Saturday, February 20, 2010

What does paperless mean? What type of paperless software is out there?

When we examine the paperless office, or th possibility of the paperless office, what exactly does "paperless" mean?  Yes paperless means reducing the burden of paper, and every one knows that this means utilizing some type of scanning technology, but what is the best way to go paperless?

Here are some different levels of scanning and capture, that will help you move paperless in small steps:
  • Basic Scanning - most offices do this today to create a paperless environment.  They are leveraging either their scanning MFP/Copier/Fax, or they have desktop scanners.
  • Advanced Scanning - this level is  usually accomplished through utilizing additional software to aid in the scanning and organization of documents.  Some software at this level includes OCR Software, OCR to PDF, and tools to organize your scanned images.
  • Basic Capture - Document Capture software provides tools to make the whole scanning and capture process more efficient, and typically utilizes barcodes and barcode processing, advanced OCR, Advanced Data Extraction, etc.
  • Advanced Capture - Advanced Capture Software provides all the bits and pieces needed to facilitate an environment with minimal paper, and provides maximum efficiency through extensive feature set.  An example would be a SharePoint Imaging application that not only allows capture, but also links directly into Microsoft SharePoint.
Reducing paper is fantastic, and can really help the bottom line, but take it slow, as it is a cultural change, and your people need to be comfortable with each level of software above before they move to the next.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Is the Paperless Office actually possible?

Ah, the question of the day. Can we really ever achieve the paperless office? It is true that every day, more and more offices adopt scanning and document capture applications that move us toward a world with less paper. Below are some key roadblocks:

  1. Until paperless technology is pervasive, you will always have paper. Take for example the accounting department that is working with vendor invoices. Until every single vendor is sending digital invoices, you will still have paper to deal with, scan and archive.
  2. Lawyers love original signatures. Even though many of the courts have become paperless, and will only accept digital copies for court submission, many "old school" attorneys still believe only paper can be legally binding.
  3. OCR, ICR and OMR technologies are still in their infancy. Until we can have perfect recognition of text, handwriting and marks on paper, folks will always be hesitant to transition. Although there are many free OCR programs, many of the recognition technologies are still out of reach for the small business.
  4. People. People are just slow to change and adapt to technology. The biggest roadblock is the acceptance of technology, and the ability to accept doing business without paper. Even though document capture applications have come a long way to automate and map to current paper workflows, the notion needs to be accepted by management as well.