Four Benefits of Applying AI-Led Automation to Document Processing

4 min read

This post explores four essential benefits of applying AI-led automation to eliminate manual document processing and introduces a new and innovative solution: IBM Automation Document Processing.

Digital automation can move information almost instantaneously — until it meets a document. It’s in that moment, millions of times per day, when manual document processing down-throttles the pace of digital to analog-speed. But, we can’t avoid them. Documents transfer essential information between people and between people and businesses. So how do we keep moving at digital speed when documents require so much manual processing?

Getting to the root cause

Let’s face it, processing information from documents can often be tedious, mentally grueling work. Not only is it monotonous and error prone, but the volume of documents seems to be growing exponentially. Demand for increased regulatory transparency and accountability is driving creation of evermore documents that require manual processing. With an estimated cost of $148 per lost record, any given business document represents a lot of value and risk. [1]

That brings us to document formats, like the Portable Document Format (PDF) pioneered by Adobe in the 1990s. PDFs are one of, if not the most common document formats used for business purposes, with tens of billions of new PDF documents created each year. [2] One estimate reveals that in 2015, there may have been more than 2.5 trillion PDFs in the world. [3] It seems reasonable that by now, we’ve surpassed 3 trillion PDFs.

Like the documents they represent, PDFs are really important, but they require a lot of manual work to process. We see two root causes to this problem:

  1. The tools used to create digital documents apply PDF technical standards inconsistently, making them highly variable with only one way to determine their context — having a human read them.
  2. Applications that create PDFs are so powerful and pervasive that anyone can access them, leading to massive proliferation and distribution of unpredictable, hard-to-process digital documents.

Document processing needs more intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) has come a long way in recent years. New tools that use “deep learning” are beginning to mimic the thinking of a human brain. They can identify valid contextual patterns to gain an authentic understanding of unstructured information, like the contents of a document. AI with deep learning has enabled a leap forward in processing complex information sources, such as non-standard PDFs and similar document formats. This heightened level of intelligence, combined with digital automation capabilities, can unlock several enterprise benefits. 

Four essential reasons AI-led automation is essential to document processing

Applying deep learning’s neural networks and the scalable processing power of the cloud, AI-led automation tools are poised to close the information gap between people, documents, and machines. This new power can deliver four essential benefits to workers and their enterprises:

1. Faster return on investment

AI-led automation document processing tools can be set up, configured, and trained in days or weeks (rather than months or years). No-code document modeling saves time otherwise spent potentially creating hundreds of document templates, granular scripted rules, and information locators. With a lower total cost of ownership, enterprises can apply automated document processing to a wide range of documents to realize ROI faster compared to traditional tools.

2. Improved operational flexibility

AI with deep learning enables rapid document modeling and training so that new, never-processed documents can be quickly added to the document processing system. And, with reduced lead times, enterprises can respond quickly to new opportunities by creating new document processing applications without increasing staffing. No-code modeling enables non-specialized workers to quickly train and manage the system, further reducing demand for highly skilled technical staff.

3. Faster operational responsiveness and compliance transparency

Up until now, most AI services for document processing were available as API services that simply accepted documents and returned results in a text file. AI-led automation can now support “human-in-the-loop” validation that delivers document classification and extraction results to the person submitting the document. This enables fast and responsive information verification and correction in near-real-time. Front-line workers can quickly make corrections or request additional information while collaborating with customers, partners, or other external stakeholders. This saves time and ensures better data accuracy and transparency to everyone involved in a business process.

4. Digital transformation acceleration

Many enterprises are struggling to gain traction in their digital transformation journey, with an estimated $900B of investment going to waste in 2018. [4] Insufficient access to operational data — much of it stored in documents — is a critical barrier to sustainable transformation. By automating document processing, enterprises can not only lower their cost threshold, but also power-up automated workflows and systems with a wide source of valuable data. The information within these newly processed documents as well as data gathered about how the documents are handled can yield important insights for further process refinement and improvements in operational performance.

Increase the value of information

How do you take advantage of all this new and relevant information once you automate document processing? Today, IBM has announced a new capability for the IBM Cloud Pak® for Automation that does just that. IBM Automation Document Processing is a low-code solution that uses AI with deep learning to automatically classify and extract information from documents. It provides an integrated verification and validation workflow and no-code system training for rapid design, configuration, and deployment.

Learn more about eliminating manual document processing from your company by registering for the webcast: “How to Improve Document Processing Without Sacrificing Accuracy”  

Read the detailed IBM Automation Document Processing post on the Digital Business Automation Community blog.

[1] https://www.ibm.com/downloads/cas/861MNWN2#page=3

[2] https://www.pdfa.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/1330_Johnson.pdf

[3] https://itextpdf.com/en/blog/technical-notes/do-you-know-how-many-pdf-documents-exist-world

[4] https://hbr.org/2019/03/digital-transformation-is-not-about-technology

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