Digitized Documents Are Only As Good As Their Accessibility, Says David Thorpe of Vignette

Sure, digital document storage can be less cumbersome than filing away paper copies, but only if they can be reached easily by customers and employees, argues David Thorpe, Vignette, director of business strategy EMEA in his report "Information From Every

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Sure, digital document storage can be less cumbersome than filing away paper copies, but only if they can be reached easily by customers and employees, argues David Thorpe, Vignette, director of business strategy EMEA in his report “Information From Every Angle: Bringing Paper into the Fold.

“Information From Every Angle: Bringing Paper into the Fold”By David Thorpe, Vignette director of business strategy EMEA

Information is the lifeblood of every company. But when that information exists in the form of large quantities of paper documents, organisations face the risk of their business processes grinding to a halt if they are not able to digitise these documents and electronically manage all of their information. Implementing technology to enable this, however, is not enough in itself. Unless the digitised documents – in conjunction with all the other relevant types of content – are easily accessible to authorised customers, employees, partners or suppliers, their true value cannot be realised.

As many companies’ operations become more and more global, and as regulatory mandates require them to store ever greater quantities of information, businesses are facing a potentially crippling content explosion. At the same time, with the business environment becoming increasingly competitive, companies face the need to realise resource and cost savings and differentiate themselves from the competition with high levels of customer service.

If crucial customer documentation is used and stored in paper form, it is extremely difficult to meet these business needs. Not only does processing, managing and filing paper-based documents manually take up valuable resource, but it is extremely challenging to improve customer service when content is in paper form and it is thus divorced from other, related, information in digital form. This challenge is part of a greater issue that many organisations face – the need to make up-to-date content available to all their varied audiences, whether internal or external, in an efficient and compelling manner.

Information-critical and paper-intensive business processes are common in many industries, but particularly in financial services and healthcare organisations. In the financial services sector, organisations are required under European regulations to verify the identity of individuals; as a result, opening a new account, taking out a loan or mortgage, or putting together a new insurance policy generates significant quantities of paperwork. Administering and managing these documents in paper form requires substantial resource and the associated manual business processes can take a considerable length of time; and as players within this competitive industry are all too aware, business efficiency and customer service are critical to success.

Within healthcare organisations around the globe, patient treatment is based upon the availability of huge amounts of information, whether these are X-rays, prescriptions or patient records. Throughout the treatment and aftercare of a single individual, these documents will often be needed by various different experts, departments and even different organisations. If records are in paper form, this will inevitably have consequences for the speed – and potentially even the quality – of patient care.

To alleviate these growing issues, organisations are beginning to realise the exceptional benefits of imaging and workflow solutions. Imaging and workflow allows the automation of high-volume, paper-intensive processes. This is achieved by transforming paper documents into digital ones through imaging. These can then be developed and processed electronically, using sophisticated workflow processes which transform previously manual business processes into automated ones.

However, whilst this brings huge benefits, it is not enough in itself. In order to realise the value of their information, it is vital that organisations choose a solution that allows this content to be securely and dynamically delivered through a portal-based composite application (which aggregates up-to-date information such as digitised documents and images along with content from various other sources, such as e-mails or content management and CRM systems, and presents it in a single view via an employee intranet, an extranet or a website). These composite applications can be personalised to ensure that the audience’s online experience of that information is as efficient, targeted and rich as possible.

The impact of implementing imaging and workflow solutions in this way can be massive. Digitising paper documents and automating previously manual processes can result in significant resource savings. If digitised documents are then combined with content from other sources, and associated with information captured from the multiple channels used to interact both internally and externally, they can be delivered through a composite application to the appropriate audience. By reducing errors, speeding up processing times, and making the most up-to-date information available instantly to employees and customers in this way, there is a direct effect on business efficiency as well as customer service levels (and, as a result, customer retention).

For example, the single view of all relevant information provided by a composite application allows employees in a call centre to respond to customer queries immediately and accurately, rather than needing to search out the relevant paper-based files and then call the customer back.

Imaging and workflow solutions enable companies to be flexible about their employee distribution. With documents in paper form, sorting and filing is often carried out in bulk by a dedicated team of employees in one geographical location. However, digitised documents made available through a portal can easily be managed, shared and processed by employees in different locations. Since imaging and workflow allows faster processing of documentation, it also enables companies to increase profits through higher turnover rather than through headcount reduction. Finally, managing, sharing and storing documents in digital form means that implementing business continuity plans and meeting regulatory mandates requiring records of business processes is much more straightforward and less time-consuming.

Within the financial sector, this has obvious implications for streamlining and speeding up the processes behind opening new accounts, policies, loans or mortgages. Additionally, policy and account administration (such as renewals) can be automated, reducing the error often inherent in these processes and freeing up staff to focus on more valuable activities.

Healthcare organisations can also realise significant benefits. The ability to digitise and electronically share a whole range of images and documents helps to reduce patient waiting times and frees up staff to focus on patient care, rather than spending time searching out records. Medical claims processing is also made simpler, as medical documents such as doctor’s certificates can be shared electronically, so claims are processed quickly and more efficiently.

So, the technology is already out there to enable companies to transform their business processes and the way they communicate with customers and employees as well as suppliers and partners. Now companies must acknowledge that the true value of paper-based documents can only be realised through digitising them, automating the associated processes, and delivering them along with up-to-date information from other sources through composite applications. If businesses embrace the capabilities of imaging and workflow along with making information available online, it will allow them to become efficient, effective and customer-centric organisations which can truly thrive in today’s competitive business environment.