OCR to Better Business Processes

By Joe Budelli posted 11-10-2010 16:51


How can OCR be used to improve business processes? Let me count the ways…actually, that count could fill volumes and is far too much for any single blog post.  Let me tell you about seven ways that OCR can be used in business transaction. 

There are multiple functions within the workplace that can benefit from OCR yet many of them have not been implemented because organizations are either unaware that something can be done or view OCR as being too hard. It always amazes me when I meet with an organization that hasn’t jumped on the OCR bandwagon. OCR streamlines processes, expedites transactions, saves money and creates a more efficient workflow.  Who wouldn’t want that?

Take human resources for example. Think about the time it takes for your human resources department to correct an agreement, edit a manuscript, save a contract, or update a hiring pamphlet by recreating or re-typing an old document. Retyping entire documents or parts of a document is time consuming. Now think about how much time and effort would be saved if they could scan the paper documents, convert them to an easily editable text format, and make the changes directly into the existing document.

Who out there works at an organization that creates hundreds (if not thousands) of presentations, reports and proposals each year? Why not utilize OCR to electronically pull tidbits of information for these reports from other sources like internet downloads, printed documents, magazine or newspaper articles, old contracts, etc.? That sounds more efficient than retyping to me!

What about digital archives? In today’s business environment, it is essential to have digital copies of key documents. But let’s be honest, simple scans are not enough. Archives must be searchable so that you can easily find the documents you need later. OCR software typically offers a variety of saving options that are ideal for legal materials, news summaries, research reports and other key documents. 

Financial Data, you ask? Some OCR software also provides a great tool for tables and spreadsheets. Your finance directors can easily process and extract the necessary information from different financial and statistic documents such as pricelists, budget reports or surveys. Plus, current OCR solutions also export data into Excel for easy editing or recalculation.

Then there is that whole “lost in translation” thing. With email, social media, and other forms of communication having evolved significantly in the past few years, the boundaries between countries and languages are smaller than ever. As a result, many companies are producing documents for use in multi-language environments. Translation and dictionary software help facilitate the process, but documentation must be provided in easy-to-read text that can be inserted into databases. You can use OCR to pull necessary information from scans or PDF files to be sent for translation, or scan a full article and perform OCR before inserting it into translation software for easy reading.

Now my favorite part: sales and marketing! What if you need to update last year’s marketing brochure with new statistics? Or you found an old pamphlet with interesting data or text that would resonate in a piece you’re working on now?  Your marketing team can use OCR to easily extract the text and make it usable today.

On the sales side of things, mobile capture certainly comes into play. With the click of a button, your sales force can use mobile OCR to get the documentation and fulfillment process moving. Why take them away from customers for hours to file paperwork, copy information into company databases or create order fulfillment requests?

The business processes I outlined above are just the tip of the iceberg. What other ways can you think of?

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