What is Automated Document Conversion & How Can It Benefit Your Organization?

February 1, 2018

4 minute read

Automated document conversion is a critical component of an organization’s digital transformation strategy. Automating the conversion process can greatly benefit an organization by eliminating manual input, reducing human error, preserving critical document context, and simplifying compliance.

Automated document conversion operates on a much larger scale than manual processing ever could—allowing organizations to convert vast volumes of documents from hundreds of formats into standardized PDF content.

By automating the conversion of documents, organizations can also transform unstructured content into data that’s ready for analysis, archiving, and storage. It all rolls up into an ability to improve document workflows, enhance analytics, and increase operational efficiencies.

How Unstructured Data Fuels Big Data Analytics

How the automation of document conversion benefits an organization

Automating the conversion of documents and files has three significant benefits to an organization, including accelerating speed to market, improving the customer experience, and streamlining compliance with federal regulations. Keep reading for more on each of these key areas.   

1. Accelerate speed to market

By automating document conversion, organizations can speed up data capture processes, streamline critical business workflows, and prepare data for use in automated analytics applications. As a result, better decisions are made faster, and products and services can be produced with greater speed and efficiency.

Take, for example, a manufacturer who works with multiple suppliers to produce its products. Those suppliers may submit their plans, agreements, and proposals in a variety of formats—not all readable by the manufacturer’s software. This slows down the company’s workflows because staff have to keep going back to the suppliers to ask for documents to be re-sent in a format they can work with.

The manufacturer’s solution was to create a portal where suppliers could upload their documents in whatever format they chose, and then leverage document conversion to turn that content into standardized, searchable PDFs. This saved employee time and sped up all the downstream processes, enabling the organization to get their product to market faster.

In other industries, such as life sciences, the benefits of automating document conversion are particularly significant. When a company prepares a new drug submission for the FDA’s review, it may contain hundreds of thousands of files in many different formats, including links to other content sources. Those files all need to be bulk converted into high-definition PDFs, with no errors and no broken links.

Rejected FDA submissions could cost a life sciences company between $660,000 to $8,000,000 for every day the drug is delayed.1

Given the volume and variety of documents that must be converted into “high definition PDFs,” it isn’t reasonable to expect staff to manually assemble the materials. What’s needed is a document conversion solution that can translate those files to PDFs in bulk, automatically.

If a company can automate conversion of their documents and files to create a high-quality submission that won’t be rejected by the FDA, then they may be able to shave weeks off the approval process, add millions to their bottom line, and bring essential medications to customers faster.  

2. Improve customer experience

Another significant benefit of automated document conversion is that it allows customers to engage with a company on their own terms. In the insurance industry, for instance, document conversion is vital for streamlining the claims process. When submitting supporting documents for a claim, customers can easily upload their photos, Word documents, or videos to a web portal. Those files can then be put through an automated conversion process and fed into the claims workflow.

For insurance companies, the elimination of manual intervention means the claims process is accelerated—leading to faster claims resolution and happier customers.

Another insurance example involves a client who contacts their vendor asking for a copy of an old policy or contract. Historically, those documents would have been stored as paper or flat image files, requiring a manual search—a time-consuming, low-value task. As a result, the customer may have to wait days or weeks for a resolution. But if automated document conversion is applied to all legacy content, then old documents can be batch converted into accessible, searchable PDFs—and the client’s policy can be served almost instantaneously.

3. Comply with federal regulations

The automation of conversion processes also benefits organizations in heavily regulated industries by easing their compliance burden. In the case of the nuclear agency, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), staff started work at 4:00 AM every day in order to print out overnight summary reports required by federal regulators. The work was tedious, time-consuming, and morale-sapping.

TVA’s solution was to implement automated document conversion that would automatically gather the necessary reports, standardize them into searchable PDFs, combine them into summary versions, and email them to the right people. The solution automated a mandatory process, freed up resources, increased the consistency of the output, and ensured compliance with less effort.

In other industries, like financial services, regulatory requirements for large institutions have grown more onerous in recent years. The government now requires banking institutions to analyze the terms and commitments within contracts to reveal any risks they may contain—hoping to avoid industry-wide failures like the 2008 collapse.

In the case of a large bank—one deemed “too big to fail”—meeting those regulatory requirements meant finding an efficient way to perform contract analytics on more than 500,000 historical contracts, some more than 30 years old and archived as paper or flat image files. Because the documents weren’t machine-readable, the bank had no easy way to find what clauses they contained, what the terms were, or which clients were included.

To ensure compliance, the bank chose to automate their document conversion process, batch converting all legacy contracts into PDFs as a first step in preparing them for automated analysis. Only then could they extract the information needed to convince federal regulators that they understood their risk exposure. (To learn more about this project, get the contract analytics white paper.)

Wrap Up

Given the significant benefits, the automation of document conversion shouldn’t be an afterthought. An effective conversion process can accelerate time to market, improve customer experience, and streamline compliance. To find the right solution, companies should work with vendors who have proven experience converting the broadest set of formats, at the highest level of quality, at scale. Making the right choice will enhance the effectiveness of your company’s overall digital transformation strategy.

1 eMedonline: Reducing the High Cost of Bringing Drugs to Market Liaison Technologies: What is the cost of drug development?

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