Category Archives: Process

The basic legalities of scanned documents

Does a scanned document stand up in court?

In comparison to paper documents, the issues for electronic documents actually seem to rest on how much integrity they have in terms of ‘pedigree’ and authenticity rather than their admissibility. Courts and governing bodies now accept that electronic filing is normal procedure for many companies, and they fully accept electronic documents as evidence or supporting material so long as companies can prove that they’ve taken the appropriate measures to ensure their integrity.

The Basis in Law

The Civil Evidence Act 1995 is perhaps the most relevant point of law to address in relation to electronic documents. Its legacy is to take the onus off the question of physical admissibility, instead examining the actual weight carried by the electronic evidence submitted. The evidential value is then determined by the procedures followed by the company presenting the documents. To put is simply, if a company submits a document that has clearly been unaltered since its creation or which brings with it a clear audit trail that categorises any changes made to it along the way, then that holds for more evidential value than a document that could possibly have been amended in the interim. Simple procedures ensure document integrity for a company looking to move towards an electronic filing system.

Sections 8 and 9 of the Civil Evidence Act 1995 illustrate the legal guidelines for electronic documents as evidence:

8 (1) Where a statement contained in a document is admissible as evidence in civil proceedings, it may be proved;

(a) by the production of that document, or

(b) whether or not that document is still in existence, by the production of a copy of that document or of the material part of it, authenticated is such a manner as the court may approve.

(2) It is immaterial for this purpose how many removes there are between a copy and an original.

9 (1) A document that is shown to form a part of the records of a business or a public authority may be received in evidence in civil proceedings without an further proof

(2) A document should be taken to form part of the records of a business or public authority if there is produced to a court a certificate to that effect signed either by an officer of the business or authority to which the records belong.

Essentially, this law may be interpreted to show that an original document is not the only admissible evidence in civil courts. Electronic copies of documents are acceptable so long as their integrity can be proved. Criminal courts involve a more complex set of guidelines, and business with concerns about compliance in this area should check with a specialist lawyer.

Scanned documents and HM Customs & Excise

 What about the VAT

At present, the law makes no distinction between electronic or paper records. As a result, Customs & Excise simply refer to ‘records’ in their guidelines – whether a business keeps their records on paper or electronically makes little difference.

They do, however, insist that you inform them of the format you use for your records.

Section 5.4 of VAT Notice 700/21 reads as follows:

If you keep all or part of your records and accounts on a computer, you must make sure that you can meet your legal obligations to:

  • Account for VAT properly
  • Provide information to us whenever we visit you; and
  • Keep records in the required detail for the required length of time

In practical terms, a business should therefore advise their local VAT office that they wish to store scanned documents copies of all their records in ‘format X’ (either TIF or PDF format), and that those records will be held within ‘document management system

Customs & Excise do not recommend any particular software packages of file formats and at present an acceptable standard has not been precisely defined, but ‘may be taken to mean that all details on the reproduced documents are clear and legible’, which enables fairly broad interpretation.

By also following the Code of the British Standard BSI DISC PD0008 in addition to the requirements of Customs & Excise, a company can take the best precautions available to ensure that their records are acceptable for a VAT inspection.

Timescales for Record Keeping

The general requirement for record keeping is a period dating back at least 6 years. For many companies, keeping paper records for so long is fraught with difficulties. By agreement with the Commissioners, this time limit requirement may have a degree of flexibility. It could be noted, though, that if a company uses electronic filing, then the 6 year timescale is of little consequence.

One important consideration for Customs & Excise is their requirement that any original paper invoices must be retained for a period of no less than one VAT period. This would ensure that the current VAT return can be verified using original documentation. Depending on the nature of the company’s accounting pattern, this period is either 1 month, 3 months or 1 year in length.

After this time and submission of the return in question, the company can then consign those accounting records to electronic filing in confidence.

Scanned documents and the Inland Revenue

Not a world away from the requirements of Customs and Excise, the Inland Revenue has adopted a fairly flexible view of records stored electronically, based on the same grounds that the law does not at present differentiate between paper and electronic documents.

Set out in Tax Bulletin 37, the Revenue provides the following guidelines:

Records may be preserved on optical imaging systems, and the originals discarded, provided that what is retained in digital form represents a complete and unaltered image of the underlying paper document. We are now able to go further: Both in the case of companies and unincorporated businesses we can accept other methods which preserve the information in the record in a different form. This is so long as those methods capture all the information needed to demonstrate that a complete and correct tax return has been made and are capable of yielding up that information in a legible form.

