One key change to your organization can triple your processing capacity, increase productivity, and reduce the cost of storage space. This change is called ‘digitalization’ – the conversion of paper documents to digital files.
The idea of the paperless office has been a goal for efficiency-minded office process experts since the 1980s. Technological leaps and bounds have us closer to achieving that reality, although in a slightly different form than our forebears may have expected.
While paper itself isn't going anywhere, its use in any office process is no longer an unquestionable fact. The clear majority of processes can benefit from digital conversion, reducing the number of times an individual document has to be physically handled.
This reduction is key to the value that paperless office processes offer. Digital documents are easier to transmit from one place to another, respond more immediately to changes, and offer greater accuracy than paper-based processes can achieve.
For businesses operating in regulated industries, this distinction is supremely important. Maintaining compliance in a busy work environment requires a great degree of oversight.
Businesses that have to adhere to any of the following regulations need to be able access a large amount of information at any time:
- ISO 15489
- Gram Leach
- SEC guidelines
All of these compliance guidelines are non-negotiable facts of life for the industries they have jurisdiction over. Without a paperless office, it's almost impossible to guarantee company-wide compliance.
How the Paper-Based Office Works Now
Although most offices have tools for paperless processes available, there rarely is a standardized method for individuals to make use of those resources. In many cases, each individual worker simply decides whether or not to print in an unenforced, ad-hoc manner.
Consider, for instance, a proposal form that makes it to your Sales Department. First, a sales team member receives a paper document, signs off on it, and passes it along to an order coordinator. The coordinator copies the document, scans it into the company system, and passes it along to management.
Management then has to contact the customer to communicate your company's response to the document, sending the response back down the hierarchy to do so. Whoever makes the call then annexes the customer response to the document. Then the document makes its way to purchasing, where it is printed out and added to a queue. When it finally arrives at the company warehouse for fulfillment, it's already been printed out, scanned, reprinted, and edited a dozen times – and that's before it gets to accounting.
Critically, every single one of these processes comes with a risk of error. Manual document handling is an error-prone task where any small discrepancy can lead to unhappy customers, compliance violations, or both.
How the Paperless Office Works
In the paperless office chain of events, most of the changes that need to take place for a proposal to make its way from the sales department to the fulfillment center are automated. The document itself exists as a digital repository of versions, so that the entire document timeline is immediately accessible at any point.
This means that when someone contacts the customer to respond to the proposal, the response no longer needs to be physically added to a piece of paper. It can be automatically added to the digital drawer that the file resides in. Management can then access the document before and after contact takes place – which is very difficult to do in a paper-based office environment.
Enjoy Immediate Access to Decision-Critical Data
One of the primary benefits to digital business process management as described in the example above is the fact that decision-critical data is immediately available.
If your management team regularly has to make decisions based on information contained in documents, ensuring that it has access to the latest versions of documents is of paramount importance.
Otherwise, your team could be making decisions based on incomplete facts. Important customer information might be making its way up your corporate hierarchy while a decision is being made and could easily be overlooked if it doesn't arrive in time. This is the difference between business information and business intelligence.
With a paperless office and a robust digital content management platform in place, decision-makers always have access to the very latest data. Individuals can identify, verify, and notify the necessary parties whenever new information is received.
Once common document processes are automated, the task of sending them to key personnel responsible for decision-making becomes a much faster, more streamlined procedure. The entire structure of your organization becomes leaner, more flexible, and more effective.
Ready to begin the process of implementing a business process management solution? Contact us to find out how!