In the early 90's when Adobe created the PDF (or to give it its proper name a Portable Document Format) its purpose was an exchange format for documents. The original goal was to preserve and protect the content and layout of the document - no matter what platform or computer programme it is viewed on. This is why PDFs are hard to edit and sometimes even extracting information from them is a challenge.
They are essentially and electronic version of paper, and that might be because they are a Word document, or often because they are a scanned version of paper. And therefore there are limitations to how people often use them and more importantly use the data and information contained within their four walls.
- PDF is only supported under Window and MAC operating systems.
- They can be difficult to read on a screen as they are laid out on standard paper format (A4 or A3) which is great for printing, but can be problematic for using on a computer. Native PDFs are a little more forgiving than a scanned document that someone has sent to you, as you can then copy and paste bits of information.
- Editing software is getting better but by no means perfect, especially if the PDF isn't native.
- You need Adobe Reader or another PDF plug-in installed to view them.
Restore works hard to make data and information come to life and while some clients want a basic archive to PDF function to free up literal warehouse storage space, most realise that real agility, cost and time savings can be made if we focus on the data, not on the format.
Indexing, meta data and robotic processing automation are all techniques we use at Restore to take the information held in paper or PDF and push that through organisations. This might be to the correct desk with a digital mailroom solution; or to the correct database with HR and invoice processing solutions. The data can be linked, so multiple records for the same person held in multiple databases can be updated and then automatically be pushed through all databases. Or with GDPR, compliant retention periods can be added to individual files within a person's record and automatically be pushed to recycling bins when certain pre-defined rules are met.
When organisations take steps to enter the paperless office, I encourage them to stand back and think about where they want to get to in the long term. Scanning to PDF can reduce your reliance on costly warehouses, but scanning to release the data and push it nimbly through an organisation is where the real future lies.
Keri Barton | Head of Marketing | Restore Digital