As I sat watching our CTO show me some new features he's worked on to solve a complicated data problem from one of our customers, it hit me.
I've had this feeling before...
(See the 2 Things That Drive Innovation)
This isn't Innovation. This is Evolution.
As I think about it, a lot of "innovation" is just evolution of technology. The phrase "Standing on the shoulders of giants" comes from Sir Isaac Newton's idea, so it's hardly new.
I've worked for several companies in document capture/data capture/automation industry, and most have tried to drive technological innovation.
They want to invent something that leapfrogs them in front of all competitors. It's a fool's game, in my opinion.
True innovation doesn't just pop up like magic. It's created by solving problems and making leaps that are based on the progress that's been made.
Edison tested thousands of filaments to get the right combination. Before that, he and his team worked on at least three thousand various theories for the electric lamp.
"Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." -Thomas Edison
Real Innovation Comes from Decades of Hard Work
If you've been working on the same types of problems for 30+ years, you bring a lot of experience to the challenge. You have a lot of evolution, or experience, to influence you, and guide your creations.
As I said, I've had this feeling before...
It was the first thought I had when I joined BIS in November of 2019 and saw Grooper for the first time.
"This is a culmination of everything BIS has been working on over the last several decades," I thought.
BIG TIP: We've solved problems that others don't even know exist — because they've never taken on complicated projects.
How We Get Down the Road to Innovating Something - An Example
The definition of innovation is the introduction of something new. It leads us down the path of having to invent something. But genuine innovative technologies in this world are evolutions.
Look at the COVID-19 vaccinations using mRNA. Messenger RNA has been researched for decades - two of the vaccines use this "new" technology, and the first vaccines to use this method are definitely innovative.
But they didn't just pop up one day like some people think innovations do.
Advanced Technology Innovations in Data Engineering
Our "innovations" are all evolution-based. We use data engineering to push ourselves forward. Data engineering is the practical application of data collection and analysis. It sounds pretty simple, but we always find something about a client's data that was unknown before the project started.
This process is a fundamental part of every single system we deploy. However, if you're only working on very narrow problems, your analysis will be limited to the solution's scope.
We like to work on the hard stuff, and our clients want us to solve their difficult problems.
We're not talking about simple 7-field data extraction from invoices. We're talking about:
- Analyzing a million lines of data and figuring out how to get 99.99% accuracy because any less will not be worthwhile for the client
- Validating all of that data when one data element in 1000 is in error. Simply asking an operator to find the error in that much data is an enormous problem
The Challenge Here is That People Believe That Innovation is Like a Magic Lottery Ticket
Some smart, ingenious people sit around and think about a problem, and lo and behold — innovation happens.
And there may be some cases of things progressing in this way. But for the sake of what Grooper is accomplishing, that's not how we create innovative technology.
We developed Grooper because we were tired of having to build add-ons to existing products to meet client needs. We built Grooper from the ground up with all the features we needed to solve the problems our clients were having.
Just to name a few of our innovations, we built in:
- Computer Vision
- Hierarchical data modeling
We figured out how to improve OCR results. It works so well that we got a patent for it. We've evolved those features to be useful to our clients so they can solve their real-world data problems. But our innovations go way beyond simple OCR.
Innovations that Solve Problems in the World of Healthcare Data and PDFs
The newest version of Grooper has an additional way to extract tables that's been built out of our experiences with healthcare EOBs. It not only increases the accuracy, but it also drastically decreases setup time - and makes setup available to business users, not just technical experts.
This version of Grooper also has a lot of improvements around PDFs. I know that might not sound sexy, but when's the last time you had to deal with a malformed PDF?
What about a million of them? We didn't stop at just saying the PDF is bad; we analyzed it, and figured out why.
We found some interesting things - like repeating data that's duplicated many times, like errors, and data elements that seem to have been put in the file to make decoding it difficult - intentionally.
We not only handle these PDFs, we fix them.
Then we let you store extracted data as bookmarks in the PDF, or, if you like, in XMP data. The same innovative technology that has increased our table extraction results has a byproduct of also being a much better way of classifying documents.
It gets closer to mimicking human cognition than any classification method I've ever seen.
Innovative Technologies Don't Rest - They Should Be Pushed to Keep Solving the Toughest Problems
But our evolved innovation doesn't stop there. We noticed that even if we have exceptional extraction, a validator trying to find a single piece of erroneous data in 10,000 rows still has a bit of a challenge in front of them.
Finding the error can be a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. If we can't make validation efficient, all those gains on classification and extraction are for naught.
So we added some easy-to-use sorting features in validation so an operator can quickly sort the extracted data to find where an error is. They can even search the extractions to find what they're looking for.
The results? We find the needle no matter where it tries to hide from us, and quickly.
The evolutions are so subtle that sometimes, when looking at a new feature, I find myself wondering if that feature hasn't been in the product for a long time, and I just never noticed it before.
Because we've built Grooper as a product and a platform, new functionality is easily added in and made accessible.
What Two Things Drive Technological Innovation?
First, focus on the fact that innovation only happens when people work on difficult problems and figure out how to do them more easily the next time around.
If you aren't trying to solve the tough stuff, you'll never even know what the data problems are that need solving.
So what drives technological innovation? Solving tough problems with hard work.
This version of Grooper is going to change things. It's going to change how I sell the product, for one thing.
Take invoice processing, for example:
I know that invoice automation has about 100 different companies out there trying to do the same thing.
Everyone has basically the same story, "Take your largest volume vendors," or "Follow an 80/20 rule, 80% of your volume is represented by 20% of your vendors."
But Grooper will allow a customer to build a model that encompasses ALL of their vendors. Hyperautomation, anyone?
Sure, we'll prioritize and go after the big wins first. But when we leave the project, we make sure the client has the ability to add new vendors to the model with a simple point-and-click, no-code interface.
That new model is IMMEDIATELY available. It doesn't need to "re-bake" for a few hours before it is ready. A single person can build hundreds of invoice vendor definitions per week.
And, not an IT person, but a business user, an AP clerk. So I'll be targeting companies with a lot of vendors because I know that Grooper offers a level of automation that no one else can - all of their vendors.
The evolution of our innovative technology is useful across verticals. A wide range of documents benefit from our evolution-based approach, including:
- Any other semi-structured document
- Any other unstructured document
We're not just saving companies money - we're enabling them to onboard their customers faster - faster time to value - faster time to cash. This industry has changed a lot over the last 25+ years I've been involved with it.
Technology Innovation Isn't Magical - It's Developed From Doing the Hard Work
We're not archiving anymore, we're automating.
And as with all things in nature and evolution, only the fittest will thrive, only those who are able to adapt better to the changes will continue to win deals and grow.
That's what we do with Grooper - we make sure we evolve to solve your hardest data problems with innovative technology.