved against the client file. We would know this was the 'right' copy because it was a .pdf, and we could put protocols in place to ensure that this was the file we used – the source of truth.
Now the XPLAN fanboy geek in me thought this was pretty exciting, but when it came to putting it in to practice, there were a couple of hurdles. First was the fact that our office scanner is downstairs, and each time I wanted to go through the process I had to print the document, get up from my desk, negotiate the stairs, take the printed copy and scan it, email the scanned copy to myself, save it in the appropriate folder, and wait for the magic to happen.
The second was I couldn’t really come to terms with having to download a document which had been produced in XPLAN, print it, scan it and then chuck the scanned copy away in order to get a document “back” into XPLAN so it could be emailed. For a long time, I left the idea in the cool but impractical corner of my brain.
So consider how you or your staff are presently producing documents. If you use XPLAN as your file store (and you should be), you might do something like this:
- Prepare the document in Word. You could type it from scratch, or if you do enough of them, either you or your staff will probably have produced a template that they use to fill out which looks pretty.
- Having typed the document, you would need to save it somewhere, go into XPLAN, create a Note, upload the file and save the Note.
- You would need to make sure the Note Type was consistent for easy retrieval.
Even if you used an XPLAN template, the process would be the same. Merge the document, make any adjustments to the merged output, save the resultant Word document to your desktop or somewhere, go back in to XPLAN create the Note, upload the file, done.
Our light bulb moment
A while ago, as a consequence of some conversations I had online with Michael Kinens, I finally twigged, XPLAN, is the bar code reader, you don’t need any handy-dandy scanning device, you can do what you need right from your desk.
The magic occurs in XPLAN when you create a barcoded template. The Action Manager function allows XPLAN to be instructed to do stuff when it encounters a barcode of the type attached to your template. By adding 'actions' to your template, you can set up the activities you'd like the system to perform when the document is returned. This is not just limited to filing, as the scanned document solution was, but a host of other activities can be automatically kicked off. XPLAN will detect the barcode if the output is in a pdf format and saved to the Action Manager network folder, and there is no scanner required. Get it? You don’t need a scanner.
For now we just want to save our completed document against the client in an appropriate File Note. Because of the barcode this is simple, we just save the file as a .pdf (this is important) to the Action Manager folder. Job done. In a couple of minutes the file will appear, appropriately filed against the client. The simple act of saving the document to a folder has removed a number of steps from the process, and ensures that the resulting outcome is the same, every time.
Creativity has it's rewards
Now is the time to get creative. The barcode can trigger lots of other things. For example, it could set a Task to your CSO to email the document out to your client. It could trigger an automatic email to your client saying your document can be picked up via XPLANtouch. It could change a field value in XPLAN which completes a review. It could even complete the “Prepare Document” task. This all depends on your needs and how you work. No doubt smarter people than me will come with even better uses.
We use barcodes on lots of documents: Review Reports, Client Review Presentations, Fee Disclosures, Terms of Engagement, even Statements of Advice. All of these have differing actions depending on the document type.
For me I think this is a BIG time saver, and a means of achieving efficiency and consistency. We are only a small business, but I would expect that in a larger practice, the more people involved , the greater the efficiency and consistency gains.
I hope this has given you some food for thought, I reckon its really cool. If you do come up with something I haven’t thought of, let us know, I’m sure there are lots of opportunities I haven’t even dreamt of.
Innovus Advice Solutions