Document processing: time for a gear change?

/ in , / by
Reading Time: 5 minutes

When faced with today’s significant challenges, resilience is key. Steve Britton, CloudTrade Director of EMEA Sales, shares here in the blog post his passion for motorsport, and explains how the verve and determination seen on the racetrack is just what is currently required by shared service centres and global business services. Not only do business leaders need to show resolve, but they must also embrace innovation to survive. He explains how the CloudTrade document-processing service enables businesses to move on from the considerable limitations of using OCR systems. The time for disruptive change is now. Do you have process resilience?

We live in challenging times: Covid-19, lockdowns, presidential elections and a faltering economy. What a year, and on top of all this we need to run our businesses to pay bills and our employees, and to deliver a return to our shareholders.

I want to talk about the challenges we face with the collection of data required to run our businesses, and how critical this is to remain competitive. Without data we can trust, how are we meant to run our businesses, pay bills accurately, process orders efficiently, and satisfy our auditors and regulators?

Why challenge the status quo?

Is this a time to batten down the hatches and weather the storm, or should we rise to the challenge and take this opportunity to embrace change and reap the rewards? In business we must innovate to remain competitive. Even more so now. We need to be resilient to the demands we face; we can’t slam the breaks on change and hope that will be enough. Now is the time to not only face the issues head on, but we must challenge the status quo if we are to succeed. Our competitors will seize the initiative if we don’t.

I am a petrol head and drove a rally car semi-professionally for a while, but children, work demands, and grey hairs have put an end to that. To satisfy my passion now I watch Formula 1 and the WRC whenever I can. Motor sport is hugely competitive and constantly challenged with new FIA regulations; the successful teams embrace change and use this to push the boundaries; they constantly innovate and hone their machines to be world class. There is no “I” in team, and indeed without all the team members working together in a coordinated but agile way, success would not happen.

What does Lewis Hamilton have in common with business leaders? 

However, as with every great team there is the ‘one’ person that brings them together: in the case of motor sport, it’s the one who pilots the car. This is the sharp end, where the rubber meets the road. The driver, confident in the design and build of the car, takes the machine to its limits, pushing the vehicle and the team to achieve that world-class status. We have all been amazed at the tenacity and sheer determination that has elevated Lewis Hamilton to the position of holding the greatest number of F1 wins ever. Many will argue that the likes of Fangio, Moss, Stewart and Senna were in a different league, and indeed their era of motor sport and car development were very different – all heroes in my book – but one thing they had was an unquenchable desire to succeed, and this required constant development of man and machine and a sheer determination to win above all odds.

This necessity for innovation and the continued drive to excellence is the same for business leaders, especially when tackling the challenges we face today. We all benefit from motorsport innovation. Consider how carbon fibres, turbo technology, electric motors and battery technology impact on our daily lives.

The document-processing story 

Shared service centres and global business services have innovated and evolved from cost centres to profit contributors. The early days of an accounts payable focus have expanded to embrace all aspects of PTP and OTC. It was simply a case of innovate and add value to survive. I remember in the early 2000s how scan-to-fiche migrated to scan-to-tape and computer-output-to-laser-disk like the HP Surestore and NAS storage. These on-premise solutions rapidly migrated to the ‘Cloud’ with all the associated benefits of free text search, unlimited storage and instant access to data. This created the ‘Big-Data’ era and the need to control data exchange and storage, supported by legislation triggered by the likes of Sarbanes Oxley and the Enron scandals, and more recently by GDPR requirements, to protect how we use the data we collect. Our businesses are managed and controlled by data. Incorrect or false data can have a devastating impact. Most data that businesses rely on is created by third parties and then has to be passed to us for processing, action and analysis.

Document processing: cost versus accuracy  

My focus for the last 21 years has been business-process automation, and specifically the digital transformation of inbound documents. These documents create the very data we rely on to manage our businesses. When I started in this industry OCR had a purpose as most documents were received as images or on paper, but OCR could never deliver 100% data accuracy and always required manual intervention. To keep the costs down, the industry moved the capture offshore to low-cost centres. Very often, however, low cost meant low accuracy. There was a choice between basic, low-cost capture with re-keying and error correction, or maintaining the FTE count onshore to ensure accuracy.

The OCR industry had to improve the extraction quality to support the offshore demand, so they bolted-on artificial intelligence and machine learning to try and compensate for these errors. After years of refinement, the core technology still relied on converting an image file using OCR. The problem is OCR systems have not been able to reach the accuracy levels required to enable end-to-end automation. With re-keying and exception management the actual cost of OCR varies enormously and can be more than $10/invoice in some circumstances. We must not forget that PO and vendor compliance are very important factors when looking to automate a process like accounts payable, but the fundamental challenge is still: the need to accurately extract the required data from the in-bound document.

New-wave digital transformation 

In recent years, the market has changed and with the migration to the cloud for billing and finance applications and the rapid move to digital submission (accelerated by Covid-19), OCR is being replaced as the demand diminishes. We are now welcoming the next wave of digital transformation for human-readable documents.

Here at CloudTrade we lead the way in converting human-readable documents to an actionable machine-readable output with 100% data accuracy supporting true touchless processing. We do not apply OCR to application-generated (digital) documents. Instead, we have developed patent-protected technology delivered via a managed SaaS model to extract and analyse the technical elements of a document. We do this without error and guarantee 100% data accuracy. The extraction is the first part of our process, the second and equally important process is to understand the content and its context, applying logic and rules to ensure the output will meet the receiving application’s specific requirements to enable touchless processing.

So, if you need to process a supplier’s invoice, customer order, shipping document, application, contract, claim etc, and if the document is electronically generated, we can process within minutes of receipt and provide an end-to-end touchless process, with guaranteed accuracy you can trust.

Business rules, data validations, content enrichment and workflow actions are all part of the service. Sender format updates and rule changes are automatically accommodated, and the service runs 24/7. We support clients across the globe and interface to multiple back-end systems (FMS/ERP/DMS etc).

CloudTrade’s document-processing service: fast, precise, different 

Our implementation and outreach programs ensure your time-to-value can be measured in days and not months. In most cases, there is no change for the sending party as existing email boxes and file-transfer protocols can be accommodated. The sender bears no extra costs (e.g. printing, scans, postage, stationery), therefore adoption is high.

We provide an innovative, rapid ROI, low-touch, fully managed SaaS service. We push the boundaries in process automation and innovation, delivering tangible value to our customers and partners. Like an F1 team, CloudTrade has a passion for success and customer excellence. What we do is different – we are a disrupter. Thanks to our hugely experienced management team, you can have the confidence in the service we deliver in the race to the top.

We welcome enquiries and will be happy to quote for any document type, language or volume. The more complex the requirement, the better – and remember you get 100% data accuracy that you can trust.

For a quick informal chat about how we can solve your data capture requirements, book 15 mins in with me.