Critical Questions: How To Automate Data Extraction From Tables
by Mark Clark, on February 13, 2020 8:19:59 AM PST
Extracting data from tables isn’t quite as easy as it should be.
If you read up about just how wrong the Rolling Stones were when it comes to extracting data from tables, you already know!
Automating data extraction—even when it comes to complex tables and charts—is not as tough as you’d think.
When you ask yourself...and answer...some pointed, critical questions, you can learn if automation can be all it’s cracked up to be. The key, of course, is asking the right questions…
So what are they? Let’s dive in.
QUESTION 1: Do You Need to Extract Data from Tables?
The first question is always a doozy...right?
These days, time is precious for everyone.
That’s the gist behind this question.
If you don’t have a specific need identified for the data that’s often trapped in tables, then there’s no need to pursue automation!
If there’s no existing process that relies on or otherwise uses data trapped in tables and charts, then there’s no need to pursue automation.
But, if you DO have a need...if you DO have processes that use this kind of information?
Answering the rest of these questions can make the path to automation (and all its advantages) more clear.
QUESTION 2: If You Could Automate Data Extraction from Tables, What Could It Do for Your Business?
This question is all about seeing the possibilities.
Before you answer it, consider the volume of data you have trapped in tables.
Automation saves time—sometimes a ton of it! But, if the volume isn’t there, then automation of data extraction may not make sense.
That said, if you’re processing thousands of documents (and for some even tens of thousands... or more!), then automation could mean you have measurable, untapped benefits waiting to be revealed.
So to answer this question, make a list of what could be possible if you could automate all that data extraction work.
As you make your list, consider the full impact of what automation could mean for your business.
That means dig deeper.
It’s more than saved time…
...it’s an ability to focus on activities more strategically than data scraping.
- What are the results of these activities?
- What would those results mean for your employees?
- What would those results mean for your business?
It’s more than increased accuracy…
...it’s higher quality data that leads to an increased trust in the numbers.
- What would virtually 100% accuracy do for your business?
- How could you turn that into a marketing or sales message?
- What could more accuracy mean for customer trust?
It’s more than lower costs…
...It’s allowing skilled workers to focus on what they do best, rather than tiresome, monotonous, and deadly boring manual data extraction work.
- Where could you shift the focus on your workforce that’s currently on data extraction duty?
- What would that shift mean for morale?
- How could that impact your overall business performance?
QUESTION 3: What Are Some Functional Areas or Processes That Could Use the Accurate Data Extracted from These Tables and Charts? How Could Your Business Benefit?
Consider all of the functional areas and/or existing processes that could benefit from more accurate, extracted data.
List them out. (Really! I’ll wait for you!)
Think of all the people that either already consumes the data…
Think about all the people that could use this data to make more informed decisions.
And, consider this quote from a leading insurer to help paint the picture:
“If we could extract full information, then we could offer insights as a service to the rest of the organization. That means being able to automate other downstream processes.
For us, people across different BUs end up reading the same material every day just so they can run their processes. If we could extract ALL the data, then we could generate a ton of cost savings...and increase our speed to market, too.”
Once you have your list, you’ll have a better idea of just how big an impact quicker access to more accurate data can have for your business.
QUESTION 4: Have You Tried to Extract Table Data from PDFs, But Found You Always Hit Roadblocks?
Maybe you tried OCR.
OCR didn’t work.
Maybe you tried cloud tools from Amazon or Google.
Cloud tools from Amazon or Google didn’t work.
Maybe you tried [FILL IN WHAT YOU TRIED HERE].
[FILL IN WHAT YOU TRIED HERE] didn’t work.
The thing is, many people try this...and many people fail.
But the failure that so many experiences doesn’t have to be the norm.
QUESTION: 5: As a result of Those Roadblocks, Have You Determined Extracting Data from Tables Cannot Be Done Outside of Manual Efforts?
Have you determined automating this type of data just cannot be done?
If so, that would be a shame.
Because you CAN automate data extraction, no matter how complex your documents can get.
For example...consider this large insurer (you may know).
The large insurer (you may know) was using a manual process to extract data from documents that had tables, as well as other images, photos, fonts...even handwritten sections,
Their process? It took four weeks to fully complete.
They had all but given up hope of automating data extraction. It was a massive roadblock...until they learned how to remove it.
Once they eliminated the data roadblock—making that part of their process automated rather than manual—the large insurer (you may know) cut turnaround time by 75%.
What’s more? In doing so, they increased capacity by 60%, allowing them to process more claims...that is...do more business.
What Would 60% More Capacity Mean for Your Business?
Answering these critical questions is the first step toward finding out.
If you’d like to explore the possibilities with someone who’s been there...or even just want some assistance figuring it all out, it’s available.
Read more about how others have addressed their data extraction challenges head-on and thrived.
Finally, be on the lookout for more helpful content just like this...soon. 😃