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Businesses of all sizes must remain competitive. They all have competition and competition is good because over time it forces improvements to take place, streamlining operations and bringing greater efficiency. The goal is to continue to make a healthy profit and to do so in a manner which is sustainable and ethical. Traditionally, there have been a number of ways of achieving this, but recent world events have increased the stakes and sharpened the focus on how vital it is to succeed at this. This article revisits 5 reasons why it might pay to automate your document-driven business processes but does so in the context of the current operating climate.
Documents are not very exciting but they are a necessary part of doing business. Whatever a given line of business, there are a lot of processes involved and some, if not all, of these are likely to include documents. Documents can be legal instruments such as cheques or just collections of instructions, such as letters informing a business that a customer has changed address, but if they form part of a business process, they contain important information. How that information is accessed, stored and secured is critical in today’s distributed environments where staff are of necessity home-based and likely to be so for some time to come. Flexible approaches to document processing are required – approaches which assure that information remains secure and available, regardless of the circumstances.
1. Reduced necessity for on and off-site storage – Eradication of paper storage has led to substantial cost savings for some of our customers, especially companies who are required to archive records for a predetermined number of years. Paper volumes build up quickly and keeping track of paper files and controlling their timely destruction when no longer needed is complex and costly. Electronic document repositories can remove this pain by automating the destruction of documents which have passed their retention date. They can also make documents easily available to end users via powerful content searching capabilities, from anywhere, using dedicated mobile applications or in many cases, ordinary web browsers – invaluable in the current circumstances where people are forced to work from home.
2. Business Scalability – Let’s face it – manually processing documents costs money. It may not be so difficult to have someone open an email, physically read some electronic invoices and process them manually, but if the business is to grow and respond to new demands, that manual process will require more people, take more time and increase the probability of errors occurring. This stunts growth. Automating even just the part of the process that opens the email and reads the invoices can make it possible to either increase the volume of business with the same staff or release staff members to carry out other tasks. It can reduce manual effort and thus costly errors. This unlocks the potential for growth which was previously being stymied. Email bodies sometimes also contain useful and important information which can be surfaced and actioned. The email body can be treated as a document in its own right, unlocking valuable business data and driving insights which may previously have gone unnoticed.
3. Improved Accountability – Historical records play an enormous role in the upkeep of a business. Automating document-driven processes with today’s modern platforms allows the tracking of what tasks have been completed, by whom and when. This information is invaluable when queries arise and when audits take place. It is easy to show that established processes have been followed. There has probably not been a time in history when it has been more important to demonstrate accountability and compliance than it is in today’s climate.
4. Superior Customer Service – Historically, it was necessary to take cheques to a bank branch and wait for the paper to make its way through the Clearing System before it was possible to access the money. Thanks to document automation, customers can now upload cheque images using their mobile devices and securely transmit the cheques to their bank. This innovation reduces cost and saves time, giving customers access to their money sooner than before. It’s possible to leverage that same technology to improve document driven processes regardless of industry. Starting the document process earlier and removing the need for centralised data capture is one easy way existing processes can be improved.
5. Improved Security – Electronic documents can safely be stored in hard drives and smartphones that are portable, but this creates the risk of documents and data becoming available to people who should not necessarily have access to them. Deciding who can see what, under which circumstances has always been a challenge for businesses. Today’s automation platforms build on the established principles of information security (confidentiality, integrity and availability) and provide robust security models which can be adapted to suit businesses of all sizes. If you need to have staff working on sensitive confidential documents and data from home, or away from an office, but cannot due to security concerns, why not consider implementing one of the secure platforms which has enterprise-grade security built in?
Document process automation isn’t new, but recent developments have shown that it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks! There has been considerable investment in bringing Artificial Intelligence and other techniques to established ways of processing documents. These innovations have revolutionised processes in ways that could only be dreamt of a few years ago and the pace of change will only increase. We do not necessarily mean that manual document processing is “bad” and businesses should immediately rush out and adopt automation solutions. However, every organisation has processes which are easy to automate, where immediate benefits could be demonstrated.
As someone once said, one thing is clear: using a manual system in a digital world is a race to the bottom. Failing to adopt new tools and continuing to operate under outdated business models leads to the risk of being surpassed by the competition and seeing client and profit bases shrink. Embracing document automation is one effective way to not only gain a competitive advantage but also attract and retain new clients. When the current crisis is over, the survivors will be those who welcomed the opportunity provided by it. They will be best placed to take advantage of the coming wave of innovation.
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Open Connections is an innovative provider of Business Process Automation solutions. We have a wealth of expertise and have helped many organisations find solutions to their document-centred problems.