The Paperless Office in the Cloud: The Future of Business? - Part 5: Accelerating the Speed of Business with Cloud Computing and Paperless Document Solutions

Accelerating the Speed of Business with Cloud Computing and Paperless Document Solutions

(#5 in a series.)

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Have you noticed that business is moving faster and faster and with more urgency than ever before?  It sneaks up on you.  In today's global economy, businesses must respond instantly to customers, vendors, stakeholders and trading partners in order to successfully compete, survive and thrive.  Digital document and record systems implemented at the enterprise level as well as cloud computing technologies and services are key enablers of this critical response capability.

Speed

How does the paperless office increase the speed of business?  In the paperless office there's no waiting for documents to be delivered via "sneaker net", mail or courier.  Federal Express was founded on the promise, "When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight."  At today’s pace of business, overnight is not fast enough!

The current trend is toward transactional capture -- capturing a digital image of a document at its origin for internally produced documents, or at the first touch point for inbound documents arriving either in the mail room or via fax, email or electronic document interchange.  That means that your documents are indexed and immediately accessible and can be propagated throughout the enterprise and exchanged with trading partners electronically.  You're moving bits, not atoms (a phrase coined by Nicholas Negroponte at the MIT Media Laboratory); so everything can move very quickly.

People are already exchanging more digital documents every day via email, but most of that is not done in a secure, controlled way managed by systems of business policies.  Paper is scanned to fax or email and digital versions of business documents are being stored on individual workstations rather than in a central secure repository.  Managed paperless document solutions resolve these inefficiencies and reduce security exposures.

So, what's so fast about cloud computing?  Provisioning.  No ordering hardware, no installation, no loading software or integrating the system into your existing network.  No waiting for other projects in the backlog queue.  No training of technical support personnel, skills maintenance or retraining when you experience turnover.  With cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS) you get access to a team of experienced support personnel whenever you need them at no additional cost.  More and more organizations are looking for strategic opportunities to outsource non core competencies so that they can focus internal resources on delivering products and services and serving customers.  Digital Document Management is a functional area ideally suited for offloading overburdened organizations which can lead to newfound speed and agility.

Courier Service Too Slow At Union County Schools

Union County Schools, with 15 separate schools system-wide, eliminated the courier service for moving purchase orders from individual schools to the central administrative office by implementing a paperless purchase order system.  The resultant reduction in processing wait times has helped them move toward a just-in-time inventory system.

The next step is to automate the vendor invoice workflow process which will have a jump start since they already have digital purchase orders online.  The invoices will be automatically linked to the purchase orders along with receipt vouchers and vendor payments so that all documents pertaining to an individual business transaction can be retrieved with the click of a mouse from any authorized individual, any time, anywhere.

Stopping the Global Paper Shuffle 

One global publishing and media giant with over 100 separate companies worldwide decided to do something about the paper bottleneck in processing and paying vendor invoices.  Prior to installing automated invoice workflow each operating entity received invoices from vendors, routed paper documents through an internal approval process then shipped the paper documents to the corporate shared services center for final approval, posting and payment.  You can imagine how long this took, not to mention the impact of misplaced paperwork on the process. 

Now, invoices are mailed by each vendor to a central lock box where they are digitized and routed electronically to the shared services center for data entry and initial approval.  The invoices then flow to each entity for verification.  The data collection process is much more accurate and efficient because each entry is validated in real time against the central financial data base.  Approvers have wide screen displays so they can see an image of the original invoice beside the data collection panel.  Upon final approval the data is automatically posted to the accounts payable system for timely payment processing.

Compressed Business Cycle Times At Richland School District Two

Richland School District Two in Columbia, SC reduced the time required for their payroll staff to prepare and run payroll from 1.5 days to 2.5 hours by moving to self-service online pay stubs.  That’s an 80% reduction!  Imagine the impact on other business processes:  The labor savings is obviously significant, but imagine the improvement in service levels in any business function by saving time in processing transactions.  The resultant ability to grow without adding additional resources is another major advantage byproduct of paperless business solutions and cloud computing.


In our next installment we'll take a closer look at the third top business driver of the paperless office and cloud computing:  Security.

Until next time,

John Queen