Over the past several years, IDC has seen many U.S. companies gain benefits through the use of scanning as a means to bring cost-efficiency and productivity to everyday business processes. Scanning helps facilitate the transition of largely inefficient paper-based business processes into more efficient electronic-based processes. Through the increased implementation of scanning, companies have:

  • Gained quicker access to important company information
  • Saved time and costs associated with business operations
  • Increased employee productivity
  • Increased security of sensitive company documents
  • Lessened reliance on paper storage, lowering space needs and costs
  • Increased flexibility in distributing documents
  • Created compliance with government regulations
  • Replaced old and expensive document distribution tools (e.g., fax)

The recognition by many companies of the need to organize, manage, and store paper-based content in a more efficient electronic form has jump-started the scanning market opportunity. IDC’s scan-enabled market forecast anticipates that this market will show solid growth from just under 1 million units in 2004 to more than 2.65 million units in 2009, representing a 22% annual growth rate.

The true value of scanning go beyond making electronic copies of paper documents

By definition, scanning is the act of systematically moving a beam of light over a surface to capture an image. At a basic level, scanning is really no different from copying. The creation of a copy or scan starts the same way a user pushes a button and an image is captured. The difference between copying and scanning is in the transfer of the image. Copying transfers the image onto paper; scanning transfers the image to an electronic form. In essence, the scan is an electronic copy.

However, scanning creates much more than just mere electronic versions of paper documents. Converting paper documents into an electronic form unlocks the true value of the information in scanned documents. Prior to the advent of scanning, the hidden “jewels” of critical company information were often underutilized or overlooked because the information was difficult to find or use in paper form. Scanning allows this important information to be extracted from the previously paper-only format and utilized and shared more quickly and easily across the company.

Scanned documents can be easily attached to and sent with email messages. Scanning can also enhance the benefits received from enterprise software systems by being integrated with document/content management software from vendors such as EMC/Documentum and Hummingbird or collaborative software applications such as Interwoven WorkSite and Open Text Livelink. Advances in scanning capabilities are making it easier than ever to link and automate data entry to these types of software. As a result, companies have much to gain from using scanning as an on-ramp to general business productivity and efficiency.

Scanning usage is on the rise

Clearly, there is growing interest in scanning technology in today’s marketplace. IDC believes the expansion of scanning activity is coming from the increased understanding that scanning achieves cost and efficiency benefits for users as highlighted above. Not long ago, scanning was the least understood and least utilized document function (behind print, copy, and fax). As this technology has become more pervasive, prices have dropped and performance has increased, leading to availability of a wider range of price performance levels that are being used in both centralized and distributed environments.

Companies have gradually learned that scanning usage and corresponding benefits can be applied directly to their overall cost of operation profiting both employees and customers. The benefits are also widely available in horizontal applications that are common to all industries and also within specific document-intensive vertical markets.