Guest post by Robert Palmer, Research Director with IDC’s Imaging, Printing, and Document Solutions team. 

Organizations have much to gain by investing in print and document management initiatives to drive digital transformation. Even so, only a small percentage of businesses today have truly optimized their print and document environment to extend beyond the print ecosystem into true process optimization. Digital transformation sounds great, but without the proper document infrastructure and software tools, there are limits as to what businesses can accomplish in pursuit of a digital workflow strategy.

Digitizing existing paper-based information is a crucial step in the overall process. Unfortunately, businesses often fail to recognize that fully enabled digital workflow involves much more than simply scanning paper documents and converting those into electronic files. A truly integrated capture and workflow solution allows businesses to work with digital content in much more effective ways to minimize paper-intensive processes and free up valuable business information.

Businesses face a multitude of challenges when it comes to managing information. The problem lies in two basic areas: the growing amount of content created and consumed, and changes occurring both in the structure of the workforce and in the way business is conducted. Knowledge workers are creating massive amounts of content, and in today’s increasingly mobile business environment, information must be made accessible on a 24/7 basis to enable employees to get work done when and where they want.

Across all functional areas of the organization, knowledge workers spend the most time on document tasks related to the dissemination of information. But while the office is moving ever closer to a digital ecosystem, much of today’s business content remains trapped in paper-based documents, which has a significant impact on knowledge worker productivity. Research from IDC’s Cost Analysis of Knowledge Worker Document-Related Activities by Function (March 2016) shows that knowledge workers spend an average of 136 minutes a week searching for documents, costing their organizations approximately $17.6 per week or $916.2 per year per knowledge worker.

Crossing the Digital Divide

How can MPS software help bridge the gap between paper and digital? Paper itself is a hindrance to driving efficiencies into many current work processes, and MPS by its very nature is a program that seeks to optimize the use of paper. Today, MPS is positioned primarily as a means for reducing paper consumption through the consolidation of print devices and controlled access to printing capabilities. But service providers should also help customers understand how capture and workflow solutions can help stop the spread of non-essential paper in the office environment.

The distributed network MFP combined with scanning software provides the ability to convert paper to digital format at the most opportune point in the overall process, while specifically addressing key areas to enable improved digital workflow: content accessibility, collaboration, security, and integrity. This is how MPS can drive real efficiencies into existing business processes, and explains why workflow software and intelligent scanning should be considered a core capability of any MPS solution.

Scanning is the fundamental component of any paper-to-digital conversion strategy. However, businesses need guidance when it comes to designing and implementing an effective scan and workflow solution. Ad hoc scanning has become pervasive in today’s office environment, which in many cases only contributes to the growing list of challenges associated with information management. Mountains of paper documents are scanned and converted into static digital files that cannot be manipulated, making it virtually impossible to edit or collaborate the way users can with hardcopy documents. This can lead to significant drain on worker productivity.

Paper is the original collaboration tool, and the most effective digital conversion solutions should enable users to work with electronic documents in the same manner as they have with paper, with the ability to annotate, collate, and collaborate. The scan/capture solution should leverage OCR technology to create editable, searchable files combined with the intelligence to scan directly into existing document repositories, applications, and document management systems. Combining these capabilities with the advanced features of the smart MFP allows businesses to simplify and automate workflow, while significantly reducing the amount of time and energy spent rekeying or searching for information.

Driving Real Business Value

Businesses can expect to see significant return on investment in workflow solutions, both in terms of cost savings and productivity enhancements. Results from IDC’s recently published Content Workflow Automation Survey demonstrates the benefits that organizations experience as a result of deploying technology related to digitizing, automating, and optimizing their document workflows:

  • Percent of week spent on document-related tasks reduced by 17.2%
  • Average of 3.1 hours saved each week on document-related tasks
  • 3% reduction in paper documents
  • Time spent looking for and/or recreating lost or misfiled documents decreased 12.5%
  • Costs of storing documents reduced by an average of 41.2%

The figures above underscore the importance of leveraging intelligent scan/workflow solutions to enhance the value of your overall MPS program. Many organizations face significant challenges balancing the need to drive digital transformation with concerns related to costs and potential disruption to existing business processes. Designed and implemented properly, intelligent workflow solutions can increase productivity while pushing additional savings to the bottom line.