At the AIIM 2020 event last week, in an effort to promote my newsletter, I was handing out some paper copies of the 2/28/20 issue. If you read that report, you may have noticed that it contained lot of new and emerging marketing buzzwords being thrown about by the featured vendors. For instance, there was a story on Kofax that starts on page one, which introduces the term “hyper-automation.” Coined by Gartner, Kofax is using it now in addition to “intelligent automation,” which if you remember from my beginning of the year predictions [DIR 1/10/20], I a thought was a very valid term.
Then, on page five starts a story based on an interview with Scott Opitz, the founder of process intelligence ISV, TimelinePI, which last year was acquired by ABBYY. Opitz was recently promoted to Chief Marketing Officer of ABBYY and has the company focused on “digital intelligence.” Digital intelligence represents a cross-section of capture and process intelligence, in which having intelligence about your content increases your process IQ.
Finally, on page 6, there is a story about Ephesoft, which has come up with a brand new market focus named “context driven productivity,” or CDP. As described by Ephesoft, CDP is a three-step process: The first is capture. The second is integrating with outside sources to put captured data into context. The third is being able to utilize that contextualized content to drive business processes.
Kofax, ABBYY, and Ephesoft all have roots as document capture vendors. When we shared the issue with Kevin Neal, a capture market veteran and the founder of cloud capture-focused start-up P3iD, he had replied, “My head is spinning with all these buzzwords. Lots of talk about ‘complexity’ and a focus on enterprise. When will someone in the legacy capture industry figure out that ‘simplicity’ wins at the end of the day?”
Neal then offered the examples of Windows, the iPhone, and Amazon as platforms that have succeeded due to their simplicity. “If simplicity and ease of use is the winning formula, why do the legacy capture companies continue to create confusion with new buzzwords for the same old technologies?” he asks. “Just look at all their user interfaces, the effort to set up and deploy, and then the cost/skills required and complexity to maintain. Nothing about legacy capture is simple, nor easy.”
Indeed P3iD, and a few others, including titans like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, not to mention hardware vendors with their various network scanning initiatives, are investing in creating simpler capture interfaces. But, I don’t think that is the opportunity that ABBYY, Ephesoft, and Kofax are after. They are looking to fry bigger fish within the enterprise.
When I asked Ephesoft CEO Ike Kavas about the difference between capture and CDP, he answered, “Traditional capture is only a very small part of a larger picture, while CDP is a brand-new way to help DX projects.”
Just to clarify things a bit, for 2018, Harvey Spencer Associates (HSA) estimated the traditional document capture market was worth a little less than $5 billion worldwide and growing at about 16% per year. In contrast, various sources of research listed the DX market as being worth $250-300 billion in 2018 and growing 15-20% annually. Granted, Kofax, ABBYY, and Ephesoft are not addressing the entire DX spectrum, but they are aimed at a wider swath of potential revenue than they would be sticking to capture. That swath includes capture, as well as the business processes that capture has historically fed. And what enables these capture vendors to finally expand into a space they have been adjacent to for over 20 years? Artificial intelligent (AI).
Capture guys are applied AI pioneers
Capture ISVs have been developing AI for years—at least on the machine learning/pattern recognition level. For instance, over the past year, Kofax has started talking about utilizing AI, and every time I ask them where it came from, they say it has been in their capture offering for years, it just wasn’t talked about. I hear similar things from ABBYY. And Ephesoft has been discussing machine learning for a few years. There are others. The fact is, many of today’s capture applications are already utilizing relatively mature AI for classification and extraction from semi-structured documents.
The process guys—RPA and BPM vendors—don’t have this. Their technology has relied primarily on manual GUI design, for BPM, and just rote copying of static processes, for RPA. They haven’t been forced to be as flexible, and intelligent, as the capture guys have. So, now the capture guys are looking to leverage this head start in applied AI and use it to move deeper into the enterprise—by introducing their intelligence into the process space.
Of course, that’s only one potential avenue for success in the AI-driven process market. Another is taking more general AI technology, developed by behemoths like Microsoft, Google, and IBM, and applying it across multiple applications, including capture and process management. This is what IBM is doing with Watson and its new Content Analyzer [see DIR 6/14/19], and what Microsoft is doing in Project Cortex [see DIR 11/15/19]. At AIIM, we caught up with Iron Mountain who is stoked about the potential it sees with Google’s AI, including leveraging it for a document capture application, InSight, that can also recognize content in video and text.
As Neal observed, “I’m afraid legacy capture vendors are getting squeezed from both sides – by the innovative web services by small AI companies, as well as many decent alternatives starting to be offered natively from the big cloud companies.”
So, it seems to me there is a war being fought currently in the enterprise space and it has less to do with capture, RPA, and BPM—although these are certainly nice window dressing. The heart of the future of the enterprise will be the AI engine because that will control all these processes and plenty more. I am looking forward to watching how this all plays out!