Many organizations today embrace optical character recognition (OCR) technology, and for many different reasons. First, and most obvious, many companies use OCR solutions “as designed” – to give themselves a better way to convert content and improve efforts related to speed, accuracy and search.
On the technical side, many developers look to add OCR and imaging functionality to their own applications or technology, either to augment their capabilities or to save valuable resources. For example, we recently highlighted the case where a leading software company used OCR to add powerful new capabilities to its own software after determining that it would take too much time, effort and headcount to develop similar technology. In turn, this helped the company significantly improve its product, speed time to market, and provide a better solution to its own customers. Instant competitive advantage.
Many other companies use OCR in more innovative ways, for example to improve data loss prevention (DLP) and security processes. In this case, organizations make content contextually aware and apply business rules to converted content to ensure sensitive information isn’t exposed outside of the company or institution.
All of these are great examples of OCR, but they are not the only ones. This article will take a closer look at two additional business processes today’s innovators are improving with OCR.
First: What is OCR?
OCR stands for “optical character recognition,” which is the mechanical or electronic conversion of text. This text can be typed or handwritten or taken from a scanned document, image, graphic or even a photo. The benefit is the OCR technology quickly and accurately converts text into a format that can be easily edited, stored, searched or used in support of business processes or workflows.
Additionally, OCR solutions come in different “sizes” to give individuals, teams and enterprise businesses exactly the functionality they need. This can range from desktop applications to software with more advanced business features to server-based solutions capable of converting millions of documents automatically to software development kits (SDKs) that help developers add OCR capabilities to their own applications. All of this gives users the fastest, most precise way to convert paper documents, PDF files and many other formats into documents that can be edited, searched and stored.
New uses cases – and advantages – for OCR
Beyond the examples mentioned above, new use cases for OCR are emerging.
For example, many companies need to convert paper-based estimates and invoices to text so that the underlying data can be used to generate POs, financial reports or be processed as invoice. Normally, these documents come in a variety of document types – Word, Excel, PDF, even images – and in many different formats. This makes it difficult for employees to manually enter this information into existing systems and often leads to wasted time and effort, and too many mistakes.
Additionally, many companies want to do more with paper receipts. These can be receipts for healthcare (doctor visit or medication copays), grocery or retail receipts for market research or employees’ travel receipts for reimbursements. Here, the thinking is that this information can be valuable for a number of different purposes, and companies are interested in mining it for its full business value.
In both of these cases, OCR technology can quickly and accurately convert all of these documents into formats that can be easily edited, integrated into existing or third-party systems or searched as employees need this information later. All of this helps save time, increase productivity and empower team members to focus on higher-value initiatives.