Looking at Document Capture from a Paperless View
It’s that age-old dilemma, how to get information into a digital format so that you can save it to your document management system. Just a few years ago, your only real option was scanning the paper and manually applying index values to the image before saving it. However, times have changed, and technology improved, to the point where becoming paperless is more fact than fiction thanks to document capture.
Let’s begin by eliminating paper at its inception. There are many areas of your organization where paper has been the norm. One area, however, that has been proactive in the use of electronic forms (e-forms) is Human Resources. An application for employment is an excellent example of an e-form that is completed by the applicant and submitted via a website. It’s a great start, but many companies stop there and create a paper trail through the hiring process. However, why not utilize a workflow that intelligently “reads” the information on the application and makes decisions on where to route items based off of those values? As an example, a field in the form might require the applicant to identify the position for which they are applying. This information can be used to direct the application to the proper department and manager. By allowing the applicant to attach their resume and supporting documents, the system can automatically save these files and present them as supporting documents to the reviewer. Additional e-forms can be created by the workflow for taking interview notes, background checks and creating interview checklists. Should the applicant be hired, the workflow will transition to the onboarding process where all of the associated forms can be completed online. Digital signatures can be associated with the documents in a number of ways, again, eliminating the need to print paper and obtain a “wet” signature.
What about going paperless for Accounts Payable? Working with vendor invoices has always been troublesome. Only a couple of years ago these were paper documents mailed to your office. Today, however, we have clients receiving 95 percent of their vendor invoices as PDF attachments in emails. Capture software can strip these attachments and process them without user intervention. The software will intelligently identify who the vendor is and extract information that previously had to be hand-keyed into the ERP system. Additionally, a scanned invoice can start a workflow process that applies the proper GL Code and conducts a two or three-way match. Invoices that pass the matching requirements are routed through the workflow, batched and sent to the ERP for final inspection and payment. Paying via ACH eliminates more paper and postage, saving time and money.
Then there are the dreaded expense reports. Today’s smartphones do a remarkably good job of capturing receipts, either through email (digital receipt) or by taking a picture of a paper receipt and extracting values directly from it. This eliminates the need to retain paper and creates an instant transaction that can be shared with the proper approvers via a workflow. This not only creates efficiencies for employees submitting an expense report, but provides more accurate and timely reports to managers and their Accounts Payable department.
These examples are fairly straightforward and do not require much imagination. So, let’s think of a couple of other examples that are not as traditional. How about an excavation company, acting as a general contractor, who contracts with outside vendors to move dirt using dump trucks? The traditional method of recording delivered loads was through the use of paper “invoices” in which a truck driver completed a form using a pen and submitted it to the general contractor for payment. The AP Clerk on the general contractor’s side would then need to transpose the information from the invoice into their accounting software. By switching to an e-form that is viewed and completed using a smartphone, the paper is eliminated, as is the need to send the paper invoice to the general contractor. Mistakes in completing the form are reduced through the use of drop-down values, database lookups and auto-fillable values such as timestamps. To further enhance the process, information from the form is transferred directly to the ERP system, eliminating the need to hand-key the information.
Another example is an auto loan processor who transitioned from handling paper applications and supporting documents that had to be physically couriered from a car dealership to the loan processing company. Additional supporting paperwork such as the credit check, title application, and loan contract was also added to the file before the packet received a final, physical review and was overnighted to the financial institution. Today, the company receives all of the documents digitally from dealerships. Capture software identifies the documents, indexes them and saves them to the workflow. The system validates that the required documents are present and notifies the dealership if something is missing. Next, the packets are routed through the workflow to the proper approvers who add additional digital documents to the folder. When the loan processing is complete, the workflow validates the documents, places them in a specific order and transmits them in a secure manner to the financial institution.
Thinking creatively and outside the box, while using available technology can not only make your organization more efficient, it can save you money on paper costs and time handling paper. With this, you are one step closer to a paperless office and becoming greener.
Jack Arnston is a Principal at The Priton Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.