For more than two decades, businesses have attempted, not particularly successfully, to gain control of the vast volumes of documents they routinely create, process, and store. But traditional document capture systems are costly and cumbersome — and take months to install with the help of experts. Even then, they’re limited in functionality.
Today, a radical disruption is happening within the capture software market. A new report from Harvey Spencer Associates — InfoSource shows that today’s solutions not only capture data from documents and emails, but they can also intelligently store information in business applications, use it to make transactions, or apply analytics to the data extracted.
In a detailed analysis of the global capture software market, Harvey Spencer Associates — InfoSource found Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is dramatically shaking up the order of businesses competing for the space.
Leading RPA vendors have begun offering “intelligent capture,” which involves integrating RPA and artificial intelligence (AI) with capture capabilities to automatically feed captured data directly into workflows. Approaching document capture this way makes it easy to complete complex end-to-end business processes that previously required manual human intervention.
The report found that Automation Anywhere is leading the industry with our focus on RPA and AI combined with document capture in our IQ Bot product — making us the only vendor to provide fully integrated solutions that can be deployed easily and quickly (see Figure 1).
Automation Anywhere IQ Bot is the only AI-based RPA technology, built for business users, that can process a variety of complex documents. “Automation Anywhere’s IQ Bot provides a solution that allows users to automate the input and utilization of unstructured documents in business processes,” the report stated.
To understand how revolutionary this is, let’s review the evolution of the capture market and show how capture technology, when coupled with RPA and AI, will transform the way businesses operate.
First came optical character reader (OCR) software, which transformed paper documents into digital files. The capture industry has been witnessing changes with the advent of the first OCR technologies.
These technologies streamlined the process of manually extracting information from documents. However, as the amount of data in organizations grew, the complexities of “processing” increased exponentially as well, to include preprocessing, document classification, automated validation, and machine learning techniques.
As scanning and OCR technology improved over the years, businesses began doing better jobs of accurately transforming paper documents, faxes, computer printouts, and other materials into digital assets and placing them in business applications. Eventually, transforming unstructured and semi-structured documents and emails into digital assets became possible as well.
However, this approach raises two challenges. First, although the content has been transformed into a digital format, it typically still must be manually fed into other systems or business processes to be of use. Secondly, these systems are still large and unwieldy and require significant technical expertise to deploy, manage, and use.
Enter RPA, which excels at automating business processes. Built for business users, not technologists, this represents another piece of the capture puzzle. Traditional RPA was adept at taking structured data and automatically incorporating it into business processes. Best of all, business users could automate simple processes without involving IT experts.
By integrating RPA with AI and capture capabilities like IQ Bot does, even unstructured and semi-structured inputs can now be automatically transformed, identified, labeled, and fed into complex end-to-end business processes. This means the data can be classified, extracted, and validated using human input to improve results over time.
Let’s take an example of invoice processing, one of the most manually intensive tasks, where accounts payable professionals spend countless hours to read invoices and input data into enterprise resource planning (ERP) or customer relationship management (CRM) systems.
Today, IQ Bot combined with RPA can automatically download these invoices from an email, intelligently split a multipage invoice, capture the appropriate data inside the invoice, and make corrections based on human feedback.
After enhanced validation, the data is automatically entered into a system such as SAP, guaranteeing an unprecedented amount of speed and accuracy of the end-to-end process.
Traditional document scanner software makers are starting to focus on integrating RPA and AI into their solutions. But leading RPA vendors that have already deployed AI have a jump on them and indeed are overtaking them at a rapid pace on their own turf.
It’s this capability that has the potential to truly transform the workplace, as RPA with capture capabilities and integrated AI can finally be used to effectively tame the document deluge within businesses.
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Avi Bhagtani is senior director of product marketing, focused on artificial intelligence and cognitive automation. He has multiple years of industry experience managing global software product portfolios in software, the Internet of Things, AI, and cloud organizations.