For the last week, LA has been blanketed by a fierce winter storm, giving me plenty of time to reflect on the past year. Primarily, I’ve been going over some of my notes on the process of going paperless. And, trying to figure out how Kate Gosselin ended up on television. Both are huge concepts.
Seriously though, the world is not yet paperless but we continue to make strides in the right direction. Some small, some quite notable. To really make a lasting impact in 2011 and beyond, I’ve come to the realization that an organization needs a two-tier approach when tackling capture and paper problems.
Ease the pain, reduce the symptoms
Historically, this is the way the industry has tried to treat paper and capture problems. High speed scanners, off-site storage and warehouses full of boxes … you know the drill. While this is a painful, manual process akin to sanding off a bunion with a Dremel, you still need to help clean up the mess that already exists. It took you years to make all this paper and legacy information. Thus, it will take a substantial commitment to eliminate it.
I describe this process as something like trying to wrap your mouth around a fire hose. You know, because there is a chance you could choke. You should start by taking small steps, like scanning only the last 6-12 months of paper and information. Realistically, these are the documents you are likely going to need in the next few weeks of business. Of you try to go much deeper right out of the gate, well, just think of the fire hose.
Now that some of the symptoms are addressed, albeit with a band-aid, starting assembling your strategy for a cure.
Treating the causes
I see paper and analog processes as a disease, a painful, festering, cell-eating virus that infects your entire productivity system, eventually draining it of life. (Fun stuff, these paper processes of ours.)
To really tackle the problem, you have to work in combination with scanning and manual conversion to go after the processes where paper is created. Get to the heart of the virus. Some of the areas you might want to target include:
E-mail – E-mail has become a default BPM system for many organizations. The problem with e-mail is that it is hard to track, there is significant liability in messages and information can get lost. Plus, (face palm) people print them, exacerbating the problems. You can look at replacing e-mail as a BPM system with a dedicated system or process for common tasks. For example, try replacing e-mailed or faxed time cards with eForms or specialized HR software.
Electronic Forms – According to Gartner, 85 percent of business processes depend on forms. In my opinion, this is the single best area to tackle because the ROI is profound. By eliminating paper forms, you also eliminate manual data entry, filing and storage. Common eForm projects kick off in HR, compliance and IT departments based on where paper forms currently live. Here is a video I made that shows how the mining industry is embracing eForms to improve training compliance.
Accounting – Paper invoices and paper purchase orders are a massive headache for most organizations. And for anyone who is even remotely interesting to talk to. (Sorry.) Point is, you can treat the cause by only accepting and generating electronic invoices and embracing standards like electronic data interchange or the new ISO 20022 standard for transmitting information. Getting this process cleaned up means faster payments and improved cash flow. Which is great for me because I now need to go buy a canoe.
What processes do you target? How are you planning on improve your systems in 2011 and beyond? Is it raining where you live? Please leave a comment and let us know. About capture processes I mean. I honestly don’t care if its raining where you live.
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