By Gloria Lombardi

While it may be unrealistic for all business processes to be paper-free at the moment, many processes can be improved once data and information are digitised. Some people feel more comfortable reading, approving, and signing printed documents, but things are gradually changing as more people find that digital documents are just as valid as printed documents. Technology now enables collaborative reviews, recorded approvals, and secure digital signing.

Adobe Scan uses Adobe Sensei’s artificial intelligence technology to identify the edges of pictures and documents, and to recognise printed text and convert it to editable text. With Adobe Document Cloud, it’s easy to sync items between devices – whatever is snapped and scanned in the app can be edited and finalised on your laptop.

Adobe Group Product Marketing Manager, Lisa Croft, explains that, “Often, people are challenged by how paper is part of a process when they need to have the information electronically; they need to pull it into an electronic process. Adobe Scan is meant to help with that. The app allows them to capture the physical content and bring it into a digital process. The resulting PDF is fully searchable and reusable.”

Adobe has just upgraded the Adobe Scan app to boost its discovery capabilities. MARGINALIA spoke with Croft about how the refreshed app can help people find information, and manage documents more effectively. In this interview, Croft also shares examples of how organisations and individuals rely on Adobe to support digital transformation.

Gloria Lombardi: Can you explain what the new discovery capabilities are within the refreshed app?

Lisa Croft: We updated the Adobe Scan app to launch the discovery capabilities to help people find the documents they need and want.

You often know that you’ve taken a photo of a whiteboard or a document, but finding it within the hundreds or thousands of photos on your mobile isn’t easy. Trying to remember what month you captured something is tough. Scrolling back through all your photos might be a nice trip down memory lane, but it isn’t efficient when you’re looking for a crucial receipt or design sketch.

Adobe Scan alleviates all that time-consuming searching and scrolling.

The new discovery capabilities, powered by Adobe Sensei, lets you search through all those files and photos on your phone – the app automatically identifies documents and brings them into the app. Adobe Scan automatically cleans up documents and converts them into PDFs via Adobe Acrobat. The idea is to help people find and use the documents they’ve photographed and collected over time.

GL: What are the productivity benefits of Adobe Scan? 

LC: It’s about capturing content around you, in the world and the workplace, and bringing it into the digital workplace for sharing, collaborating, and processing. Your smartphone is a pocket-sized scanner, and we want to turn your snaps into full-size documents and records. You might carefully photograph a document, page by page, or take a quick snap of a poster for sharing with your design team. You might record the ideas and sketches on a whiteboard from your team meeting, add further annotations, and then distribute with the actions. Adobe’s image processing technologies make your scans look better than the usual snap and text becomes editable, thanks to character recognition technology.

We find productivity is enhanced when people can use their mobiles as a business tool, not just a communication tool. And now that Adobe Scan automatically pulls in previously taken photos of documents from your photo-roll (and from your files app on iPhone) we expect people to be better able to find, use, and reuse their documents as PDFs. Adobe Scan gets real-world information into your digital processes.

GL: Could you share some concrete use cases of how organisations are using Adobe Scan?

LC: One of the most common use cases is probably with receipts. Employees may have to do a travel expense report at some point, and usually need receipts for that. Adobe Scan is fantastic at capturing receipts and helping you find them. At Adobe, we use the app to capture our receipts and send them right into our expense system.

We’ve been working with a number of teams inside Adobe, and have discovered an interesting use case for Adobe Scan. The HR team uses it to capture identification for new hires. There’s a form to fill in to verify the identity of new people – checking information relating to a passport, for instance. HR uses Adobe Scan to capture all the supporting information, which is added right into the form as the new person fills it in. Having all the information in one place makes it much easier to process the information; they don’t have to photocopy anything or send anything back to the new employee, it’s all done there and then, and it’s logged in the system.

The third use case that I hear a lot about is scanning and repurposing content. People may need to capture content from a white board, or maybe some information around them on a display or wall about a product, or about a company, or even something as simple as a business card. They use Adobe Scan to bring that information into the system and share it with their team at work, or just simply store it somewhere such as on SharePoint or OneDrive so that they can reuse it at a later date.

That’s really the power of Adobe Scan: helping people bring in content and repurpose that information. And that could be anywhere; it could be with anything; and it can be anybody. I’m getting more and more use cases on a daily basis, and it’s exciting to see some of the things that individuals are doing with the app. I’ve seen children using Adobe Scan to do their homework; I have talked to older people who use it to get a form completed and get it over to their doctor’s office without having to fax it. Individuals make things better, and solve daily challenges not just in their work life, but also in their personal lives.

GL: Underpinning Adobe Scan is Adobe Sensei, which is an artificial intelligence-based technology. Could you tell us more about how Sensei works?

LC: Adobe Sensei is at the heart of Adobe Scan and is what makes the app as powerful and as helpful as it is.

Adobe Sensei is a stack of machine learning technologies. Sensei has learned the best ways to clean up photos to create clear, reusable documents. It’s much more powerful than this, and underpins many of our products and services, providing recognition, recommendations, predictive, and analytical services. But for Adobe Scan, Sensei recognises the snaps, receipts, business cards et cetera that should be documents and processes them into clean and clear PDFs.

At Adobe, we are constantly working to figure how best to capture and find data, and we train Sensei’s artificial intelligence to automatically take care of it for people. Adobe Scan looks at a photo and the Sensei capabilities determine where the edges of the paper might be, identifies the text components, and cleans up the whole thing so that the end document is sharp and bright. Sensei has worked all this out based on masses of data from Adobe’s many products and services.

GL: Are you planning to use any new Sensei capabilities in 2018?

LC: Absolutely. We’re continuously developing our products. Considering how fast artificial intelligence evolves, I imagine that the more data we analyse, the more powerful Adobe Scan will become. Sensei is always being enhanced, and we’re looking across all our products to find ways that Sensei can help deliver better experiences.

We’re focused on helping people find, read, use, and reuse all the information they need, whether it’s in a document or in collateral around them.

Our goal is to empower people to be productive and creative when and how they want to be. We want Adobe Scan to enable better content capture and creation even in low light or at difficult angles. We want to make it easy for people to take a quick snap and get a high-quality, highly-usable PDF to work on. We want to eliminate the various issues people have with using documents, in print and on screen.

GL: Organisations have a pressing need to ensure their people have the right digital skills. What advice can you give around helping employees become more confident and competent with new technologies?

LC: First, the technology needs to be easy to use. Organisations should consider the user experience, the use cases, and the user interface. People don’t want to spend time learning how to use new applications, they want to get straight in and achieve their goal. Mobile apps, especially, have to have a low learning curve. Any system has to be easy to access; security is very important, but people can’t use an app they can’t log in to.

Second, when embarking on digital transformation, many leaders assume that everything must be digital. However, I don’t believe being 100 per cent paper-free at all times is possible or desirable. Digital transformation is a much bigger topic than whether notebooks and printers are used in the office. There are times when it’s necessary or good to have paper, for legal reasons, creative reasons, or ease-of-reference. Giving employees the tools to work seamlessly from printed document to digital document makes sense.

I advise people to think beyond paper and beyond documents. Think about all the many types of content and media around you that could be repurposed. Start with what you see, and then bring it into your digital workplace. Editable PDFs make reusing and revising content easy, but think what new things could be created. Innovation is easier when we’re free to be inspired by everything.

Read more about Adobe Scan in the article, Working with Intelligent Digital Document, Anywhere and download the app.

This article was sponsored by Adobe Document Cloud.