By Kristin Wagener, director business unit desktop for ABBYY Europe

For business owners, knowing what technology to apply for streamlining your workflows without breaking the bank can be a sticking point. A report by IDC indicates a growing trend that major business processes are being digitalized and the benefits of a digital working environment are evident – it creates a more seamless communication structure between different departments and users. Employees can stay connected any time, from anywhere. Unfortunately, many fall into the trap of investing in a complicated technology solution before they have identified what the business challenges are. An organisation’s goal should be saving time and cost – especially in your back office functions, so where do you begin?

First thing first, let’s take a look at the basics. Companies are faced with a tsunami of documents on a daily basis – both paper and digital – without the right tools to cope. IT company Atos has famously banned the use of internal emails between employees. But scanned paper-based documents and PDFs continue to stack up around the workplace.

In the case of legal firm, Mander Cruickshank, it was receiving dozens of legal documents from clients, government officials and other lawyers in non-searchable PDF format, making them difficult to edit and work with. This necessitated many hours of manual work by employees before they could begin addressing the actual legal work. Problems such as these are easily solved with document management tools, which convert documents into editable formats and cut down on the time required to convert documents by up to 75 per cent.

Digital work environments offer immediate access to documents and enable better collaboration between workers but the foundation must be set up correctly. Rather than creating a graveyard for digital documents, businesses need to ensure their employees have the tools in place to quickly search and edit documents effectively. Having your affairs in order brings other benefits, too. Businesses are battling with constant changes to data protection, e-discovery and compliance regulations that demand quick turnaround time for archived documents to be presented. Without a searchable database, this can take days or even weeks to complete. Failing to do so will incur heavy fines.

Here are some of the common challenges to look out for when creating a digital workspace, and tips to succeed:

How do you maintain consistency across all your workflows?

Whether you’re growing a global business or working across a number of departments you want to be able to manage your documents consistently. Create a coherent and simple document management plan and stick to it. Consider factors such as naming and tagging files, and using logical pathways so that documents can be easily located. For long form articles, creating bookmarks will make document navigation a breeze, allowing the user to quickly find and return the selected page with ease.

How do you ensure that the contents of your documents are ‘readable’ with a simple keyword search?

Make your documents convenient by building a searchable archive. Rather than creating a graveyard of documents where none of them – paper originals, scanned image files or image-only PDFs – are searchable, ensure you archive information from your documents properly too for better consistency and accessibility. Documents in multiple languages can be a barrier if you need to access the information within them. Software that contains extensive language libraries that can ‘read’ the contents of any scanned or PDF documents, in up to 190 languages, negates this complexity. The secret lies in the unique optical character recognition (OCR) feature that unlocks information that is otherwise ‘trapped’ in a scanned or photographed image of a document. It scans and converts image documents into editable text and searchable PDFs with a recognition accuracy of up to 99.8 per cent.

How can you take your back office on the road?

Road warriors and business travelers are expected to create and edit documents on the move. Smartphones and tablets act as powerful all-purpose mobile scanners and document managers. Employees have the ability to capture, edit and translate text on their mobile devices to minimise lags in business productivity. Having a document in a searchable PDF format right on your device removes the hassles of carrying physical paper with you.

How can you make sure you’ve protected your most important assets?

In the age of mobile and cloud, document security is the number one priority for businesses of all sizes. Customers and business partners need the reassurance that sensitive data is redacted or password-protected at all times. When choosing your digital document tools, look out for features that let you lock down important information using passwords or digital signatures. As password will allow only those individuals who have been give rights to access the content, whilst a digital signature works by identifying the person signing a document and also to help verify a document’s integrity. Digital signatures are based on certificates and ensure that if any changes made to the electronic document after signing it becomes invalid, meaning you can feel secure in the knowledge that you know where a document has come from, or where it’s going.