Intelligent Document Processing 101: Your First Step Towards Digital Transformation

Intelligent document processing combines artificial intelligence technologies to extract data from various documents and generate

 min. read
May 28, 2024
Intelligent Document Processing 101: Your First Step Towards Digital Transformation

We now have access to more data than ever as the amount of data is growing exponentially. However, a lot of business data is trapped within physical documents or unstructured formats that cannot be utilized by other software or systems for further processing. People may think of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) when talking about automating data extraction or processing; however, OCR engines simply convert images into machine-encoded texts instead of machine-readable texts. This status quo, however, was disrupted by Intelligent Document Processing.

Intelligent Document Processing (IDP), in a nutshell, extracts data from images of various documents and returns structured data pairs that can be directly used for data analysis or workflow automation. Although this might sound like a simple process, IDP incorporates a variety of AI technologies, such as OCR, NLP, etc., and other data capture technologies to help businesses automate data extraction.

In this blog post, we will be discussing:

Let’s clarify a few things before we get to the process of intelligent document processing to avoid any confusion. 

Optical Character Recognition (OCR), as the name suggests, recognizes texts in scanned documents or images and converts them into machine-encoded or editable text formats; however, OCR does not understand the content and thus fails to structure or organize the information. Let’s visualize it with an example. Below is an image of a receipt from Coyote Bar & Grill. 

We use an online OCR tool to convert this into texts and the result will look like:

Even though the information is successfully extracted from the image and converted into machine-encoded texts, the names of the products are all scrambled together and you cannot tell how much each order costs.

What makes intelligent document processing new and different from the existing data capture technologies is that intelligent document processing solutions combine different tools into a single platform. IDP leverages the power of AI technologies to not only capture and extract the information but more importantly understand the context of the data and convert it into usable formats. 

Robotic Process Automation (RPA), on the other hand, is the technology that learns, mimics, and performs processes for businesses to automate repetitive tasks. RPA and IDP are actually complementary technologies. The structured data generated by IDP can be used by RPA to automate various business processes. One example would be automating invoice processing with FormX and UiPath RPA

An infographic showing the stages, which are data capture, pre-processing, data extraction, data validation, and integration, of intelligent document processing (IDP).

Intelligent document processing essentially captures, extracts, and processes data from various documents, including receipts, business contracts, identity documents, and more. Different intelligent document processing systems will come up with different techniques to maximize the accuracy but the common stages include:

Data capture can be as simple as taking a picture of the document or scanning it with a printer. However, enterprises often need to process a significant number of documents more efficiently. To do so, the intelligent document processing solution is often connected to high definition and high-speed scanning hardware to digitize physical documents for further extraction.

The quality of the images certainly affects the accuracy of the outcomes. To maximize the accuracy, the images are optimized for lighting condition, contrast, skew correction, etc. Some of the pre-processing techniques include:

  • Binarization
  • Skew correction
  • Noise removal or reduction
  • Thinning and skeletonization

As the most essential stage of intelligent document processing, the data extraction stage involves using OCR engines to recognize the texts and machine learning models to obtain specific information, such as date, unit price, total amount, etc. 

The intelligent document processing solutions are often capable of integrating with different OCR engines and include a variety of machine learning models tailored to extract information from different documents. To increase the accuracy, these models are either pre-trained with a vast amount of samples or sometimes the users can actually increase the accuracy themselves by providing enough samples with their specific formats. 

The end results are then verified / validated to make sure that the data is indeed accurate. To do so, it goes through a series of automated or even manual checks before the end results are passed to other systems for further processing.

The final stage is to integrate the intelligent document processing system with other software, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), robotic process automation (RPA), and other software to automate different business processes. If integration is not possible, intelligent document processing solutions can also provide CSV or JSON files that can be imported by other software. 

It might take days for your staff to process piles of documents, but a powerful intelligent document processing software can do that within a few hours or even minutes. Moreover, the entire workflow will also be streamlined through integration between IDP solutions and other business software. 

By eliminating manual steps with IDP solutions, businesses can significantly improve user experience for customers or employees. For example, users will not have to fill out their personal information when they want to open a bank account. They simply have to upload an image of their identity card and the IDP solution will extract the relevant information and send it to the system. Enterprises can also automate invoice processing with IDP solutions so that their employees will not have to spend hours digitizing piles of invoices. 

Having a dedicated space to store all the physical documents before they get processed can be quite costly. Furthermore, enterprises often have to hire more staff to process the documents or outsource it to third parties. By automating document processing, businesses can reduce the office space and assign fewer people to help process the documents. 

Performing repetitive tasks can be quite draining for employees. After processing documents for hours, they are bound to make some mistakes and these mistakes might result in substantial financial losses. With IDP solutions with high accuracy, employees only have to verify the end results without having to digitize piles of documents, reducing the possibility of having human errors. 

Expedite & Automate Document Processing with FormX

Businesses across industries, such as retailers, charities, governments, caregiver services, and more, have benefited from incorporating FormX into their workflow. FormX includes a variety of preconfigured data extraction models on receipts, identity cards, business certificates, other common business documents to help enterprises automate document processing. Custom models with high extraction accuracy can also be developed upon request. Furthermore, FormX can be easily integrated with other applications to expedite and automate your business processes. 

Schedule a demo or sign up for a free trial to see how you can take your first step towards digital transformation.