Cutting costs by scrapping paper

While the "paperless office" may be a myth, eliminating paper from business processes is a definite reality that translates into tangible results, says Bill Brikiatis of eCopy. Here's how...
Written by Bill Brikiatis eCopy, Contributor
Commentary--Businesses of all sizes are bracing for what is to come later in 2009 and beyond. The recession is forcing organizations to reset expectations and cut costs while identifying pockets of growth. From the technology perspective, IT budgets and purchases are being scrutinized more than ever before, despite the fact tech innovation can help improve the bottom line.

The practice of being “green” was a hot topic in 2008, but has quickly taken a back seat to saving green (money) in 2009. With this in mind, companies should investigate technologies that can help better utilize the IT gear they already have, increase cost savings and productivity, and reduce their environmental impact concurrently.

One area that can easily and effectively cut costs is paper usage. Businesses are well positioned to take advantage of scanning technologies that can move paper into digital workflows. While the “paperless office” may be a myth, eliminating paper from business processes is a definite reality that translates into tangible results.

Even with reduced budgets and limited resources, IT can take a leadership role in developing information management strategies that merge electronic processes and manual paper-based processes into one efficient workflow. Here are five considerations IT decision makers should keep in mind when pulling paper into electronic processes:

  • 1. Document types: The volume and type of documents being handled by the business will dictate the document imaging strategy. When the documents are part of a decentralized business process and document scanning capabilities can be distributed throughout the organization, IT should consider leveraging the multifunction printers (MFP), copiers and scanners that are already found in the office and do not require the extra cost of centralized, dedicated personnel or significant training. High-volume, repeatable transactions typically require a more specialized, production-focused capture solution.
  • 2. Office environment: Examine your office workflows and how your business is organized. Will the scanning solution be deployed at a single site or multiple sites? How many devices will you deploy scanning software on? Does each site have dedicated IT personnel? Remember, the goal is to capture paper-based information at the point when it is most convenient for the knowledge worker so documents are easily added to electronic processes. A technology solution can’t save money if it goes unused.
  • 3. User experience: The user experience is likely the most important factor when merging electronic and paper-based workflows. Organizations need to consider document scanning applications that are easy to use, such as creating one-step processes where repetitive tasks can be executed automatically like scan-to-HR to manage resumes. The scanning capabilities built into traditional MFPs, scanners and copiers have typically been hard to use and as a result have dramatically impacted usage. IT should avoid scanning software that requires costly, on-going user training and support.
  • 4. Network connectivity: Leveraging existing connectivity is critical for IT, requiring user authentication at the scanning device so access destinations and other security rights are enforced at an individual-user level. This approach allows organizations to log which documents were scanned, when they were scanned, who scanned them, and to whom they were distributed. It also ensures that document scanning applications are protected by existing security processes without requiring additional IT resources.
  • 5. Application integration: API-level integration to business applications is often a critical requirement when merging electronic and paper-based workflows. Scanned information should be able to be added to applications like e-mail and content management right from the capture device. This enables scanned information to be immediately available so users can fully participate in a business workflow by bringing in high-value documents at the point of their choosing. They do not have to wait for documents to be captured by someone else.

With a clear understanding of business objectives and these considerations in mind, organizations should be well on their path to adopting a document scanning strategy that will cut costs, improve productivity, increase collaboration, and improve total cost of ownership of existing devices and applications.

Bill Brikiatis is director of Corporate Marketing for eCopy, Inc.

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