When it comes to big data, don’t forget data trapped in documents and PDF files

Most organisations are probably familiar with the concept of big data and how it can help them make better business decisions. Yet until now, many have overlooked an extremely valuable source of data that can be used in the same way: paper documents and PDF files. This blog examines four technologies that you can use to extract critical data from your documents and use it to help you accomplish your most critical goals.
Asian businessman inspecting graph on interactive display

“Big data.” So much more than a hard-to-understand buzzword that first surfaced a few years ago, the concept of big data is now an important tool for most companies today. For anyone still unaware, big data describes the effort of collecting and analysing huge volumes of new types of data. Examples include traditional structured data you would expect to find in a database (such as customer information or even machine-generated log files) as well as new types of unstructured data that can include content from social media sites, pictures and video files, website data, and more.

Once mined and extracted, these extremely large sets of data can be analysed by sophisticated big data applications to reveal patterns, trends and other insights that help them make better business decisions and improve strategic initiatives.

Documents’ role in big data

    At this point, it’s probably safe to say most companies understand the business potential behind big data, and that they either have a strategy in place, or have at least started to evaluate various tools and technologies to help them capitalise on all that big data has to offer.

    As they continue to look for new sources of meaningful data, an increasing number are now realising that their documents – paper and PDF versions – may contain extremely valuable information. For example, consider an insurance company that may be sitting on reams of paper documents related to its customers. These documents are full of important information including clients’ policies, earnings and other financial details, health records, job histories, family records and much more. With the right tools, this information could be analysed to anticipate insurance events, better attract and retain customers, reduce risk and even devise strategies to minimise malpractice suits or other ways to prevent fraud.

    Sure, all of this sounds great, but many companies still struggle with how to effectively extract information locked in paper documents. Worse, many even overlook one of the most effective ways: document imaging solutions.

    Document management and workflow solutions

      The good news is that today there are a number of document capture and workflowoptical character recognition (OCR)PDF and mobile document imaging solutions that can all be used to extract vital information and integrate with business processes and tools, such as big data applications. We will take a closer look at how each of these work and can provide a big data advantage.

      • Document capture and workflow: Think of this as the starting point. Document capture solutions can help transform documents into digital assets and efficiently integrate them into business processes and applications. For example, powerful document software capture technologies can manage the entire process of capturing and securely delivering paper documents into enterprise business systems.
      • Optical character recognition (OCR): Effective OCR tools can quickly and easily convert paper documents, PDF files and forms into documents that can then be automatically archived or integrated in a big data application. Plus, because these tools are highly accurate, all data is effectively extracted, and advanced features such as automatic document routing make sure documents wind up in the right place.
      • PDF: Now, PDF tools can easily convert PDFs into Word documents or just about any other format. More, PDF also enables users to export information contained in filled-in forms, so they can search and analyse data in PDF files.
      • Mobile: Additionally, mobile capture and print solutions help employees capture and submit documents and images and easily integrate them into a company’s existing workflow management systems. For example, these applications transform employees’ mobile devices into business-critical tools, capable of collecting huge amounts of data and delivering it into core business processes.

      If you’re looking to do more with big data and take the next step by extracting valuable information currently residing in documents, discover how the right document management solutions can help.


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