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Digitisation processes of physical documents has become increasingly important as organisations have adopted hybrid working models. In fact, 85 percent of global businesses accelerated digitisation of employee interaction and collaboration in 2020, such as through file sharing and video conferencing tools. 

Clearly, transforming document management practices is often one of the first steps that organisations take in the shift towards digital ways of working. This is likely because one of the benefits of digitising physical documents is improved collaboration and increased flexibility in where and how people work - both critical components of hybrid work environments.

Preparing for digitisation processes

While digitisation may begin with a one-off project to convert your stored physical documents, it is also an ongoing process that determines how your organisation manages physical documents you receive. Consequently, you must consider both the immediate and long-term digitisation requirements of your business, including the type of documents that you need to convert, as well as the individual document management needs of your hybrid workforce.

You may choose to initially digitise many of your files from a central office location, however employees will continue to digitise documents throughout the life of your business, and will need to be equipped to do this from wherever they chose to work. To enable both short and long-term digitisation goals, start by collecting the following information:

  • The quantity and type of physical documents that you are currently storing and need to convert
  • The process you will use to scan these documents (eg. order, location, person responsible, quality control method, file naming conventions, etc)
  • The quantity and type of additional physical documents each of your employees receives and manages on a regular basis
  • Where your employees will be working when managing these documents (eg. home, office, etc)
  • How often your employees will need access to printing, scanning, copying and faxing equipment
  • Where and how digital documents will be stored securely

This information will inform the equipment and software you invest in, as well as the digitisation processes you implement. These can be executed in three stages: Equip, Connect and Optimise.

Stage 1: Equip your team

Scanning

Choosing the right type of scanner when investing in multifunction printers (MFPs), particularly for remote workers, will make a significant difference to your ongoing digitisation efforts. While a flatbed scanner may be sufficient for some employees, for others who work with or receive a high volume of physical documents, an automatic paper feeder is an essential time-saving feature. Not only will it eliminate manual double page feeds, but a reliable feeder will also ensure that no pages are missed, particularly when dealing with large scanning jobs.

Another key consideration when buying MFPs is the resolution and compression capability of the scanner. A higher resolution will enable you to capture more detail from your physical documents, ensuring greater accuracy of the information, particularly in relation to images. A higher compression rate will result in smaller file sizes, reducing your digital storage space requirements and document load time.

Security

Data that passes through your printing device can be accessed by a hacker if the right security measures are not in place. In fact, as many as 56 percent of global internet-connected printers may be unsecured, according to a cybersecurity team who hacked 27,944 printers in 2020 to demonstrate the vulnerability. However, even printers that aren’t web-enabled can have their data accessed by someone onsite.

This is why choosing a specialised business printer with sufficient security features is essential before digitising your paper documents, particularly if remote employees using home networks are involved. Most basic consumer devices won’t have the necessary security available, such as local and network authentication, data encryption, overwrite-erase and password access.

Connectivity

Whether you’re transferring your documents to a cloud content service or a physical server, a web-enabled printer will make the digitisation process smooth and efficient by giving you access to features such as advanced document recognition, which will help with automatic classification. Otherwise, you could find yourself manually transferring documents from the scanning software to your content services platform.

Stage 2: Connect your people

Once you have the equipment to digitise your documents, you’ll need a content services platform to manage them in their digital format. Not only will this system need to store your data, but it will also need to connect your employees through file sharing capabilities and enable them to access data quickly and easily from any location. A cloud solution is the obvious choice for a hybrid workplace, where workers are distributed across a variety of workspaces.

Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems are sophisticated content service solutions that incorporate automation and artificial intelligence (AI). ECMs play a crucial role in digital transformation by helping businesses to manage and use the data at their disposal. Without these tools, the content you digitise may quickly become too much for you to categorise, manage and use. Additionally, a cloud ECM will allow your workers to access information in a secure environment from any place at any time.

Stage 3: Optimise your processes

Once your documents are digitised, categorised and stored in your content services platform, you now have the opportunity to optimise your workflows to enable more efficient use of your data. AI and automation are key to this, driving efficiency, productivity and business growth through features such as automatic classification and processing, text clustering, advanced search and personalised systems. For example, AI could automatically identify invoices, match them to related purchase orders, export relevant data to your accounting system and assign approval tasks to the relevant employee. 

The first step in optimisation is to identify bottlenecks that are already appearing in your workplace. In a hybrid work environment, many of these may also be related to the shift of employees to remote work. Once you know where improvements are needed, you can start implementing new automated processes to create a more effective hybrid workplace. 

Digitisation is one step towards creating an efficient and productive hybrid workplace. Building a resilient and productive hybrid work environment requires the right hardware, software and processes. Download our Smarter Workplaces Guide for a step-by-step strategy for implementing an effective hybrid work model that equips your employees to work anywhere, any time.