They go on to confirm that some material, such as a company’s standard terms and conditions of sale, is not required to be retained for tax purposes. However, exactly what material should be retained and what can be discarded should be checked thoroughly with a tax adviser as regulations differ across industries.

In this Tax Bulletin, the Inland Revenue also makes the important acknowledgement that companies complying with the British Standard BSI DISC PD0008 will automatically satisfy the tax requirements for keeping electronic records.

At present, under the terms of the Companies Act, for most companies the timescales that the Revenue requires material to be retained is set at 6 years from the end of an accounting period. In cases of investigation or late return submission, then this period will extend accordingly. Once again, electronic records management is by for the easiest method of storage for convenience and space-saving benefits.

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B.P.M and the Paperless System

The Business Process Management Life-Cycle

Image via Wikipedia

Business Process Management is a management focusing approach regarding all aspects of an organization with requirements and needs of the client. It is a holistic management approach that promotes business effectiveness and efficiency while striving for innovation, flexibility, and integration with technology.

The main part of Business Process Management is the business process, which can be descried as a “collection of related structured activities that produce a service or product that meet the needs of a client”.

 The system approach is very similar to the management work flow system and is a large key to the design of a paperless office system, designed to meet the requirements of the customer and the paperless office system. The main area where this system has helped the paperless office system is that of how companies have been able to use the Technology to assist the client to achieve a more approachable system.

This is a very similar to a works flow management system but has the client’s requirements in mind and not an internal steps management flow system.

The system acts in two ways it assists the management process to achieve internal efficiency but it also achieves direct connect to a client, when information has to be sent direct this does only effect invoicing but all kinds of transferable information.

Reading various reports from company’s introduction to the Paperless Office software system and the management work flow system and especially the Business Process Management, generally they have seen an increase in the transaction rate, of receiving documentation using a Business Process Management this has helped to increase efficiency of approximately 15% although this information is believable a general concerns will have to be measured to take into account there own advertising and offering statically information.

Both the management and business systems are a step in the right direction concentrating on the actual process of paper, this has to be addressed in the general terms and covering all aspects of the Paperless Office System.

Although this does leave a big gap in the secondary paper issues and to a certain degree is more of a process meets technology in the event that it might change and remove the paper form the office.

A main aspect of the management system is process, but including within the process there are various factors. One of the factors is the filing requirements and associated filing requirements.


This is not a Paperless Office !

The Paperless Office has developed over the years as the concept has grown there has been a vast amount of software systems indicting that they can make your office totally paperless this has and is still a misleading statement.

What has development over the years is a collection of Ould (2007) management flow system and Smith (2007); business process managements systems stating that they are a Paperless Office Software System.

This software is really a combination of systems that can be installed into your main frame and each individual computer will have the software which will manage all the necessary files into a systematic data base, which can be organized into each personalized computer system.

What can be descried as a work flow System?

Workflow consists of a sequence of connection steps. It is best depiction of a sequence of operations declared as work of a person. The flow being described often refers to a document that is being transferred from one step to another.

Work flow activities are enabled by a systematic organization of resources, defined roles and information flows, into a work process. The term workflow which is connected to the computer programming can also be categorized, in the relation to capture and develop human-to-machine interaction.

The above paragraph describeswhat a work flow system is. The installation of a software package stating that it is a paperless office can be misleading. If you have an organization which has all the normal installations, e mails, PDF documentation and possible scanning systems this installation will be designed to a basic work flow system.

The companies will advertise that this can increase your efficiency and also reduce all the paper work flow system. How this works is that if you normally take five steps to carry a performance like an e mail. A work flow will manage the steps and reduce the process.

The results are obvious form five steps to two steps the claims of achieving a paperless office in the areas of reducing the amount of steps to perform a duty this will result in a better and a more efficient system.

This is one of the areas where companies can advertise that they are designing a system that offers to increase the efficiency of paperless office system. But as the report has indicated the area of secondary paper this is still a problem.

The other areas where companies are offering a similar service still in the areas of Management Work Flow System is in the areas of Business process management.

