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7 STEPS TO DIGITISING PAPER-BASED PROCESSES IN YOUR SME

Shahzia Soomar

The printed page still plays a valuable role in business operations, decades after the idea of the paperless office was first conceived. While it is neither desirable nor possible to eliminate paper in your business, there are numerous benefits to digitising and automating paper-based processes and records.

Digitising enables you to reduce storage costs and time spent locating and organising information in legacy filing systems. It makes it easier to retrieve and share information without needing to look for the right document in a filing cabinet. It also allows you to automate workflows, vastly improve efficiencies in your business and can also contribute to reducing carbon emissions.

Here is a seven-step plan that can help your organisation navigate the digitisation journey, if you are uncertain about where and how to start as a small and medium enterprise (SME):

1.      Assess paper usage in your business

Start your digitisation programme by assessing which processes in your business still rely heavily on paper. From HR policies and legal contracts to proof of delivery and work orders, you will find several tasks that involve printing or the processing of paper documents.

2.      Prioritise processes to automate or optimise

It might not be practical or possible to digitise all paper processes in your business. However, you may find that there are paper-driven processes that take up a significant amount of your team’s time and slow down workflows. One example could be capturing customer information from paper forms. Identify compelling business cases to prioritise, with the aim of achieving quick wins.

3.      Invest in modern document capture hardware and software

To implement a successful digitisation strategy, you will need to put the right technology in place. In terms of hardware, a modern Multifunction Printer (MFP) with an integrated scanner is typically sufficient for most SMEs. However, businesses that process higher volumes of paper may find a dedicated scanner to be faster and more efficient.

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On the other hand, intelligent data capture software can automatically extract relevant data from handwritten and machine printed documents using advanced Optical Character Recognition (OCR).This functionality enables you to automatically capture data into systems such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) without needing to rekey it manually.

4.      Consider implementing a document management solution

Document management systems (DMSs) enable you to easily store, share and retrieve electronic documents. In addition to helping you capture paper-based documents, A DMS should let you automatically import and save electronic documents such as email in a central repository. By allowing you to organise, categorise and share documents online, a DMS will foster collaboration in your team and help to speed up workflows.

5.      Ensure compliance and security measures

As you digitise paper, it is important to be mindful of laws and regulations governing data privacy and document retention such as the Protection of Personal Information Act. Implement security measures such as encryption, user authentication, and regular data backups to protect digital documents from unauthorised access. Develop clear policies indicating how long you will retain digital documents, in compliance with the requirements of authorities such as SARS.

6.      Embrace digital workflows where possible

Encourage employees to use digital workflows whenever possible. For example, where it is legally permitted, move towards using electronic signatures for contracts and agreements instead of printing and signing them physically. E-signatures are legally binding and allow you and your business partners to review and sign documents from anywhere.

7.      Focus on sustainable printing

Eliminating printing and paper usage may not always be feasible, but it is usually possible to optimise your print environment for cost efficiency. Newer and more energy-efficient technologies, for example, allow you to reduce your print environment’s operating costs while also minimising your impact on the environment. In addition, print management software enables the tracking, analysis, and allocation of the cost of every printed or copied document. It can help to reduce wasteful practices such as unnecessary colour printing or excessive personal use.

DID YOU KNOW?

Nashua is the Total Workspace Solutions partner of choice for businesses and organisations of all sizes throughout Southern Africa. Using modern technology, our years of expertise, and a franchise model with an extensive regional footprint, we empower businesses to thrive in a constantly changing world.

Over the years, we have evolved from a leader in office automation into an integrated ICT solutions provider offering voice, energy, connectivity, cloud, currency management and document management solutions, access control, surveillance and more in our portfolio. Serving our clients for over 50 years, we have always remained committed to a singular brand promise: Saving You Time. Saving You Money. Putting You First.

Nashua is part of the Reunert group of companies and has been certified as one of South Africa’s Top ICT Employers for 2023 and 2024.

For more information, please visit www.nashua.co.za and follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Shahzia Soomar, is a Product Manager at Nashua. She writes in her personal capacity.

INFO SUPPLIED.

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