Aimee Chanthadavong
March 6, 2019

Digitising policies for a new century

StartupLand

Digitising policies for a new century

Bruce Wren: Converting policy documentation into websites complete with links and tags

Converting information from a Word or PDF document into a website sounds like no big deal. But when it’s the final report of the Banking Royal Commission and there are 1,200 pages, it’s no easy feat.

Australian-based firm WordFlow has developed technology that automates the identification of policies and procedures to do exactly that. 

The platform automatically converts word and PDF documents featuring underwritten guidelines, product information and policies into interactive, mobile-enabled websites.

According to WordFlow chief executive Bruce Wren, the web edition of the Royal Commission’s final report allows users to navigate directly to relevant sections of the document, filter searches according to topics and tags, and automatically translate it into different languages.

“When we look at something like the Royal Commission report, there is so much information, but the problem is only a little bit applies to any one of us.

Previously, this type of knowledge base of information has only been downloadable PDFs and word documents for a quarter of century,” he said.

“There are seven trillion documents all in Word and PDF. The problem is getting worse and going up by 1.2 trillion PDFs a year.”

This is good news for banks and financial services companies, said Mr Wren, because applying any compulsory policy changes that come from the Royal Commission to their business can happen efficiently. 

“It’s very easy for a government agency to say thou shall do the following according to a new piece of legislation. What they forget is those policies must be applied to millions of pages of documentation,” he said.

“At the moment, analysts have to do this manually. We need to think about how we can operationalise the way we change procedures, policies, and guidelines.” 

Mr Wren said the technology lends itself to anywhere “big, ugly and linear documents exist”. While insurance and banks are on the radar for the startup, the big win will be government contracts, something which Mr Wren said is always difficult to secure for any small or medium business. 

Currently, WordFlow is working with the Department of Education in Queensland and New South Wales to convert all their policies and procedures into a web format. 

“People forget government is the biggest buyer of ICT services in the country and have huge power. For a SME company like us, we want business. While the government is offering grants to business like ours, I actually want them to buy my product,” Mr Wren said. 

He continued saying how if government worked with more SMEs it can save money. “You see so much wastage with government buying big items from the usual suspects like IBM, SAP or Microsoft where the cost of the project is always going over budget; normally, when you go over budget the bank takes your house,” he said. 

“I think government needs to be smarter and choose from say three proof of concepts, evaluate them, and pick the best one.”

The other change Mr Wren wants to see from the government is its definition of SME, which refers to any business with 200 or fewer employees.

“The government says it wants to back SMEs, except Google in Australia, a Nasdaq-listed company has 200 people or fewer. I think the definition needs to be much tighter. That would be a smarter way to back the sector,” he said. 

WordFlow, which is valued at some $10 million, recently completed its Series A funding round that attracted investors including executives from the financial services sector such as NAB and technology firms like Microsoft.

It plans to use the funding to expand overseas and will open an office in the United Kingdom in August. 

Mr Wren assured though the company will always remain Australia. “We want to be an international company that happens to be based in Australia.”

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