Document Digitization 101: A Complete Guide on How to Automate

Learn more about what document digitization is and how AI technologies like OCR, ML, and LLM have transformed document digitizati

 min. read
May 28, 2024
Document Digitization 101: A Complete Guide on How to Automate

So many basic business operations come down to paperwork and document management. Storing and keeping track of everything correctly is vital for preventing errors or workflow delays, but it can also be incredibly tedious.

That’s why an automated document digitization process can be such a game-changer for businesses. In this guide, we’ll break down everything from what document digitization is to the benefits it provides, how to implement it, and the use cases we’ve seen it best applied.

Filing and storing endless paper documents may be how offices used to run, but it certainly doesn’t need to be the way forward.

In document management, document digitization simply refers to the process of scanning paper documents and creating digital versions of the paper records. By doing so, valuable information is captured, and the document saved to a central repository where it can be easily accessed, searched, and shared. The process becomes more than simply converting paper documents into digital formats with the advancement of AI technologies.

At FormX, we leverage several AI technologies such as OCR, ML, and LLM to level up the digitization process and turn scanned images or PDF files into structured data that can be understood by computers. This way not only ends the need to keep paper copies of documents on hand, it also significantly improves the overall workflow and productivity of a business.

Document scanning and digitization streamline some of the most central administrative tasks in a business and in doing so, offer major advantages to work operations. Let’s take a closer look:

Optimize Operational Efficiency

Sudden, large volumes of documents can stall even the best-run businesses. Papers pile up, offices get overwhelmed and before anyone’s even been able to breathe, work has fallen behind.

Automating digitization of documents removes this stress entirely by making it easier to process large quantities of data. It makes things faster and simpler to manage and ultimately, reduces operational costs and saves businesses time to be spent on more productive work.

Shifting this one key workflow has a ripple effect across all other operations relying on it so that everything can run more smoothly, and with less strain on company resources.

Save Time and Cost

Because document digitization is an automated process, it removes the need for the work to be performed manually. The right algorithm and extraction tool can empower companies to run their operations faster and more accurately than ever, all without wasting precious employee time.

Reducing manual data entry doesn’t just save money by requiring less labor, the level of accuracy that automation provides instead also means that money isn’t lost to costly errors or misplaced paperwork. The digitization of documents allows companies to do more for less and with the added assurance that important data isn’t being missed.

Modernize Your Data

Business data is like fine wine, the more years you have, the better the value. Looking back on accumulated data is one of the best ways for businesses to track growth and see the full picture of a company.

That said, old data will sometimes be out of sync with the times in terms of what the current formats are for data analysis. It may very well be stored in decades-old file cabinets, gathering dust when it could be offering insight.

Document digitization software can help scan paper documents and turn them into structured data so that its usable for today’s analytics. Software like FormX can collect and organize data from PDFs and return the extracted data in structured formats like JSON. That way it’s ready to be used and processed further, and the value of that accumulated data isn’t wasted.

One of the things that most often stops businesses from modernizing their data and switching over to document digitization is concern about how to implement it. In this section we’ll go through each aspect of digitizing documents and how to incorporate it into a business’s workflow for the best results:

Document digitization is most effective at helping businesses reach their objectives if those goals are clear from the start. Analyze your organization’s current situation and identify the areas where document digitization would be most beneficial.

Any aspect of workflow that is being slowed by extensive document processing will likely benefit but what documents exactly need to be managed is often business specific. Hone in on what exactly needs to be improved and from there, align it with the necessary document digitization technology.

That way the technology matches your goals, not the other way around. Digitizing documents should always be there to support your objectives, not hinder them.

Once a team can see the full benefits of digitizing documents, it’s easy to get carried away and try to automate everything at once. As well-meaning as this enthusiasm is, it’s often too much transformation too soon.

Instead, we’d recommend starting smaller and focusing attention on the processes that are most beneficial to change first and where you can reap the benefits quickly. Developing a roadmap with a clear priority list of what to automate and when can help ensure that you reach your automation goals in a way that is manageable and sustainable.

