Drowning in paper? MPS could be a lifesaver

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It is simply impossible for most businesses to move away from the printed page. In fact, research conducted by Forrester states that 80 percent of all information processed is still paper-based. Government forms and legally binding contracts still require ink signatures, and hard copies are mandatory for court documents. The paperless office may have been spoken of in the 1980s, but in reality, the contrary has occurred and international volumes are calculated to be reducing at only one to two percent annually.

Why digitisation?

There are, however, a number of paper workflow challenges that are driving the case for digitisation.

Documents produced are worthless to an organisation if they are not utilised to enhance a process. And, more importantly, they need to be re-captured to once again provide information back into the organisation for collaboration and further productivity enhancements.

The same can be said for external documents or information entering the organisation needing to be captured into the ERP system for further processing. Many companies still receive paper-based documents delivered via postal mail systems, mainly due to legacy operational requirements. The expense of handling these paper-based documents is in most cases grossly underestimated by organisations. This is chiefly due to the fact that many elements are unknown, such as costs related to personnel capturing data; data integrity issues (forcing the need for investigation and ultimately recapture); storage of the physical document either onsite or offsite; shipping; shredding; legislative compliance; and the risk of being exposed. These unidentified expenses are therefore not consolidated, and thus the true TCO of the process cannot be calculated.

Starting the digitisation journey

A large number of businesses are also still unaware of the benefits of automation and the benefits that can be achieved both through the digitisation of information and the improved control that it brings to the document continuum.

So, what is the solution to this challenge? It is achieved by leveraging the technology that exists in the fleet of multifunctional printers (MFPs), mobile devices and PC accessories available to the users in their environment. However, the key to success is not only in the effective use of technology, but also in the related change management, training and support. If the user community is able to adopt the new technology without a major learning curve and can clearly understand its benefits, then the adoption success factors will be dramatically increased.

Therefore, we need to ensure that users are aware of the benefits around information collaboration and understand how to leverage the tools, which have been provided to them in the simplest form to enhance the company’s successes. This can be achieved through quick win initiatives, leveraging technology already available on the MFPs installed on the customer sites, or existing infrastructure, by configuring and embedding workflows on the devices themselves. For example, an organisation can convert simple, yet essential processes such as scanning, which would take 40 seconds per page/image on a flatbed scanner, to a four second process driven from the MFP.

Streamlining for optimal productivity

Scanning improves a document’s searchability and the sharing of documents, both internally and externally, enhancing the overall productivity of an organisation.

To achieve success in a digitisation and work flow automation process, it is key to define the manner in which your suppliers, customers and staff engage with the organisation in terms of submitting data.

Ensuring documents are submitted and received in electronic format enables the organisation to implement powerful workflow processes. There are systems available, such as Optical Character Recognition (OCR) for digitally printed characters or Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) for hand written documents that can convert content into digital metadata information streams that can be stored, profiled and indexed in the organisation’s data repository, propelling the data throughout the organisation. This ensures data integrity through defined confidence tolerance levels on the scanning capture process.

Additional phases to streamline an organisation would be the integration into your ERP system (system independent) for, as an example, automated procurement processing of supplier invoicing through interrogating the scanned image and referencing data collected against your purchase order database to auto capture, approve and process for payment, reducing creditors backlog dramatically and enhancing supplier satisfaction. This also provides the organisation leverage for demanding higher service levels and product quality supply.

So, while the advantages of digitising information are clear, many organisations just don’t know where to start.

Steps in the digitisation journey

The first step in the digitisation journey should be to appoint an accountable, experienced partner to help navigate this space, as many organisations do not have a full understanding of the managed print and document solution environment and the intricacies of the related technologies. It is critical that a business chooses a partner that is transparent, can be trusted and held accountable, has the correct technical certifications in place and can also provide a fit-for-purpose implementation. Appointing an ICT partner that is a competent solutions integrator is of advantage to the managed print and document solution process. This type of company typically has a view of the entire network and the holistic impact that documents, as well as information, have on the ecosystem. They can also assist in ascertaining the true cost of documents – including infrastructure, running costs, stationery, personnel costs and so on.

The next step is to conduct a due diligence of existing business processes, taking a snapshot of the entire environment to see what can be leveraged, identify bottlenecks, which unnecessary hardware can be removed and to ascertain which process steps need to be added. From here, the partner would put together a business case showing the high level potential.

In conclusion, printing is more than just speeds and feeds today; it’s about helping companies to embrace the potential cost savings of between 30 and 40 percent (Gartner) that can be attributed to digitisation. Another key responsibility of all organisations today is sustainability and ensuring that their carbon footprint is reduced, digitising content of course supports this initiative.

We might not be able to achieve a paper-free or paper-less environment just yet, but less paper is definitely the route to take.

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Issue 92


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