It may surprise some, but despite the best efforts of IT vendors the business world hasn’t completely abandoned paper. Retail chains in particular use it for store or branch reports, inventory reports and invoices from suppliers, all of which has to be stored somewhere.

To help digitize that pile Xerox Canada has partnered with Datawatch Corp., a U.S. specialist in converting paper, to offer a customized service.

“Many institutions are building wholly digital environments,” said Jim Muzyka, senior vice-president of Xerox Services Canada, “but a lot of what they have is still analogue.”

“We believe we can bridge that by moving clients into a digital world more quickly.”

Among the advantages is the digital documents can now be searchable PDFs and mined online, and that staff who process paper can be shifted to selling products.

Paper is still a large part of some organizations’ workloads, Muzyka said – one Canadian company Xerox Canada is working with estimated it handles millions of paper documents a year  — and getting rid of it entirely is a challenge.

“Everybody has some dependency on paper, no matter what they’ve done with their back office,” he said. “As long as you have vendors that can’t or haven’t gone EDI (electronic data interchange, a standard for transporting documents electronically) you’re going to have a paper component anyway.”

The Datawatch [Nasdaq:DWCH] partnership started with work Xerox Services Canada did for a Canadian a grocery chain, which will help determine which inventory reports have to be printed daily and which can be stored electronically.  It hopes to reduce printed reports by 25 per cent, or about 50 million pages, a year.

Having created a framework, it is now offering the solution to other customers who see Xerox [NYSE: XRX] as a document management company.

“This is not about selling them hardware,” he said. “This is about engineering the (paper) work out of their environment.”

Making an enterprise completely digital is a three or five year effort, he said, but converting certain paper documents in the meantime to digital is a first step.

“Most retailers go from store to store to do inventory audits, he added. This should eliminate a lot of the requirement to do that because now the materials are online.”

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