The beginning of my career in ECM and content capture involved helping organizations “go paperless.” You all know the phrase, right? Many of the other bloggers worked with me on projects as vendors, partners, and friends to help people navigate the paperless journey.
But no one really knew where we were headed.
Quite frankly, something about the “paperless effort” felt very, very wrong. Fast forward a number of years and the path to the paperless effort is still dark and hard to find. Too many processes remain dependent upon static PDFs that have to be printed, manually returned and their data re-entered, creating countless operational bottlenecks. How exactly did “going paperless” equate to scanning paper? Isn’t that like preparing for a flood by planning the cleanup? Instead of filling sandbags, let’s just gas up the backhoes.
I couldn’t help but wonder how we could plug the leak or in some way divert the raging torrent. Primarily, I felt we needed to find the source of what was causing the need for all this paper. Where did it come from? Where was it going? That quest led me into the world of electronic forms and document assembly, which involves capturing content and information free from paper.
With the realization that the content on paper could be accurately captured and put to use, the shackles came off. Finally, business processes could be greatly accelerated without relying on the byproducts of dead trees.
As a primer on eForms and document assembly, here is what I’ll be educating the community on in the future. Instead of printing documents, you focus on using your existing electronic documents, like Word documents and PDFs, and enable that process to be completed 100 percent digitally. The goal is to make content capture as easy as buying something on the app store—it just works. Instant gratification is yours.
On the backend, you can connect that information automatically to a variety of systems in a read/write fashion. Thus, not only can you reuse data, but you can automatically import it into repositories. Finally, once you have content captured, how do you put it to work? How does it filter through the seams of progress for which it was initially intended?
We all know that the instances of data impurities rise exponentially with the number of times it interacts with us error-prone, heavily YouTube-addled cubicle drones. So, let’s find a way to break our co-dependency on manual data input. We should just let our data fly into its own, pre-designated environments of market research, sales, operations, HR and any other department that starts its day with the information we collect on forms. After all, if our data doesn’t need us anymore to be routed, we can just spend more time watching stuff like Chocolate Rain.
Daniel K. O'Leary
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