Automated document processing may not be the most thrilling three words you’ve ever heard, but if you’re interested in improving your business processes, they may be among the most important.
Ever since the invention of writing, processing documentation has been a constant burden. In fact, the oldest writing in the world is a shopping receipt written in cuneiform on a clay tablet from over 7,000 years ago. As humanity has developed, so too has the mountain of paperwork associated with our business transactions.
Fortunately, we no longer create invoices on clay, but many businesses are still interpreting invoices with the same tools they did thousands of years ago: our eyes and brains. There is, however, a better way to pull data out of invoices and other similarly tedious documents: automated document processing.
Broadly, automated document processing refers to artificially intelligent methods of pulling data out of documents, linking that data with other relevant documents, categorizing data appropriately, and so on. It is, in essence, about replacing the monotonous data processing that humans have been doing for thousands of years.
There are plenty of reasons to offload the routine work of document processing to a machine. Chief among them is speed. Human workers just aren’t going to beat out a computer when it comes to reviewing documents and extracting relevant information. This is especially true for larger businesses generating thousands or tens of thousands of documents every day.
Saving on speed means you also save on cost. Since your experts won’t have to waste time on mundane tasks, they’ll have more time to do the activities that actually drive value in your business.
Finally, automating your document processing efforts means that you’re reducing risk. The most important tasks aren't always engaging ones; in fact, they can be some of the most trivial tasks you encounter throughout your day. The information stored in documents needs to be accurately transferred into a business’s systems or into other documentation. When a fatigued human makes an error processing this information, there can be serious consequences.
These benefits, however, are best seen in action.
In all likelihood, invoice processing is the use case for automated document processing that you’re the most familiar with — after all, invoices have been around as long as business has.
But invoice processing — verifying invoices, associating individual invoices with vendors, identifying line items, and extracting and storing data for record-keeping and analysis — is an enormously laborious task. Depending on the size of your business, it may even be impossible to do manually.
That's why many businesses have automated their invoice processing already; often, though, this simply amounts to scanning a document and, so long as the invoice arrives in an expected format, storing the data.
Particularly advanced automated document processing systems, however, are capable of scanning invoices in a variety of formats, extracting data, intelligently correlating that data to a financial system, tagging accounting codes, and more. Implementing a system such as this means that the human's role becomes that of a reviewer rather than a workhorse.
Compliance assurance is a lesser-known, though equally important, application of automated document processing. Numerous business transactions need to be reviewed before they can be carried out.
For example, investment banking trades can involve highly complicated documentation that must conform to regulations. Considering the fact that timing is critical for many of these trades, speeding up this process could be a huge win for such organizations. Similarly, many everyday banking processes include KYC (Know Your Customer) regulations, which require banks to scan IDs and verify customer backgrounds; automating these processes could vastly speed up operations.
Similar procedures are required at numerous workplaces in the finance, healthcare payor, and other industries with a heavy regulatory burden, so much so that workers don't always feel like they have time to complete the compliance process. Skipping those processes, however, can expose your business to some serious risk.
Using an automated document processing system to ensure compliance would enable a hands-off means of collecting information to complete the risk assessment process, monitor and automatically notify banking professionals of updated regulation, review legal documentation, and more.
From vendor agreements and employment contracts to SoWs, businesses deal with a wide variety of contracts every day. Though they differ in terms of form and purpose, these contracts all have one thing in common: they are binding.
Messing up an aspect of the contract process could mean that your business is on the hook for something they never really intended, could set up unrealistic expectations with your clients or employees, or cause any number of potential issues.
In fact, Gartner research found that 50% of in-house legal department's time is spent just reviewing contracts, which requires constant alertness and meticulousness. That's half of your experts' time spent cross-checking amendments, noting expiration dates, comparing the contents of one contract with that of another, related contract, and a thousand other minor tasks that eat up their days, resulting in feeling overwhelmed and, in turn, making costly errors.
Automated document processing solutions can ingest the data within contracts far more easily than a human and inform the relevant parties of when their contract is expiring, whether all stipulated clauses are being met, and more. It can also help you keep track of and take advantage of contract benefits, such as discounts for early payment.
These are a few ways that automated document processing solve some of the most time-consuming problems that businesses face. However, automated document processing assists in essentially any task where a human has to review documentation. Changing prices in response to market developments, providing price quotes, and other tasks dependent on the ingestion of data from forms, emails, and other formats — they’re all open to improvement through document processing.