Under the Hood: Recognizing the Value of OCR

under hood

As a “words guy,” I always did my darndest (sure, it’s a word) to avoid science in school. I’ve always been kind of proud to tell people that I managed to get through all of high school and college without ever having had to take Physics, Chemistry or Trigonometry. These days, of course, there’s a strong thrust to get kids to learn about STEM subjects – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. To all of that I say, “Eww.” Some of us just aren’t meant to comprehend complex subjects.

One of the really exciting things about FileSolve is that we’re experts in making seemingly complex things simple. We like to think of what we do as both essential and straightforward. We’re one of those companies that serve an important function for today’s businesses, but do so largely in the background. Our customers need us, but they don’t need to see us all the time. We realize that a lot of the technology we utilize is of the sort that you just don’t need to know a whole lot about. It’s our arena, not yours.

Then again, explaining some things can add real insight – without being complicated. I think of my father-in-law telling me what all those fancy mechanical things in my engine do. Understanding the general parameters, if not the details of a technology, can add perspective and build appreciation. Another example is those shows on ESPN that explain the physics of sports. Now if that had been a part of my high school curriculum, I might have been more enthusiastic.

The Optical Character Recognition Thingamajig Does What Now?

Optical Character Recognition – or OCR – is the technology that reads printed letters or numbers and converts it to electronic text. As a writer, I’ve used a version of the technology myself to scan a printed document and then edit it rather than re-typing the entire thing manually. Ahh, and there’s the nugget. Doing things “manually” is a recipe for mistakes and wasted time.

High cost of invoice processing

“I like to refer to OCR as ‘Artificial Intelligence,’” says FileSolve Senior Business Systems Analyst Jim Wofford. “Most people know OCR can convert scanned paper documents into text documents that provide the ability to find words/phrases and edit the document. It’s the subsequent processes that that function allow that’s really exciting from a business’s standpoint.”

So, yeah, there’s document scanning. The right OCR technology can “capture” characters on a page and hold it electronically. That’s Step One. Step Two is being able to do something with that information. Based on a series of rules/parameters/guidelines set by a user or group of users, OCR programs can capture, classify and even run reports on information. For invoice processing, that can mean being able to identify purchase order numbers, account names, prices, etc. Certain programs can even be instructed to look for certain kinds of numbers, since there will be times when a company sending a bill will change the look of their invoices. That way, even if where the PO# appears on a form changes, the program can still get the information it needs.

“It’s really amazing when you think about what it can do,” says Wofford. “When OCR is incorporated into certain software applications, it can do so much. Documents can be automatically separated, identified and indexed. I Whether you’re in accounts payable, accounts receivable, enterprise content management, or invoice processing, that’s valuable stuff.”

According to the Institute of Management and Administration’s AP Department Benchmarks and Analysis 2010, “The average cost of processing an invoice in an environment with a low level of automation can be up to 20 times greater than the cost of processing in an environment with a high level of automation.”

OCR quote

There’s no debating the value of OCR utilization, especially for larger organizations. It of course speeds up the process of entering information into an AP or AR program, a content management system or enterprise content management system. Beyond that, it makes it possible to speed up other processes like paying bills, routing documents, analyzing accumulated information, and so much more.

OCR is Transformative Technology

“We’re living with technology in almost every aspect of our lives,” says Wofford. “Using OCR in a business environment is not only a logical step; it’s an indispensable one, too. FileSolve works with vendors who offer different types of OCR technology that, once implemented into a software program, can make a day-and-night difference in the way a team works. Explaining those differences is a part of what I do. Helping my clients see and understand the value of utilizing the right technology for the right process is a key part of the solution.”

ocr

This compulsion to be in a position where he can offer the best possible solution is part of Wofford’s work character. He knows from experience that easy, straightforward and effective solutions are always what clients want most. “In school, when we did math homework, we always needed to show our work,” he says. “In today’s fast-paced world, clients want to know they can depend on their business partners to deliver the goods. They’re interested in the final answer. The less they have to worry about the better. In my world, the implementation of the right OCR technology for the right job is important.”

A friend of mine is really into technology of all kinds, and he’s continually amazed at just what that tech has made possible. I ‘ve even caught myself being dumbfounded by “coolness” when I catch myself sitting at a computer, multitasking. At one time, I can be chatting via IM with a friend in England, listening to a baseball game from Milwaukee and absent-mindedly playing a MMORPG (i.e., online multi-player) game in a smaller window alongside a guy from Brazil. Talk about making the world smaller!

Can you imagine what might come next? V’room, v’room!

Posted by: Eric Schwabenlender
This entry was posted in Document Scanning, Enterprise Content Management and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


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