The Role of OCR and Other Document Reading Technologies in ECM

The Role of OCR and Other Document Reading Technologies in ECM
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According to an IDC report, data professionals waste about 30% of their time as they cannot find, protect, or prepare data. Moreover, based on a study by McKinsey Global Institute, a worker needs about 19% of a workday to track down information to complete tasks.   

In this day and age, where computers have become an integral part of a business or an organization’s workflow, we cannot denythere is no doubt that processing information requires an electronic managing system to improve workers’ efficiency and productivity. 

Today, most companies are capitalizing on content management and document management systems to reduce paper printouts and make information more accessible. Digitizing documents for easy search, editing, or access has become a norm for most business operations. 

Optical character recognition (OCR) is a widely-used technology for enterprise content management (ECM). To understand the role of OCR and other reading technologies in ECM, let’s dive a little deeper into their functions. Several articles in this blog expand on various topics relating to OCR technology.

what is ocr

What is OCR and How Does it Work? 

Optical character recognition, or simply OCR, is a program that allows you to converts an image of a typed, handwritten, or printed text into machine-encoded text. OCR processes a document so a computer can easily recognize and read the characters of a text. 

For instance, when you have a scanned copy of a form in PDF format, the computer can only distinguish the black prints and the white background. But after processing the form with OCR, the computer can now identify the characters, and then you can save this as a word-formatted file for easy search of information and edit data entries.  

Usually, a simple OCR system has a database that compares a character’s stroke, shape, size, pattern, or style to the standard way of writing the character. 

what is ecm

What is ECM? 

Enterprise Content Management (ECM) has a set of methods, tools, and strategies for companies and organizations to access, organize, store, and deliver vital data or information to employees, customers, and other stakeholders. It centralizes the digital data needed to support business processes and meet company demands and goals. 

ECM allows quick access to company documents, making work more efficient. Furthermore, managers can easily monitor the current status of workers’ projects. Also, aside from accessing data, the system can carry out vital business processes, such as updating a record, approving requests, and protecting classified information.  

Specific use of ECM in business processes

  • Managing contracts. With ECM’s collaborative feature, a company can ensure that the processes of reviewing, updating, and signing the contracts are on time. It can automatically notify and direct contracts to the point person.  
  • Accounts payable invoice processing. ECM can receive and handle all types of invoices, regardless of origin. Then, it can extract necessary information from the invoices and organize them within the setting of the company’s accounts payable process. Lastly, ECM can also synchronize files and information with the enterprise resource planning system. 
  • Accounts receivable invoice processing. Since the accounts receivable department processes invoices and purchase orders, there is a need to classify or organize data and turn them into searchable and accessible text. ECM provides these features to streamline processes, reduce errors, and scale down invoice processing costs. 

Five Basic Components of ECM

ECM has five basic components – capture, management, storage, preservation, and delivery. Each has a significant factor that ensures efficient document or content management. 

Capture

ECM systems rely on scanning technologies and OCR to convert paper documents into electronic formats that are searchable, accessible, and editable. This process allows data and information, such as invoices, reports, and customer information, to be organized and centralized in a system available for members of the institution or specific persons (for confidential information). 

Later, we will discuss further the role of OCR in the function of ECM and how it helps the system in managing documents or contents. 

Management

ECM uses management tools depending on the nature of the business, such as tools for collaborative efforts, workflow tools for managing business processes, and tools that simplify filing, indexing, and archiving files and documents. 

Storage

In ECM, there are three elements of the storage process. First, the system has a centralized location for files and information to be stored and managed. Second, a database tool that generates the files from the capture and management components. And lastly, it contains hardware, like cloud-based storage, optical servers, and disks, to carry software and documents to allow users to view and edit information.

Preservation and Retention

Unlike the short-term capability of the storage component, this process provides long-term storage of files, especially those that contribute to important business processes. It backs up infrequently changing data for medium- or long-term. Usually, this component helps organizations and businesses comply with government and local standard regulations. 

Delivery

This component provides the middleware required to deliver information to specific persons throughout the system. It may include the distribution of media for access through social media, websites, and printed documents. This component should have high security to prohibit unauthorized access or editing as the information is delivered from one place to another. 

How Does OCR Help in ECM

As mentioned earlier, OCR is crucial in the capture component of ECM. One of the most essential aspects of doing business is how to handle the information and organize them into a system. 

If your organization or business aims for paperless transactions, OCR can help digitize necessary documents. However, scanning the files into your document management system or ECM is not enough since you would only end up with thousands of images that you cannot update, copy/paste, or search for essential data. 

That’s where OCR can step into the picture. Here are some of the ways where OCR can help in ECM:

Instant Data Extraction

Gone are the days when employees need to type a large amount of data manually. With an ECM integrated with OCR technology, a business can extract data in an instant, which makes business processes more efficient. 

However, the quality of the image or scanned document can affect the accuracy of the converted file. For accurate OCR results, one must ensure that the image is properly aligned horizontally and vertically, or the document has no unnecessary dots and lines. You should apply some pre-processing techniques of OCR for accurate results. 

Increased Data Security

Paper documents can be misplaced, destroyed, or stolen. Businesses are strict when it comes to data leaks or missing information. Fortunately, OCR helps ECM in data security by digitizing physical documents into electronic files, which is considered a more secure storage process. 

As mentioned earlier, ECM systems also have protective features, which can make documents and information available to specific people. That way, responsibility and accountability are ensured within the organization.  

Reduced Cost

Let’s face the fact that for business to thrive, profit is an important aspect. With OCR technology in the ECM system, a company can minimize the need for data entry professionals since OCR allows instant data extraction. Furthermore, since OCR also has data correcting procedures in its post-processing, it is more cost-effective than spending time and money correcting errors manually. 

But again, note that the accuracy of the OCR results heavily relies on the quality of the scanned document or image of text. 

Moreover, since OCR helps ECM in digitizing documents, a company or organization can save on paper consumption and printing.

Backup Files

OCR technologies can back up digital documents and retrieve them in case of unfortunate circumstances. This feature is necessary for ECM since losing information, especially confidential data, can be extremely dangerous for a business. 

Moreover, with ECM’s short- or long-term storage capacity, a company can cope with frequently and infrequently changing information, as discussed earlier. This is vital in complying with laws and standard regulations. 

Improves Customer Service

Quick data accessibility can be a key to happy customers. Answering inquiries regarding company or customer information can be faster with OCR in the ECM system. This would help process requests, orders, payments, and other transactions efficiently and accurately. 

Aside from customers, OCR also helps employees to be productive. Data entry can be a repetitive task, and human errors are inevitable. With OCR, employees can focus on more important tasks that can give more benefits to the company’s goals and targets. 

Conclusion

Optical character recognition is a modern technology that helps enterprise content management systems in making workflow more efficient and employees more productive. OCR is an integral part of the capture component of ECM. It allows scanned copies of printed, typed, or written text to be read by a computer – which makes the data easy to search or edit whenever necessary. 

ECM systems rely on OCR technologies to allow data and information to be available in a system where people can easily manage the documents. It permits collaboration and effortless indexing or filing of documents and relevant information. 

Establishing OCR in ECM systems results in faster data extraction, increased data security, reduced data entry and material costs, and safe backup of documents. In this age of technology, OCR can help streamline your business’s document management. 

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