What Is Intelligent Document Processing, and How Does It Work?

While it may sound thoroughly modern (and it is), intelligent document processing finds its earliest roots in the development of the first optical character recognition (OCR) solutions, which did little more than convert character images into machine-encoded text.

Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) applies artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning techniques to process structured, semi-structured, and unstructured documents that enable technology to read and process content in documents like a human.

Learn more about ABBYY's low-code / no-code IDP solution

Over the years, technology evolved to incorporate more intelligent capabilities, such as natural language processing (NLP). This allowed document processing to advance beyond simple character recognition and enabled some level of comprehension of the text being converted. In spite of these advancements, for years IDP remained a siloed mailroom or BPO function, isolated from revenue-critical engagements with customers, suppliers, and employees.

Today, this legacy approach is giving way to modern intelligent document processing. While earlier solutions focused primarily on text and field data extraction, IDP encompasses the processes in which content is used as part of customer and employee experiences. It begins with a re-thinking of these processes, then targets modern, AI-based document processing "skills" to make the content immediately available and actionable exactly when and where it's needed.

What is intelligent document processing, and how is it different from legacy approaches?

What IDP is Not

In understanding what IDP is and how it benefits businesses, it's equally important to understand what it is not:

  • IDP is not just OCR or data capture. While IDP incorporates OCR and data capture technology, these are part of a larger set of capabilities that add more expert skill and decision-making to the processing of content.
  • IDP is not robotic process automation (RPA). RPA is discrete task automation within defined processes that runs on data. Since content is a source of this data, it's essential to understand the content in context before data can be extracted from it for various downstream processes. Robotic process automation cannot do this on its own and thus requires support from IDP to make skilled decisions on content.
  • IDP is not the same thing as ChatGPT. Many people think ChatGPT is the same thing as optical character recognition (OCR), but in reality, it is a natural language processing (NLP) model that uses deep learning algorithms to generate human-like text responses to user queries. ABBYY Vantage, on the other hand, is an IDP solution that uses optical character recognition (OCR) technology to extract data from various types of documents, including invoices, purchase orders, contracts, and more.

Why is intelligent document processing important?

Across all industries, businesses are facing pressure to do more—and do it faster—with fewer skilled resources. At the same time, more organizations are focusing on improving experiences for customers and employees as a key to improving revenue, margins, and retention.

Intelligent Document Processing takes unstructured documents and processes it like a human into structured data

Intelligent document processing (IDP) can deliver significant benefits on both counts. By applying document skills in a way that closely supports the way humans understand and manage content, IDP saves time and money while also reducing the risk of costly errors. From an experience perspective, employees are freed from the tedious tasks of reading and manually processing documents, while customers benefit from greater efficiency in document-based processes and decisions.

Related content: State of Intelligent Automation Report: Customer Onboarding Drivers and Pain Points

The process mining factor

Content does not exist in a vacuum—it's an integral part of the business processes that fuel the day-to-day work of organizations across industries. Because of content's role in a much bigger picture of decision-making and customer experience, simply incorporating intelligent document processing into legacy processes can yield at best limited results, mainly because the processes are not made for it. For IDP to be successful, therefore, it must be applied to optimized digital processes, and this is where process mining comes into the picture.

colleagues discussing IDP

Process Mining helps businesses mine their processes to make smart decisions about where to automate document processing. It extracts timestamp data from information systems and applies AI to build a visual model of the process from start to finish, including all deviations. Process owners become able to clearly see how content flows through the process, gaining the insights they need to identify and address inefficiencies that could hamper the success of IDP implementation.

As the basis for successful automation, process mining works in conjunction with IDP to enable businesses to

  • Understand the process and how content enables it.
  • Gain insight into how content acts as the basis for skilled decision-making within the process.
  • Determine how they should handle content to make the process work better.
  • Apply the document skills needed to optimize content processing.

IDP use case: Digitally master your data and processes

Carlsberg Group, one of the world’s leading brewery groups, was looking for an intelligent solution for its order and delivery processes to accelerate time to market and customer satisfaction.

Previously, employees were checking and entering incoming email order information manually into their system. The delivery registration process for the goods was also highly manual, with files being typed manually into SAP before the goods receipt document was generated and posted.

Carlsberg Group and ABBYY

By integrating ABBYY’s intelligent document processing solution in the delivery note scanning process, the whole registration process is now performed automatically. The process of receiving and putting away received goods and reusing vendor labels has significantly accelerated and now enables Carlsberg to have a better overview of the entire delivery process. Leveraging ABBYY’s IDP platform, Carlsberg Group digitally transformed its order and delivery processes, with valuable outcomes including:

  • Improved team productivity with 140+ hours saved per month
  • Intelligent automation with a touchless order processing rate of 92%
  • Accelerated customer deliveries, resulting in improved customer satisfaction

The future of document processing

Intelligent document processing offers businesses a host of bottom-line advantages—if it's implemented strategically as an essential participant in customer experience, and processes are built for it. By first leveraging process mining and creating a solid foundation for implementation, organizations can realize the full benefits of IDP, including reduced costs and improved efficiency, regulatory compliance, and employee and customer experiences.

ABBYY's market-leading technologies, delivered in a low-code / no-code approach, power ABBYY Vantage, the new intelligent document processing platform for the digital workforce.

Over the years, we at ABBYY have learned that customers would really like to have pre-trained skills that are ready-to-go and that they can immediately leverage. That is why we introduced ABBYY Marketplace, an online digital community where customers can download skills and other technology assets that add value to ABBYY’s intelligent document processing platform.

With Vantage, the ability to train and create your document skill models means you don’t have to be an OCR or machine learning expert. Human interaction during review feeds online learning to improve your models. And the key to scaling the solution and applying the technology across many business areas is allowing it to adapt to the different document types and variations.

Ready to accelerate digital transformation and change the way you automate document processes?

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Editorial note: This blog post was originally published on December 8, 2021, and updated on May 4, 2023, to reflect a clarified definition of what is intelligent document processing, how it differs from generative AI models such as ChatGPT, and a modern IDP use case highlighting Carlsberg Group's digital transformation journey. 

Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) Intelligent Automation Digital Transformation Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Maxime Vermeir

Senior Director of Technology Marketing

With a decade of experience in product and technology, Maxime Vermeir is an entrepreneurial professional with a passion for creating exceptional customer experiences. As a leader, he has managed global teams of innovation consultants and led large enterprises' transformation initiatives. Creating insights into new technologies and how they can drive higher customer value is a key point in Maxime’s array of Subject Matter Expertise. He is a trusted advisor and thought leader in his field, guiding market awareness for ABBYY's technologies.

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