Stop letting manual document processing hold your productivity back. Enterprises handle an ever-increasing number of documents each day. And ever since the late Charles Geschke first introduced the PDF in 1982, an increasing portion of those documents are digital – yet they are still being processed manually. These documents – in the form of images, PDFs, Word and Excel documents, among others – are manually processed by humans, and the relevant data is then manually entered into the application systems for storage and future retrieval processes.
This is time-consuming and not cost-effective, among other challenges. Organizations need a new approach that involves automation and machine learning to improve the process – and ultimately improve business operations.
Understanding the manual document processing challenges
Relying entirely on human efforts to process documents and analyze information leads to longer cycle times, errors and increased costs. Some industries, particularly healthcare, are still wrestling with loads of paper-based physical documents, which introduces a host of inefficiencies.
Even with digital documents, however, many organizations are still using manual processing for these – and one of the biggest problems with manual processing (be it of physical or digital assets) is that introduces human error. Every time a human has to copy information from one place to another, there’s an opportunity for error. At best, the error is an administrative nuisance; at worst, it can have real consequences on the output. Think about the case of a healthcare organization, for instance, where an error can have a dangerous impact on a patient’s care.
Manual processes also hamper productivity. Many organizations have developed ad-hoc and unstructured processes to manage various types of documents, and it can be challenging to then connect these to other business processes and systems.
In addition, the human element reduces collaboration and correlation of data. There are times when users must make business decisions; providing the right information to the right users at the right time helps them to make better decisions. Often, data is fragmented across distributed systems and users are siloed. Providing real-time collaboration helps users become very productive by eliminating choke points in business process.
How AI/ML fits in
The right application of automation can help an organization digitize the entire document processing workflow across business processes by eliminating touchpoints that require manual intervention. But it’s not just about applying automation; this automation also needs to be intelligent.
An estimated 80% or more of the data that businesses create is “dark data,” meaning it’s locked in all those documents. So, it’s not enough to just automate the processing – an organization also needs intelligent capture to understand and turn unstructured and semi-structured data into a structured format. The category of intelligent document processing (IDP) is rapidly emerging as businesses seek new ways to extract data from all of the documents driving their business –insurance claims, purchase orders, invoices and so on.
IDP is a digitized document processing solution that uses AI technologies like machine learning (ML), Natural Language Processing (NLP) and fuzzy logic to process documents. It can intelligently classify, capture and extract all data from documents entering the workflow – and this information can then be organized according to business need.
Understanding what sets IDP apart
IDP is about more than merely applying AI and automation blindly. And it’s different than just optical character recognition (OCR). It’s about the true intelligence of the solution. As mentioned above, it’s about using these new and emerging technologies to capture, classify and extract the most difficult-to-automate data.
However, true IDP is actually quite difficult to achieve, and not all solutions are created equal. With a high-quality solution, an organization can strive for a near zero-touch system, one in which human touch isn’t required for every transaction but is only needed by exception.
It’s also important to understand that IDP isn’t about eliminating the need for people – it’s about giving people a tool to do their job better and more effectively without getting bogged down in inefficient processes.
Transform your process
Relying entirely on human efforts to process documents and analyze their information leads to longer cycle times, errors, increase in costs and hampered productivity. The way documents are handled shouldn’t hold your business back. New technologies are making it easier for businesses to overcome many challenges, including those related to manual document processing.
In fact, according to Gartner, by 2025, half of business-to-business invoices worldwide will be processed and paid without manual intervention, and by 2030, 80% of B2B invoices worldwide will be transmitted digitally. This is possible today with the right combination of AI capabilities (including NLP, ML and fuzzy logic) applied the right way. Such solutions not only facilitate document processing across the enterprise but reduce costs, establish a competitive advantage and mitigate risks by making business processes more resilient to disruptions. It’s time to stop letting work get in the way of work and start looking to transform how documents are processed.
Written by Karan Yaramada.
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