Increased competition, better communication and globalisation in general is pressuring businesses everywhere to become more efficient. To take performance to even higher levels, businesses are increasingly looking towards how they can capture and measure performance and guide decision making through data.
Data driven decisions require real time information connections between business processes and decision makers. One obstacle to achieving these real time connections is the amount of data that is contained in paper based documents & the functionality of the document itself. In a recent Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) survey, 68% of respondents agreed that business-at-the-speed-of-paper will be unacceptable in just a few years’ time; and 46% said that the biggest single productivity improvement for most of their business processes is the removal of paper. (Miles, 2014) And yet, only about one third of all companies have any sort of mandate to move towards a paperless business environment.
Paper’s Role in data capture
When asked, managers and employees alike often cite paper and its mundane manual processes as a major impediment to efficient and effective work. Even with recent efforts to digitise, many businesses are still paper dependent. A more serious problem with paper based information is that it is generally unstructured, which basically renders it dysfunctional - yet, so much key business data is contained within those pages.
Even though new technologies are allowing businesses to begin a digital transition, paper will be with us for quite some time.
So why not make it more functional?
While businesses are focusing on converting to digital processes and data driven systems, they can integrate paper based data more effectively by focusing on the following three factors.
Improved data capture
The first step in making paper more functional is in the way we capture it - weather it be digital or paper. Leveraging software that completes Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and creating a link between your scanning device and your network is the first step, this will allow you to automatically capture key data contained within forms, invoices or regularly used documents relative to key business processes.
One of the most common problems with documents is the way that they are saved, more often than not the way that one staff member saves a document and where they save it - will be very different to the next staff member. Hence the trouble with unstructured systems. Integrating document capture software with a document management system allows you to index documents with standardised naming conventions & in many cases automatically without manual interaction required.
Many smart document management systems actually allow you build reporting tools based on the indexing fields that you set, they also allow you to automate workflows i.e. If an invoice is scanned and the software recognises that it is over a certain value, the system will automatically route the document to the approving manager based on business rules for approval. When you start to understand the data you want to report on, its simply a matter of creating the appropriate indexing fields and workflows.
Begin with the end in mind
The importance of data is growing. Data drives every aspect of our businesses & comes in many different forms, yet many businesses don't seem to give it the attention it deserves. They say that knowledge is power, hence the reason we suggest that you begin with the end in mind. In knowing the areas you want to see improvement, it will allow you to narrow your focus around the data you need to capture and in turn assist in better utilisation of your scanning and document management system. By capturing the correct data, it will allow your business to begin seeing trends, bottlenecks and pockets of opportunity - for both improvement and growth.