By Colin Miller, Marketing Manager, ABBYY

We are drowning in a sea of paperwork. And ironically, the move to digitisation is only going to make this worse – unless we have a smarter way to manage our documents and information.

Every day, 15 million miles of paper are used around the world. An average office has 20,000 pages of paper kept on site. Some are kept for compliance purposes, but most are wasted pages taking up room on the floor. It is estimated that the average worker spends 45 minutes a day looking for lost paperwork. [1]

And that’s just paper documents. We are yet to account for emails, web-based documents and social chats that take place between co-workers on intranets, which also need to be archived and stored properly for compliance purposes.

The paper burden is costing us millions of pounds every day. Last year, it was reported that police waste more than a third of their days doing paperwork instead of fighting crime. Similarly, nurses spend more than a sixth of their time on paperwork and bureaucracy, instead of patient care.

In June 2013, Justice Minister Damian Green called for a digitisation initiative at the Crown Prosecution Service, in an attempt to get rid of the outdated paper-based system and reduce the 160 million sheets of paper circulated each year. [2]

As businesses continue to transform into fully digital workplaces, here are three handy tips to help employees be more productive and stop wasting time working with documents and scanned PDF files.

Make the most of BYOD with mobile capture

With most employees now carrying smartphones, organisations are increasingly looking at ways that they can integrate mobile devices into their existing processes.

Filing expense reports while on the go, processing insurance claims in the field or streamlining check payment processes using mobile capture technologies, can all bring significant cost savings to the enterprise. In addition, businesses are now creating PDF documents of reports or articles of interest, so that they can read them whilst they are on the move, wherever they are going. The need to be in the office to be fully productive is now no longer business critical. By capturing information at the point where it originates, enterprises can accelerate processes, speed up transactions and reduce operating costs.

The result: more productive workers, improved customer services and increased customer loyalty.

Automate document processing with capture software

The automated processing of various documents, such as invoices, orders, remittances, forms and many others, is becoming an increasingly common business practice. But it doesn’t need a room full of administrators to manually type data into your CRM, HR or ERP systems, when you can simply automate the whole process.

Capture software enables information from data fields, even ones filled out by hand on an application form, for example, to be converted to electronic form for further processing. In most cases, form processing is considered to be completed as soon as the data from all of the forms has been captured, checked and saved in a backend system, like a database.

The next task is to decide where to delegate the information for a timely response. Customer inquires need to go to the customer relationships department, and invoices to accounts payable. With a Digital Mailroom solution documents can be captured when and where they enter an organisation. As a result, this can be classified and routed to the appropriate person or department. Where to archive information for compliance purposes is another consideration.

Manual data entry is costly, prone to errors and creates unnecessary delay in the response time. An intelligent, automated document capture system can help your staff be more efficient at work.

Optimise your business processes with digitally archived documents

Over time, important business documents can reach significant volumes and take up precious and expensive storage space. While businesses are obliged to keep records for regulatory purposes, compliance officers also need a smart way to quickly find information upon request.

Scanning paper has been common practice for decades, but there is one important limitation: scanned document images are not ‘readable’ and therefore not easily searchable, even with meta tags attached to the document file. The same holds true for PDFs that are image-only and do not contain a text layer that you can easily copy and paste. There is also a risk that documents are accidentally stored in an incorrect digital library.

Optical character recognition (OCR) software converts scanned images into electronic documents containing searchable and reusable text. This text can be electronically searched by key words and even extracted from the document and re-used.

Advanced algorithms pre-process the scan, detecting images, text areas and turning the ‘photo of a text’ into a ‘true text’ with 99.8 per cent accuracy. Some systems even allow adding meta-data, which is then transferred to the digital libraries together with the resulting documents.

So what’s next?

Digitisation is an essential part of business growth. It opens up exciting opportunities for employees to innovate and collaborate, but the foundations must be right initially to avoid problems or wasted investment later down the line.

What’s more, it helps improve the efficiency and productivity of your employees. According to our customers, the return-of-investment on mobile capture, document capture and digital archive, supported by OCR technology, can often be seen as soon as three months into the programme implementation. Quick-impacts like this are an ideal way to kickstart your business 2014.

[1] http://www.managetrainlearn.com/article/the-four-elements-and-time-management" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Managetrainlearn.com, December 2013,‘Time Management, Managing Your Paperwork’
[2] News from Gov.UK, 28th June, 2013