Business prognosticators have insisted for years that the paperless office was just around the corner. The goal has always been a substantial decrease in paper usage culminating in a reduction of office clutter. While there have been consistent inroads throughout the years in the technology required to make this goal a reality. Recent innovations in OCR software to extract data has finally made this goal a reality.
The amount of paperwork generated in offices can be staggering. Storage needs can lead to clutter and may even place a financial burden on operations due to inherent inefficiencies that follow mounds of paperwork. OCR software and high-speed document scanners allow for the gradual replacing of paper documents with digital ones that can be stored on one or more external hard drives, small enough to fit on a small table or desk, and stored with a cloud-based application. Over time, using business document scanners can lead to a dramatic reduction in clutter.
Holding On to the Past
No matter how technology minded and futuristic the business owner or office manager is, hanging on to paper of one kind or another is a common tendency. Some of the contributors to the clutter of this type are:
- Legal documents: The perceived importance of signed, legal documents are ingrained in people. As a result, there are file cabinets filled to the brim with legal paperwork in many of today’s offices. Fortunately, legal firms are often at the forefront of utilizing OCR software and hardware for scanning to replace paper records with digital ones.
- Governmental documents: This falls into an identical category to legal paperwork, and governmental entities are increasingly moving to accepting and transmitting digital documents.
- Tactile considerations: There’s just something about the feel of paper and the sense of holding something physically real in one’s hands. The only way to overcome this tendency is increased familiarity with the digital domain.
- Fear of obsolete digital formats: While there have been instances where digital document formats have not survived technological advances, this has long since stabilized with the advent of documents saved in JPEG and PDF formats, among others.
It’s About More Than Just Clutter
The office that utilizes OCR software is going to produce some decidedly advantageous benefits beyond reducing office clutter.
- Saving money: The cost of producing, printing, mailing and storing mounds of paperwork can be quite high. The savings in moving to high-speed document scanners and using OCR software is substantial.
- Safety concerns: Offices have been flooded, and offices have burned to the ground. In the event such a tragedy was to befall the modern, paperless office, documents would remain safe and sound stored in a cloud-based environment.
- Enhanced document efficiencies: With the benefits of sharing scanned documents with coworkers available today it’s never been easier to search for and retrieve documents with increased speed and accuracy.
Document Scanning Technology
There is a multitude of existing scanning applications designed for many aspects of business operations, including those that generate checks, invoices, receipts — even legal documentation. The technology reduces paperwork and, therefore, clutter. Some of the many domain-specific applications include:
- Developing sales contact list: Business cards and literature from vendors and targeted prospects are quickly scanned and converted into a contact list for use by sales personnel.
- Banking and data entry: All business documents previously printed and distributed by fax or mail can be scanned into shareable and electronically transmitted records for such things as checking accounts, banking statements, and for billing invoices and receipts.
Moving to OCR Software and a Paper-Free Office
This is not a change to take lightly. It requires a well thought out transition plan and much patience, but if the goal is to reduce office clutter, this is the best way to achieve it. Here are some practical steps to ease the transition.
- Follow the paper trail: What types of documents are filed away in office filing cabinets? Categorize them according to priority and operational routines. Start with the less critical and begin the process of scanning them. As employees become comfortable with the methodology, they can gradually begin to shred the paper documents.
- Transition to paperless technology: For new documents and financial transactions to be created utilize online applications such as Google Docs, PayPal, and Dropbox to create a paperless environment for all aspects of the business operations. New documents and records now move from the filing cabinets of old to either or both hard drives and cloud-based document storage environments.
- Replace outdated technology: Eventually, large, bulky printers and fax machines can be sold off, replaced by entirely digital document creation and transmittal capabilities. Start using electronic signatures for contracts and legal or governmental documents. Move to fully online transmittal of accounts receivables, payables and payroll via a combination of online banking, and applications such as PayPal.
- What to Do With All This Space?: As the office gradually transitions from a cluttered and cumbersome environment to one that is more lean and efficient it may be that existing office is too large for current needs. Short of physically moving to a smaller office space, this is a good time to upgrade existing computer workstations to allow for larger monitors to facilitate the viewing of multiple documents at one time.
Office clutter due to an endless stream of paper can be a thing of the past, Today’s modern office makes use of technology to make it happen.
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