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IBM, HP update workflow and forms software with an eye to cutting paper waste

I love it when competing vendors do something semi-related within days of each other, because it makes these posts so much more relevant. So, here's the deal: Both IBM and Hewlett-Packard are making some noise right now about the impact of enterprise document management technology on green technology agendas.

I love it when competing vendors do something semi-related within days of each other, because it makes these posts so much more relevant. So, here's the deal: Both IBM and Hewlett-Packard are making some noise right now about the impact of enterprise document management technology on green technology agendas. I predict that the paper equation will be one that companies of all sizes talk about a lot more in 2009.

HP is touting a new initiative called the Green IT Action Plan, which is focused on applying its imaging and printing technologies to corporate sustainability requirements. (The link provides the company's step-by-step suggestions.)

New products that are intended to address this area include: - A new line of Software Capture and Workflow applications from HP and Perceptive Software: The two companies have integrated HP multifunction printers with Perceptive ImageNow Interact, which provides a way to scan and organize documents. - Technology from HP and ReadSoft that helps companies turn paper-based invoicing into an electronic process. - And, the HP Automated Invoice Processing Solution for Manufacturing, which manufacturers can use to verify and approve invoices being sent in from remote locations.

HP figures that not only do these applications help cut down on paper waste, they help speed approval processes and reduce the costs of shuttling documents back and forth via courier, which should be a relevant argument for everyone right now. Traditionally, it takes a lot to transform a legacy process such as these, although cost-cutting measures across all industries could be just the impetus some companies need to get these business transformations jump-started.

Also this month, IBM has released a new version of its Lotus Forms software that supposedly makes it easier for those of us without any kind of technical degree to set up an electronic-forms workflow process. The update, Lotus Forms 3.5, also comes with an add-on called "Turbo" that helps you quickly create things like vacation requests, customer satisfaction surveys, job applications, product orders and other very rudimentary forms that are handled on a regular basis. Turbo works in conjunction with IBM's WebSphere Portal software to route the electronic forms.

IBM has come up with some data suggesting that by allowing people to create and process forms like these in a digital format without forcing someone to print them along the way, companies can reduce paper consumption by at least 80 percent. The stats and more information are included at this link (be forewarned, you'll have to register).

The company has also released a new case study trumpeting the results of IBM Lotus Forms installation with the U.S. Army, where the software is used by something like 1.4 million people. IBM, citing U.S. Army figures, believes that the deployment will help the federal government save something like $1.3 billion. Here are the complete details of the U.S. Army installation, which was handled by IBM Business Partner EIM Corporation.