Is a paperless office really possible? Can business leaders, burdened with managing large storage rooms of documents, climb out from beneath the mountains of paper to time-saving automation? 

Yes to both questions. Though the paperless office may seem like a pie in the sky dream, it is not a myth. Although paper may never be fully eradicated from our day to day office lives, paperless financial transactions are within reach for most organizations and can provide enormous benefits.

Historically, a paper-heavy business process heavily impacts productivity and profits.  Through implementing solutions that integrate and provide automation to their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, organizations should realize that paperless offices will enable them to recognize the full benefits of an office without mountains of paper.

The Past

Paperless ERP, with automation, is a clear catalyst for moving an organization to a paperless office. In years past, paper has been the natural enemy and oftentimes, a black hole of efficiency. When information and data is stored on voluminous quantities of paper, it cannot be shared, acted upon or retrieved efficiently. The more documents that are hand-delivered around an office for approvals or revisions, the slower the overall payment process becomes. This practice also increases the likelihood of invoices being buried under in-basket stacks or delayed when employees are out of the office.

A recent study sponsored by Metafile, found that paper is still the most prevalent form of processing accounts payable (AP) and accounts receivable (AR). Nearly 75 percent of the survey respondents indicated that invoices are primarily shared among coworkers in hard-copy format. More than 57 percent indicated that hard copies were their principal format for approving invoices.

Change can be difficult. Digitizing all data into a paperless system that eliminates manual operations is a significant leap for many executives and staff. Unfortunately, fear has stopped many businesses from adopting more precise technologies and business practices. History tells us the amount of paper within an organization can directly impact the bottom line and contribute many thousands of dollars in unnecessary cost across the board.

Paper processes can generate uncertainty and blind spots in a business. Accounting has no way to know on which desk—or in whose drawer—a paper invoice resides after it is sent around for approval. Executives are unable to make accurate financial predictions because they can only see completed transactions—not those in process or floating somewhere in the company’s structure.

Thankfully the advancement of technology provides solutions that can enable businesses in achieving a paperless office.

The Present

The need to transform documents into digital information has prompted developers to innovate a new generation of solutions. These new solutions provide greater insight for management into important company information, while supporting ERP platforms like Microsoft Dynamics by eliminating legacy manual processes. For example, document management solutions such as MetaViewer, read paper and electronic documents then automatically extract the key data—such as vendor name, invoice number, amounts, payment dates and terms. Once the information is captured, the solution validates the data, checks for duplicates and updates the existing ERP system. This reduces errors and improves efficiency and visibility.

Remote stakeholders can be allowed secure internet access to workflow approvals without needing to access the actual ERP system.  Multiple phone calls, searching for lost invoices and shipping costs to and from these locations are immediately curtailed. This sort of integration between ERP, specialized document management, and workflow represents the birth of a more efficient paperless business process for midsized and larger companies.

A few benefits of achieving a paperless solution include:

  • Seamless Workflow Routing.  Leveraging a permission-based interface, financial leaders can immediately establish and modify routing and approval rules among team members. Specific rules can also be adjusted according to unique customers, suppliers and other stakeholders.
  •  Immediate Approvals. With a paperless office financial administrators eliminate
    several days of pre-processing time using automated workflow. The same document-management technology can automate workflow to distribute invoices electronically direct to those who must approve them.
  • Keyword Recognition.  Today, technology offers a solution to the paper obstacles in the form of  Paperless ERP that employs optical character recognition (OCR), to scan paper documents to digital form.  This technology automatically identifies mismatches between invoices  and purchase orders for appropriate updating by approved users.  The end result is full-text indexed, Google-like search capability, making short work compared to searching through filing cabinets.
  • Automated Alerts. Once modified, newly designated approvers can be regularly reminded about invoices awaiting their action. The best solutions also allow alternate approvers to be designated and notified should primary approvers be absent eliminating bottlenecks.

The Future and Beyond

The future of the paperless office is manifesting to meet the demands of mobile executives, who still require review of invoices and documents. More than ever, executives expect to be connected to their organization and have access to critical work functions. According to a recent Gartner report, approximately 40 percent of the workforce will be mobile by 2016, when people will buy more than 1.6 billion smart mobile devices globally.

Technology developers have been quick to provide solutions that will offer remote accessibility to help workers at all levels become as connected as they want to be. For example, Microsoft recently made it possible for salespeople to collaborate and review data by using Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online with their tablets, accessing the solution through the an internet browser.

With this type of easy access, businesses can expand globally easier than ever before. Mobility‐enabled Paperless ERP cuts across time zones and marketplaces to allow executives to take advantage of any opportunity at any time. Complete customer data and accounting information reside at the executive’s fingertips.

Prioritizing the paperless office presents a distinct opportunity to maximize any organizations future, increase ROI, and promote seamless efficiency. By spending less time handling internal AP and AR process issues, an organization is better armed to comprehensively serve customers, manage vendor relationships, and make informed business decisions with full visibility to all crucial financial information

Nick Sprau, Vice President of Marketing
Metafile Information Systems, Inc.
www.metaviewer.com

by Metafile Information Systems, Inc.