When you think of “capture,” what comes to mind? Was your first thought about scanning a piece of paper, or even an electronic file cabinet? You wouldn’t be alone in your thinking. However, the world of capture has expanded well beyond this one aspect in the last two decades. By necessity, you now have to consider all manner of digital content beyond even electronic documents, and think about emails, voice recordings, videos, and social media content. It’s no longer enough to think about capture as an on-ramp to some nebulous information superhighway.

Shaping your future now depends on whether you can embrace a singular truth: Capture is the starting point to a journey in simplifying your customer’s life.

Evolution From On-Ramp to Ingestion

At the turn of the century, the concept of scanning paper into a digital copy was new to most of us. As this new horizon came into focus, practitioners found that questions often outnumbered opportunities. We included scanning solutions to strengthen value and seed demand for this fledgling technology. Capture solutions have since grown significantly in sophistication, yet capture is frequently synonymized with simple scanning or electronic filing cabinets.

“Capture isn’t just about paper,” according to Roderick Hughes, director, Product Management – Imaging, Nuance Communications. “If you are working in a channel that only views capture in terms of paper, you are living 20 years ago.” In fact, electronic capture has been happening all along with EDI transactions and API integrations, but most of us haven’t thought about capture outside of the paradigm of capturing digital content for storage. For instance, today’s typical contact centers are expected to interact with customers via phone, email, chat, SMS, Facebook, and Twitter. “Capturing information is what businesses must do to serve customers well,” says Hughes.

“The role of capture has gone unnoticed for far too long,” emphasizes Glenn Johnson, president, PSIGEN Software. “Like a house, if you don’t start with a solid foundation the structure will fail.”

But is today’s capture solution still only a foundation?

To become truly viable, capture software requires a bevy of intermediate software applications such as barcode recognition, OCR, or document templates. It’s more complex than creating an electronic filing cabinet, and today’s businesses have advanced well beyond needing simple binary processes. Complex, multistep interactions have become intelligent enough to recognize when fetching other inputs are required to continue. Combined with semantic processing and machine learning, capture has successfully moved from a point of entry to a point of ingestion to facilitate full digestion. In other words, providers have to be much more considerate about how the organization needs to interact with the inputs in a more holistic approach.

That sounds very sophisticated. Where should you start?

Eating the Elephant

Let’s face it, selling an electronic file cabinet is pretty straightforward today. Even as simple as this is, what is it that you are really selling? Beyond simply storing documents, doesn’t your customer need the ability to interact with information when, where, and how they desire? It can’t be just another decades-old elevator pitch; that’s not what best helps your customer fulfill his or her purpose, is it?

According to Johnson, “Customer skepticism has gone way up as a direct result of sellers bastardizing terminology [and making promises they can’t keep].” Sellers peddle a vision that is never delivered, or — more than likely — realize it’s a more complicated task than originally envisioned. Sold a bill of goods by some consultant or circuit tradeshow speaker, I’ve heard it a hundred times from sellers: “Why does this have to be so complicated? Can’t we just go back to the way things were?”

It always feels safer to flee back to the warm embrace of what we know rather than brave uncertainties. But there are some hallmarks that we can look to in order to increase our chances for success in our future.

Bite 1: Your Purpose is Simple

Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

In this succinct phrase, da Vinci captured the spirit of how utterly difficult it is to make something so simple. Just ask Google’s homepage team how hard it is to keep the most visited page in the world so simple, yet so effective.

Even when customers asked for results per page to be displayed, Google ignored it. Why? “Customers often don’t understand the consequences of their choices, but it is our job to do so,” said Marissa Mayer in an interview that appeared in the book “Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity” when she was director of consumer web products for Google. For instance, “We figured out that 10 results per page is the right number. We don’t change that.”

“Our purpose is to make customers lives easier, better, and less complex,” explains Hughes. We live in a day and age where customers need our help in righting the injustice they face each and every day in their business — unnecessary complexity. They don’t fully understand the best way to accomplish what they want, so you must be clear-sighted and surefooted in your purpose.

While your purpose is simple its price is high, requiring unrelenting focus.

Bite 2: Decide to Focus

Simplicity is not so simple to achieve, my friend. It requires great focus to achieve something extraordinary. In my study of successful entrepreneurs over the past six years, time and again I’ve been told that zealously clinging to a rigorous clarity of purpose gave them the ability to focus and say yes to only what would contribute to success. This meant that they said “no” much more frequently than “yes.”

“At PSIGEN, if it doesn’t eliminate keystrokes and mouse-clicks it isn’t our job,” Johnson says. This singular way of thinking has led this company to over 50,000 installations worldwide.

To capitalize on capture in tomorrow’s landscape, Hughes believes successful players will not only need to be able to understand the technologies and scale of the business, but “have a focus on business process transactions that ingest large amounts of unstructured data and do something with it.” Additionally, he thinks that successful players will need to “focus on specific niches for years, resisting the temptation to diversify before dominating.” Successful players will be the “best at streamlining and automating” business processes — bar none.

Bite 3: Swallow Hard

You’ve got to execute the hell out of your plan. There’s no easier way to say it.

I have met far too many players that offer capture solutions as part of their endless catalog. If a customer wants it they’ll provide it, regardless of the impact on purpose and focus. They coddle sales teams that only know how to say yes and chase their tail trying to fulfill an ill-conceived customer promise.

Discipline to your purpose isn’t easy. After all, you climbed your way to success listening to your customers in the first place, and it sounds completely counter to what’s made you successful so far. But if you genuinely know what will make your customers’ lives better and can be the best in your niche, then why waver in your pursuit to right the wrongs your customers face each and every day in their businesses?

To eat this elephant in three bites means that you’ve got to take big bites and swallow hard.

Widen Your Gaze and Capture the Reward

Capture plays a vital role in the business process transaction ecosystem. A recent IHS report showed more than 8 billion connected devices globally—that’s an average of four devices per household on the planet producing tons of data waiting to be gobbled up and digested into usable information. By Gartner’s estimation, that will result in 93 percent of all data in the digital universe being unstructured by 2022. This means that businesses will be faced with oceans of disconnected and “unleverageable” data that you can help put to good use — if you understand more than selling and servicing endpoints on a network.

In order to capitalize upon this tidal wave rushing to shore, you must be willing to look beyond paper- and text-based capture solutions, think multi-dimensionally, be outcome-focused, and be able to package and position to your customer’s benefit. If you are willing to widen your gaze and embrace what capture can mean to you and your customers, you stand to gain significant reward by being at the center of need.

Capture promises to change and shape the way in which we interact with the world around us, simplifying and expanding the use of the technology embedded in our lives. From recognizing our voice to protecting our financial information to helping us find a missing child in minutes instead of days — or not at all — it’s a brave new world. You can be a part of this brave new world, which begins with the end in mind — your customer’s desire. The first step starts with taking your first bite of this giant elephant called capture.

This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of The Imaging Channel.