IBM Acquires Datacap: Rabbit Punch To Kofax And EMC

You might think summer would be a good time to give acquisitions a break - to let things settle a bit. But the pace of key acquisitions continues and many deserve comment. Datacap, as we all know, is not new to IBM having many - probably 20 - joint customers. This helps shore up IBM's already packed ECM portfolio - which depended for capture on Kofax - and other partners like Datacap. The original capture assets, acquired with FileNet, were adequate but lacked forms processing and a distributed capture strategy. This acquisition plugs those gaps but more importantly provides a needed platform to overlay IBM's suite of analytics products to improve business processes with metadata extraction, document classification, and ultimately to bring text analytics to transactional business processes. Advanced capture will also help IBM in advancing areas of dynamic case management and medical records.    

Forms capture technology to enhance scanning, OCR, and workflow has evolved to where the basic scan and OCR, covered well by FileNet's existing capture, is just not enough . The leaders Kofax and Captiva and emerging players like Brainware have strong forms processing credentials and now IBM can provide its own capabilities. Basically, extracting information from an image is greatly improved with forms processing. When a document enters the system, a key field, such as PO number, is used to identify a template for that document.  That template will have preconfigured zones that the recognition software will be pointed to for extraction. Accuracy of OCR is improved.  The templates can be predefined based on testing in deployment. However, more advanced systems allow dynamic learning - an area IBM can advance with analytic capabilities. Datacap has not been overly impressive in this regard, but IBM's analytics can help complete the picture. Forrester believes that soon analytics will support extraction of meaning from documents, but they need strong capture for this to succeed. So this is not good news for Kofax - that will over time see the IBM channel diminish - and EMC loses a bit of differentiation against the IBM P8 suite. A good move by IBM, and congratulations to Datacap. And please - let's keep the consolidations down until summer winds down. 


Craig, This is clearly one


This is clearly one more piece of evidence that demonstrates how much value advanced capture solutions bring to the broader content management and enterprise resource planning architecture. For users of these systems, advanced or intelligent data capture solutions deliver new and measurable value, and the resulting case studies demonstrate this across a broad range of industries and document types, especially invoices.

But while I completely agree with you that legacy scanning, OCR, and workflow solutions have given way to new capture technologies, the breakthroughs have been achieved by departing from the “forms processing” approach altogether and not simply building upon it.

At Brainware, we developed a new category of “intelligent data capture” from the ground up - specifically designed to classify, extract, and reconcile data from any type of unstructured document. There is no legacy backbone in forms processing, hence, intelligent data capture breaks the inherent limitations of scalability that are imposed by key field identification and preconfigured templates. This platform sorts documents based on their content and extracts field and line item data based on context. By integrating fault tolerant search that does not rely on keywords or exact definitions, we extract meaning from unstructured text and reconcile information on the document with trusted sources of master data irrespective of OCR errors, variations in text, or misspellings – all of which are common in real world document processing.

Considering the many document-centric processes that can benefit from the elimination of routine manual data entry, including invoice processing (already widely recognized), order entry, remittance processing, EOB processing, mailroom automation, and many others, it’s no wonder that the market is hot. As enterprise content management and ERP vendors look to generate new value with their platforms on one side of the equation, and scanning and device manufacturers look to do the same on the other side of the equation, the landscape will change as partnerships and acquisitions abound. With the summer bringing this kind of activity in the market, I look forward to what’s in store for the fall!