Is the future paperless for local government offices? No – and we shouldn’t force them to be, says Robyn Boyd on behalf of PFU (EMEA) Limited – a Fujitsu company
In 1975, the director of Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center Incorporated (PARC) George E. Pake shared his prediction for the future office. He certainly predicted some of it accurately, saying that: “everyone will have a TV-display terminal with a keyboard at their desk” with the ability to: call up documents from my files on the screen, or by pressing a button… I can get my mail or any messages.” George also said: “I don’t know how much hard copy [printed paper] I’ll want in this world.” And for that, he is almost right. For those who are unfamiliar with the ‘paperless office’ idea, or ‘paper-free’ office, it is the concept of a working environment in which the use of paper is eliminated. This is done via digitisation; converting documents and other documents into digital form and recycling the tangible items.
Let’s move towards becoming ‘paper-light’ instead of ‘paperless’
Currently, 65% of people of all ages say they print “very frequently”, defined as every day or three to four times a week (IDC Office Printing Survey, 2017). With figures this high, it makes the concept of an entirely ‘paperless’ office a broken dream.
Now is the time where the conversation has the opportunity to change. Rather than being paper-free, offices can aim to achieve to be ‘paper-light’ and do paperwork accordingly for each establishment, with digitisation processes to support.
Paper and local government
Every part of the public sector requires paper to be processed effectively and in line with compliance regulations, to allow the secure delivery of services provided. The regulations, client demands and data security issues can be confronted to make the capturing and processing of documents into information systems crucial for local government establishments; especially for those staff members working directly with the public in a customer-facing role. Paper is often piled up on desks, in drawers, or tucked away in filing cabinets. With paper spread across so many different places, it is difficult to both track and record the information it holds.
The public sector is under pressure to capture and retrieve data from documents and make decisions rapidly based on insight from all data available. To better serve the public, the new reality is to make paperwork effectively, not merely becoming paperless.
Being able to scan documents massively reduces the time spent doing manual input and also immediately delivers the captured data for decision making.
There is pressure on the public sector to undergo a ‘digital transformation’ and now, with the advent of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), there are further pressures on staff to ensure public information is stored securely.
Often this feels like another mountain to climb, but for local government establishments, the opportunity to automate processes using digital technology is available offering significant benefits. For many sectors, document capture is the first step towards digital transformation, allowing data to be freed from its paper prison, to support better planning and decisions.
Physical storage costs can be reduced by scanning archived documents and storing them in a secure cloud-based system. The digitised documents can be archived in a safe, easily accessible way, reducing the costs of both needing to store the originals on-site and physically retrieve them.
A growing demand is a rise in working from home or flexible working. It enables collaboration, even when not face-to-face. An example where this is already happening is within the healthcare industry, where patient records can be simultaneously accessed amongst teams of medical professionals.
When hardware and software collide, to help make paperwork
At PFU, our product portfolio of hardware is split into two: ScanSnap and Fujitsu Imaging Scanners. ScanSnap is designed for personal productivity and when it comes to software for the machines, we offer ScanSnap Cloud with our ScanSnap products. It can classify and sort your paper and sends it to the right cloud space. Documents, receipts, business cards and photos are delivered directly to the cloud service you use. ScanSnap Cloud is not a cloud storage system in itself, but instead, it complements those services. It’s an intuitive cloud-based image processor and enhancement tool paired with the intelligence to classify scanned input into four essential types of content; as either document, photo, business card or receipt. This means departments can share documents easily and information shared is not constrained by the brick walls of an office building.
For our Fujitsu Imaging Scanners, we have the PaperStream software. By combining market-leading Fujitsu fi Series document scanners with our PaperStream software, you can transform time-consuming and error-prone manual paper-handling into super-fast, error-free, high-quality document digitisation that significantly increases your efficiency and productivity.
Organisations have been using scanners for many years and multiple industries rely heavily on scanners to turn paperwork into digital formats that can be saved and shared. However, until recently, they have built on a very manual approach in terms of how they classify and manage captured data. That’s where our Fujitsu fi-7300NX model and our partner, Lemmana, Machine Learning-supported content services software have changed the way businesses can work. Making it possible at the touch of a button, to scan, automatically extract, classify and use data to deliver a more agile way of working. Plus, because it can learn, this new generation scanner can recognise previous data, for example, patient or customer details and then file similar information away in the same place, saving time and eradicating any human error.
It is unlikely that a genuine “paperless” office is achievable, for the foreseeable future, but with affordable automation solutions and the changing nature of our relationship with paper, the tools are certainly in place to make progress in becoming paper-light and making paperwork better for local government offices.
Robyn is a PR and Social Media Executive for PFU (EMEA) Limited, a Fujitsu company and focuses on the current and future place of paper in local government establishments and how technology can support it.
Please note: This is a commercial profile