In today’s business environment, companies that are still using paper-based processes run the risk of falling behind their competition. For the highest level of efficiency, the lowest costs, and the best chance of remaining in compliance with various regulations, documents and the information contained within them must be accessible using digital methods. Savvy companies are using document management to import, process, store, and access information.
The first step in the document management process is document capture, which is the scanning and uploading of paper documents to a digital repository. This practice also includes uploading documents that are already in digital format. Basic document capture involves simply saving the document, while advanced document capture involves extracting the data within it for addition to data analysis or future searches.
In the sections below, we explore what document capture is, how it works, and the various document capture automation and document capture solutions for companies to explore.
What is Document Capture?
As mentioned above, document capture is the first step in document management and is simply converting a document into the target format, such as a paper document into electronic form. The document management process continues as follows.
- Converting – Processing to make the document more readable, such as improving text and image quality
- Checking – Validation by the document management solution to ensure the document achieves a specified quality standard
- Classifying – Sorting documents according to type, such as invoice, receipt, or purchase order
- Extracting – Pulling relevant data and metadata from the document
- Indexing – The document is tagged with relevant identifiers, making it available to be found in searches
- Placing – The document is placed in its final location within a repository and automated workflows
Once these steps have been completed, team members can more easily locate and work with documents as needed. Converting paper documents into digital allows companies to save space and money, as documents no longer need to be stored in a physical location. Team members can easily retrieve, share, and collaborate on documents. Additionally, information is in the appropriate state to help companies meet regulatory standards that require document tracking and certain levels of security.
Who Needs to Capture Documents?
There are many types of businesses that can benefit from document capture solutions.
- Companies that want to streamline processes and upgrade customer care. Simply looking up an order, invoice, or purchase order becomes much easier within an automated document management system.
- Companies that want to automate the processing of forms. Some documents need to be reviewed or approved by multiple people. Such procedures become much easier when those documents are in electronic format that can be shared with multiple parties at one time.
- Companies that need to secure documents to ensure compliance with various regulations. To ensure customer, client, and patient privacy, governmental and other organizations require companies to ensure a high level of security that can’t be achieved with a paper-based system.
- Companies that are already operating digitally but want to categorize and index documents more effectively. Documents can be found more easily within an organized electronic system that uses logical groupings and accurate tags.
- Companies that want to effectively use their data to make more informed business decisions. The data that can be pulled from digitizing paper documents is essential for gleaning critical insights that help drive business success.
- Companies that employ a distributed workforce. A paper-based document management system or even a poorly implemented digital one is highly impractical for companies with employees working from various locations.
- Companies that want to save money. Office and storage space are expensive and becoming more so all the time. Companies that no longer need to store physical documents can spend the saved money on more important things such as employee benefits or improving the quality of their products or services.
- Companies that want to devote more time to higher-value tasks. A paper-based document management system requires more time to find documents and locate the needed information on them. Companies that can reduce that time empower employees to turn their attention to activities that can drive progress and success.
How to Capture Documents
A variety of technologies are useful for document capture, including the following.
- Optical character recognition (OCR) – Reads typed text and converts it into digital text readable by computer applications
- Intelligent character recognition (ICR) – Reads handwritten text, such as in the case of forms filled out by customers or clients by hand
- Optical mark recognition (OMR) – Reads marks, such as check marks or filled in ovals, which are commonly used in documents such as exams and ballots
- Optical barcode recognition (OBR) – Reads barcodes and extracts information to help with indexing and organizing files
- Free-form extraction – Converts images containing text into PDFs that can be edited
Document capture methods vary greatly, depending on the format and volume of documents users need to collect. Small businesses can scan documents one by one using a scanner and software found on most computers. Other devices, such as tablets and phones can also be used to scan, supported by common apps such as Google Drive. Some businesses may even choose to capture document data manually.
Larger operations may need more sophisticated scanning hardware and advanced capture software, such as Adobe Acrobat DC or Abbyy FineReader. These operations may employ batch scanning, which is scanning large numbers of documents at one time. The following video shows a batch scanning process.
Document Management for Business Success
As we have seen, document capture is just one step in a greater effort to digitize operations, creating a wealth of benefits that include time and money savings, better customer care, higher levels of efficiency, increased capacity to meet compliance standards, greater support for a dispersed workforce, and the ability to make more informed business decisions.
Document management, which starts with document capture, includes critical functions such as access control, data encryption, and retention policies. Such benefits and functions are critical for business health and success.