Data Action Layer June 12, 2024

Zen and the art of portal retrieval: automating your document ingestion

by Elizabeth Matson

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The first step to processing your documents is retrieving them. Many firms require the use of portals to protect sensitive information and ensure data security. However, that same security can make downloading important documents from countless different portals and data rooms tedious and time-consuming for your team. Finding a way to integrate portals with your systems and automate the process can be even harder, as many portals don’t have APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) or require multi-factor authentication.

Once downloaded, your documents then need to be processed so you can extract the right data—a multi-step process for many firms involving multiple systems and significant employee time.

How do firms manage this process, and how can it be improved? We weigh the pros and cons of the most common options for managing portal downloads below and propose a unified solution.

How are firms managing portal retrieval internally?

1. Fully in-house, manual process

Handling the process of retrieving files from document portals and data rooms in-house manually is where most firms start when managing the massive amount of documents flowing in. Many firms have dedicated in-house teams that are continuously logging in, downloading and saving documents.

Pros:

Transparency: When you keep the process in-house, you have a full view of your documents and can keep all communication within your firm.

Security: By managing document retrieval within your own firm, you’re fully in control of your data security and privacy. Your documents stay inside your firm and within your network.

Cons:

Staffing: You will need a dedicated, experienced employee, or, likely, multiple employees, primarily focused on downloading and tracking incoming documents. In the competitive job market, it can be hard to find analysts interested in doing this type of work long-term. Frequent turnover for the position, or utilizing team members who are also juggling other high-priority tasks, can hinder a seamless process.

2. Automating delivery of some documents with APIs

Some portal companies, or the GPs sending the documents themselves, may offer direct API connections for receiving documents. This option eliminates the need to manually download documents, delivering them directly to the correct destination at your firm.

Pros:

Automation: With a more automated download process, you can hire fewer dedicated employees to handle downloading documents or can devote less of existing employees’ time to the process, freeing up time for more strategic work.

Cons:

Limited availability: Not all portals or GPs offer APIs as an option, so you won’t be able to fully automate your portal process using this route.

Technical complexity: Integrating an API with your existing backend systems can be complex and requires in-house technical expertise. APIs also need to be continually managed as they can change, breaking the connection.

3. Using a fully automated solution

Employing a Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solution to manage portal document downloads is another solution to try to automate the collection of documents. An RPA uses software to mimic human interaction with portals to streamline the process. RPAs can be created in-house or used through an RPA vendor.

Pros:

Automation: As with APIs, an automated process can help you avoid devoting employee time solely to portal downloads, instead utilizing existing employees for reviews and checks only.

Control: If you have a technical team on-hand that can help you set up the RPA and manage it, you will have more control over the process.

Cons:

Roadblocks: Most portals try to discourage the use of automating the download process because of the security weaknesses it creates. Steps like multi-factor authentication can cause an RPA to fail and will require human intervention.

Fragility: RPAs can be technically difficult and time-consuming to keep running. Every time something in the portal changes, the RPA will need to be checked, tested and updated to avoid the process failing.

How are firms managing portal retrieval externally?

Using a service provider

Utilizing a service provider to manage your document portal downloads combines both efficiency and risk management. With the right vendor, you can rely on a safe and secure process that collects and tracks your documents on your behalf.

Pros:

Employee efficiency: Your team can be relieved of the tedious work of daily downloads and focus on more strategic, revenue-driving activities.

Security: By selecting the right vendor, you can increase efficiency while still using a safe and secure process, with tools like virtual machines and dedicated logins with multi-factor authentication. Using a trusted and vetted vendor that can maintain good policies will ensure you can be confident in the security of your documents.

Cons:

Security compromises: When selecting your vendor, consider the process that they use to access portals and retrieve your documents. It is important that you do not compromise on where documents are saved, the control you have over access and the transparency you need to manage a responsible process.

What’s Alkymi’s approach?

When creating our Portal Document Retrieval solution for our customers, our goal was to offer an end-to-end solution with coverage for all portals, including those that use multi-factor authentication. We use the best possible option available for seamlessly retrieving documents from each portal, whether that’s through an available API or a dedicated analyst to securely download documents manually, using a secure password manager and Virtual Machines. No matter how many portals you and your counterparties use, your documents are securely collected on your behalf and automatically imported to the Alkymi platform for seamless extraction and processing.

We built our platform to collect and process your data in one centralized location, our Data Inbox, where your incoming documents can flow in from portals and data rooms, through email, or virtually any upstream system via API. With our Portal Document Retrieval solution, your documents are collected on your behalf and aggregated in one place before they are classified and processed according to your requirements. Schedule a demo to learn more about how Alkymi can create a seamless workflow for your critical data, from document delivery to data processing.

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