Data capture: A decades-long evolution

stacks of paper

The way organizations receive information continues to change. We see more and more information coming in every year – through more and more sources. This makes it difficult to quickly and accurately capture the necessary data.

It’s no wonder there is an abundance of tools to assist organizations in identifying and extracting key information from incoming documents. But to keep up with the flow of data, capture tools need to evolve along with organizational processes.

To help understand where data capture needs to go, we need to understand how it has changed since the turn of the century.

Character recognition jumps ahead

Undoubtedly, one of the most crucial pieces of the information capture toolset is optical character recognition (OCR) technology. Even though the origins of this tool come from the early 20th century, the technology really came into its own in the last 20 years.

With the ability to take a scanned electronic image of a document and recognize the words on the page, it opened the door for huge efficiency gains and lessened our reliance on paper. Combined with internet technology, OCR technology only got better at character recognition and the applications for the tool exploded.

Similarly, other capture technologies found stronger footing in the 21st century to assist in document identification and data capture. Optical mark recognition (OMR) – used to determine a selection from a list of choices (check boxes and filled circles) – and barcode recognition – used to retrieve data from barcodes located on a document – are both used across the world today to remove manual steps from capture processes. Not only do they speed processes, they make them more accurate and free employees to focus on high-value tasks.

The last 20 years have also seen the rise of technology that overcomes the weaknesses of those technologies listed above. For example, intelligent character recognition (ICR) software has come along to fill the need for a tool that reads hand-printed notes. Previously, there was no choice but to accept that it would be up to a member of your organization’s staff to review any forms or documents that came in filled out by hand.

Now is the time to overcome the weaknesses of our current tools. While the capture tools listed above work well at what they do and have many uses, their focus is on pulling out data, and not on what to do next. To truly overcome the rising tide of information, data capture solutions need to be smarter.

Intelligent data capture: Make your data work for you

accessing data

The latest and – biggest – boon in the capture world has come in the form of intelligent capture technology. By taking the tools mentioned above and combining them with automation and artificial intelligence, these solutions – like Brainware – capture and sort incoming paper and electronic documents; accurately extract and verify the information they contain; and integrate with your other core business applications to update them and kick off organizational processes.

Intelligent capture doesn’t stop at reading data. It employs advanced technology to drive higher accuracy through each step of the process – increasing the level of automation and reducing human touch points even further. Like the human mind, intelligent capture tools use pattern recognition – not templates – to recognize and interpret information on page.

Because of this, the tools learn over time, becoming more efficient and requiring less feedback from staff.

And, unlike other capture tools, intelligent capture doesn’t require information to be perfect. The tool can understand when information is misspelled or slightly changed on incoming content and still make matches to core business systems. In the past, that kind of work would be entirely up to a person to find and correct.

To take control of the information chaos that many of us find ourselves in every day, capture technology need to be smarter. It shouldn’t only be able to read the documents that come into our organizations – it needs to understand those documents and know what to do with the information they contain. That’s the best way to not only meet today’s needs, but prepare for the future.

After all, the best way to drive efficiency is at the front end of a process. And for most processes, that means data capture – the intelligent kind.

Danielle Simer

Danielle Simer

Danielle Simer is a marketing portfolio manager at Hyland. Her mission is to share best practices and evangelize the power of enterprise content management (ECM) as a tool to automate... read more about: Danielle Simer

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