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Image of a phone with a QR code on display.

As you well know, companies of all sizes run on the quality of the data they produce, helping with everything from demand forecasts and sales projections to worker time projections and inventory needs.

Automation through optical character recognition (OCR) can save businesses many steps throughout a particular workflow, resulting in much more accurate information than can be reached by manual data entry. The advent of mobile technologies has brought the power of OCR to smartphones and wireless devices, enabling workers to scan a ticket to view an entire order or quickly checking inventory by scanning a barcode.

However, adding OCR technology to a business process isn’t as easy as buying an off-the-shelf product or software and simply adding it to your workflow. You must not only deal with the technical challenges of connecting the technology to the appropriate business system, you also must think through the business process. Just because you can scan something doesn’t mean that you should – unless you can make a business case for it.

OCR can take on multiple forms, including:

· Reading a QR code

· Barcode

· Ink markers

· Plain text (mostly typed)

Keep these four criteria in mind when considering the adoption of OCR technologies:

Start with a plan.

Replacing manual process A with OCR technology B could be the only use your business needs. But rather than merely buying a tool for a specific process, take a step back and examine that business process. Are there other parts that can be similarly automated? Are there other business processes that can be impacted with the same OCR hardware or software? As part of your company’s digital transformation, adopting OCR is a big step that should be properly considered.

Don’t build your own reader.

You’re not going to create a new app by first building your own smart phone. By the same token, there are plenty of good OCR software and hardware options available to do whatever you need or want to do. There’s no need to spend your time and money when there are so many viable options that are regularly updated.

Pay attention to the connections.

You should be spending the most effort ensuring the technology connections that will power your reader are hooked up properly and robust enough to handle the expected traffic load. Don’t overlook or downplay this critical step. If your IT department isn’t experienced in OCR technologies, it makes good sense to work with an IT consultant that does.

Get employees on board first.

Most companies we work with on OCR projects are replacing manual processes with automated ones. Sounds like a giant step forward, right? While the company definitely thinks so, the employees may well have a different opinion. People are naturally resistant to change—any change—in their routines. And adopting OCR technology can be a big change, depending on a person’s job function. Adopting any technology should never be a “because we said so” proposition from management. Before embarking on any project of this type, be sure to involve the relevant employees who will be impacted to get them on board on the front end. That will make implementation easier on the back end.

Keeping these four things in mind will help you find success with your next OCR project.

Rajesh Thampi

About the author

Rajesh Thampi

Practice Director, Digital Development & Ops

Rajesh has been researching cutting edge technologies and trends as the Digital Practice Director with Pyramid Consulting since 2011. His day to day features a mix of training internal teams, advising clients, and setting the technological path for all of his Pyramid Consulting peers. His driving force in life and in work is “the need to know, the ability to do, and the vision for perfection”. Rajesh prides himself on his ability to cultivate and comprehend technology on a high level, for his own joy and the success of his Pyramid Consulting family.

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