5 Brutal Facts You Need to Know About Document Capture
Blog: Kofax Journal
Document capture is a specialty area, especially when the documents are unstructured and the scope includes paper scanning. Document scanning, considered by some as a Cinderella of IT, is often targeted by outsource companies.
The argument for outsourcing has diminished due to two factors: 1) widespread availability of sophisticated MFD (Multi-Function Device) solutions and 2) smartphone technology. Due to intense competition and the move to early digitisation, MFDs have become relatively inexpensive, incorporate high-volume scanning, and tend to eliminate (or at least severely impact) traditional cost and management barriers to production scanning.
Similarly, ubiquitous smartphone technology now enables organisations to deliver self-service solutions that can eliminate unstructured documents and are effective at truncating paper documents at source. For example, an insurance claim process that may have previously involved the submission of a form and physical receipts as proof, now can be completed with either an app or an HTML mobile web portal, the user simply snaps and securely uploads documents to the insurer’s claim systems.
It typically fails to address underlying business issues.
Capture is often an intermediary step towards a solution. One of the traditional drivers for document capture is archiving, which probably isn’t at the top of many IT Directors’ or CxOs’ priority lists. Naturally, compliance is important, and if the only mechanism to prove compliance is a copy of document, then this process will persist. However, over the mid-to-long term this approach will change.
Electronic signatures and similar proof-of-authentication solutions are some areas that will eliminate the need for traditional documents. Other mechanisms such as email, web portals or call-centres now address the use of documents to transfer information by using document capture to initiate a process or transaction. Consider these cases as bridges between the old world of document-based processes, and the new world of digitised processes.
Few business users appreciate its value.
End users don’t necessarily enjoy working with scanned images. Given the choice, they’d prefer a verified summary or extracted data-set. For this reason, many contemporary document capture systems don’t simply pass a tiff or PDF image along with a CSV file to the back-end system.
Look for solutions that dynamically update back-end Systems of Record or Line of Business applications, and then present service agents or knowledge workers with a completed data-set, as this delivers value by insulating them from the task of parsing unstructured content.
Sophisticated image processing solutions remove many poor-quality issues traditionally associated with scanned images and ensure optimal legibility and “readability” for humans and machines alike. Additionally, consider the option of rendering documents with a fully searchable text layer to significantly aid retrieval (via Enterprise Search) and also enables text-reuse; this provides users with a real productivity boost.
It can be difficult to manage and maintain.
Since externally generated documents always change, an automated document capture process can become a game of cat and mouse. As soon as the solution “nails” one document format, another one pops up. Over the years we’ve noted some tension between marketing departments and operations groups around so-called “return documents”. Marketing wants to ensure that sales related or applications documents are consistent and have appeal to ensure high levels of take up; which requires frequent refresh of revisions and changes that quite correctly, are geared towards customer appeal. In contrast, operations prefers structured documents that ideally have bar codes with a consistent layout, presentation and infrequent change cycle.
To address these challenges, make it a priority that you select a solution that includes the ability to handle dynamically changing documents – automatic learning (especially inflight learning) is highly desirable when your inbound document flow includes unpredictable documents.
The most advanced document-capture solutions are tolerant of document changes and handle these issues easily. Scalability is also an issue and few organisations work in a flat-volume business cycle. Most business activity has a seasonal component, which can result in volumes to fluctuate wildly. Implementing a system with high intrinsic automation capabilities can handle peaks and troughs without impacting the business.
Needing document capture solution can mean you may have a broken or protected process.
As websites, portals and apps continue to proliferate, the need to use documents to present structured data in an unstructured document form is likely to decline. Achieving document capture nirvana is possible in situations where you enact a standardized process, in a simple, pragmatic way—with inherent standards-based interchange of compatible, structured information.
Standardized processes will undoubtedly include forms of analogue-to-digital on-ramps, such as voice recognition or the snapping of a document using a smart phone camera. In these processes, the system immediately transforms the document “picture” into a digital packet, then verifies the packet automatically and completes the task in near real-time.
In contrast, unstructured documents that require elaborate phrases and paragraphs to describe a nuanced situation such as a terms of a contract or exclusions in a policy will continue to require processing. However, ever smarter IDR (Intelligent Document Reading) solutions will reduce the burden of processing these unstructured documents.
In summary, document capture systems will continue to be effective in improving processes by allowing users to access information quickly and easily. Set in the context of increasingly faster technological evolution, these solutions provide an essential link to the new digitised world.
Contemporary document capture solutions are no longer characterised by document scanners and paper. Now, they’re increasingly the domain of smart phone apps combined with unattended smart processing using well-established, automated classification, indexing and verification technologies.
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