In Part 2 of our three-part series on the 2013 document capture trends survey conducted by Brousseau & Associates in conjunction with document automation solutions provider ibml, we will outline why scan and capture technology is generally being deployed at the wrong end of the business process. The study points out that many scan and capture deployments focus on the scan-to-archive technique, which takes place at the end of the process. While an improvement over manual invoice processing, it does not achieve true invoice automation because it occurs at the end of the payables process and, as a result, misses the opportunity to eliminate most manual data entry.

Two in three organizations that responded to the survey indicated they are capturing a higher percentage of data now via the scan-to-archive procedure than they were two years ago, and the same percentage expects to do an even greater volume of scan-to-archive capture by 2015. Again, we applaud the decision to reduce paper by archiving documents via scanning technology, but scan-to-archive doesn’t help organizations achieve 100 percent electronic invoice data for their accounts payable (AP) processing because it merely provides a scanned document at the end of the process.

We agree with the observation made by one of the study’s authors. “Scan-to-archive used to be the primary imaging technique, particularly for applications like AP,” Mark Brousseau, president of Brousseau & Associates, told ECM Connection. “Nowadays, front-end capture is becoming the norm. Organizations are demanding that data be captured from images and applied to downstream systems and workflows.”

Indeed, front-end capture, which entails scanning a document at the beginning of the process so that it is available at any time, with optical character recognition (OCR) is the most effective way to achieve AP automation. OCR allows businesses to practically eliminate manual data entry in their purchase to pay process. Freed of the tedious responsibility of manually entering data, employees can focus on quickly handling exceptions and taking available discounts. Using this approach dramatically reduces lost or missing documents and speeds the process, because approvers can access, approve and code invoice payments often from anywhere, including mobile devices.

In the survey, roughly two of three respondents cited increased pressure to reduce costs as the No. 1 document capture challenge they faced. OCR certainly has the capability to reduce costs, if you choose the right OCR vendor. Consider using front-end capture with OCR to scan your documents at the beginning of the cycle and to use the data and images for an automated workflow process.  You’ll notice a significant increase in the efficiency of your AP process.

In our third and final entry on the findings of this survey, we will discuss how companies can evaluate their investment decision on scanning and OCR and whether it makes sense to own that function or outsource it to a SaaS provider.

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