Information capture: from document capture to omnichannel capture

ScanningIn the online information management guide on our site we look at the importance of the why, what and where of information and some sources of data and information organizations have and capture. From traditional document capture and automatically generated information to the data we obtain by connecting with third party providers.

How data/information enters the business and how it is generated within the ecosystem of the business has changed the ways we we look at information capture. This goes hand in hand with the explosion of data sources, volumes and formats, the increasing focus on the value of ALL information (beyond traditional silos) and thus the move towards a holistic Enterprise Information Management approach.

Document capture and information input: human sources and application-created input

Capture and input - source AIIM
Capture and input – source AIIM

Traditionally, information capture (mainly document capture) was predominantly looked upon from an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and document management perspective. This is still a big part of the overall information capture equation and is subject to evolutions as such too. One example: the use of mobile devices for (professional) document capture has led to the rise of mobile capture.

In the ECM approach as depicted in AIIM’s ECM framework, capture – or the input side of the information management reality – was divided in two “forms” of information entering the organization:

  1. Human-created information, where you among others find paper documents (scanning) and an increasing number of mainly unstructured information in multiple formats and from multiple sources (email, social media, SMS, rich media, forms etc.).
  2. Application-created information, including information in and from ERP systems and a range of information-intensive applications with their various structures and ‘languages’ (for instance, XML).

Information capture beyond paper: the multiple ways to acquire information

In line with the overall multichannel reality, the emergence of ever more information sources/formats and the evolutions in the market of vendors starting to look at capture beyond paper (which remains a key challenge), we are increasingly talking about multichannel capture. It is one of the key evolutions in capture and even in ECM and information management.

The term is maybe not the best possible one (some say omnichannel capture) as it risks focusing too much on the channels via which information and data is captured. At least as important, however, are the sources (a channel is not a source), the formats and the types (variety) – with unstructured data being the predominant one (and an umbrella term).

One of the many companies seeing the multichannel capture evolutions was Forrester. The company analyzed the market of multichannel capture vendors in 2012 in a “new” so-called Forrester Wave report. Authors Alan Weintraub and Craig Le Clair described the evolutions well in the introduction (the report is available via multiple vendors who are cited in it – some uploaded the PDF, some such as EMC uploaded it on SlideShare – we embedded it below).

Capture has extended beyond the single dimension of paper scanning in one or two primary locations to become the multichannel, distributed onramp for acquiring information“, the authors wrote. We couldn’t say it any better.

Next, they summarized some of the evolutions such as the incorporation of advanced analytics in capture, obviously mobile, a stronger integration with enterprise production platforms and the incorporation of BPM and case management for the coming years. These evolutions are indeed part of what we’ve seen happening the last few years and what will continue for several years to come, along with a few new phenomena which we’ll describe later.

The technological evolutions for information capture: from cloud to mobile and Internet of Things

As the change of thinking and working (in practice and in the vendor space) regarding capture is among the key topics in the ECM industry today, Forrester obviously isn’t the only one to cover it.

Harvey Spencer, who runs Harvey Spencer Associates and is a capture industry veteran, for instance, calls it Capture 2.0 (omni-channel capture).

AIIM, the association of information professionals refers to content analytics, mobile, the cloud and collaborative technologies (the so-called MACC stack) as game changers in Enterprise Content Management. Cloud is also, on top of the already mentioned mobile and analytics, an important evolution we see in the capture space (and takes center stage in Harvey Spencer’s Capture 2.0 story).

And then there is the Internet of Things that will not only (and in fact, already does) have a significant impact on Enterprise Information Management overall but also opens up new opportunities for capture, even for document scanning.

Segmenting capture: three core use cases

Before looking deeper at these various evolutions, let’s go back to the ways capture is split into various types and/or segments. The mentioned “The Forrester Wave™: Multichannel Capture, Q3 2012” report (see below), divided the capture market into three segments which are not related with three key use cases. There are really MANY use cases (vertical, horizontal, combined,…) to look at capture as each business, division, process, application, task and ecosystem is different but the three segments of Forrester describe the overarching categories pretty well.

Batch capture

The production capture or batch capture segment remains an important one, even if it is changing as well (we see more hybrid approaches, also in the mailroom, which typically is an important part of this batch capture segment and where there are evolutions towards digital mailrooms). So, although batch or production capture certainly still has its role and place and is often chosen in very demanding and centralized scanning environments, it is changing. Production capture is mainly about document capture.

Distributed capture

The on-demand and point-of-service capture segments is where we see a lot of evolutions happening and growth happening for multiple reasons, certainly in document capture. This on-demand and point-of-service segment is where we find the so-called transactional and decentralized/distributed document capture approach, as opposed to the centralized capture model that plays a bigger role in production capture. The increasing use of transactional or distributed models goes hand in hand with changing business priorities, decentralization of organizations and processes as such and the technological evolutions, to name a few.

Highly specific capture

Application-specific capture with a focus on specialized processes is, as the name indicates very specific. We’ll soon cover all three of them through numerous typical use cases and processes and at the same time dive deeper into production capture, transactional capture and hybrid approaches with a look at the role of the cloud, mobile, IoT and other technological evolutions.

Document capture and document management

Document capture occurs through several technologies of which document imaging (scanning) refers to paper documents. Of course the information obtained through imaging and techniques to identify and digitize the needed information and classify it, is connected to a system (CRM, ECM, SharePoint etc.) or process/person to do something with it.

This is where, for instance, document management comes in. Although it’s often seen as an integral part of ECM (as are web content management, records management, BPM and even image processing applications as such), document management differs somewhat of content management in the strict sense.

Document management essentially refers to the activities of capture, storage and retrievals of documents, regardless whether these documents are electronic or come in the shape of paper. And of course both don’t stand on themselves in most cases. If you get a paper document it is probably linked to electronic documents and records depending of the overall context within which the paper document fits (e.g. a claim, a legal case, an account opening, customer onboarding overall, an invoice etc.).

Document management - Shutterstock
Document management – Shutterstock

Document management is one of those information management activities businesses constantly are dealing with. We get mails, letters and forms the whole time, as we receive other information carriers and information as such. While it’s probably not the most sexy aspect of what we do, it’s crucial and we do it constantly, even if we have no (electronic) document management system (think about how we file documents manually in our private lives). When using an (electronic) document management system, it simply becomes easier to manage it all in many aspects and for many purposes, ranging from legal obligations to finding and sharing the information in the electronic document management system. And of course these systems in turn can be connected with other systems, processes and workflows.

To wrap up, note that the input of information is not just about capture but also – increasingly – about automatically generated data and information through a myriad of new technologies and information processes with a multiplication of touchpoints (e.g. Internet of Things), APIs, analytics and algorithmic/cognitive computing processes (artificial intelligence).

The key takeaway for these various use cases and the various segments (and which approach to choose), however, as always is and will be most of all about the individual business context in the broadest sense.

In the meantime, check out the Forrester paper below with thanks to EMC.

Top image purchased under license from Shutterstock