While it may sound thoroughly modern (and it is), Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) 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.
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 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.
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 (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.
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.
Process Mining helps businesses mine and discover 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 in action: industry use cases
While Intelligent Document Processing looks good on paper, the true test is how well it works in real-world applications where content is processed to change experience-driven outcomes. Businesses across industries have successfully implemented IDP for content-centric processes, including:
- Supply Chain: accounts payable, invoice processing
- Logistics: route optimization, shipment tracking, back-office processes
- Financial Services: trade finance, mortgage loan processing, KYC compliance
- Insurance: claims management, policy administration
- Healthcare: patient registration, revenue cycle management
Case study: PepsiCo
A refreshing approach to invoice processing
The four largest European entities of PepsiCo's Imaging Technology department were bogged down in slow, error-prone, manual processes for keying invoice and credit data into SAP. Senior Imaging Department Manager Jignesh Patel and his team began seeking out an automated capture solution capable of supporting multiple languages, multiple currencies, large-volume batch processing, and complex data fields.
Our mandate was to streamline this process, so each entity could capture and verify invoice information for export into PepsiCo’s ERP system, which also meant the product would require full SAP integration. We are now engaged in creating an AP solution for the entire globe. It will be a common process that will bring the same benefits to everywhere PepsiCo has accounts payable activities.
Jignesh Patel, Senior Imaging Department Manager, PepsiCo
After implementing Intelligent Document Processing, paper invoices are scanned, identified with the correct entity, and recognized. From there, the new digital documents and data are sent to verification stations and, once verified, forwarded for approval. Finally, the data is exported in an XML file to PepsiCo's SAP ERP solution.
In its first three months, the IDP solution processed 2,000 batches, over 21,000 documents, and nearly 40,000 pages—in a mix of five languages—without issues.
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.