Article

Managing paper documents in a digital economy

Although businesses increasingly operate in a digital world and process information electronically, paper documents still play a crucial role on a daily basis.

Documents are absolutely key to the success of an organisation and end-users are relying more and more on technology to help produce and manage their documents.

The power of paper.

Despite the effort being made to reduce paper in organisations, printed as well as electronic documents are still central to our working lives. Paper documents are especially important for marketing and auditing purposes, and for providing customers with high-quality proposals and reports – very few organisations (even progressive, digital businesses) actually see value in a totally ‘paperless’ office.

Document management.

Many organisations are being too slow to address changes to end-users’ working practices. The rapid rise in the volume and variety of electronic documents requiring processing, the continuing need to handle paper documents and the evolution of remote working practices mean the technology offered to end-users is often outdated and no longer efficient.

Scanning is becoming the principal driver of document workflow, as the volume of electronic documents that end-users process is rising sharply. Solutions for improving the processing of scanned documents that save time and increase productivity are very attractive to end-users.

Improving day-to-day productivity.

What’s important for businesses trying to differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded digital economy is to be able to focus on their core business offering and trust in their office technology to work hard and efficiently for them. Many don’t realise that the humble office printer, previously only tasked with simple print jobs, has developed into a networked communication hub, able to propel the productivity of a workforce and bring simplicity to the business. These modern multi-functional devices (MFDs) consolidate all the features of separate, stand-alone devices into one single unit that fulfils different document management functions including printing, scanning, copying and faxing.

The importance of MFDs.

While stand-alone printers are still important for organisations that need to support one dedicated office function, the need for multiple single-function devices has been superseded by today’s technology.

The need for productive office space and technology is driving many digital businesses to shared working environments. Here MFDs offer better energy efficiency and a smaller footprint compared to operating multiple individual devices.

In collaborative working hubs, they are also connected to an organisation’s network, to the cloud and to the mobile devices of the workforce, meaning that employees are able to scan, print, access and manage documents quicker and on the move – which provides small businesses with the flexibility and mobility they require during their crucial first years.

What’s more, MFDs are frequently a front-line sales and marketing tool, and many organisations rely on them to produce high-quality marketing materials, personalised reports or professional looking estimates, which can reduce reliance on third-party providers.

Focusing on growth.

Even the most progressive, digital businesses need to process paper documents and this need is not going anywhere despite the increase in online services. While stand-alone printers are still important for organisations that need to support one dedicated office function, the need for multiple single-function devices has been superseded by today’s technology. For businesses that truly want to stand out in today’s digital world it’s more important than ever that they are free to focus on what they do best. MFDs can play a crucial role in ensuring that small businesses can trust their working environments to deliver all the benefits they need, allowing them to focus on what’s really important: growing.

Recommendations.

Based on the analysis of end-users’ needs and wants and how these can sometimes contrast with those of decision-makers, we make the following recommendations for decision-makers when considering new or upgraded document handling solutions.

1. Electronic documents may be booming, but don’t forget about print.

Printers and MFDs are frequently a frontline sales and marketing tool. Many organisations now understand that devices that product high quality, effective communications can justify the extra investment and reduce reliance on third party print providers.

2. Review your document security protocols.

Many organisations are much less secure than they think. The advent of remote document access and emergence of Bring Your Own Device will bring security to the fore.

3. Match your solution to your future needs.

Document workflows are changing rapidly. The rise in scanning and processing of edocuments means that document management software will become at least as important as hardware, since end-users will spend increasing amounts of time producing and processing both paper and electronic documents.

In simple terms, office technology is there to help end-users work more effectively.

Organisations that listen to their end-users’ needs and wants and work to improve their productivity through the use of new technology will benefit not just from cost savings through improved efficiency, but also from end-users feeling more valued, empowered and happy in their work.