Achieving a paper-light office

Many organisations are now considering how they can execute a ‘digital transformation’ in order to improve productivity and efficiencies.

‘The paperless office’ is a term that has been discussed for several years and is a concept that many organisations have been – and still are working toward. Many organisations are now considering how they can execute a ‘digital transformation’ in order to improve productivity and efficiencies within their company. The idea of a paperless office is an elusive key to this transformation. 

But how realistic is it to go paperless within today’s office environments? Or rather we should ask how much it is relevant for today’s offices? According to the latest research by AIIM – State of Information Management 2017 – only 24 per cent of companies have adopted entirely digital processes. For most companies there are situations where paper is and probably will be preferred. Take for instance cases like printing long documents for reading later, proofreading or interacting with third parties that have not adopted digital methods of communication. 

Another important factor going against full digital transformation is that complete replacement of paper-based processes is a long-distance run and quite demanding on resources, meaning that it is not able to bring instant ROI. More importantly, according to the same research, the most cited reason for preventing or slowing the digital transformation journey is the human factor. 

In this situation, a concept of a paper-light office which promotes simplicity becomes a realistic goal. Why? Because instead of eliminating paper-based processes by entirely digital ones it tries to integrate both in order to support productivity.

Going digital = scanning a document?

For many businesses, going digital, simply means scanning of a document. But actually, that is just a first step of a much more complex process. The user creates a scan, and the device sends it to their email, where more steps have to take place, such as emailing it to a colleague or saving it to a folder on the server. Later, when someone needs to find that document, a lot of time may be spent trying to find the right folder and then finding the right document. 

Enterprises will experience real productivity gains when those steps are eliminated and a scan can go directly to a pre-determined location, others are notified of its existence, and, if needed later, can be found using familiar search keywords. This means a major shift in the way that documents are made, sent, saved and interacted with, and can only truly happen when a company has a desire to move toward a more automated digital workflow. 

An example of this workflow automation would be in an accountant’s office which would typically receive hard copy paper documents from numerous clients. When tax deadlines approach, the volumes of paper are particularly significant and tight deadlines are needed to file tax returns in a timely manner.

A receptionist at an accountant’s office could mail a request for tax return-related supporting documentation to a client. They would add instructions and a coversheet containing a barcode, which stores the client’s tax ID to the request.

Creating new processes

A few days later, the receptionist receives an envelope from the client containing the requested documentation and the barcode coversheet. They need to make sure the responsible accountant, who will file the client’s tax return, receives the documents and that the documents are stored in the right client’s folder.

The receptionist would swipe their badge at any MFD in the office, select a pre-defined scan workflow on the MFD and scan all supporting documentation. The documents are automatically stored in a folder corresponding to the client’s tax file number stored in the barcode.

The accountant who is responsible for this tax return, receives an e-mail notification that supporting documentation is available in the client’s file and is able to complete the tax return.

Other examples of such digital workflows in action can be seen here

Similarly, unless you create new processes that make the lives of employees easier and more efficient, they will not adopt these processes. Take the time to understand the steps in a paper-based process. Solutions that only offer scanning to an email address therefore do not solve a workflow process. 

Businesses should instead be looking at digital document workflows, as creating digital documents alone can actually decrease productivity within an organisation. This involves the increasing use of advanced automation infrastructure. For example, within an organisation, each user has a personal identity card or pin number to log in to a scanning device. Once logged in to the device, each user in the business will have a set of pre-determined workflows available to them based on what they are typically processing within their role and what they are authorised to do. It is this kind of customisable infrastructure that truly delivers efficiencies.

However, before implementing document workflow automation, you must first figure out how many processes related to paper processing are within the organisation and how effective they are. Use a software solution to help you streamline electronic document management and automate workflows and make sure that this is customisable. It should also be well embedded into various stages of the document lifecycle and integrate seamlessly with printers and multi-function devices. For the benefit of the end users, this one integrated experience means that an enterprise’s employees only have to understand one system, which will be used for all printing and scanning functions – no matter where in the office they are, or even where in the world they are.

When executing a digital transformation, creating a paper-light office within this - if done correctly - will increase efficiencies, reduce overheads and help toward a less cluttered environment. Addressing your document workflow automation will also eliminate human errors, improve consistency, improve security & compliance and provide more control over content. 

YSoft’s SafeQ Workflow Suite eliminates the complexity of scanning for both administrators and users. Its easy-to-use user interface makes scan choices simple for users, removing confusion and ensuring documents are captured accurately and distributed to authorised, pre-defined destinations automatically. With sophisticated technology to capture and process digital content, YSoft SafeQ provides a workflow engine to create customised workflows.

Miroslav Sova, Product Marketing Manager, Y Soft
Image Credit: Jason Truscott / Flickr