Office Document Strategies Blog

Dropping Manual Paper Processes For Business Improvement

Posted by Lee Kirkby on Wed, Jun 22, 2016 @ 09:06 AM

Why is it in a world where thousands of transactions are handled every minute using the tap of a credit card on a terminal many businesses still cling to manual paper driven ExpressPay-PayPass-PayWave.jpgprocesses?  Express Pay speeds up sales processes for vendors and purchasers.

Consider what happens when you stand in the line at your major department store these days or at the coffee shop on your way into the office.  Does someone ask you to fill out a paper form and place your order before they will ring up your transaction?  Do you quickly tap your credit card on the payment terminal so that all of your pertinent accounting information can be recorded and the transaction completed in seconds?

Contrast this with the way that many businesses still do their work. 

Someone lines up a purchase order and maybe forwards it attached to an email (somewhat electronic)  to  a supplier to process and arrange your delivery. 

At the supplier’s office the emailed information has to be uploaded into their order processing software and then the fulfillment can begin.  If it is a stock order then shipping can pull the materials, package them up and the shipping information goes to an invoicing queue.  For a custom order there is the need for production to be involved and the appropriate workflow to build and prepare for shipment then ensues.  Eventually an invoice is drawn up and forwarded to the purchaser while the shipment gets on its way through whatever delivery process is appropriate. sometimes parts of this process are linked through the in house software (ERP or accounting) systems but often it still takes several paper based steps and multiple input steps to deal with orders.

Of course there are alternative systems that occur in some industries but essentially the above scenario is pretty consistent with much of what goes on in main stream business each day.  Unfortunately it also often includes much manual data entry as information held on paper forms has to be transcribed into the data base of the software which is used in each player's step in the business flow.

There are better ways to handle this kind of repetitive work.  Ways that can build in more accuracy, faster processing and more efficient use of the knowledge which is held within the business.  In addition once the information is held in a data base format there is the potential for analysis and review to be undertaken to look for ways to streamline or just better understand what is making the business tick.  Records can be stored electronically either in an image format or in a format which combines image and data in one piece.

In an ideal world the entry of the originating order into the purchase order could trigger each subsequent step by integrating the order and fulfillment processes across companies.  This does get done in fairly highly integrated systems but not as readily as it should be in most industries.

With a data driven model each party would then have the appropriate information within their native business system to be able to track and manage their interactions.  Real time data integration permits real time tracking.  No longer would you need to call the supplier to see where you order is.  The data would be linked into your own tracking system through integration with the suppliers' and you would know when items are shipped, how and when to expect them.  This can improve scheduling of subsequent activity and also speed integration with your own delivery of goods to your customers.

Doing any of this by following pieces of paper around is pretty well impossible yet that kind of manual routing system is still the basis of many business's processes.  

Look at your processes and think about where you might be able to change them, replace the paper with a data capture process and make the information more portable at the same time. There are many ways to attack this and lots of software packages which can assist.  Workflow designs can be simple or complex depending upon your needs but starting with a simple workflow to replace your most cumbersome process might be a good start.

If this is something you would like to do, but have never attempted before it is time to talk to someone with business process adaptation experience and get them to help guide you along the path.

Lee K

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Photo Credit: By Rfc1394 (Own work) [GPL (, LGPL (, GFDL (, BSD ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Topics: business processes, Paperless office, Less paper office