Over the past 25 years, society has been increasingly turning away from the use of paper and moving towards more digital solutions and mobile applications. Many of us do this because we care about the environment and the planet we’ll leave behind for future generations. While this alone is a worthy reason and pursuit in both our households and our businesses, from an enterprise point of view, this move does a lot more than save trees – it also has a tremendous impact on the bottom line. Reducing physical space requirements, automating manual processes and improving records retrieval are just some of the ways going digital instead of continuing to rely on outdated paper processes can help save companies money.
What are some of the other benefits that limiting the use of paper can have on enterprises? Well, it improves key areas that most businesses are regularly striving to strengthen, including productivity, accessibility and compliance. In fact, according to the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), the main driver for organisations’ adopting scanning and data capture – 53 per cent – is improved search and share capabilities. In comparison, 27 per cent of organisations point to an environmental policy as the biggest reason for ditching paper (though still an added benefit). It is clear from these studies that paper free initiatives must be combined with larger ECM automation strategies in order to ensure successful outcomes.
Enter capture technology
Capture technology, defined as solutions that help capture, transform and distribute documents, has been used as a best practice for eliminating paper in the enterprise for more than two decades. Still, many companies have lagged in implementing these technologies, even though using digital content ultimately benefits both the organisation and their customers. By freeing data from filing cabinets and making it accessible and searchable to all employees, clients and other stake holders, enterprises are able to provide more efficient and reliable service.
One excellent example is email import. Today, when some companies receive an email with an invoice, document or other attachment, the recipient first reads it, prints, processes the document and then potentially sends it back, often as a paper document. Seems like an outdated process as we head into 2017, right? Why go through these steps, wasting time and paper, when technology is available now that eliminates the need? Companies on the cutting edge use capture technologies to automatically open and process emails, including their attachments. Not only is each email classified by its content upon receipt, but the attachment can also be opened automatically and its transaction processed with no manual work needed. Think of how much time, money and paper this saves.
Take the real world application of an insurance company using capture solutions that has fully automated its email processes. Prior to employing a capture solution, the employees using outdated paper-based systems had to open and read each incoming email, open and print attachments and then push those attachments through manual mailroom processes to route and classify the content. By automating the email system with capture technologies, the insurance company not only eliminated paper, but also dramatically reduced the element of human error implicit in the manual handling of paperwork. Now, the company is able to do the same amount of work in a fraction of the time and for a fraction of the cost, benefiting both themselves and their customers.
Effects on customer satisfaction
In addition to saving time, automated email processing improves customer satisfaction because it allows enterprises to interact with customers more quickly and accurately than with manual, paper based systems. According to a study from AIIM, 43 per cent of enterprises found the biggest benefit of paper-free processes was faster customer response. These organisations can now send customers an immediate response and initiate workflows and analytics. This results in achieving two clear goals - improving data quality and driving higher customer satisfaction.
Another important aspect for today’s enterprises to consider is mobile. Increasingly we live in a world where important documents and correspondences are first seen on the screen of a smartphone or tablet. Mobile capture is a key component of any digital transformation strategy. For instance, today most banks offer mobile check deposit to customers, eliminating out of date, cumbersome and inconvenient in-person interactions at local branches featuring paper deposit slips.
An additional real world implementation can be seen in the financial services industry. Today, people applying for a loan can snap and send a picture of a W2 form or other necessary documents rather than printing and mailing or scanning them. This innovation gives customers faster service and real-time interactions on-the-go. From the lender’s point of view, the use of this advanced technology allows them to immediately ingest the data and process the information much faster – without, of course, the cost or time associated with paper!
Ultimately, mobile capture solutions create a direct interface between customers and the enterprises that provide such services, and this in turn helps those enterprises better understand their users’ behaviours, mindsets and preferences. Insights around what customers want, when they want it and what they deem as successful interactions are invaluable, and can drive innovation and even greater customer satisfaction in the future.
The case of customer onboarding
A further example of how mobile capture is eliminating paper based processes and improving customer experience in the financial services space is the replacement of legacy fax applications. While analysing existing systems in relation to customer needs, these companies quickly realised that their business could no longer move at the speed of paper – or fax. The solution: replace legacy fax applications with agile mobile capture applications that provide users with an intuitive interface for collaboration. As a result, they have successfully implemented a mobile capture solution which eliminates the need for paper based fax applications within the organisation.
The benefits are clear: Their clients now can take a mobile image of any document, at their convenience, and have that image automatically processed, with no human interaction. If the system can validate the transaction with no additional information required, the organisation has a happy customer and a “straight through” automated process. If additional information must be entered, be it further data from the client or an additional document the user knows exactly what input is required and can complete the transaction in real-time.
In the case of customer onboarding, the client can now take an image of a supporting document without the need to make photo copy or any paper based image, further eliminating paper and driving automation capabilities. These innovative capture solutions are available now to all organisations working to eliminate paper and automate processes.
Cloud as a disruptive force
As organisations consider the move away from outdated paper based processes, a key “disruptive” force that impacts this choice is the cloud. We know many B2B customers are planning a SaaS buy with capture services in the next few years. Capture as a Service (CaaS) allows organisations to focus on eliminating paper throughout their operation without the investment in infrastructure. CaaS provides an alternative to paper processing at remote locations, using intuitive capture apps that process without the heavy footprint of a dedicated scan client. Cloud-based capture solutions provide remote users access to the same rich set of functionality enjoyed by dedicated capture users, such as real-time auto-classification and field validation.
While paper may never go away fully in the enterprise, companies can certainly work towards the clear, measurable business benefits of reducing their paper and paper based processes in their businesses. AIIM reports that 58 per cent of organisations achieve a payback in less than 12 months from their paper-free projects. Twenty-six per cent saw payback in six months or less – a very quick return on investment. In fact, the latest studies confirm that capture represents the best investment area in all of ECM.
Companies invest in capture technologies not only because of the environmental and financial benefits they afford compared to paper based systems. They also embrace these solutions because they help change the way they do business and interface with their customers at their first point of contact. Now more than ever, eliminating the use of outdated paper systems is a win for enterprises bottom line, the customers they serve and the environment, all at the same time.
Jim Hayes, Principal Product Marketing - Capture at Dell EMC’s Enterprise Content Division
Image Credit: Jason Truscott / Flickr