A CIO’s Guide to OCR Software: Part 1

Posted 29 March 2019 5:39 AM by Jason Mitrow
Hands holding card that reads 'Enterprise Guide to Data Governance'

From AI to robotic process automation (RPA), digital transformation projects rely on the efficient access to accurate, high-quality data. While there are lots of roadblocks that can stand in the way of clean data, there’s one common obstacle that both legacy and digital-born businesses often have to deal with: outdated and/or incompatible formats.

Whether your information is locked in paper or in formats such as image files that are not machine readable, content that can’t be accessed also can’t be used to drive business intelligence. Fortunately, the solution is readily available: OCR software. In this guide, you will learn how OCR unlocks organizational data as well as what to look for when scouting the best OCR software for your organization.

two file folders with arrows showing transfer between them

two file folders with arrows showing transfer between them

But first, what is OCR?

Optical character recognition software, or OCR software for short, allows you to convert content that cannot be read by machines into a format that is text-based and machine-readable. Problematic data types can include paper-based documents, images and files that have been scanned into TIFF-based formats. As a form of digitization, OCR software captures the information contained within these files, extracts the data and then automates its conversion into more usable formats.

Why is OCR useful?

There are countless examples of where OCR software can help businesses do more with their data, but they all come down to this:

When content is not saved in a universal format, it significantly impacts accessibility

This means that whether you are trying to input data from customer forms that were filled out on paper, searching for personally identifiable information (PII) within your content stores, or completing any task that requires you to look within your files, you must either do so manually – or employ OCR software. Once converted, your data can then be used to fulfill countless functions, across industries and sectors.

OCR Software: What you need to know

While the concept may seem straightforward, with so many solutions on the market, there are some important considerations to help you find the best OCR software.

For starters, it’s important to weigh your OCR software’s capabilities against your business needs. Some things to look for include:

  • Types of formats your OCR software is capable of converting.
  • Language support.
  • Industry-specific dictionaries, such as legal, financial or medical.
  • Whether the solution supports free-form OCR vs. zonal/templated. Free-form OCR intelligently extracts data from any location on a document, regardless of where it’s placed. For example, OCR software will scan an entire invoice for the payment amount instead of focusing solely on the bottom right portion of the page where it’s typically located.
  • Additional capabilities such as the automation of metadata creation and redaction of sensitive content.

While these are attributes an OCR software provider will likely be able to tell you in their marketing materials, seeing is believing when it comes to finding a solution that offers optimal OCR accuracy and the best OCR software overall.

In order to evaluate the options, ask for performance data – or better yet, request a trial so you can test it on your own documents – with an eye to the following criteria:

  • OCR accuracy: For compliance reasons, and to achieve the best results, nothing less than 100 percent OCR accuracy will do. While small mistakes such an incorrect letter here or a missing comma there may not seem like a big deal, these inaccuracies can undermine your business objectives and increase your risks. Things like cut-off margins or pages are also a problem. When evaluating OCR software look for outputs that are identical to the original.
  • Speed: In order to scale, your OCR software must be capable of capturing data from documents as quickly as possible. To evaluate speed, compare the number of documents your OCR software can capture in the same amount of time as other solutions.
  • Job loss: To ensure a scalable solution, it’s important to ensure your OCR software does the trick – every time. As you evaluate solutions, consider how frequently jobs fail, and then apply that failure rate across your full document load.

Wrap up

To ensure overall processes efficiency with digitization, access to data is critical. OCR software is a solution that ensures companies can access the content they require for digital transformation initiatives, even if it’s locked in unsearchable documents.

Stay tuned for more upcoming posts about how OCR can propel business initiatives, and refer to Adlib’s OCR data sheet to learn why Adlib’s enterprise OCR solution offers the performance, document fidelity and flexibility businesses need.

Datasheet : Adlib OCR

Learn how you can streamline workflows, reduce errors and omissions, and eliminate manual steps in your data capture processes with Adlib’s enterprise OCR solutions.