What Is Document Understanding?

Imagine facing a mountain of paperwork—invoices, receipts, reports, contracts—all demanding your attention. Document Understanding acts like an adept assistant who scans through these papers, identifies the crucial information, and interprets it for practical use. This technology combines Optical Character Recognition (OCR), Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning to transform unstructured text into structured, actionable data.

Why Document Understanding Alone Isn’t Enough

I have often talked to clients with Document Understanding needs and have spoken to AWS, Microsoft, and Google about their software: AWS Textract, Microsoft Azure Document Intelligence, or Google Cloud Document AI. These tools are top-tier—indeed, they are the same ones we use at Flobotics. Yet, there’s a significant caveat: these tools are not cure-alls.

They excel at extracting data from documents, but consider this: Is merely extracting data from an invoice or purchase order sufficient? The real challenge is not just reading the document but effectively utilizing the extracted information: how the tools are being used and what they are being used for.

Here’s where the real issues lie:

1. Integration Challenges

Simply put, integration involves connecting the document understanding tool with existing business systems to ensure smooth data flow. The challenge is multifaceted:

Data Input

How do you consistently feed documents into these systems? This could involve scanning physical documents or importing them from digital sources, which can vary widely in format and quality, complicating the extraction process.

System Compatibility

Many organizations use a range of software solutions that may not naturally integrate well with these tools without customized connectors or APIs, which can be costly and time-consuming to develop.

2. Post-processing Complexities

Once data is extracted, it needs to be used effectively. This stage is fraught with its own set of challenges:

Data Validation and Correction

Extracted data often requires validation or manual corrections to ensure accuracy, especially when dealing with sensitive or complex documents like contracts or detailed invoices.

Utilization of Extracted Data

Simply having data in a digital format isn’t enough. It needs to be appropriately formatted and entered into other business systems—like CRM or ERP systems—which can require additional processing or even bespoke solutions to ensure compatibility and usefulness.

Automating Actions Based on Data

The ultimate goal of extracting data is to enable automated actions, such as triggering orders, initiating billing, or updating customer records. Setting up these automated workflows requires a deep understanding of both the business processes and the technical capabilities of the systems involved.

The Solution: Automation Bots for Document Understanding

To fully harness the power of document understanding, it’s essential to integrate it with robust automation solutions—commonly referred to as “automation bots.” These bots, often powered by Robotic Process Automation (RPA), can take the output from document understanding tools and directly incorporate it into your business operations.

Automation bots can bridge the gap between the document understanding output and business applications, automatically formatting and inputting data, making decisions based on the context of the extracted data, and even triggering specific actions based on information types and contents.

This requires not just the technology but also the expertise of automation developers who are well-versed in both the technical aspects and the specific business contexts. These professionals ensure that automation strategies align perfectly with business objectives, enhancing efficiency and driving business value.

You can also read about implementing GenerativeAI in your Document Understanding workflows.

How To Do Document Understanding Right?

Here’s how to structure the process to transform document understanding from a simple tech demonstration into a vital business asset:

1. Streamline Document Input

Utilize scanners or digital uploads to introduce documents into your Document Understanding tool consistently.

2. Automate Data Handling

Ensure that the output from your Document Understanding tool is automatically integrated into your operational systems. Automation bots can facilitate this by linking with various business applications.

3. Close the Loop!

Make sure that the data is processed and acted upon—whether that means generating reports, updating records, or conducting financial transactions.

Final Thoughts

Document Understanding is undeniably potent, but its true potential is only realized when integrated into a comprehensive, automated workflow that minimizes manual handling, reduces errors, and accelerates processes.

At Flobotics, we have extensive experience in document understanding and can automate the entire process to maximize utility for our clients. By establishing a streamlined, automated system, businesses can transform document management from a mundane task into a strategic advantage, freeing up time to focus on core business growth.

Reach out to us to learn how we can help you optimize your document management and process automation needs!

Like the article? Spread the word

Karl Mielnicki CTO of Flobotics

Karl Mielnicki

CTO & Co-Founder of Flobotics. Expert and fanatic in RPA - Robotic Process Automation with over 5 years of IT experience working for consulting companies and tech startups. UiPath consultant, an accredited BluePrism developer.