Despite the rapid move towards remote work during the pandemic, even COVID-19 hasn’t been able to kill off paper in the enterprise.
The result is that most businesses are facing the twin challenges of ensuring that remote employees manage hardcopy documents with due regard for security and making it easy for them to share documents with each other in remote or hybrid working environments.
This is according to Robert Crowther, CEO of FCTEC, a specialist in digitisation and electronic content management solutions. He says that despite years of hype about the paperless office, paper has endured because there are still many business processes that depend on paper being signed and scanned to comply with legislation.
What’s more, most businesses also have many important corporate records stored in legacy media or in unstructured formats such as paper files, books, magazines, films, and microfiche.
Managing this unstructured data was an expensive and time-consuming headache even before the days of remote work, but it has become even more of a barrier to productivity during COVID.
Says Crowther: “Most companies were able to provide their work-from-home employees with access to structured data from customer relationship management, billing, and other core systems with relative ease early in the pandemic. However, few have yet completely solved the problem of giving the workforce seamless access to paper and other unstructured data scattered across multiple locations and systems.”
“To address this challenge, companies will need to invest in the holistic management of their information. They will need to analyse their legacy business processes and technology infrastructure to determine where the potential risks and inefficiencies lie. This is the perfect opportunity for digital transformation of your business to ensure that you are not left behind in the electronic age.”
Volumes of Unstructured Data are Exploding
The volumes of unstructured data enterprises need to manage show no signs of decreasing.
The Association for Intelligent Information Management (AIIM)’s State of the intelligent information management industry 2021 report shows that organisations expect the volume of information flowing into their business to increase 4.5 times over the next two years.
Moreover, they expect more than 57% of this information to be unstructured (a contract or a conversation, for example) or semi-structured (such as an invoice or a form). Other research conducted in 2020 found 56% of workers are still printing and 50% still scanning, despite over 60% not having printers or scanners at home.
With a third of South African enterprises stating that they don’t expect all staff to make a full return to the workplace after the pandemic, leading companies will prioritise making documents securely and easily accessible for remote employees, says Crowther.
“Working from home requires staff to be able to access documents easily, without the need for office visits or asking in-house staff to scan required material immediately,” he adds.
Scan Once, Use Everywhere
“Ideally, you should be able to scan an asset once and then be able to repurpose it many times for broad use across a range of platforms. A good solution will enable users to search a database for words, phrases, names, and other identifying information without knowing exactly where the record lives. Many organisations find that adding text-search to their archives unlocks the power of their information.”
Security is another important consideration at a time staff are working from different locations.
Companies need to review the devices employees use, network connectivity and document protocol. With the increase in remote working situations, it is important to be able to securely sign documents from anywhere, without compromising on safety.