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All organizations, irrespective of size, deal with a myriad of documents that contain vital information and data required for its functioning.  Daily inundated with data in varied forms, manual management of documents and data can easily overwhelm teams, leading to confusion and inefficiency. Automated and digitized document management can circumvent many of the difficulties of document management.  Automated document capture is the first step of digital document management. Whether handling paper or digital documents, document software converts the content into editable and searchable formats, enhancing accessibility. Leveraging advanced technologies such as OCR and automation, document capture systems streamline workflows, empowering teams to swiftly locate and retrieve information. In this article, we will look at various aspects of automated document capture and its role in transforming organizational data dynamics.  

What is Document Capture?

Document capture is the automated process of converting hard copy documents and capturing unstructured electronic content into actionable information tailored for specific business functions. This involves scanning or document imaging, wherein essential data is collected, categorized, processed, and placed into databases. The goal is to transform disparate information into a cohesive and accessible format, facilitating efficient retrieval and utilization aligned with organizational objectives.

Types of Document Capture Solutions

Document capture encompasses various software types that significantly enhance the information management process. Some of them are:

Optical Character Recognition (OCR):

  • Converts machine-printed text into a computer-readable format.
  • Facilitates the interpretation and processing of textual data.
  • Enables seamless integration into digital workflows.

Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR):

  • Extends OCR capabilities to handwritten text.
  • Widens the scope of captured information.

Barcode Recognition:

  • Decodes information embedded in barcodes on documents.
  • Ensures swift and accurate retrieval of relevant data.
  • Particularly useful in scenarios with large document volumes.

Free-form Text Recognition:

  • Extracts comprehensive information from documents like invoices, contracts, and forms.
  • Allows for nuanced data analysis and categorization.

Mark Sense Recognition:

  • Converts checkmarks and individual markings into valuable data.
  • Crucial in scenarios with prevalent manual input.

How does Document Capture Work?

Document capture involves a series of steps that automate data extraction and processing:

  1. Import: Documents are electronically imported into the document capture solution, initiating the digitization process.
  2. Processing: The solution undertakes the conversion of text on documents into a machine-readable format, facilitating advanced data handling.
  3. Cleanup: Images undergo an automatic cleanup process to enhance data extraction performance. This includes eliminating border artifacts, correcting scanning-induced skew, eliminating noise, and de-speckling images.
  4. Validation: Document quality is scrutinized against predefined standards. Poor-quality documents, featuring missing fields or blurry characters, undergo manual verification and correction to ensure accuracy.
  5. Classification: Leveraging full-text optical character recognition (OCR), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and other advanced technologies, the solution automatically identifies and digitally sorts diverse document types (e.g., invoices, orders, receipts).
  6. Data Extraction: Metadata within the document is identified and extracted automatically, contributing to a more detailed and organized database.
  7. Indexing: Documents are automatically indexed based on specific characteristics such as client name or number. This ensures easy searchability and retrieval for future reference.
  8. Export: The processed information is seamlessly delivered to designated systems like enterprise content management (ECM), document management solutions, digital repositories, or other downstream processes. Some solutions incorporate robotic process automation (RPA) for seamless system connectivity, further optimizing the export process. This approach to document capture ensures a smooth and efficient transition from physical or digital documents to organized, accessible, and actionable data.

Benefits of Document Capture

Document capture tools go beyond merely digitizing data.  They offer a way to use the data productively.  Here are key advantages a document capture tool can bring to your business:

  1. Faster Processes: Manual processes, inherently time-consuming and error-prone, are significantly expedited with document capture tools.
  2. Reduced Fiscal and Environmental Costs: Traditional paper-based processes incur substantial costs, both fiscal and environmental.  Today, the world uses 420 billion kilograms of paper every day, which corresponds to two pieces of paper for everyone on Earth every single hour. Producing a single kilogram of paper requires 2-3 times its weight in trees, not to mention the significant amount of water and energy used for production.  But beyond cost benefits, document capture tools eliminate misfiled documents and drastically cut expenses associated with printing, copying, processing, and shipping, providing substantial cost savings for businesses.
  3. Reduced Errors: Manual data entry is error-prone, leading to inaccuracies in reports due to incomplete data, missing/correct material, and duplicates. Document capture tools significantly reduce errors in the captured data, enhancing the reliability of business reports.
  4. Improved Employee Satisfaction: Document capture tools relieve employees from mundane tasks, boosting satisfaction by allowing them to focus on core responsibilities and increasing productivity through reduced distractions.
  5. Improved Security: Paper-based processes offer lower visibility, making companies susceptible to fraudulent acts. Document capture tools and digitization enhance process visibility and security, reducing the risk of internal or supplier fraud and fortifying client protection.
  6. Better Decision Making: Document capture tools enable the retrieval of valuable data from unstructured sources, transforming them into meaningful information that can help with strategic decision making. Businesses can leverage captured data for accurate analyses, facilitating better, data-driven decision-making processes.

