Computer technology has brought about a major change in the way companies process and archive their data. Storing company information, records and files electronically has many advantages over the paper-based workflows of yesteryear. Converting hardcopy documents into electronic files brings with it a number of advantages to the modern office. Document imaging enables more efficient management of the information currently on paper and reduces the amount of paper records.

Electronically converted files are now popular with many companies and such services can be found within governmental departments, educational establishments, health service centres, the insurance and financial sectors and retail outlets. Whether it is archiving old and valuable documents or storing data in a safe and secure environment, there are a great number of advantages to using a document scanner.

More and more businesses are turning to digital document capture to enable their staff to collaborate more efficiently. A scanner is an integral piece of equipment for any modern office. It helps in speeding up the work process as well as helping employees rid themselves of the physical documents that clog up the workspace.

Scanning documents and storing them on a central hard drive – or even a portable memory stick – can help relieve an office of the many filing cabinets that fill up valuable workspace. Most employers do not want to burden their employees with maintaining a physical storage of documents in the form of papers. This unnecessarily takes up space in a building and goes against the environmentally friendly trend of paperless offices. Scanning documents into a computer lets businesses utilise the portion of the office space being occupied by the filing cabinets for something else.

Immediate benefits derived from document imaging include reduced costs of handling, storing and duplicating paper documents, reduced impact on the environment, and in some cases reproducing lost documents. Other major advantages include improved customer service through quicker location and copying of unstructured documents, increased accessibility of documents (scanned documents can be instantly emailed or printed, even accessed by a remote user via the Internet), and improved internal efficiency by reducing the time employees spend locating documents and files and increasing the time they spend with customers. More importantly, digital document capture means no more piles of papers to store and search through.

Document management systems enhance an organisation’s flow of information. With data stored electronically, managers no longer need to measure document retrieval in hours or days. Everyone across an enterprise can have access to information, from numerous sources, in under a minute. Imaging enables fast and accurate access to data previously only available on paper, empowering an organisation to formulate strategies and tactics based on solid, timely information.

Improving employee productivity

According to recent studies, office workers spend up to 60 percent of their time preparing, handling, filing, copying and faxing documents. As a result, only two days per week are spent on productive, decision-making time. Document management systems increase office productivity by providing a workforce with the tools that ensure information is readily available—in the form it is needed, when it is needed and in the correct version. Imaging tools put previously hardcopy documents in a centralised, controlled electronic environment, providing employee access to current information. Employees can then review, route, print and fax all documents online.

Supporting regulatory compliance

Many organisations, such as legal, financial and manufacturing, are subject to regulatory standards for maintaining the latest revisions of documents. ‘Up-to-date documentation’ and ‘available at all times’ are among the requirements that govern these highly regulated entities. Often the sheer volume of paper that flows in and out of a regulatory records department can quickly result in a bottleneck.

Missing or misfiled documents bring the manual system to a halt and can be the source of steep regulatory fines. Imaging is the solution. Documents are scanned, indexed and stored. When needed, any number of employees can gain access to the documents. Through ad hoc or full text search, employees can easily review, output and distribute documents. Documentation becomes an integrated, efficient part of the regulatory environment.

Enhancing customer service

Customers receive improved service when you can quickly access complete and accurate records of their account or case (in the legal environment). Unfortunately, maintaining accuracy is difficult and time-consuming in a paper-based system. Using an imaging solution, customer service representatives can have a comprehensive, electronic library of documents, including as-built, as-installed and as-maintained documentation. The document system manages all data, drawings and documents, making this information available as it is needed for customer service.

Leveraging investment in hardware

Large companies have a wide variety of computers in use, and networks vary from site to site. This diversity drives the requirement for enterprise systems to be cross-platform and cross-network compatible. Enterprise document management and imaging lets a company link existing hardware tools without changing those tools.

For instance, for organisations using a mainframe or client/server for enterprise-wide or departmental computing, the addition of a document management system is a cost-effective way to extend the life and utility of hardware. Imaging can leverage an organisation’s existing investment in computer hardware by linking existing servers, distributing previously hardcopy data to users via an existing network infrastructure, performing on existing client desktops, and utilising existing network printers.

New technology doesn’t mean new equipment. An imaging solution will fit within an existing computing environment, networking infrastructure and peripherals. With the right system, an organisation can add imaging to its environment regardless of the server and regardless of the client platform. Only then can it capture, index, store and retrieve documents with speed and accuracy. Lost files will also be a thing of the past.