ibml overcomes challenges of traditional data capture solutions with three-in-one cloud-native solution
High volume scanning and data capture specialist ibml has launched a cloud-native capture solution designed to meet the changing needs of customers facing a 4.5x increase in data volumes, the need to capture born-digital content and unpredictable data processing requirements due to changing regulations and seasonal peaks and troughs.
The result of a technology partnership with US company KnowledgeLake, ibml Cloud Capture addresses the weaknesses of on-premise solutions and existing cloud solutions by giving customers a truly agile, all-in-one solution covering the three stages of document processing:
1. Capture. Intelligently capture content from any source – emails, attachments, Excel documents, office files, photos, smartphone images, faxes, scans from TWAIN-compatible scanners/MFPs – and automatically extract data from structured, semi-structured and unstructured documents;
2. Process. Use robotic process automation (RPA) to streamline workflow automation and integrate extracted data with line of business applications; and
3. Content services. Store, view and retrieve documents from multiple Microsoft applications and ECM solutions through one platform.
For Susheel John, ibml Vice President of Marketing and Strategy, ibml Cloud Capture’s ability to offer a total solution is a key point of differentiation with other cloud solutions that tend to address just one piece of the content lifecycle puzzle, which can create problems further down the line.
“When companies can’t solve their problem with one platform, they are forced to string multiple platforms together. Besides creating an integration nightmare, this creates more openings for security risks, higher service costs and more opportunities for error,” he said.
Data capture family
This complete offering, including robotic process automation (RPA) and content management services, also differentiates ibml Cloud Capture from the company’s existing data capture solutions.
“We have two other software products within our portfolio: one is called ibml Capture Suite and the other is called ibml Synergetics,” explained Susheel John. “ibml Capture Suite is our inline intelligent mission-critical capture application, which connects to our intelligent scanners and extracts information from documents in-line, in real time during scanning. With that solution you can also process all that information and output it to a line of business application. But it is a completely on-prem solution and is mainly geared towards extracting data from structured documents.
“Then we have ibml Synergetics, which is an unstructured capture solution and web-based, which means it runs on a browser even if it is mainly for customers to implement on-prem. They can access it through the browser and capture both structured and unstructured content. Neither of these solutions has process automation capabilities or content management capabilities,” he said.
“Now, with ibml Cloud Capture, we have a completely cloud-native solution, born in the cloud and built in the cloud, for our customers to scale almost unlimitedly. It has those three capabilities: to capture content and extract content from structured to unstructured documents; to be able to use process automation to integrate it with other line of business applications or to do repetitive tasks; and to use content management services to store, view and retrieve documents.”
The fact that ibml Cloud Capture is a cloud-native solution, built using Microsoft Azure technologies, gives it an advantage over on-premise solutions that can be costly and time-consuming to scale up with additional servers and licences to cope with spikes in workload – investment that goes to waste when volumes return to normal.
Susheel John adds that this applies equally to many cloud-based or cloud-hosted systems that were born in on-premise servers and subsequently moved to the cloud.
“The reality is they can never be as agile as a cloud-native platform; they are not built to scale easily and the way they were born incurs lots of problems with infrastructure, configuration, maintenance, licences etc.. Being cloud-native, ibml Cloud Capture uses cloud native technologies, such as containerisation and Kubernetes, to scale very quickly in the cloud itself.”
To highlight its benefits, Susheel John cites the example of mortgage applications, which can increase in volume by five or ten times in the summer months.
“With an on-prem or cloud-hosted solution, customers would have to buy a solution based on those peak volumes. With a cloud-native solution, they don’t have to do that. We scale up automatically during those seasonal months and scale down automatically when the solution is not used as much. Customers only pay for the total number of documents they process through the year; they don’t need to build infrastructure just to handle those peak volumes,” he said.
Susheel John adds that cloud-native solutions also deliver a faster ROI, as the cloud infrastructure is available almost instantly. All the user need do is choose the volumes and the functionality they require (e.g. capture, process automation and/or content services), spend a few hours or days training the application and they are ready to go.
“One of the banes of capture solutions in the marketplace is that customers spend a long time purchasing them and a long time implementing them. It can take 6 to 12 months just to implement a solution, because they have to stand up infrastructure and install it and, once they’ve done that, they realise that it’s not sufficient – we need this feature, we need this feature. There is none of this hassle with us; it is very quick to set up and go,” he said.
