Address the chaos: Move from paper to digital

File folders in office

Every organization understands that digitizing the paper trail equals time, money and space saved. But if your processes rely on a blend of both paper and digital records, you could hear concerns that sound like:  

“Re-entering data into digital systems is going to be a waste of time.”  

“We’ll wait before making a decision on data capturing tools. Our staff isn’t trained to use the tech.”  

“Our customers aren’t ready to go paperless. Why should we rock the boat?”   

Even when the benefits of a paperless office are widely known, many offices still struggle to narrow down which paper-heavy processes to focus on, cannot bridge the paper and digital divide, and fumble when making a decision on the tools to help with this shift.   

This guide is a roadmap to digitizing physical documents efficiently — with a focus on the innovation that makes this process as painless as possible. We’ll start with 5 ways to free up the space used for physical paper storage: 

5 ways to decrease your paper dependency

1. Central scanning operation

Set up a central scanning operation where resources are set aside to scan bulk sets of documents. My recommendation is to make sure this scanning process happens as immediately as possible after you receive documents, such as having them scanned in directly in the mailroom. That way, you eliminate the risk of paper right up front and you limit the number of file cabinets needed to keep on-site paper for accessibility. You can also leverage this same central scanning operation for paper already in physical storage to help clear out space taken up by filing cabinets.

2. Remote scanning operation

The business world is “going global” and your organization might be following suit. Whether it’s a few regional facilities or many facilities around the world, it’s important that if paper is received at a remote or satellite facility, it is digitized and made accessible as soon as possible. You can either devote staff to another large-scale scanning operation at these other facilities or simply buy the hardware to give staff the ability to digitize paper as-needed at those locations.

3. Employee on-demand scanning

As individual employees receive mail or complete documents, educate them on how (and why) to quickly scan in documents to your electronic document storage – whether a network directory or a content services platform. And invest in desktop scanners or departmental MFPs to help make sure that they can quickly scan in their documents and get back to doing their job (instead of spending their time walking documents back and forth to central storage or a central scanning operation).

4. Front-of-office scanning

Front-of-office scanning is also about empowering staff. Instead of having staff at front-of-office customer-facing locations, such as a registration desk, copying paperwork and carting it over to a central storage location or scanning operation, make sure to give them the ability right at that desk to digitize incoming completed paperwork.

5. Outsource document scanning

Do some of these seem a little overwhelming for you? Are you sure you have the resources to deal with incoming documents, but are not able to dedicate the resources to tackle the paper already taking over your office in file cabinets? Look for a third-party provider that can take care of the scanning operation for you to help you get closer to that paperless office, faster.

All of this comes back to one thing: Paper will still be an obstacle to overcome until you take the steps to overcome it. And, in today’s world, this takes some analysis into why paper still exists in your operations and, for those places where it just isn’t going away, how many different routes it takes into your organization and how to digitize it the minute you receive it.

I venture a guess that once you solve your paper problem, though this is only the beginning of improving process efficiencies across your organization, you will immediately see some very tangible results – in cost savings, in space savings and in “reputation savings” as you improve the way you serve those you serve.

Ditch your abacus and embrace electronic forms

So we’ve taken a look at how your organization can begin to decrease its dependency on paper. Now, we’re taking the next step and looking at how electronic forms optimize slow processes. 

Imagine you are sitting at dinner and receive the check. You look at the total and then want to add a little extra for the hard-working waiter who served you. So, how do you decide what to tip? You reach into your pocket or purse and pull out your…abacus. Right? 

Wrong. If you want that perfect number, you pull out your cell phone. If you told someone 100 years ago that you needed to use a telephone to calculate a dinner tip, they would probably laugh at you. Well, first you would have to convince them that your phone isn’t magical and it can’t beam you to the moon, then they would laugh. 

But times have changed, technology has changed, and now we have better tools right at our fingertips. 

Abacuses versus electronic forms

Why do we still use paper to gather information?

We have computers, the internet and software together creating amazing tools to replace outdated and less reliable tools, like paper. 

I would like to introduce you to electronic forms. And for those of you for whom these sound familiar, I would like you to ask yourself, per the analogy above, why you haven’t embraced them yet? 

 Here’s a quick reminder of the inefficiencies of paper: 

  • Forms on paper take up storage space and inherit the inaccessibility of paper including trips to the file cabinet for access 
  • They often require some form of shipping or transport 
  • For those with systems to make information accessibility easier, they still require manual data entry into those systems 

Basically, even for those organizations who have already embraced software like business process management to help automate and simplify processes, they still cannot easily connect paper forms to important processes. 

Electronic forms should not be seen simply as an electronic version of a paper form. It’s just like how the modern day calculator (even the cell phone app) can do much more, much differently than what we could do with those old, wooden counters. 

The exact opposite of static wood, electronic forms are dynamic able to change as they receive data or even automatically populate previously entered data. People can quickly complete them anywhere, on many devices and via the web, and immediately submit them. And, when integrated into a broader enterprise content management and IT strategy, e-forms can auto-populate with information from business systems and update those systems with the new information. 

 And with the right systems, those submissions can instantly trigger automated processes. Try doing that with paper. 

Increase your speed, accuracy and completeness

Leveraging electronic forms instead of paper forms is a great step to deliver on accurate and complete information. 

Take the “there’s an app for that” mindset just like there is an easier tool for calculating dinner tips there is a much easier tool for allowing your employees, clients, constituents and everyone else to submit information you need to better serve them. 

