Image Capture: An Evolving and Growing Market

Image capture has come a long way since Western Union transmitted its first halftone photograph in 1921. Today desktop scanners and multifunction peripheral devices (MFP) have become standard for most offices and are seen as crucial for archiving purposes. The Internet and sophisticated network systems help facilitate remote image capture, enabling businesses to capture and share documents from any location via email or web-based applications. 

Document driven industries like insurance or mortgage lending organizations now see capture as integral to business processes, rather than just a tool for archiving. Technological advancements, economic challenges, and environmental concerns are contributing to an increased demand for capture. In fact, a recently published white paper titled The Business Case for Automating Document Driven Business Processes from Kofax states that in the midst of the ongoing recession the capture industry grew 7.7 percent. It also cites the 2009-10 Worldwide Market for Document Capture Software Report as stating that by 2012, the capture market is expected to exceed $2.7 billion annually. 

It may be surprising to learn that any industry is growing in this economic climate; but when it comes to image capture the recession is a driving force in its growth. The same corporate malfeasance that depleted bank accounts and consumer confidence, created a national demand for more oversight, transparency and accountability. Between government agencies and industry watchdogs, most enterprises are now subject to increasingly rigorous regulatory legislation.

This is true across all industries; however, the majority of the scrutiny is aimed at the financial services and healthcare industries.  The healthcare debate keeps a spotlight trained on industry challenges, not the least of which are its sky-rocketing premium prices. Kofax reports that between 1999-2007 healthcare premium costs increased 114 percent and a good portion of healthcare expenses can be attributed to out-dated administrative processes, including document management.  Nearly 90 percent of patient and claims-related information is still paper-based; additionally, in order to be compliant, medical facilities need to store, manage and provide on-demand access to all of these hard copy files and with smaller budgets. Recently, the New England Journal of Medicine found that 31 percent of every dollar spent on health care goes toward administrative costs.    

Society today is losing tolerance for such wasteful and inefficient paper-intensive processes. This is driven in part by financial concerns, but environmental concerns factor in as well and have spurred demands for more green technology. We now have the digital technology and infrastructure to realize the paperless office, as well as the financial and conservational incentive. With the ability to capture and process documents efficiently using web-based systems, sophisticated scanning devices, and add-on technologies that ensure document readability, the paperless office may be closer to becoming a reality.

Image Capture Yesterday and Today – Integrating Document Capture into the Workflow

One can make a strong case that image capture can and should become an integral piece of a dynamic and interconnected digital document processing solution. Historically, document capture has been seen as separate from document workflow. When image capture became available to business, individual departments would adopt the technology without cross-department considerations. Capture was mainly used in scanning to manually-index archives; this meant that documents were being captured only at the end of the process. High-volume batch document capture on the backend became useful for indexed archives, but separated the data from the business process. Additionally, image quality has been an ongoing challenge for businesses, especially when scanning thousands of documents. Illegible images and text create major problems, not the least of which is remaining compliant. Capture devices have improved their image quality over time but even after many decades businesses still have to deal with documents that come through misaligned, too dark, too light, containing blank pages, or other anomalies that impact the readability. 

By integrating capture at the early stages of the document lifecycle, organizations can immediately eliminate the paper and move the electronic version of the document more efficiently through the workflow.  In addition, making an electronic file at the beginning ensures tighter control measures and makes it easier to provide an audit trail. Transactional solutions that integrate capture into document driven business processes enable automation of document processing from point of receipt through archiving. Benefits include:

  • Automated Workflow – The network infrastructure makes communications between front-end customer service and back-end data extract easy; document repositories can be accessed and updated in real time within a dynamic and scalable workflow.
  • Compliance Readiness -- Once a document is integrated into the system as a digital image, content accuracy is ensured and it is less likely to be misplaced. You will also have a digital record of its history, making it easy to audit and to submit timely regulatory filings.
  • Value-Add to Your Business  -- Payments can be scanned directly into your banking system, accelerating deposits. Your business can respond quickly to changes, which will improve customer service. Your resources and workforce will then be focused on activities of higher value.
  • Sophisticated Image Clean Up -- Imaging technology today can provide image clean-up functions that developers can build directly into their scanning devices or content management systems. These functions include blank page detection, despeckle, deskew, hole punch removal, and more. Often users will have the option to automate image clean-up functions for batch capture, or perform it manually as needed.   

The list above illustrates some of the ways that image capture has evolved. What was once an archive-specific tool is now integrated into document processing as a critical early step to accelerate business processes and lower costs. It offers opportunities to streamline operations, reduce waste and protect business integrity. 

The future for the capture market looks good right now, although the market in general is hard to predict. It is probably safe to assume that web-based solutions and imaging technologies will continue to become even more integrated with the hardware devices.   With the confluence of economic crisis, environmental crisis and increased compliance regulations, businesses are being called upon to exercise both conservation and innovation. Today capture devices and software technologies offer solutions that address both of those goals.