How Trends in Document Capture Affect Digital Transformation

If you’re looking for ways to modernize your Enterprise Content Management (ECM) strategy, you should take a hard, long look at how trends in document capture can help your Digital Transformation efforts.

Is your document-capture system holding back your Digital Transformation efforts?

The key question is this: Is your document-capture system holding you back? And how is your approach to capture helping—or hindering—your company’s Digital Transformation journey?

Information management has been taking some big jumps lately when it comes to robots, artificial intelligence (AI) and other developments that make work processes more efficient.

Redefine how you extract data from content at the beginning and end of a business process.

Digital Transformation requires that you re-imagine what you do when you extract data from content at the beginning of a process. It also requires you to think about how you create a “document” at the conclusion of a business process.

Too many organizations only have had partial success when it comes to capture. Solutions such as handprint recognition or auto-classification don’t necessarily work that well. Too often OCR processes require too much hand keying, or QA checks or other exception handling. Is it all worth it?

Key trends in capture include e-signatures and intelligent recognition.

The list below highlights 11 important trends in capture. I won’t address every trend in detail. Some of these, like e-signatures and e-forms, are critical and rather obvious. Others, however, bear more analysis.

  1. Omni-channel ingestion design
  2. Multi-platform and UX design
  3. Round trip communication design
  4. Born-digital, stay-digital design
  5. Vetting and NIGO (Not in Good Order) processing
  6. RPA (“robots” or robotic process automation)
  7. Case Management and BPM
  8. E-forms
  9. E-signatures
  10. Comprehensive intelligent recognition
  11. File and content analysis

Where machine learning and artificial intelligence meet data capture.

Probably the most important future trend in capture is comprehensive intelligent recognition, which directly links capture to organizations’ digital transformation efforts. It is here where machine learning and AI meet capture. Intelligent recognition applies to everything from machine print to barcodes to constrained handprint-to-script.

Historically, recognition was based on pixel density on a character-by-character basis. The cleaner the image, the better the recognition. Today, recognition is based on linguistics and context (words rather than characters). This works well when recognizing free-form text in the form of paragraphs.

Artificial Intelligence now is being used with both techniques. Patterns and “learning” inform a “ground truth,” which is established via “supervision” (feeding the system exemplary samples.) The combination of context and artificial intelligence is proving effective at recognizing even handwritten documents. Many of the difficult data extraction documents combine both machine and hand writing.

Capture design should be both multi-platform and omni-channel.

As you revitalize your approach to capture, remember that your design should be omni-channel, multi-platform and take into account round-trip communication. Don’t ignore the importance of creating pleasing, easy-to-use and easy-to-navigate user interfaces, whether the user is internal or an end customer. It’s not that you should build for all channels, it’s that you should do a good job for the channels that you do build for.

Remember to emphasize good channels (i.e., self-service mobile) and demote the bad ones (i.e., paper and fax). And remember, sometimes you may need to go between channels within processes. (See my earlier post, What Capabilities Do You Need for Enterprise Capture?)

Loan processing is a great example. The application may go through the US mail or FedEx. It’s scanned into .tif or .pdf format. OCR converts the application to text or data to send to the loan processing algorithm. People and computers together decide if you get the loan.

Encourage your customers to use good channels, rather than outdated ones.

A common recommendation we deliver at Doculabs is that you should consolidate around a single platform, with well-defined processes, services and costs. If you do that, you then can move customers more efficiently from bad technology channels and manual processes to good ones.

Another important trend in capture technologies relates to exception handling. Too often organizations wait for the information to move too far downstream before weeding out the bad cases. When that happens the organization requires more people—and more expensive tools.

Exception handling and robotics are important trends in document capture.

You want to detect incomplete and incorrect inbound sets of documents as early as possible. You need to vet inbound material at the package or document-set level, not just at the field or page or document level. This is now possible using modern capture technologies.

We’ll come to the relationship between robots and capture more completely in a future post, but a rule of thumb when it comes to robotics and capture is to allow the technology to help people with tasks, like document vetting. You don’t want to view robots as an excuse to replace people. And you want a vendor who knows both capture and digitization, not one who just knows robots. (In the meantime, see my colleague, James Watson’s blog on Robotic Process Automation.)

Case management and BPM also are important trends in capture because they help address activities that may require a lot of different tasks on a set of documents rather than acting on documents one at a time. Working more efficiently is a necessary condition for moving NIGO (Note in Good Order) processing more upstream.

Culture can be an impediment to modernizing your approach to capture.

We’re pleased with the way capture technology continues to improve. But don’t forget “soft” cultural obstacles.

I’ve worked with organizations that don’t want to move to e-signatures. And I’ve worked in others where people are hesitant for compliance reasons about getting rid of paper, or going mobile. I’ve seen organizations with no process owner. And I’ve seen companies with too many siloed systems and processes.

Changing culture enables Digital Transformation.

That’s why changing the culture is part of the solution. And it’s here that we connect with digital transformation: success with capture helps you view capture technology as a digital transformation enabler.

Moreover, when information is born digital, it should stay that way—and not be viewed as a crutch to allow you to convert to paper then go back again to digital. When the information is born digital it should remain digital


Rich Medina
Rich Medina
I’m a Principal Consultant and co-founder of Doculabs, and the resident expert in using ECM for information lifecycle management.