Document Digitization: Regaining Importance due to Digital Disruptions?

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The digital age is here. Well, almost.

One of my favorite anecdotes is about a project worker coming back from the printing room with a sheaf of papers, explaining to colleagues “It’s my project report”. When questioned about the title of the project report, he says “Paperless Office”.

While the area of document digitization has been around for well over a decade now (see as an example), I would agree with the view that paperless offices are still some time away. There is a significant amount of paper processing that happens in several companies across industry sectors, even today.

However, I also feel that the next three to five years will see digitization initiatives becoming increasingly important. One reason is the increasing pressure on process optimization and operational efficiencies which no industry and enterprise can avoid today. The other reason, and a very interesting one, is the change in document consumption habits that is already underway. Here are two data points to illustrate how this change is happening.

1.Sales and circulation of digital books is overtaking physical books. An example is available at
2.Sales for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets have already overtaken desktop and laptop computers. These devices are becoming the de facto means to access content of any type, including electronic documents.


What is happening is a classic illustration of a digital disruption. While the advantages of digitization for operational efficiencies has never been in doubt, the changes in information consumption patterns (e.g. the use of tablet devices for e-reading) are likely to result in increased focus on digitization over the next few years.

How then, can an enterprise plan out its digitization journey? There are three recommendations on digitization that apply to almost all enterprises:

1.First, it is important to avoid generating paper where possible by digitizing business processes using technologies such as Case Management, Business Process Management, and Content Management.
2.In situations where paper cannot be avoided (such as due to regulatory or legal requirements), we recommend converting physical documents into digital form. As a separate initiative, we recommend digitizing historical documents as well. The digital copies complement your physical ones and can be used on a day-to-day basis, with the physical ones being accessed only when (and if) necessary. If legal and regulatory requirements permit, some of the physical documents can be done away with completely.
3.The third recommendation is to implement a Digital Library – a centralized archive for your enterprise digital documents, indexed and searchable for rapid and convenient retrieval from a variety of applications and services.


If you are planning your digitization roadmap, you might also want to keep the following myths in mind:

  • It is not necessary to digitize every single document type. One way to identify potential digitization candidates is to select document types that require frequent retrieval, where digitization could result in significant efficiency improvements.
  • Document Digitization is not just about scanning and converting documents to an electronic form. Automated or semi-automated recognition and extraction of meta-data and business context from the document is where digitization plays the major role. This should be an important factor determining your choice of a digitization vendor.

In summary, I would say that document digitization initiatives as a means for operational efficiencies is something which enterprises across industry sectors need to look at with renewed focus. Digital disruptions such as
e-documents, e-readers, e-books are the triggers or tipping points that will ensure that such initiatives will be successful.

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