Labelled ‘the world’s largest work-from-home experiment’, the Covid-19 crisis forced millions of employees across the globe into remote working almost overnight. Inevitably, some organizations were better prepared than others to manage this transition, and demonstrated greater resilience during the turbulent lockdown period and first wave of the pandemic.
Pre-Covid research from Gartner revealed that nearly 90 percent of senior business leaders considered digital transformation to be a top priority and key to organizational success. Despite this, just 40 percent had achieved scale with their digital initiatives. With the pandemic acting as a stress test for businesses of all shapes and sizes, organizations that were slow to embark on their digital transformation journey have unfortunately proved to be less resilient. Looking ahead to the global recovery from Covid-19, how can the digital laggards turn things around?
Embrace an intelligent approach to information capture
Most CIOs and business leaders already recognize the need to digitally transform their operations – now more than ever with the global pandemic piling pressure onto organizations in a bid for their very survival – but they’re not always sure which tools are best suited to help them deliver on this objective. In fact, in the past it has been noted that a staggering 84 percent of companies fail to achieve digital transformation.
To avoid such DX failure, companies should adopt an intelligent approach to information capture, which involves ingesting and extracting information as soon as it comes into contact with an organization to generate business-usable content that can be immediately integrated into standard business processes.
One tool that allows enterprises to do this is intelligent capture technology. When people hear the term ‘capture’, they often think of optical character recognition (OCR) solutions, but intelligent capture encompasses so much more than traditional OCR – particularly its ability to create metadata and use this to route content to the right person or system.
OCR is still part of the basic capture process, creating digital copies of documents, but the ‘intelligent’ portion occurs after documents are captured electronically. For example, an intelligent capture solution will automatically extract keywords, using this to classify documents, connect content to business processes and ensure information gets to the correct systems.
Intelligent capture can also be augmented with artificial intelligence (AI) to understand human syntax, even in unstructured data such as emails or tweets – as a full-featured AI solution will have true language processing, allowing it to correctly interpret an author’s sentiment (happy, upset, positive, or negative) and separate factual statements from opinion. An AI-enabled intelligent capture solution also allows enterprises to route information without having to re-train their system.
Ultimately, flexible, automated intelligent capture technology gets information to the users and systems that need it most in real time – and this is the foundation for successful digital transformation.
The fast lane to digital transformation
As mentioned above, AI-enabled intelligent capture offers a range of benefits that can speed up an organization’s path to digital transformation, including:
- A single point of capture: All paper and electronic documents can be transformed into business-ready content without user intervention. Information is automatically routed to the appropriate systems and users in real-time.
- Eliminates tedious tasks: Users no longer need to undertake tasks such as entering metadata. This is automatically captured allowing employees to focus on higher-value activities.
- One platform for all departments worldwide: All users and processes are supported by one system, no matter where they happen to work – meaning human resources, accounts payable and customer service teams can leverage the same solution.
- Simpler compliance and information management: Content is classified as soon as it enters an organization – whether it’s email, paper, or a PDF attachment — based on security and compliance tags, personally identifying information and geography.
With these capabilities, organizations can make better, faster decisions. For example, in the financial services industry, employees could conduct better background checks for loans based on information from both unstructured and structured data sources. For fraud detection, intelligent capture solutions can determine customer purchase patterns and locations to instantly detect anomalies.
In healthcare, intelligent capture could be used to gather all information pertaining to a particular patient and store it all in a secure, digital format, giving clinical staff instant access to the information they need. The solution could also be set to automatically apply restricted access to
sensitive information, ensuring private patient information is handled correctly.
RPA isn’t the solution
Robotic Process Automation (RPA), which uses software-based robots that boost the efficiency and accuracy of employees working with large volumes of standardized data, is currently the trendiest digital transformation technology on the market. While the term may conjure all kinds of futuristic images, the reality is much different. RPA solutions can be useful for specific applications, particularly to capture information from standardized documents, but they’re not that effective for digital transformation projects. The technology has gaps – and unlike intelligent capture, RPA has difficulty handling non-standard information such as unstructured data. RPA providers are partnering with AI and capture providers to work through these gaps, but if they require two other solutions to add on to their technology to truly achieve digital transformation – such an approach is likely to be a sub-optimal one in terms of overall cost of solution ownership and return-on-investment..
According to McKinsey, the recessions of 2007-8 taught us that companies that “accelerate out of the downturn” by moving early and decisively in a crisis do best. Ultimately, enterprises undergoing digital transformation will be better positioned to not only face adversity but make the most of the upturn in a post-pandemic world. The simplest way to achieve this goal is to automate as many processes as possible and get information to where it’s needed, quickly.
While some IT spend will inevitably be curbed in response to the pandemic’s financial blow, companies should aim to preserve and even increase investments in digital transformation initiatives that foster resilience. While RPA is great at automating simple processes, it doesn’t work well at performing more complex tasks without significant re-engineering and investment. IT leaders should therefore prioritize intelligent capture technology which is more flexible and can transition with an organization as it evolves.
While much uncertainty lies ahead, one thing is evident: Now is the time to ride the digital momentum this pandemic has created.
Sean Durkin, head of enterprise, UK & Ireland, OpenText