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Document Capture 101: Your Complete Guide

Content is the lifeblood of any organization.

But antiquated approaches to collecting, processing, and managing the information on physical and digital documents can impede decision-making, collaboration, customer service, and innovation.

That’s why more organizations are automating the way they capture documents and data.

Document capture technology improves efficiency, streamlines workflows, and enhances visibility.

This article provides a guide to document capture.

What is document capture?

Document capture solutions convert paper-based or electronic documents into electronic files that can easily be manipulated, managed, stored, and accessed by authorized users.  The technology captures information from paper forms, photographs, and electronic documents such as PDFs.

Document capture software combines a range of technologies:

  • Scanning.  In many cases, the first step in the document capture process is the conversion of physical documents into digital images.  High-speed scanners and other devices capture images in black and white, grayscale, and color, depending on the document requirements.  Some scanners can process different types of documents comingled.  Once scanned, the document images are stored as electronic files, typically in PDF, TIFF, or JPEG format.
  • Optical character recognition (OCR).  OCR converts images into a machine-readable format that is searchable and editable.  The technology also enables users to easily locate specific information within documents and facilitates data analysis and processing.
  • Data extraction.  Data extraction uses tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) with machine learning to find and extract names, dates, addresses, and other data fields from documents.  Extracted data can be used to populate databases, process transactions, or generate reports.
  • Indexing.  The final step in the capture process, indexing tags captured documents with metadata to streamline search and retrieval.  Metadata may include information such as the document title, author, data, and keywords that help users quickly locate documents.

These capabilities make it easy for organizations to capture documents and data.

How does document capture differ from document scanning?

Document capture should not be confused with document scanning.

Here’s how they differ:

  • Scope and purpose.  While document scanning is primarily focused on converting physical documents into digital images, document capture involves extracting and processing data from documents to make them searchable, editable, and usable in digital workflows.
  • Technologies.  Document scanning uses high-production scanners and other devices to capture images of physical documents and save them as electronic files in PDF, TIFF, or JPEG file format.  Document capture not only involves scanning, but also uses OCR to convert scanned text into an editable and searchable format, AI with machine learning and other tools to extract data from documents and indexing to tag documents with metadata.
  • Workflow.  Document scanning is often the first step in the document capture process.  Document capture encompasses a broader workflow that goes beyond scanning and includes document classification, quality control, workflow automation to streamline digitization.

Together, document scanning and document capture provide a comprehensive solution for organizations looking to digitize and manage their documents more efficiently and effectively.

The document capture process step-by-step

While specific workflows may vary depending on an organization’s needs and the type of documents being processed, the document capture process typically involves several steps.

  • Document preparation.  The first step of the document capture process often involves preparing documents for scanning and capture by removing staples and straightening pages.
  • Document scanning.  Once physical documents are prepared, they scanned using a high-production document scanner or other device and converted into a digital format.  During scanning, operators may configure settings such as the image resolution and color mode.
  • Image enhancement.  To improve readability, scanned images may undergo an enhancement process to remove noise, speckles, or artifacts and to straighten skewed or tilted images.
  • OCR.  OCR technology may be employed to analyze the scanned images, recognize text characters, and convert them into machine-readable text that is editable and searchable.  The OCR process may use language detection and text correction to improve data accuracy.
  • Data extraction.  Data extraction may be used to extract names, dates, addresses, invoice numbers and other structured data from documents for further processing or indexing.
  • Indexing.  Once documents are scanned and processed, they are indexed and tagged with metadata such as the document title, author, date, or keywords, to speed search and retrieval.
  • Archival.  Digitized documents are stored in a centralized cloud-based archive, electronic document management system, or content management system for long-term preservation.

These steps streamline the processing of physical and digital documents.

Industry use cases for document capture

Document capture offers benefits to organizations across industries.

Here are some industry-specific use cases for document capture:

  • Healthcare.  Digitizing and extracting data from claim forms and supporting documents can streamline claims processing, accelerate claim adjudication, and improve overall efficiency.  Healthcare providers also can use document capture to digitize and manage patient records.
  • Finance.  Banks and financial institutions can use document capture to streamline loan application processing, new account opening, and statement reconciliation.  Document capture also can help accounting firms and finance departments speed up invoice processing.
  • Legal.  Law firms and legal departments can use document capture to digitize and manage case files, court documents, and legal correspondence.  Document capture also ensures compliance with discovery requirements and automates contract management processes.
  • Government.  Government agencies can use document capture to digitize and manage public records, administrative documents, and regulatory filings.  The technology also streamlines Freedom of Information Act requests by digitizing and categorizing requested documents.
  • Manufacturing.  Manufacturers can use document capture to digitize and manage product specifications, engineering drawings, and manufacturing documents.  The technology also automates quality control processes by digitizing inspection reports and test results.
  • Retail.  Document capture enables retailers to digitize and process customer orders, invoices, and shipping documents.  Retailers also can streamline inventory management by digitizing inventory records, purchase orders and receiving documents, and tracking inventory.

These are just some of the ways that document capture solutions can be used across industries.

Key benefits of document capture

Document capture solutions offer a wide range of benefits to organizations across industries.

  • Improved efficiency.  Document capture eliminates manual, repetitive tasks such as sorting documents, keying data, shuffling paper and emails, and fixing errors and mistakes.
  • Reduced costs.  In addition to reducing labor expenses, document capture solutions reduce paper-related costs such as paper consumption, toner, postage, and physical paper storage.
  • Increased staff productivity.  Automating routine administrative tasks and providing instant access to information frees staff to spend more time on fulfilling, higher-order activities.
  • Fewer errors.  Data extraction with OCR and automated data verification reduces the possibility of data entry errors and helps ensure the integrity of archived information.
  • Enhanced visibility.  Centralizing the capture, management, storage, and retrieval of mission-critical data puts smart insights at the fingertips of decision-makers, when they need them.  Users can quickly locate and retrieve documents based on specific criteria.
  • Better customer experience.  From application processing to order fulfillment, document capture accelerates customer-facing processes.  The technology also makes it easy for organizations to receive information through the channel that is preferrable by customers.
  • Streamlined compliance.  Document capture helps organizations ensure data privacy and protect sensitive information through user access permissions, segregation of duties, chain of custody assurance, systematic workflows, activity logging, and other built-in controls.
  • Greater agility.  Document capture enables organizations to quickly adapt their processes and workflows to changing business requirements.  And organizations can use the technology to quickly scale their back-office operations without the need to hire additional staff.

These are some of the reasons that more organizations are deploying document capture solutions.


Managing paper-based and electronic documents and data can be a huge burden for organizations.  Document capture – solutions that combine scanning, OCR, data extraction, and indexing – enables organizations to streamline workflows, enhance information management, and increase business agility tin today’s hyper-connected business environment.  As organizations continue to digitally transform their operations, document capture will remain a critical enabler of success.