Traditional business transactions are constantly being reshaped as organizations invest time, resources, and money into solutions aimed at optimizing and automating business processes. When doing this, however, it is important not to place transformation ahead of process.
Even as we head toward the end of the twenty-teens, organizations continue to struggle with maintaining access to information and with the divide between paper and digital information. Managing documents and document workflow remains a challenge for many organizations, while businesses seek ways to maintain control of the information contained in existing paper documents. But business information today includes both hard copy and electronic data, all of which makes its way into the organization in a variety of ways; and as more business-critical information becomes digital, organizations are switching the focus from document management to content management.
In order to stay effective and competitive, organizations must be capable of managing content throughout the entire information lifecycle regardless of source or format: paper documents, electronic data, and audio and video files. At the same time, business content must remain fluid, to be available for delivery in a variety of formats and to a wide range of devices. Data must be structured for usage in mobile devices, mobile operating systems, and through multiple delivery channels that may include print, email, or web-based output.
While maintaining access to information is important, employees must also be able to work effectively with the data that is critical to their needs. That is why so many organizations are digitizing existing content and investing in entirely new processes for electronic document collaboration, editing, and creation. In this area, data integration is a top priority. Users must be able to combine files easily, or extract portions of data from multiple files and formats to combine that information into a single file for delivery. All of these elements are key factors in creating an optimized, content-driven office document strategy. When doing this, the importance of maintaining document confidentiality, integrity, and availability should not be underestimated.
Scanning is a good example of this, as it continues to be prevalent in the office environment; created from any networked devices and mobile input uploaded to cloud locations. Employees are creating significant amounts of digital content and much of that information is not being controlled or managed effectively.
The amount of ad-hoc scanning is growing by leaps and bounds, and as a result, employees are often creating multiple electronic versions of the same document, compromising integrity. In many cases this can lead to other inefficiencies in the document environment, as many of these paper documents are being scanned and converted into digital files. In most cases these are static digital files that cannot be manipulated in any way — nothing more than a picture of a paper document.
In other words, ad-hoc scanning today is primarily used to create and distribute static electronic copies of paper documents. This can drive further inefficiencies into existing business processes and actually serve to widen the gap between paper and electronic workflow. This is a growing problem for many businesses and results in something that has traditionally been a great collaboration tool — paper — and turning it into a static file that is barely usable. When deploying a paper-to-digital strategy, organizations must enable employees to work with electronic information the same as they have with paper. In fact, digital should provide more effective collaborative functionality through the ability to leverage the portable nature of electronic data.
The transition to mobile technologies and the need to “mobilize content” is another important consideration. Here again, many businesses assume that by digitizing content it opens up access to information for use with mobile devices and cloud-based services. But organizations should consider issues beyond access to content in order to fully leverage mobile workflows. Without proper solutions such as OCR processing in place, information that was once trapped on a printed page could become information that is trapped in an electronic document.
Many businesses see the shift to digital as a way to force changes throughout their organization, and for the most part, it seems businesses understand the importance of optimizing document workflow. Therefore, digitization can be a great driver in terms of generating process efficiencies, reducing redundancies, and ultimately driving down the costs associated with managing documents and managing content.
Making changes to an existing business environment is never easy, and there are often significant barriers to overcome. Digitization can be perceived as a very daunting task, especially for those organizations that have very little understanding of issues regarding current processes and content infrastructure. Maintaining access to information is only as important as the ability to work with that information once it is retrieved, and for this reason, digitization should be undertaken only after the process and consequences are fully understood, and ideally with a trusted partner to assist in the process.
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