 

Business Operations that Benefit from Document Capture

Automated Document Capture benefits all activities of any organization, which involve documents and data.   The specific applications of Document Capture in various business operations include:

Finance Operations:

  • Accounts Payable (A/P) or Procure-to-Pay (P2):
    • Document capture streamlines invoice processing, automating tasks such as data extraction and classification.
    • Purchase Order (PO) numbers facilitate efficient identification and retrieval of order details.
    • Non-PO invoices are also automated, optimizing the entire accounts payable process.
  • Order Management or Order to Cash:
    • Accelerates order management by rapidly extracting and classifying data from various documents.
    • Ensures accurate historical data retrieval, enhancing the efficiency of order-related activities.
  • Auditing & Tax Compliance:
    • Facilitates VAT compliance audits, utilizing deep learning algorithms for automated document checks.
    • Real-time risk identification and enhanced compliance in auditing and tax-related processes.

HR Operations:

  • CV Screening:
    • Document capture expedites the recruitment process by automating CV screening for large-scale hiring.
    • Enhances accuracy and efficiency in identifying highly skilled applicants.
  • Travel Expense Management (T&E):
    • Automates expense report checks, ensuring compliance with company policies, VAT regulations, and tax legislation.
    • Mitigates compliance risks related to fraud, VAT, and payroll taxation.

Industry-specific Processes:

  • Loan Applications:
    • Automates manual checks of applicant information in loan processing, reducing errors and processing time.
    • Accelerates mortgage application forms processing, particularly for voluminous files.
  • Claims Processing:
    • Speeds up insurance claims processing by automating checks on invoices, medical records, and related documents.
    • Enhances accuracy and efficiency in validating and acting on insurer's claim requests.
  • Record Retrieval for Legal Processes:
    • Facilitates legal document generation by automating the retrieval of related information from invoices, medical records, and reports.
    • Ensures faster and error-free record retrieval for legal contract creation.
  • Medical Prescription Processing:
    • Critical for healthcare services, automates medical prescription processing by capturing doctor, patient, and pharmaceutical information.
    • Standardizes and streamlines the prescription process, reducing errors and processing times.

Top Tools for Document Capture

In a market saturated with a range of document capture solutions, the task of selecting the right tool for a company's specific needs demands careful consideration. Businesses must conduct thorough research, assessing their unique requirements against the features offered by various tools.  Here is a list of the top 10 document capture tools available in the market:

Nanonets:

  • Features: Utilizes OCR and deep learning for data extraction from various documents, such as invoices and receipts.
  • Benefits: Accelerates processes, reduces errors, and offers flexible pricing starting at $0.30 per page.

Zoho WorkDrive:

  • Features: Industry-compliant cloud security, customizable reports, and shared workspace for collaborative file management.
  • Benefits: Enhances data security, customizable plans starting at $2.50 per user per month.

Laserfiche:

  • Features: Collaborative document management, secure centralized storage, and structured digital storage.
  • Benefits: Improves collaboration, enhances data security, with cloud plans starting at $50 per user per month.

IBM FileNet Content Manager:

  • Features: AI-driven insights, Microsoft Word compatibility, and customizable user interface.
  • Benefits: Enhances productivity, quick content searches, customizable plans with bespoke pricing.

GoogleDocs:

  • Features: Real-time collaboration, Smart Compose, voice typing, and integration with third-party applications.
  • Benefits: Minimizes errors, seamless collaboration, free version available, Google Workspace plans starting at $6 per user per month.

FileHold:

  • Features: Instant document search, controlled document access, and electronic document management.
  • Benefits: Controls document access, supports cloud and self-hosted plans, pricing available on request.

AODocs:

  • Features: Generative AI for document analysis, compliance with regulations, and data extraction.
  • Benefits: Automates document processes, complies with regulations, pricing available on request.

PairSoft:

  • Features: AP automation, procurement, document management, and seamless integration with ERP systems.
  • Benefits: Reduces manual tasks, improves efficiency, scalable source of truth, pricing available on request.

PandaDoc:

  • Features: Proposal, quote, and contract management, drag-and-drop editing, and CRM integration.
  • Benefits: Speeds up processes with templates, real-time tracking, legally binding e-signatures, plans starting at $19 per seat per month.

OnBase:

  • Features: Automated multichannel capture, reporting, analytics, and case management.
  • Benefits: Enhances data management, agile platform for business users, contact Hyland representative for pricing.

Takeaway

Document capture technologies are a catalyst for organizational productivity. From accelerating processes and reducing errors to enhancing security and fostering better decision-making, document capture solutions enable businesses to efficiently manage and leverage data. The array of tools available underscores the importance of a tailored approach, urging companies to carefully evaluate their specific needs and select a solution that aligns seamlessly with their objectives.