3 reasons you need to declutter your digital storage sprawl

We’ve discussed how we need to declutter paper around the office. But chances are, paper is connected to electronic content you have created or received content stuck on desktops, in email inboxes, in a variety of network shares or anywhere else in your organization’s connected or disconnected digital spaces. 

As technology and the world around us continues to evolve, business content will continue to enter the organization in a larger and larger variety of entrance points and formats. A whitepaper from AIIM discusses this exact point and how leveraging multi-channel capture allows you to continuously centralize content to make it easier to access, even as the entrance points of that content continue to change and increase. 

When asked how they deal with multi-channel inbound content, organizations responded most often that their strategies are ad hoc and they struggle matching up paper and electronic content. The second most popular response was that electronic inbound content tends to be printed and then filed/processed alongside paper. 

3 reasons to stop the sprawl

Do you find yourself answering with those same responses? Here are three reasons you should consider capturing all of your business-critical electronic content into a central content services platform

   1. Provide a single point of access to vital business information. 

Content is valuable because of the information it contains. And when employees store that important information in email inboxes, on individual desktops or in multiple digital locations, it is hard to keep track of the most up-to-date versions. 

This storage sprawl can also mean staff is unable to find the information they need, when they need it. So it is important to make sure you empower your staff by immediately capturing content (including communications) into a central system so everyone who needs access can easily find what they need  in one central location. 

     2. Increase internal and external collaboration capabilities. 

When you empower employees with easy access to the most up-to-date information in an enterprise content management system and allow multiple users to simultaneously access information, you enable them to better collaborate on business decisions. 

Moreover, when you invest in a file sync and share tool that interacts directly with the enterprise content management system, you empower employees to digitally collaborate with external parties on each piece of content with complete control over how those parties share that content. 

     3. Better utilize your information assets. 

Capturing all your content and managing it in a central repository not only improves information access, but can also empower you to automate associated business processes such as data entry, document routing and approval or issue resolution. Capturing data into the system or saving it from the file sync and share tool can automatically trigger processes to ultimately speed those processes. 

As you can see, the simple step of capturing electronic content into a central enterprise content management system can actually revolutionize the way you do business. So, especially if you have already taken the first step to centralize and digitize your paper files, it’s time to apply that strategy to ALL the content you receive. 

3 ways to embrace mobile madness

Now, we turn our attention to an important technological advance that your employees are sure to embrace, because they already have: Their smart phones. 

At our annual customer conference, CommunityLIVE, David Pogue, founder of Yahoo Tech, spoke about how technology has evolved. He talked about how the world has changed since the invention of the iPhone seven years ago. 

Think about that. It is truly amazing to think how far we have come in seven years and how much our world has changed. 

Are your employees mobile everywhere except work? 

 Everything we do revolves around our phones. Devices, Pogue joked, that are rarely used as just that anymore. We expect the businesses we interact with to be mobile-friendly and at work we expect to be mobile. So it may be time for you to give in to mobile madness and give your employees the ability to capture information while they are on the go, interacting with clients or doing field work. 

There are numerous risks associated with carrying around loose papers and even bigger risks associated with no managed way to capture information. Empowering your employees to capture information on a mobile device not only improves the service to your customers, but eliminates the risks involved in that information capture. 

3 ways to cut chaos with mobile capture

There are three types of mobile capture you can employ to make sure your employees securely gather information in the field and make it immediately available for processing and access back at the office: 

  1. Image capture

Depending on the industry you work in, there are many scenarios where taking photos of the environment help builds a file with necessary evidence whether for an auto insurance claim or showing evidence of a patient’s injury. 

And, since your employees already have a phone with them, empowering it with the ability to upload to your work environment makes life easy. 

  1. Document capture

Employees can also use mobile devices as scanners in the field taking images of completed documents. It is important to connect this functionality with an enterprise content management system that can flatten, clean up and correct image of documents, especially if you need automated data extraction performed on the documents. 

  1. Information capture

Further optimizing processes, you can leverage electronic forms on mobile devices to capture information and submit forms for immediate actions. Those electronic forms should also be able to capture signatures to eliminate the need for paper forms in the field. 

Content chaos, dismissed

When all of this is part of a multi-channel capture strategy and a larger enterprise content management plan, a mobile strategy ensures all of your business information is connected the minute it is received and is available for immediate processing. 

So suddenly, those mobile workers don’t impede a process because of the risk and time involved in collecting and sharing information. Instead, they suddenly improve, speed and trigger processes from wherever they are. 

Welcome to the 21st Century, where chaos no longer reigns supreme! 

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Over the last few years working at Hyland, creator of OnBase, Jaclyn has definitely started to drink the Kool Aid – day and night enthusiastically discussing the wonderful benefits of OnBase with fellow Hylanders, family, friends, and even complete strangers. Her graduation from the University of Rochester with a major in economics, minor in film studies and concentration in neurological science only goes to show how vast her interests are. With that in mind, it is no surprise she truly enjoys working to market OnBase across an equally vast number of industries – some even mirroring her academic interests (financial services, arts and entertainment and healthcare/sciences) – as a member of the Product Marketing team at Hyland.
Jaclyn Inglis Clark

Jaclyn Inglis Clark

Over the last few years working at Hyland, creator of OnBase, Jaclyn has definitely started to drink the Kool Aid – day and night enthusiastically discussing the wonderful benefits of... read more about: Jaclyn Inglis Clark