Dow Jones & Company

IBM Datacap Taskmaster Capture improves productivity and customer satisfaction

Published on 28-Feb-2011

Validated on 12 Nov 2013

"IBM Datacap Taskmaster Capture enables us to scan and capture critical customer information and quickly process our subscription orders. By improving our reporting turnaround time, marketing decisions are now made in a more timely manner" - Brian Gilmore, National Manager of Circulation Service Operations, Dow Jones Fulfillment Services

Dow Jones & Company

Media & Entertainment, Financial Markets

Deployment country:
United States

Enterprise Content Management


IBM Datacap Taskmaster Capture improves productivity and customer satisfaction

Business need:
With more than 8,000 subscription orders and marketing cards arriving daily, keeping pace with the data-entry burden was a formidable challenge. Data-entry had to be done manually, slowing the process.

To automate its data-entry functions, Dow Jones uses both standard rules provided by IBM Datacap, integrated with IBM FileNet Image Services, as well as custom rules developed to meet its own demanding requirements.

Cut in half subscription turnaround time from 48 hours to under a day; increased customer satisfaction; 5 employees reallocated to new responsibilities; more timely marketing decisions.

Case Study

Dow Jones & Company (Dow Jones), publisher of The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and other leading financial publications, has relied on imaging technologies for years to support its vast document management requirements. With hundreds of channels of distribution to manage multiple marketing campaigns going on simultaneously, the ability to track, capture and process incoming subscriptions and customer orders was challenging.

Recently, the company implemented IBM® Datacap Taskmaster Capture to automate subscription form processing and, in the process, cut processing turnaround time in half and reduced its staff requirements by five full time positions.

Entering subscription orders manually

Subscriptions are the lifeblood of a publishing company. Dow Jones has several marketing departments, each of which distributes subscription forms to prospective customers. There are dozens of different formats and sizes with new ones being created all the time. For example, there are forms that are printed in magazines and newspapers, on cards that are slipped into magazines and others that are used at educational institutions to sign up entire classes for The Wall Street Journal.

The company’s Fulfillment Processing Center, located in Chicopee, Massachusetts, serves as the central headquarters for all incoming subscriptions. For years, it processed subscription cards manually, locating a unique document number, wherever it happened to be on the card, and entering it into a document management system.

With more than 8,000 subscription orders and marketing cards arriving daily, keeping pace with the data-entry burden was a formidable challenge. To compound the problem, there was no standardization of the subscription card format. At any one time, subscriptions representing up to 50 different marketing campaigns could be arriving “live” in the mail.

Automating data entry

The Operations Department in Chicopee determined that a new data capture solution was required to streamline customer orders and reduce the turnaround time on subscriptions. To help manage and facilitate its subscription fulfillment process, Dow Jones needed a data capture solution that would enable it to effectively capture critical customer data across a variety of forms. Dow Jones chose Taskmaster Capture to automate its data entry.

For Dow Jones, Taskmaster Capture provides a unique new way to leverage optical character recognition (OCR) without building templates for each document to be captured. The solution uses OCR to identify the characters on a document, but adds another element—rules-based processing—to locate and validate the data. For Dow Jones, this was a critical element in ensuring that no information was missed or deleted.

Dow Jones’ data capture system is deployed at the company’s Fulfillment Processing Center. Cards are fed into a Kodak scanner, with a Bowe Bell + Howell scanner as back-up for high-volume days (Monday, for example). Taskmaster Capture applies a series of image enhancement functions—lines and speckles are removed, images are de-skewed—to prepare the image for recognition.

Rules-based software manages processing steps

Taskmaster Capture is a rules-based software system, with Rulerunner Service executing the rules inside the system. Dow Jones uses both standard rules provided by Datacap, as well as custom rules developed to meet its own demanding requirements. Rules are used not only to validate data, but to drive all the background processing steps that create the original data, including form identification, field finding, recognition, and, of course, validation.

To handle the wide variety of forms that are received, Dow Jones leverages the Taskmaster Capture “fingerprint” matching feature. When a subscription card is scanned, the data capture system uses advanced pattern-matching rules to determine if the postcard’s layout, or “fingerprint,” is similar to any previously received cards. If it matches a document in the Taskmaster Capture library, then rules for locating and validating data are triggered. If no match is made, then the fingerprint is provisionally added to the library, pending operator review. The advantage of this approach is Dow Jones can “train” the system to automatically apply rule sets to specific documents, yet no tedious setup is required for new or unusual formats.

Once identified, rules are invoked to perform recognition. The intermediate recognition results are then searched for a unique document number, which encodes key subscriber information. Finally, a “rule set” is run to automatically pre-validate data before it is shown to verification operators.

Rules are easy to modify

Although a significant percentage of the cards are processed with no user intervention, some require verification by a user. Using IBM Datacap’s single-pass, modeless data entry interface, operators can fix low-confidence recognition, review fields that have failed the pre-validation rules, or key from image forms that have not been recognized accurately. When verification is complete, the images are handed back to RuleRunner for export formatting.

Since Taskmaster Capture service rules are written in Microsoft VB Script or .NET, they are easy to modify. Dow Jones has used .NET to extend the standard Taskmaster Capture rules to provide customer-specific processing features. For example, rules are used on multi-subscriber forms to create unique entries in IBM FileNet® Image Services for every subscriber on the page.

Cutting subscription fulfillment time in half

Since implementing Taskmaster Capture, Dow Jones has reduced the turnaround time for subscriptions from 48 hours to less than a day, while at the same time Dow Jones has reallocated five full-time employees in data entry and IT, previously dedicated to subscription processing, to new responsibilities. Dow Jones also realized a much tighter integration between data entry, fulfillment and its IBM FileNet Image Services system. And not surprisingly, with faster turnaround, customer inquiries about when the publication will arrive have been eliminated.

“We turned to Datacap to help us reduce the time spent on data entry,” said Brian Gilmore, national manager of Circulation Service Operations for Dow Jones Fulfillment Services. “We needed a data capture solution that was flexible and reliable, one that would easily handle mixed batches of highly-varied documents. Taskmaster Capture enables us to scan and capture critical customer information and quickly process our subscription orders. By improving our reporting turnaround time, marketing decisions are now made in a more timely manner.”

For more information

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About Datacap Inc, an IBM Company

Datacap provides award-winning ECM software for document capture and paper forms processing. These solutions help organizations worldwide improve the speed, accuracy and cost-efficiency of data extraction, making information more accessible. Using the latest technologies and innovations, Datacap solutions help automate a broad range of document-centric business processes in a wide variety of industries.

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Datacap Taskmaster Capture, FileNet Image Services

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2010 IBM CorporationSoftware GroupRoute 100Somers, NY 10589U.S.A. Produced in the United States of AmericaJanuary 2011All Rights Reserved IBM, the IBM logo, and FileNet are trademarks or registered trademarksof International Business Machines Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. If these and other IBM trademarked terms are marked on their first occurrence in this information with a trademark symbol (® or ™), these symbols indicate U.S. registered or common law trademarks owned by IBM at the time this information was published. Such trademarks may also be registered or common law trademarks in other countries. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the Web at “Copyright and trademark information” at: Other product, company or service names may be trademarks or service marks of others. References in this publication to IBM products or services do not imply that IBM intends to make them available in all countries in which IBM operates