May 21, 2014 by Tom Zeliff Categories: Office Automation

While many rave about the power of workflow automation, you don’t need to fully automate every step of your business process to experience major benefits such as cost reductions and increased efficiency. Many companies, even smaller businesses, can reap impressive productivity gains with partial automation of their paper-based business processes.

Partial Automation: Reap Impressive Productivity Gains

Following the scanning and indexing of documents, routing the resulting PDFs throughout the organization digitally for review and action can dramatically speed up the process, resulting in increased productivity and a reduction in lost documents (and headaches).

Some document management software provides ad hoc workflow where there’s a drop-down of all users so documents can be emailed to the next person. There may still be manual steps, such as data entry of invoice line items into your accounting system, or personnel data into your HRM system, but the overall process is routed, tracked and managed digitally – a very useful, if not fully automated, capability.

Full Automation: Achieve a Competitive Advantage

Fully automating your workflow includes outsourcing your mailroom so that incoming mail is immediately scanned and indexed upon receipt and the resulting scanned images kick off an automated workflow within your organization. Indexing can be automated using auto-classification software with optical character recognition (OCR) and line-item extraction that can automatically extract data from a document and match it to data in an enterprise resource planning (ERP) or accounting system. With business rules in place, some documents – up to 40% according to AIIM – can be routed with zero manual intervention, also known as “straight-through processing.”

For example, line item data from an invoice scanned in the mailroom is automatically and successfully matched to a PO, which initiates a check payment without any manual routing or approval. Even for invoices that need to be approved by a manager, this may be the only manual portion of the process after scanning, which represents a dramatic increase in efficiency and reduction in processing costs.

The extrapolation of data into your organization’s line-of-business software and uploading of this content into a document management system for future retrieval and tracking can lead to even further productivity gains and increased accuracy – all of which can lead to a competitive advantage, particularly when automating customer-facing processes like new account on-boarding.

This high degree of automation is often not where an organization begins, but can reach over time as business needs grow.

How Take the First Step Towards Automation

Full workflow automation is compelling but not required for significant process improvement to be experienced. Simply automating the routing of documents can eliminate processing bottlenecks and increase productivity. After all, every 1,000 mile journey begins with one step. Just make sure you’re working with an experienced workflow automation partner.

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