Because it’s time to stop printing and wasting money on paper

I first encountered the term “paperless office” in the 1980s. Almost 40 years later, it still seems like a distant milestone. Stationery is in a $ 150 billion market, depending on what you believe in, and is expected to grow slowly in the near future.

This will not be a screed on the environmental impact of using paper; you already know all this.

Business costs make our continued reliance on printed documents so disconcerting, particularly now that technology has reached the point where we can dent the paper storm if not eliminate it.

A recent McKinsey report says intelligent document processing (IDP) technology is advancing so rapidly that 70% of respondents to the company’s recent Global Executives Survey said their organizations are at least experimenting with business process automation projects. Smart document management tools generally lead the way.

There is still a long way to go, though.

“Nearly three trillion pages are printed every year,” says Rohit Sood, head of McKinsey’s North American digital operations practice. “Many of my clients are huge hiring centers.”

The many reasons for using paper are evaporating.

Printed documents are easily lost, misplaced and damaged. They are not up to date at the time they are printed. They cannot be searched.

Perhaps most importantly, they force processes to be conducted in series, with each stage requiring a transfer from the previous one.

Consequently, any interruption in the flow impacts every other part of the process. And printed documents can’t be loaded into a database for analysis without resetting the keys, a slow and error-prone process that nobody likes to do.

Almost total recognition

IDP does not eliminate paper, but it makes it more useful by recognizing printed or handwritten content and converting it to digital form.

Most modern systems can now populate databases with typed and handwritten information, unlocking new sources of value. One startup, Infrrd, boldly claims that its technology is 100% accurate in reading printed and handwritten documents, although it uses human operators as a backup.

Gartner estimates that IDP will be a $ 4.8 billion market this year, quadrupling from 2020, driven by improved image recognition and AI-powered content management that “accelerated document processing capabilities. solutions, ”the company recently wrote.

Not all environments are ripe for change, Sood says.

Mortgage research may require years of sifting through paper documents, and much of the old material will never be digitized.

Additionally, “some channels still prefer the old paper-based method and some work environments are more susceptible to paper-based processes,” says Sood. For example, he cites airline maintenance reports collected in the field and more easily entered on paper than typed into a device.

Convenience outweighs the culture

But culture has a way of giving in to convenience.

When my doctor’s office adopted the Epic clinical system a decade ago, doctors complained about the switch from pen to keyboard for a year.

However, they quickly learned the value of having a patient’s entire medical history on the screen in front of them.

Sood believes the IDP market, particularly when combined with robotic process automation, is set to overgrow.

“The ability to read handwriting and unstructured data is much better,” he says. “Every use case I see gets more sophisticated,” says Sood. “The need for manual intervention is decreasing rapidly.”

Is IDP the right solution for your business? Profit is becoming increasingly difficult to deny.

There are dozens of vendors on the market and many options are available on a trial basis before purchasing in the cloud.

Sood suggests some features to look for.

The system should be able to read and recognize most printed content quickly with just a few weeks of training. The required updates and maintenance resources should not be too expensive and the vendor should offer programming with low-code or no-code tools.

Gartner expects options will further increase from adjacent platforms such as text analytics, business process automation, and content services. And products are likely to become more specialized over time for use cases like law firms and medical labs.

“Over time, we expect to see more comprehensive language platforms that can integrate conversations, documents, emails and other form factor / modality combinations,” the company wrote.

Before choosing, consider your current needs and what you will have in five years.

Because your next IDP system is likely to become a core part of your business.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.