June 21, 2022

Overcoming Limitations With Legacy Automation Technology

What’s wrong, in terms of present-day document automation needs, with legacy tooling? In short, its inability to automate what really matters—and thus to offer businesses true freedom from the paperwork problem.

The previous generation of document automation solutions relied on templates, rules, and coding. Such methods have always struggled with any sort of document variability, including non-fixed layouts and different languages. Ditto for most documents that combine text with graphics or layout-based semantics. And even with regard to the limited scope of eligible documents, legacy automation solutions have always required laborious deployment, including the design and application of rules, templates, and labels by data scientists. Sure, the existing methods were useful for straightforward tasks on rigidly structured and fully predictable document types, such as forms and standard template-based materials. However, with 80% to 90% of the world’s data unstructured or semi-structured, legacy document automation has always been a niche improvement that left most or much of the paperwork to human employees.

But we humans bore easily of this type of work, and we’re poor at it. When it comes to extracting data from documents and optimizing it for future use, we are fallible, prone to distraction, inconsistent, and slow. Crucially, our work is also not scalable. So even with a legacy solution in place to tackle the suitable document types as single use cases, there is enough on the manual docket that, as paperwork ebbs and flows, workforces go from idle to inundated. At any given moment, either a company’s costs are needlessly high or its turnaround times are lagging.

Many legacy methods claim to be based on AI, but some are in fact prime examples of so-called AI washing. According to Gartner, AI mischaracterization is among the top problems currently impeding real development and adoption of artificial intelligence. As a matter of fact, most of the products that actually do involve AI-based tech are examples of weak AI, also known as narrow AI. Such solutions replicate and sometimes surpass human intelligence, but only for a dedicated purpose. They are, in other words, problem-specific—and require separate coding and deployment for every application. In contrast, strong AI, which can be described as artificial general intelligence, is the software equivalent of generalized human cognitive ability. Unlike weak AI, strong AI can self-train its way to an optimized solution also when tasked with an unfamiliar problem. In other words, weak AI entails well-designed algorithms, while strong AI designs algorithms well all by itself.

If an organization isn’t currently utilizing a strong AI-based approach to automation, it is most likely processing only a fraction of the documents that could benefit from automation. What’s more, it’s just a matter of time until the legacy products in use today wind up obsolete in the face of ever-evolving technologies and business needs. And when you factor in that we are living in an era of exponential information accumulation (90% of the world’s data was created in the last two years!), the need for fast and reliable automation tailored to current market demands is clear.

In contrast to legacy methods and competitors relying on obsolete tech, Applica automates a vast range of document types, whether scanned from paper or born-digital. Our proprietary hybrid model, TILT (Text-Image-Layout Transformer), simultaneously processes text, layout cues, and graphical embeddings to handle all variation in document structure, even within a single document. And we offer multilingual processing as a default, which allows companies to have a unified engineering approach across all of their geographic regions. Our solution also comes with reduced training data requirements, because fine-tuning a pre-trained deep learning model takes a fraction of the time, effort, and expense of training a machine from scratch. And no coding is required! Our solution is viable for the 80% of business documents that currently can’t be automated by legacy tools. So while other companies can automate the processing of invoices alone and other binary-type forms, we allow our clients to successfully automate higher value work, including financial statements, contracts, and all other documents with inconsistent formatting and unpredictable content.

No tech company achieves greatness if it isn’t a service company, too. Our clients don’t need us because we’ve made document processing and data extraction shiny and new. Tech is, after all, just a means to an end. Our clients choose us because Applica solves the overwhelming problem of large-scale paperwork and all of its attendant hassle. And we do this elegantly, with ease, speed, and versatility unavailable through use of existing legacy tools.

When it comes to status quo pursuits like getting into college, legacy is a good thing. But in the demanding world of document automation, legacy tools are a mark of the past. 

For a solution tailored to your company’s needs, strategy, and raw potential, contact Applica today.

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