The Main Concepts Behind the Dematerialization of Business Processes

The Main Concepts Behind the Dematerialization of Business Processes

Liliana Ávila (University of Aveiro, Portugal) and Leonor Teixeira (University of Aveiro, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7362-3.ch037
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This chapter aims to introduce the main concepts behind the dematerialization of business processes, which is relatively new in the academic literature, although there are already empirical evidences of the benefits arising from its implementation, especially in the public sector. The dematerialization of business processes results from the intersection of three other knowledge domains—electronic document management, workflow management, and reengineering of business processes—whose interconnections will be explored in the chapter. It also emphasizes the role of information and communication technologies as an important tool for any organization that intends to improve its performance through the better management of its information workflows. It presents a comparative analysis performed for some tools available in the market (propriety and open-source solutions) in order to help organizations to understand the benefits and commitments arising from the modernization of processes. Finally, the chapter identifies some opportunities for the conduction of future research.
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Introducing The Dematerialization Of Business Processes

The dematerialization of business processes is a relatively new concept in the domain of scientific research. Nevertheless, it is possible to find evidences of its implementation, namely in the public sector through the topic known as “e-governance”.

Usually, the concept of dematerialization can be defined as the process of scanning paper documents to obtain electronic documents, in order to eliminate the circulation of paper. According to Siatiras (2004), currently the information is probably one of the most important assets in the organizations, and therefore its efficient management is very important.

However, the dematerialization of business processes is not limited to scanning and managing documents, it also allows the organization to manage its workflows. In this sense, the dematerialization of business processes refers to the optimization of information circuits through technological applications, where the information is communicated and stored in digital format in order to expedite and facilitate the monitoring of processes, always ensuring the legal value of those electronic documents (Ávila, Teixeira, & Almeida, in press). The main gains associated with the dematerialization of business processes are the facility in search documents (Ashby, 2011; Schnitzer, 2010; Want, 2009), and the concurrent access by multiple users to the same document regardless their geographic location (Ashby, 2011; Downing, 2006). This is even more important for organizations that are active in different locations and need to exchange information in a regular basis.

The dematerialization of business processes can also be a mean to improve customer service, since the information is readily available on the computer without the need for search in paper files, allowing an immediate response to customer requests and a greater flexibility to respond to a variety of needs (Burns, 2009; Downing, 2006; Medina & Fenner, 2005). Other consequences are the savings in time and costs (Johnston & Bowen, 2005; Schnitzer, 2010; Want, 2009) and the improvement in the quality of processes and their outcomes (Ashby, 2011; Johnston & Bowen, 2005). At the human resources level, it can encourage greater communication and collaboration between people, creating a more harmonious work environment (Ashby, 2011; Siatiras, 2004; Want, 2009).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Proprietary Software: A close source software, licensed under exclusive legal right of the copyright holder.

Information and Communication Technologies: Tools used to support information sharing and communication in a digital world.

Electronic Documents Management: The management of documents that exist in a digital format.

Dematerialization of Business Processes: The management of processes through an information system that allows simultaneously the workflow and electronic documents management.

Open-Source Software: A software developed by a group of volunteers and which source code is available for anyone, who can modify or improve it.

Workflow Management System: A system that controls the execution of tasks by different actors in order to complete a process with the desire output, in the right time.

Reengineering of Business Processes: A total redefinition of processes in order to improve significantly their results.

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