The movement towards an office with less paper and more efficiency can be quite difficult, and with the wrong tools can end in failure. The key challenge is a process I call “Bridging the Gap”, which uses several applications to create a bridge between the physical and digital world, and helps create a seamless process. So what is required? How do you create the bridge?
On one side of the gap, you have your physical environment: file cabinets, inboxes, stacks of folders on desks, etc. There are two components that facilitate the crossing:
- Scanning Hardware – scanners allow the conversion of paper documents into digital documents or images. Organizations can use scanning copiers, fax machines or dedicated scanners to digitize.
- Capture Software – capture software works with the scanning hardware to create an efficient and automated bridging process. It controls the flow of digitized documents, standardizing how they are routed, and using OCR, Barcodes, Advanced Data Extraction (ADE) and other features to automate the collection of information. It spans the gap and creates a connection to the other side or the repository.
Once the gap has been spanned, the documents need to land somewhere, just as physical documents land in a file cabinet, inbox on someones desk or another location in the organization. Below are the two components that exist on the far side of the gap:
- Workflow Software – think of this as the digital inbox and outbox…on steroids. Workflow Software is utilized to create a digital mirror of your physical processes. It can move around files, create approval steps, automatically email and perform logic that usually requires intervention by a human. Some oraganizations dont have this entity on the other side of the gap.
- Repository – Think of the repository as a temporary and permanent file cabinet that can hold files during a workflow process, or as an archive copy once the whole process is complete. You can search, sort and organize, print, distribute and copy. Most repositories can allow full text search, if the capture software has created a searchable file format, and also allow column based searching for specific criteria.
I have seen many organizations try and bridge the gap, and not have one of the pieces above, or a piece that cannot suit all their needs. A missing component can impact the overall value of the system. For example, take a scanning copier that an AP department uses to scan invoices. They email themselves the scans, open them, rename them and then save them into their repository. Without capture software to automate the naming and routing, this is a highly inefficient process. Without capture, files are not made searchable through OCR, and this can also reduce effiency during search. Another example might be the lack of a repository that can provide all the bits and pieces an organization may require. Take the organization that just saves PDFs to a network directory. This may be fine for many organizations that merely need a simple archive to house their files. But what about an audit event, or legal issue that may require extensive searching and sorting?
“Briding the Gap” and creating an office with less paper can provide an organization countless benefits with proper planning and design, and the inclusion of all the above components.