The paper chase.

We’ve all seen it at one point or another. The “paper chase” is that routine paper-driven process that happens over and over again, but for some reason is still operating in an ancient pre-digital area.

Accounting offers a good example, where some companies are ahead of the curve, and others are still passing paper. Here’s a pretty generic scenario that applies to just about any type of company: invoices come in and they are routed for approval; sometimes they need to seen by higher-ups for uber-approval based on dollar amount or budget; they get sent back to accounting for processing; the data gets entered and… if everything is successful, the bill is paid on time.

In a paper world, this process is slow, invoices get misplaced, data is manually entered, people forget to approve, and you get the picture. Yet for many companies, a paper-based process is still the norm.

In the digital era, paper-based processes such as invoice approval can be easily automated. Updating the invoice approval scenario would look something like this: invoices come in and they are digitized, capturing data that is automatically incorporated into accounting systems; notifications with electronic copies of the invoices go out to approvers; some simple workflow steps take care of the odd circumstances where higher-ups need to review; accounting receives notification of approval and all is well.

The big benefit is time, and time is money. Time is saved by eliminating the need to ship, fax or send paper; more time is saved by capturing data electronically; even more time is saved by putting the process in a closed-loop system where invoices can not get lost, misplaced, or forgotten; and still even more time is saved by getting it right the first time and eliminating the need to correct mistakes later.

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