The "paperless office" may never be 100 percent realized. Despite heavy computer use, nearly all businesses still require some paper documents. This presents a challenge when computer-dependent businesses need to interface with data from paper-based forms. The "conversion" of physical data to virtual systems can be accomplished through manual data entry, document imaging and optical recognition.
Define your business goals and needs. Determine whether you are capturing customer payments, processing applications or archiving internal documents. Figure out if you need to save actual images of the documents for electronic storage, or you simply need to capture the paper-based data into a computer database. Making these determinations will help you decide what data processing system is going to best fit your needs.
Research enterprise software solutions. Ask for software and vendor references from companies that do similar data capture to what you intend to do. Ask if you can visit work sites doing the sort of paper-to-electronic conversion you intend to do. The best way to choose a system is to see it in action. If you're only capturing a small volume of data from forms, you can get away with one person typing data into an Excel spreadsheet. But in modern business, this is probably not the case. You will likely need to find a software system, and maybe even new hardware, if document/image capture is part of your plan.
Compare the software solutions you have researched, and choose one. Contact the vendor or software distributor to begin the process of purchasing the system and having it installed. The first step, generally known as a "discovery", is when the vendor travels to your site to determine your exact needs and the best solution for them.
Remain engaged with the vendor during the discovery and throughout the installation. Ask lots of questions, and take ownership of the project; encourage any employees who will be performing document capture and data entry activities to do the same.
Test the system completely. If there are any bugs or gaps in the solution, it is best to find them while the vendor is on-site. This will make troubleshooting and resolution much quicker.
Work with a reputable vendor, and try to solicit feedback from one of the vendor's previous customers.
- Work with a reputable vendor, and try to solicit feedback from one of the vendor's previous customers.
Leon Williams has worked as a fiction editor, sporting goods retailer, rock musician, systems analyst, help desk technician and marketing coordinator. He holds a bachelor's degree from Northern Michigan University, where he studied English, computer science and new media. He has had work published in a variety of online venues as well as the Uncle John's Bathroom Reader series of books.