Automation, even done on smaller scales, can improve much more than people expect. Seeing that in action first, before expanding document digitization, can help ensure a smooth rollout that leverages all the best features of this technology.

On that note, staff also need time to adjust to document scanning and digitization. Make sure to have in-depth communication and training to help break down any barriers that employees may have to this new approach.

Utilizing document digitization technologies won’t replace human input. Instead, these technologies can support what employees do to improve the accuracy of their output. It still requires staff to manage and as such, it’s important that they’re included in the planning for its implementation.

Step-by-step discussions on how document digitization operates and how it will impact daily tasks help to mitigate resistance and ensure that staff feel more confident in the changes taking place. As a result, the transition is accelerated, and the company can benefit from the changes far quicker than if staff weren’t considered in the process.

Once your team is all on board, you can start implementing methods of automation. As you start to scan and extract data, you’ll be able to see just how transformative this technology can be and may very well see a ripple effect of improved efficiency simply by digitizing documents at key workflow points.

Even the best technology will require adjustments as it’s rolled out. To ensure a successful transformation to document digitization, organizations need to monitor progress and be ready to make changes. Digitizing documents is a process rather than a static list of tasks and as such, will require tweaking as it comes into full use.

In the early stages, make sure to check that documents are being captured accurately and stored properly for further usage. Software and processes may need to be updated to suit the changes; therefore, finding a solution with regular updates and enough flexibility is key to successful digitization.

Throughout the transformation, the team driving the process needs to check outcomes and be in constant communication with frontline employees to get first-hand insights and feedback. This information is crucial for helping to ensure that document digitization delivers the industry-leading outcomes that you need to put your organization ahead of the competition.

Digitizing documents can benefit businesses across multiple industries and each one will have its own variety of documents to be digitized in order to facilitate specific processes requiring data inputs. Below are some areas where we’ve seen the implementation benefit organizations time and time again:

The Public Sector

The public sector sees some of the highest rates of document processing thanks to business applications, extensive forms, etc. All this information must be handled quickly and accurately or it can hold up vital tasks and systems.

PDF parsers are a type of document digitization tool that the public sector tends to benefit from greatly. It provides a far more precise way of extracting data from documents than manual processes and saves employees from having to perform tedious, repetitive tasks all day. It also speeds up application processes which means that public sector staff can more easily stay on top of their workload and there’s less backlog and delay for those relying on them.

FormX can be used to automate the digitization of business certificates, IDs, and plenty of other application materials that the public sector is faced with.

Finance and Accounting

The way that document digitization has helped most in banks and financial institutions is by automating the Know Your Customer (KYC) process. Used to analyze credit reports, investment portfolios, income verification, and deriving accurate insights about customers, the process usually involves extensive customer data that has to be sorted through.

Data parsing helps finance and accounting firms scrape through everything from customer IDs to proof of residence documents in a fraction of the time it would have taken to do manually and with far greater accuracy.

Retail and Wholesale

Our FormX document scanning and digitization also extends to retail and wholesale use. The data parsers we offer automate data retrieval from images of receipts stored in PDFs so that retailers can better use that data to inform marketing campaigns, and product launches, and to personalize marketing with customers based on their buying trends.

Automating data extraction from receipts also reduces the manual labor involved in calculating taxes, discounts, and other operations related to a sale. By using the automated extraction of PDFs, the entire process can be completed in minutes instead of hours.

The same applies to invoice processing and purchase orders, both of which tend to be quite time-sensitive. There’s nothing more frustrating than a payment or delivery being delayed because of administrative issues. Thankfully, digitizing documents helps prevent that from occurring.

FormX leverages AI technologies such as OCR, ML, and LLM to help businesses across multiple different industries automate document digitization and in turn, improve everything from workflow efficiency to data management.

All kinds of documents, regardless of the layouts, can be processed automatically with our extractors which can be trained with new samples and without any coding required.

Contact us to learn more about FormX and how your first step of document digitization can begin.