Cutting the Cord: Enabling Mobile Scan in the Workplace

Given the option between wired and wireless technology, you don’t need an analyst to tell you what the overwhelming majority of people prefer. It’s happened with internet connections, phones and printers; now scanners are the latest formerly wired product that’s cutting the cord.

Mobile scan functionalities started in the consumer space, specifically in retail with barcodes, fueled mainly by the ubiquity of cameras on mobile phones and the reasonable quality of photos they yield. Additionally, consumer applications like CamScanner made it fast and easy to scan a document while on the go – something consumers traditionally would only have been able to do at home with a standard wired scanner or printer/scanner.

As with many other applications, the business world saw what was happening in the consumer realm and realized there was a way to bring it into the office.

Why the workplace needs mobile scan

As the workforce itself becomes more mobile, the technologies people use on a daily basis need to follow suit to ensure workers stay productive and happy. Remote and mobile workers require the same functionalities of a traditional office even as the workplace becomes more decentralized.

Mobile scan puts these traditional functionalities in the palm of an employee’s hand. Even for non-mobile workers, scanning formerly was a multistep process: Walk over to scanner, place the document on the surface, change the settings, initiate the scan, and then walk back to the desktop computer and wait for the digital version to arrive via email.

Now, workers in an office no longer need to walk back and forth between desk, printer and scanner to initiate a simple scan job. The ability to scan and print on demand not only streamlines an otherwise inconvenient workflow, but also ensures accuracy and functionality. Mobile scan-to-print capabilities increase productivity, provide accuracy, and create workflow versatility while meeting employees’ mobile expectations.

Paper documents, forms, contracts, business cards and even whiteboard snapshots can be scanned and converted into PDFs and then incorporated into existing digital workflows. This makes standard workflows more convenient, real-time and reliable – and advancements in mobile scan technologies and software will continue to boost these workflow efficiencies.

The future of mobile scan

While scanning hardware has not seen any major revamps in recent years, there have been a number of innovations in scanning processing and software.

A decade ago, when people talked about archiving documents, they were talking about storing a physical piece of paper. Without riffling through file cabinets and manually reading or skimming a page, they had no easy or automated way to search archived documents or tell what content they contained. This limited the ways people could extract information and integrate it into workflows, slowing down their processes.

But in recent years, companies like Facebook, Apple and Google have made major investments in technologies like optical character recognition and intelligent character recognition, which recognize typewritten and handwritten characters in documents.

These kinds of imaging algorithms have boosted scanning functionalities, allowing handwritten documents to be searchable and the information they contain extracted, creating more accurate, automated archival processes.

With the integration of mobile into this ecosystem, employees now have a way to scan from a mobile device as well as search their scanned content, saved to a cloud or server. These improvements have created true digital content instead of just a bitmapped image of a piece of paper, streamlining workflows and making it easy to search an entire archive of scanned content with the push of a few buttons. Digital documents and their content now can move back and forth between an archive and a current workflow as needed.

Best Practices for Enabling Mobile Scan

IDC says, “Deploying a mobile print or mobile scan solution requires most organizations to change their current organizational practices to meet the demands of mobile users.” Some of these best practices include:

  • Make mobile a “first-class citizen” in your work environment. There’s no getting around the need to create policies governing use of mobile technologies.
  • Ensure there are solutions to manage security on mobile devices, as well as policies on what people can and cannot do and keep on mobile devices, just as one would with work PCs. As mobile devices have become more prolific than PCs, hackers are turning their attention to mobile, so enterprises must have methods to prevent employees from inadvertently sending around malware or viruses on their phones or tablets.
  • If a company has been resisting moving to a cloud – whether public, private or hybrid – it’s difficult to have a solid strategy around mobile devices and mobile scanning, because cloud is such a major part of mobile network access. Employees need a way to bridge between wired and wireless seamlessly, and cloud is the primary medium by which all devices connect to a corporate ecosystem.
  • Purchase devices that work together to make employees’ lives easier. Look for products and services that are backed by some kind of industry standard, versus developers and IT having to build custom “shims” and interfaces.
  • For enterprises dipping a toe into the world of mobile scan, consider working with a service provider or consultant who has expertise in the area, because it can be difficult to go from nothing to a complete solution without having someone who can help plan out a process and policies. Scan is not a simple process anymore (depending what a business wants to do), so having processes, IT support and accurate information all integrated into a plan is the key to being successful. Mobile device management professionals and multi-function printer manufacturers can provide the expertise to get a business started.

A flexible future

A few decades ago, the idea of the “paperless office” was buzzy in discussions about the future of business. That’s changed in recent years because of a shift in understanding of how offices really function: Most finalized content now is converted to digital to be stored and archived, while paper remains an integral part of workers’ transaction-based, temporary processes. You almost never see employees archiving paper documents anymore, but neither do you see them working in real time entirely off digital documents.

Mobile scan provides the necessary link between the digital and physical realms, allowing workplaces to efficiently generate content on paper and move it into a digital archive to be stored and searched as needed. The offices of the future aren’t paperless, but neither are they fully digital, either – and mobile scan gives them the flexibility to seamlessly move back and forth between the two.

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Brent Richtsmeier
Brent Richtsmeier is Vice Chairman of the Mopria Alliance Steering Committee. Richtsmeier can be reached at brent.richtsmeier1@hp.com.
Brent Richtsmeier

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Brent Richtsmeier

Brent Richtsmeier

Brent Richtsmeier is Vice Chairman of the Mopria Alliance Steering Committee. Richtsmeier can be reached at brent.richtsmeier1@hp.com.