The increasing complexity of information management, along with the growing digital maturity of smaller companies has been creating exciting growth opportunities in document management for office automation and technology resellers.

This optimistic view should be dimmed by the arrival of COVID-19 but with the need for many South Africans to work from home (WFH) or work remotely, there is an increased reliance on accurate and flexible process management. The ability to pass paper documents around the office, for example leave and approval forms, may at least for a while, be a thing of the past.

Obviously the South African economy needs to recover from the effects of Lockdown and the resulting economic downturn and many businesses will be focussing on survival in the short term. However, to fulfil the needs of the document management space, resellers will need to build strong solutions-selling capabilities and embrace a philosophy of partnering.

That’s according to Kevin Reaper, scanning and document management solutions business unit manager at Tarsus Distribution. He says small to medium-sized businesses are more interested than ever in digitising information flows and streamlining document management – particularly those in more regulated sectors such as doctor’s rooms and financial advisors and those in paper-intensive sectors such as legal practices. These organisations and practices are now for the most part working from home or have a large portion of their staff working remotely.

“Most businesses are facing a tsunami of paperwork today,” says Reaper. “Capturing information physical and digital, storing documents and incorporating it into the workflow are headaches for companies of all sizes. Many businesses are asking how they can streamline document management to ensure compliance with the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) and more recently how to get the workforce functioning remotely during Lockdown.

“Others want to know how they can stay on top of growing volumes of email and scanned documents. Take accounts payable, for example. It’s a process that may span multiple business functions and remote locations. You need to know whether you received the goods you’re being billed for, whether the invoice matches the supplier’s original quote, and whether you’ve already made a down payment.

“Without digitisation, a simple process such as this may involve speaking to multiple other people in the business or scratching through filing cabinets for paperwork and those filing cabinets are no longer within your reach. Another example is on-boarding a patient in a medical practice – a process that may zig-zag between information captured electronically by the receptionist and paper forms that will be scanned and filed once the customer fills them in.”


Paper chaos

The results of the paper chaos may include misfiled or lost paperwork, time wasted retrieving documents from multiple sources and remote locations, inefficient collaboration, and slow customer service, says Reaper. “Many small businesses are looking for solutions to pain points such as: ‘How do I keep my patients’ records secure?’ ‘How do I efficiently manage the emails and paperwork associated with offboarding an employee?’ And ‘How do I make it faster and simpler for my customers to sign up with me?’ They realise that simply scanning documents from a multifunction printer (MFP) is not enough to get on top of their document flows. They need integrated solutions that help them simplify processes and take control of their information.”

The solutions to address these needs have become more affordable and accessible to small businesses, thanks to growing fibre penetration and innovations such as cloud software and scanners that can capture information in the right format and deliver it to the right systems and workflows without the need for a PC. More recently there has been a massive demand for solutions to be implemented with little to no physical interaction. Many of these solutions can and must be setup and activated remotely.

Today’s advanced capture software lets companies extract data from documents and integrate it directly into business processes. However, small businesses are still looking to resellers to help them understand which off-the-shelf solutions will meet their needs, configure the software and hardware for their needs, and optimise processes for a digital world, says Reaper.


Converging solutions

“Resellers that want to add value here need to take a consultative approach,” says Reaper. “In some cases, they’ll need to work with other specialists in areas such as information security or HR software to really add value. We’re seeing multiple solutions converge on the information management space, and small businesses are looking to the channel to help them manage the complexity.”

Reaper says that high admin volumes, an explosion of data and documents, privacy regulations and the entrenchment of WFH habits will help to spur the growth of this market in the years to come. “Resellers that can deliver an integrated approach to document scanners, software and services will be positioned to thrive in this space.”