Digitised systems lead to happier customers, writes Cameron Mount, general manager of Ricoh Consulting Services.

We are not quite there on the paperless office. More than 90 per cent of businesses don't have an effective document strategy.

The average document is copied nine times, and then 40 per cent of documents are keyed back into a computer.

Studies have found some people at work spend nearly half of their time looking for information, and half feel overwhelmed by information.


By making information flow better there is a positive impact from cash flow and profit, through to customer satisfaction and regulatory compliance.

What common document processes are the cause of wasted time and effort?

No matter how well managed it is, virtually any organisation has one or more business processes which are either time-consuming, complex, or prone to error. These invariably involve documents.

Take any department, from accounts payable to human resources, if it uses paper there is an efficiency solution which can improve it.

We provided a solution for Croxley which cut the processing time for orders from up to three hours to about five minutes.

Emails from suppliers are monitored 24 hours, software reads the orders and extracts all relevant information, carries out validation checks and passes the order on to the customer services team.

By replacing paper-based processes with digitised systems, there is increased efficiency, compliance and cost control, and happier customers.

How can digital solutions assist common processes such as accounts payable and HR?

The most effective way is often by replacing paper-based processes with digital processes.

In accounts payable, "straight-through-processing" automation is available, from capturing invoice data through to final payment.

Invoices can be sorted by supplier, date or number at the click of a mouse.

Data entry can be reduced by automatically extracting information from invoices, and they can be scanned directly into accounting software.

HR departments can digitally store applications, CVs, policies, appraisals, plans and other documents, and these can later be accessed and distributed in seconds through electronic workflows.

What are the most common information-related time-wasters at work?
* Searching for information.
* Recreating content which can't be found.
* Reformatting documents.
* Publishing the same content in multiple formats.
* Coping with compatibility issues.

All of these can be vastly reduced through an efficient document solution system.

What are some ways companies can better manage their document processes?

It is critical to have an effective document strategy, based on a "map" of the information process, which charts the flow of documents between people and departments.

Understanding and assessing that map is crucial for improving productivity and reducing costs.

The first step is to chart the lifecycle of a document, from information capture, management, distribution, through to storage.

All these points can be addressed with a mix of accessible and intuitive document management and workflow solutions which are usually built on an integrated suite of software.

What business lessons did the Christchurch earthquakes provide in terms of document solutions?

The earthquakes highlighted the limitations of a paper-based documents system. Many businesses were unable to access vital information, at least temporarily, or permanently in some cases.

We have helped many to revamp their systems to avoid problems in the future - for example, a law firm, which had deeds and wills almost exclusively in paper form, realised it needed to vastly improve its document scanning and digital storage.

Another client, a large commercial real estate company, had fortunately just gone through a similar process and electronically stored critical documents before the September event which badly damaged their premises and made hard copy retrieval impossible.


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