Where Do You Fit on the ‘Capture Continuum’?

by Kevin Craine | 6/1/15

Despite technology, most companies continue to struggle to manage the burden of paper in many important business processes. Sure, you can scan documents to create a digital image as a first step to eliminate paper, but this “scan and store” approach falls short of the full potential of modern document and data capture systems. You may be missing significant opportunity for more savings and efficiencies; but with all the technological solutions available how do you know which one is right for you?

One way is to explore capture systems and capabilities by using a “Five Phase” approach. After more than 25 years, capture systems have evolved from simple solutions for basic scanning into sophisticated and expensive systems for enterprise-wide document automation. These five categories – the Five Phases of Capture – describe the features and opportunities of capture technology along a continuum starting from simple scanning and ending at enterprise-wide document automation.

The Five Phases of Capture

Around the world a quiet revolution is taking place as organizations make changes to long-standing paper-bound functions, especially as the need to control costs becomes more pressing and the expectations associated with regulatory compliance become more challenging. Scanning documents to eliminate paper is a great place to start, but the goal of current best practices is the fully automated extraction of all relevant data from whatever the data source may be.  It’s likely that just the right solution for you is somewhere in between.

Phase One is characterized by the ability to scan paper documents and store them in digital form. It involves scanning hardware and rudimentary software that allows the user to manually enter basic information about the document so that it may be more easily stored and archived. This approach is at the heart of eliminating paper from paper-intensive operations.

Phase Two brings technologies into play that can “read” data from document images and enable you to leverage that information in new ways. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) will read and capture key bits of information and automatically populate a variety of index fields. This eliminates the need to manually key in this information, and simple business rules can be applied that bring further automation to the processes. 

Phase Three is characterized by systems that go beyond capturing basic index information to the extraction of multiple fields and line item detail. Rather than simply gathering data for indexing, intelligent data extraction strategies pull more detailed data from documents where data locations may not be known ahead of time, such as ad hoc invoices or healthcare documents, and deliver that information to a variety of back-end databases and applications.

Phase Four builds further advantages by scanning documents at the point of origination instead of shipping documents to a central scanning center. This is an important distinction because capturing paper documents into digital form has traditionally been a centralized business function. In contrast, “distributed capture” is a strategy for entering documents into the business process in decentralized locations – where they originate. More and more, this includes mobile capture, essentially putting document-based data gathering on wheels, using a smartphone, tablet or portable scanner integrated with a repository for secure reception and processing in real time.

Phase Five takes advantage of the latest innovations in the form of a universal capture portal where multi-channel documents are digitized and stored no matter what form or format they are delivered in. Scans, fax, mobile, data files – you name it; this multi-channel input is a valuable tool for connecting information, process and people in today’s information-intense, global business world. Indeed, Phase Five capture systems are distinguished by the ability to accept multi-channel documents in any format to create a single image standard enterprise wide.

Find the Right Fit

Not everyone needs a complete capture system. The question becomes: Where do you need to be on the “capture continuum?” Use this perspective to help your organization reduce reliance on paper, lower labor costs, and integrate data and documents across key business activities.


Guest contributor Kevin Craine is the author of the book Designing a Document Strategy and host of the Document Strategy Podcast. He is the managing director of Craine Communications Group. For more information on the The Five Phases of Capture, download the white paper here. For more information visit CraineGroup.com


Kevin Craine is the managing director of Craine Communications Group. He is writer, podcaster and technology analyst, as well as the author of the book Designing a Document Strategy and a respected authority on document management and process improvement. He was named the No. 1 ECM Influencer to follow on Twitter.