The easy use of the right information at the right time is vital to businesses of every size, but the lack of a holistic, employee-centred, document management strategy can damage processes and waste people’s time.
But what if documents became more intelligent? Imagine if the data and information that surrounds us in the physical world could seamlessly enter the digital workplace for when-you-need-it access. Document scanning might be seen as an administrative burden – something to be done at the end of the month by your junior team member. But what if scanning was something everybody did whenever and wherever it was needed? Surely better access to information can boost team productivity. As part of its Document Cloud offering, Adobe has just announced the launch of Adobe Scan. Powered by artificial intelligence and automatic text recognition technology, the new mobile app promises to “re-imagine how we capture the world around us,” as Adobe Group Product Marketing Manager, Lisa Croft (pictured below), puts it.
MARGINALIA spoke with Croft to explore how Adobe Scan can improve information flow between people and teams, enabling better decisions and actions. In this interview, she explains how simply taking a picture of a document using your phone can become a collaborative process around the editable content. She offers some clear use cases, and explains Adobe’s integration with SharePoint Online.
Gloria Lombardi: When we think of the Adobe business offerings, documents come immediately to mind. What has been your focus lately in that respect?
Lisa Croft: We have always focused on helping our customers deliver the best experiences they can. This experience-focused mindset drives the way Adobe thinks about business. And this matters for documents too, because documents drive business. Adobe Document Cloud delivers solutions that let people create, share, and transact business with the digital documents in intuitive and intelligent ways, across any device, anywhere in the world.
People’s experiences and expectations of mobile technology have created a mandate for every company to transform.
A modern document experience is easy, intuitive, connected, secure, and mobile. Mobile is the new standard for document creation, consumption, and engagement. And that is our focus. Adobe Document Cloud integrates powerful mobile apps and industry-best cloud services so that users can accelerate business and deliver the modern document experience they need.
Today, we make mobile the new Ctrl-P.
GL: In fact, you have just announced the launch of a brand new app, Adobe Scan. What are its core capabilities?
LC: Adobe Scan helps people create intelligent, digital documents, anywhere. It allows people to turn their mobile device into a powerful and intelligent scanning and automatic text recognition tool. Users can grab a snapshot of anything with printed text and images on it. Adobe Scan automatically cleans that up (e.g. cropping, lighting, etc.) thanks to Adobe Sensei, which is our artificial intelligence and machine learning technology. It will also automatically convert the scan into text that can be searched and reused, potentially in other solutions or processes. This represents a huge re-imagination of how we capture the world around us.
GL: “A re-imagination…” – what does that mean from a user perspective?
LC: With Adobe Scan, the document itself becomes intelligent – information can be extracted from it, it’s not just a dumb scanned image.
A user takes a picture of whatever they’re looking at. The Sensei AI immediately identifies the page and works out how best to clean up the image. So you’re presented with a document that looks like a document, rather than just a snap; the perspective is fixed, the lighting is improved, and the edges are identified, for example. You can still make manual changes to the image of course, to refine how it looks.
The cleaned document is saved as a PDF directly into the Document Cloud, but is also available directly in the app for sharing, and may be saved locally on your device.
Importantly, Adobe Scan’s text recognition capability means that you can do something with the document, which is probably the most important aspect of the tool from a productivity perspective.
Remember where the user started: she took a snap of something, made that digital, and intelligent. She can now get it over to someone else, sharing it with the team, adding notes and making a few suggestions; or maybe she can put it into another system and make it a part of another work process.
GL: Could you share some Adobe Scan use cases?
LC: There are a lot of uses even beyond a document perspective. Let’s take, for example, the creative industry. A designer is working on a design board to create a new space for a client. A cleaned up, PDF version of a document created with Adobe Scan is saved on the design board – he can now do something with it. For example, with Adobe Acrobat Reader on his mobile device he can read and highlight text on any particular document made with Adobe Scan; he can copy and paste text out of it and he can move it on into other processes. He can work with his colleagues and they can make suggestions and changes to the document. Maybe they need to highlight an area and insert some questions. It’s all possible within the PDF. It’s easy enough to combine two or more PDFs, so new content and new ideas can be added into a single document.
Finally, once he is done, he can pull the document out from the office design board directly into his email and send the document out to clients.
But, I have another modest personal use case to share as an example. I was at a conference a couple of weeks ago. One slide on the main screen had some interesting statistics that I wanted to share with my team. I went straight to Adobe Scan and took a picture of the slide. The app cleaned it up automatically – the lightning was not great as the room was dark. But what I really wanted to do was use the information. Because the text recognition had taken place, I could open this up and select that text, copy it out and move it over to Slack, which is the communication channel I use with my team. I pasted that information right into the chat. I was able to do that in couple of seconds just by grabbing a picture.
We all walk around with a scanner in our pocket now. It is our phone. We don’t always realise how powerful that actually is. Adobe Scan really opens up hundreds of possibilities for how we might simplify work processes that normally might be difficult to perform.
GL: What other innovations we can expect from Adobe Document Cloud?
LC: Among others, we have just announced new innovations around our cloud-based e-signature product, Adobe Sign. In a digital workplace, digital signatures have become essential. Think of the ability for HR to manage contracts and agreements without relying on the old, manual process. With Adobe Sign anyone can sign and return a document, from any device, in minutes. Adobe Sign lets a user add digital stamps such as a ‘received’ image, or a corporate seal, or a personal identifier such as Hanko stamp in Japan. It also allows the organisation to brand the experience by customising the email template for requesting and confirming signatures.
With Adobe Sign, documents can be digitally signed, time stamped, and validated using trusted certificate authorities to ensure compliance across the globe. This is not simply adding a photo of your signature; this is certified digital signing in its truest sense. You may be familiar with some legislation happening in Europe such as eIDAS, around how we define signatures and signer authentication. We fully support eIDAS with both electronic and digital signatures.
The last, important innovation I would like to mention is our continued expansion of the Adobe Document Cloud ecosystem. We always try to meet our customers’ needs. For example, we are expanding into SharePoint Online. We were already supporting SharePoint on premises, but now we are going to extend into the online version. With Adobe and SharePoint Online, organisations can, for instance, get a signature on any device from their employees or new hires, and track the status of the agreement without leaving SharePoint.
We have similar integrations with other large systems such as ServiceNow – a company can send and track agreements directly from the platform and let the recipients sign on any device.
Adobe Scan seems to epitomise the future of intelligent document capture. Image clean up, automatic text recognition, and integration with other enterprise communications tools all play a role in moving towards paperless, collaborative document management. Individuals and businesses can all benefit from the free download of the app on both iOS and Android.