“Then, once they get used to this and are successful with it, they are ready to expand to other applications. Somebody might have started with an invoice processing solution for their accounts payable and when that is working fine expand to customer onboarding or HR onboarding.”
ibml Cloud Capture extracts data not only from structured documents, such as forms, where required data is easy to locate, but also semi-structured and unstructured documents that account for 57% of inputs, using machine learning and deep neural network technologies to identify documents and automatically tag the content that needs to be extracted.
“It learns as users tag content and, eventually, automatically tags content according to the document type – this is an invoice, this is a receipt, this is a contract, this is an HR onboarding document. It could be a form with fields, so it knows where to go every time, or something totally unstructured like an email, in which case it would read the content and automatically tag what needs to be extracted from that document.”
Additional automation is provided by built-in robotic process automation (RPA), which lets organisations save time and reduce errors by using software bots to automate workflows and/or repetitive document-centric processes. Customers can programme tasks themselves, using drag and drop functionality, or, for more complex tasks, make use of ibml’s professional services and implementation team.
Susheel John says RPA is particularly useful for feeding captured content into legacy business applications, such as a document management solution, a line of business (LOB) application, like SAP, or a loan processing solution.
“One way to do this is through APIs. But many customers have legacy systems that may not allow for easy integration. Instead of having a user cut and paste content from the capture solution into the LOB application, you can create a robot to do that,” he said.
“Another use case is image-enabling applications. For example, if you have a legacy banking solution that doesn’t have the ability to retrieve and display associated images alongside transactions, you could set up a bot that, when you click to retrieve a document, opens up the other application, retrieves the image and displays it for you.”
One useful feature of the RPA capability within ibml Cloud Capture is the ability to record and review video footage of tasks carried out by bots to identify where errors occur and for what reason, e.g. a new user interface installed as part of a software update.
The third key capability of ibml Cloud Capture are its content management services, including integration with all back-end systems and electronic content management (ECM) systems, as well as Microsoft solutions, such as Sharepoint, Microsoft 365 and Azure. This gives users the ability to store, search for, retrieve and view content, wherever it is located, through one single platform.
“What’s unique about our content services capabilities,” added Susheel John, “is that we never own the customer’s data. Most other content management platforms, even if they are on the cloud, keep the content in their repositories. In our case, we never own the customer’s data; the customer’s documents pass through our system for processing and data extraction, but, ultimately, we leave the data in the customer’s repository whether that’s on a private cloud, public cloud or on their own on-premise solution or system.”
This keeps customers in control of their data and ensures that if they decide to stop using ibml, their data is secure and they don’t have to spend millions of dollars migrating it from one solution to another.
ibml Cloud Capture is an exciting addition to ibml’s portfolio that extends its strengths in data capture to new areas and brings new possibilities to customers through robotic process automation.
“One source of input will continue to be documents that we scan, but the fact of the matter is that customers increasingly have documents that are born digitally,” explained Susheel John. “Research shows that today 30-40% of documents come to customers in the form of paper, which they need to digitise and input and which we have the technology for. Another 50-60% of documents come into organisations digitally. Cloud capture is going to help us to automate that piece of the jigsaw for our customers and expand our use cases and our penetration within customers.”
ibml launches simpler FUSiON scanner for centralised mailrooms and business process outsourcers
Initially, ibml plans to sell Cloud Capture direct, so for the time being its channel partners might be more interested in the latest, entry-level addition to the company’s FUSiON range of high-volume production scanners.
Capable of scanning and processing up to 292 A4 pages per minute, the ibml FUSiON 7200 is an affordable option for ibml’s mid-tier customers that need to scan large volumes of documents and integrate them into line of business applications and workflows.
These include business process outsourcers and shared service centres, as well as centralised mailrooms that, with offices emptied and people working from home, are being asked to consolidate scanning workloads previously done on departmental and workgroup scanners and MFPs.
“We think there is a rebirth of the centralised mailroom,” explained Susheel John. “The centralised mailroom has always been important, but it is more important now because in a centralised mailroom privacy of data can be addressed better and customers need to digitise things that they were previously doing on the MFP round the corner or on a little scanner on their desks. People are not at their desks any more, but still need to access that information from wherever they are working.”
He added: “The new ibml FUSiON 7200 is for customers who want a more cost-effective scanner to be able to scan large volumes of documents.”
The scanning system includes ibml’s image processing system iQpro, which provides automatic de-skewing, rotation, cropping, colour correction and other enhancements, with simultaneous output of colour, greyscale and bitonal images.
A range of optional accessories are available to add intelligence to the scanning process, including a barcode reader, MICR reader for cheque processing and an inkjet printer to date/time stamp documents for audit trail and compliance purposes.