We’ve had some interesting discussions already in the first two cities of this year’s ILTA Roadshow, “What’s Your Scanbition? Scan with a Plan.“  Scanbition is our latest coined word from DocSolid, intended to challenge our thinking about why the legal industry is still overburdened with paper, despite having a scanner on every corner. Scanbition is a specific plan for firm-wide scan capture. Scanbition is hard to find. In Cleveland, the audience generally agreed that their firms didn’t have an implemented or stated Scanbition. So the question was asked:  Why not, you knuckleheads?

One of the attendees, frustrated, said:  “You know, I’m not sure. Discussion of scanning was a hot topic about 4-5 years ago, but it somehow just died down.”

Let me tell you why. Four to five years ago we were settling down installations of our new digital copiers, everywhere. Unlike their predecessors, these copiers (aka MFPs) could also print. And they could scan. So Xerox, Canon, HP, Ricoh and all their machine-makin’ cousins eagerly and rightfully pitched these new capabilities. And for the first time, scanning was generally available, as an office technology, in the neighborhood of your desk.  Wow! You want scanning? You got it!

But the scanning that came with the machines was limited, and complex. So it went unused. And the file room grew. So did dependency on paper and paper process.

Machine makers spent their initial innovations on driving printing activity to their digital copiers. (Duh, they make money on toner.) Scanning languished. And the file room grew. So did dependency on paper and paper process.

After copying and printing were handled, the machine makers finally turned their attention to scanning. But their initial motivation was blunted, because unlike copying and printing, they couldn’t sell you more toner, and paper, and service clicks for scanning. Gradually, they added useful add-on capabilities, like scan to email and scan to file. But these new functions remained limited (no OCR, for example), and required complex typing at the keypad, so they were employed only by power users, and ignored by everyone else. And the file room grew. So did dependency on paper and paper process.

Along came scan capture pioneer eCopy. They bolted on a PC and a touch tablet to several types of digital copiers, to make scanning easier, and more integrated with the network. It wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t cheap, but it made simple scanning to email and folder more functional and accessible to the general office. Kudos eCopy! But you know what? The file room continued to grow – even at dedicated eCopy accounts. So did dependency on paper and paper process.

Fast forward to today. Every copier (MFP) maker is adding the functionality that eCopy did, embedded in their own machines. They’re even adding keyboards and monitors to the copiers – solely for scanning and indexing and setting workflows – to drive the use of scanning. Scanning is the last frontier for usage growth at these machines, as copying and printing inevitably decline. These extended scan capabilities have been available for several years now, and scanning use has gone up. But because logging in and typing at a copier is tedious, and activity needs to be repeated one document at a time, and this only works at copiers with the proprietary, machine-based vendor add-ons, law firms can’t use these systems to scan their large volumes of documents, firm-wide. So the file room continues to grow, and so does the dependency on paper and paper process at the firm.

Years pass. At first the firm thinks, “We’ve got scanning now. We’ll shrink the file room. One day we’ll scan everything.” But it’s like cutting the grass on a football field with weed wacker. It ain’t gonna happen.

The task of firm-wide, integrated, production scanning needs a new approach. Certainly, the vast majority of the firms we see on our Road Show would agree, as they wake up and smell the paper in 2012.

Steve Irons
Author: Steve Irons