As businesses and government transform their operations into a world where information can be easily accessed and leveraged, there is the perception that paper is yesterday’s problem. It's not.
The reality is few businesses or business processes are truly “paperless”, and while many documents and processes have become electronic, studies show that paper consumption has remained constant or is continuing to grow in many industries.
Some organizations have employed various document capture strategies in an effort to manage the continued growth of paper -- from basic scanning to advanced capture solutions -- but paper still remains a considerable liability. When you look across the lifecycle of a paper document, they consume unnecessary time, it drives up operational costs, and it creates issues for compliance and regulatory obligations.
Business Needs Drive the Use of Paper
There are several reasons why paper still remains within an organization today, and while eliminating paper is certainly the preferred choice, this is impeded by several factors.
For many organizations, a large percentage of their paper is generated from outside their business where there is little or no control over it. For example, home loan documents that are received by a bank from the consumer are often delivered as paper documents. In this situation, the bank has limited ability to enforce the way in which the consumer provides these documents; still loan processes dependent upon these documents must address the processing of this critical information.
In other industries, business processes still need to be designed to support both electronic and paper. This is true within government agencies that provide services to a very large constituent base, and businesses, whose customer demographics require that they support paper as a way of conducting business. A useful example is state departments of motor vehicles, which allow constituents to renew their driver’s license online or through the mail. In the case of processing a renewal by mail, the process is much slower unless the agency leverages the right capture technologies that can automate the capture of the document and data.
For some organizations, they have automated parts of a process by taking advantage of electronic forms and workflow. Still other processing steps continue to involve paper documents, including customers submitting required paperwork – payroll stubs, insurance documents, letter explaining employment, or physically signed documents. All of these documents must be managed and connected with the right people, business systems, and processes.
Connecting Paper to Digital Processes
In order to address the areas where paper continues to exist, forward-thinking organizations have begun turning to intelligent enterprise capture solutions to streamline the handling of paper documents. Intelligent enterprise capture solutions help organizations tackle the paper problem from all areas -- the centralized mailroom and distributed branch offices -- delivering 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.
The benefits of capturing paper documents are clear and nearly always yield a significant return on investment from reduced paper storage and processing costs, expedited paper document processing, and reduced risk of loss. By imaging paper documents and storing electronically, organizations eliminate the costs of physically storing documents by either freeing up valuable warehouse storage or eliminating outsourced document storage costs. Even more significantly, intelligent document classification and data extraction eliminates the expensive manual labor costs associated with identifying hundreds of document types and keying data into business systems.
An example of how capture can significantly improve a business process is invoice approval and payment. Despite recent attempts to move from paper to electronic invoices, paper remains the most common method for companies to communicate with one another. With capture, organizations are able to eliminate nearly all manual data entry, improve data accuracy, free valuable accounting resources and dramatically speed up invoice processing.
These proven benefits help bridge the gap between information that is trapped on paper and connecting it to business processes, thus enabling businesses to offer faster, more competitive services, while lowering operational costs. At the end of the day, intelligent enterprise capture solutions transform your paper from being a liability into a valuable asset that you can leverage as a business advantage.
Follow our continuing coverage of Information Management Agility including:
- What the Past Can Teach Us About Information Management Agility
- 5 Key Considerations for Document Capture
- Taming the Information Management Beast