If you’ve been following us closely, you know that in spite of the economic downturn many techie areas of business have seen substantial growth. Among them is document capture software, which saw a market value increase of 7.7% (1.9bn) in 2008 according to a new study by Harvey Spencer Associates (HSA).

The Breakdown

“Each segment achieved some growth [...] particularly in quarter 3 and quarter 4” said Harvey Spencer, President, HSA. The numbers according to the company are as follows:

  • Ad-hoc: This segment, which uses desktop scanners and MFPs to convert paper to digital images on a demand basis for local storage; conversion to text; or input into a business process, grew by 5.1%.
  • Batch Image Capture: This segment, which uses higher speed scanners to convert batches of paper into ECM and Document Management systems, grew by 1.7%.
  • Batch Transaction: This segment, which extracts data from captured documents into business processes, grew by 13.3%.

“The Ad-hoc growth rate was negatively impacted by the economy, which caused a slowdown in MFP and scanner shipments, and by the impact of Ricoh’s acquisition of IKON which caused management and sales focus to shift,” explained Spencer. “Batch Image was affected by the slowdown in ECM sales. However, we are particularly pleased to see the double-digit growth rate of the Batch Transaction Segment. Sales in this segment frequently show paybacks of under one year, even as average systems increase in complexity and price. We are seeing many more individual sales that are over $100,000, and a few of several million dollars”.

We’re (slowly) Going Green

We can’t say we’re surprised with the numbers. These days, being wasteful in the office is cripplingly un-cool and as managing paper becomes more and more expensive, almost everyone is on the lookout for an efficient alternative anyway. Capture technologies generally fit this bill, as they leverage intelligent classification software and have the ability to scan, understand, extract and validate wanted data from paper documents with little to no human intervention.

And yet, as Spencer points out, document capture is still considered “an immature and interesting growth market that is not well understood as it has been outside mainstream IT.” A recent survey from the EMC Corporation highlighted the surprisingly slow-going climb of document capture by revealing that while most organizations have already invested in capture technologies, two-thirds were only scanning half of their possible documents.

It’s likely that the 2008 numbers are simply teasers for an explosion in the world of document capture, but whether or not the market will exceed $2.7bn in 2012 as HSA predicts, remains to be seen.