Over the past 15 years document imaging has evolved from a niche market to something in use on some level by almost every business, organization, and person. It may be something as simple as scanning a document with a personal desktop MFP to e-mail, or it might be something as complex as automatically capturing data from thousands of invoices per week. Of course, there are thousands of use cases that fall in between those extremes.
No matter how the technology is used, it’s important to remember that document imaging keeps evolving. If you haven’t updated your document imaging portfolio in a few years, you are probably missing out on some important technological and market developments.
It costs less to do more: Hardware and software prices continue to fall. A retiring scanner sales executive was recently quoted as saying, “A scanner that a user paid $45,000 for five to eight years ago, they can now get for $25,000.” Software prices have followed a similar trend, as imaging and workflow packages that used to list for several hundred thousand dollars can now be had for five figures. This is great for end users as they get more bang for their buck, but it puts pressure on document imaging specialists to increase the value of their offerings.
Advanced capture is getting smarter: It used to be that the application of automated data capture was limited to structured forms like tax returns, insurance claims, surveys, and order forms. Advancements in recent years have expanded this to include variably structured documents like invoices. Even more recently, auto-classification technology has emerged that can be used to automatically identify document types in complex document sets like mortgage files and patient records.
There is more to capture than paper: Multi-channel is the current trend with the percentage of documents being submitted to capture processes, from sources like e-mail, MFPs, and mobile devices continuing, to rise. As the number and diversity of electronic communications continues to increase, capturing software can play an important role in normalizing multi-channel input.
The cloud is for real: The cloud presents an attractive alternative to organizations looking to take advantage of the benefits of document imaging without having to invest in an on-premise implementation. Cloud software can typically be licensed on a monthly basis, so it protects organizations from having to make a capital expenditure in software (and the hardware to run it on), as well as assuming the risk that the implementation will work out. While the document imaging industry hasn’t reached a tipping point yet in terms of cloud adoption, interest in the cloud is accelerating. For storage and retrieval, most users at least want to explore the option. Capture, because of bandwidth and performance issues, is still mainly an on-premise implementation, although cloud capture options are starting to emerge as well.
Mobile is for real: A few years ago, Harvey Spencer Associates projected that the market for mobile capture technology would grow to more than $1.5B in 2015. While that figure may be a bit out of reach, adoption of mobile capture is accelerating and we recently saw a large bank invest over $1M in mobile capture software. Mobile capture is not the end all for document capture, but in many cases it makes a nice addendum to a multi-channel strategy. And in almost every case, a customer at least wants to know they have the option of utilizing their mobile devices for document capture.
Embrace the change
The only constant in most technology markets is change, and document imaging is no different. What was a cutting edge solution 10 years ago is passe today, and price and margins will reflect that. To continue to succeed, document imaging specialists need to embrace changes in the market and not bemoan them. Gone for the most part are the days of 40 points on scanner sales and fat long-term maintenance contracts. But they have given way to new opportunities in areas like advanced capture, cloud implementations, and multi-channel input. A document imaging specialist that helps its customers move into 21st century digital document management will continue to be an invaluable resource that customers are willing to compensate.