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Turning Down the Volume on OCR ‘Click Charges’

OCR is one of the most common technologies on my clients’ wish-lists, mostly because it works and works very well. But it also is one of the most common sticking points when it comes to solution pricing, largely because of the page-oriented, volume-based fees that generally are associated with its use.

Especially in the case of cloud-based or service bureau offerings, these “click charges” (to use an old printing/copying term) represent a logical way for vendors to be remunerated – a prototypical example of “pay as you go.” But for on-premise use, many organizations balk at the notion of having to pay “extra” to use software for which they’ve already paid a licensing fee – especially when they’re dealing with volumes measured in the tens and hundreds of thousands of pages.

So what’s a company to do?

Short of mounting an out-and-out boycott of the vendors in question, or simply demanding a flat fee as a condition of sale, there are a few things to bear in mind when seeking to minimize the financial hit associated with OCR’ing large numbers of pages:

  1. Calculate your anticipated volume with as much precision as you can muster – there’s no point paying for capacity you don’t need, and it can be a real productivity and cost sink to have to go back and buy more.
  2. Carefully consider the necessity of doing backfile conversions, or at least how far back in time you have to go. Nothing will pump up your volumes faster than including older documents just because you can.
  3. Be very clear about what constitutes a “page” and how it is calculated given that documents are different sizes and in different formats (including paper). What about re-scans required because the scanner jammed? And what of annotation layers – are these considered to be separate documents or parts of the one they’re attached to?

Personally, I dislike pricing models that keep me consciously aware that there are usage limits I dare not exceed for fear of breaking my bank. Usually what happens is that I end up significantly underusing the service and thereby spending more per click than the budgeted amount! (Think about your cellphone plan – it’s exactly the same dynamic.) Either way, I’m not getting the value I need and expected, and I’m a grudging customer at best.

The realities of today’s marketplace may mean you still have to accept some sort of volume-based model for OCR to get your work done, and the technology’s benefit still is often worth the price. But I can’t help but think that time is running out on it as the technology gets more commodity and companies grows more sophisticated.

So I ask: what say you? What strategies do you recommend? Our inquiring minds want to know!

2 thoughts on “Turning Down the Volume on OCR ‘Click Charges’”

  1. Steve,
    I think there are two assumptions you are making that are not necessarily true –
    1) that all vendors charge a significant licensing fee up-front, on top of “click” charges, and
    2) that all vendors require pre-paid “click” or volume charges.

  2. Hi Paul; thanks for commenting!

    I wasn’t meaning to paint everyone with the same brush, but I have noticed that volume charges are still quite prevalent, and usually also are companions to licensing fees as well. To me, this kind of model has had its day — I mean, even cell phone carriers are now moving toward “all you can eat” kinds of plans, and they are hardly what you’d call consumer-friendly!

    But you are right to point out that this may not be universal. To which I simply say, “caveat emptor,” as always!

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