As a follow on to my earlier post this month about why organizations continue to face the challenges with managing paper, I’ve recently finished up an article titled “The Paradox: Digital World, More Paper?”. The basis of the article is that while we’d like to completely get rid of paper all together (meaning, we stop printing paper and keep the information electronic through the entire life cycle), the reality is there are several impeding factors.
Such factors like the fact that a large percentage of paper is generated from outside a business where there is little or no control over it or because some industries like government still need design their processes to support paper because of the large constituent base they service. These are just a few examples.
What we should consider is (1) what content can truly remain electronic and (2) what content will be in the form of paper at some point in the process. What may be surprising to some is that there are many cases where paper needs to be dealt with. It could be something as simple as a document containing a signature, or a more complex scenario could involve extracting a large amount of data from a paper form. Regardless of the complexity, there is an ongoing need to be able turn paper into digital information. This can be done using an intelligent enterprise capture solution which delivers automation in the form of identifying documents, extracting and validating the business data, and connecting the information to your most critical business processes and systems. That will allow information that is trapped on paper to be connected with other content that is already electronic.
Another point to consider is when you should capture the documents. Should we capture paper at the beginning, middle, or end of the process? If the goal is to simply archive paper to provide future access, then this will likely happen towards the end of a process. If the paper documents are driving a process, then capturing the documents farther upstream is critical.
Capturing paper documents towards the end of a process certainly delivers a lot of value from being able to manage and access archived digital content, but you miss out on the upstream benefits that are possible when document capture is used early on in a process. By capturing paper documents early on the process, you are able to drive a tremendous amount of business value by supporting tasks that require the information contained in paper documents. These tasks are often related to customer service, case management reviews, approvals, and more.
So I think most would agree that paper is not yesterday’s problem but rather a problem that continues to challenge even the most efficient organizations. The good news is you can address it and it does not require completely re-engineering your business. Rather it is a matter of understanding where paper lives in organization and turning it into digital information so that it can be accessed, managed, and processed. Imagine turning paper into a valuable digital asset that could be leveraged as a business advantage? Who wouldn’t consider that a worthwhile investment.