Management work flows are a good thing, but as the answer to achieve the paperless office, this is not correct, we must address the problems of SPA, Cultural and Social areas and overcome this miss leading statement if we want the Paperless System to grow.


Basics : Business Process Management

(BPM) is a management approach focused on aligning all aspects of an organization with the wants and needs of clients.

It is a holistic managemet approach that promotes business effectiveness and efficiency while striving for innovation, flexibility, and integration with technology.

Business process management attempts to improve processes continuously.

It could therefore be described as a “process optimization process.” It is argued that BPM enables organizations to be more efficient, more effective and more capable of change than a functionally focused, traditional hierarchical management approach.


Basics of Workflow

A workflow management system is a computer system that manages and defines a series of tasks within an organization to produce a final outcome or outcomes. Workflow Management Systems allow you to define different workflows for different types of jobs or processes.

So, for example, in a manufacturing setting, a design document might be automatically routed from designer to a technical director to the production engineer.

At each stage in the workflow, one individual or group is responsible for a specific task. Once the task is complete, the workflow software ensures that the individuals responsible for the next task are notified and receive the data they need to execute their stage of the process.

Workflow management systems also automate redundant tasks and ensure uncompleted tasks are followed up. Workflow management systems may control automated processes in addition to replacing paper work order transfers.

If for example the above design documents are now available as AutoCAD but the workflow requires them as Catia an automated process would implement the conversion prior to notifying the individual responsible for the next task.

This is the concept of dependencies. A workflow management system reflects the dependencies required for the completion of each task.

Examples

  1. In military planning, a “concept of operations” is a workflow that defines particular mission types.
  2. In machine shops, particularly job shops and flow shops, the flow of a part through the various processing stations is a work flow.
  3. Insurance claims processing is an example of an information-intensive, document-driven workflow.
  4. The Getting Things Done system is a model of personal workflow management for information workers.

MFP (Aio, Mfd, Soho)

An MFP (Multi Function Product/ Printer/ Peripheral),

Multifunctional, all-in-one (AIO), or Multifunction Device (MFD), is an office machine which incorporates the functionality of multiple devices in one, so as to have a smaller footprint in a home or small business setting (the SOHO market segment), or to provide centralized document management/distribution/production in a large-office setting. A typical MFP may act as a combination of some or all of the following devices:

  • Printer
  • Scanner
  • Photocopier
  • Fax
  • E-mail

AIO

An AIO is a small desktop unit, designed for home or home office use.

Generally the features an AIO has focus on scan and print functionality for home use, and may come with bundled software for organising photos, simple OCR and other uses of interest to a home user. An AIO will always include the basic functions of Print and Scan, with most also including Copy functionality and a lesser number with Fax capabilities.

SOHO MFP

A large desktop or small freestanding unit, designed for Small Office/Home Office use. Often, the form factor of the MFP (desktop or freestanding) depends on the options added, such as extra paper trays or so on.

Generally a SOHO MFP will have basic Print, Copy, Scan and Fax functionality only, but towards the larger end of the scale, may include simple document storage and retrieval, basic authentication functions and so on, making the higher end of the “SOHO” scale difficult to differentiate from the lower end of the “Office” MFP scale.

Office MFP

A mid-sized freestanding unit, designed as a central office system.

These units are usually the most fully featured type of MFP. They include the basic Print, Copy and Scan functions with optional fax functionality as well as networked document storage with security, authentication using common network user credentials, ability to run custom software (often a manufacturer will supply a Software Development Kit  advanced network scan destinations such as FTP  WebDAV Email SMB and NFS stores, encryption for data transmission and so on.

Production Printing MFP

A large sized freestanding unit, designed as a central printing device or reprographic department device.


JDF

JDF is based on a special form of Extensible Markup Language (XML), a nonproprietary information carrier that can link and refer files to multiple production devices. Using JDF, you can describe the intent of a printed piece, as well as each process step required to achieve that intent.

Think of it as a smart, self-directed electronic job jacket that holds not only the job content, but also instructions to interact with other JDF-enabled devices, automatically routing the job through each workflow step — from creation to final print production — for greater automation, speed, cost efficiency, and ease of use.

In addition to streamlining print production tasks, JDF expands workflow integration beyond the pressroom and into the enterprise itself.

JDF-enabled systems can facilitate estimating and materials ordering and interface with other databases such as CRM software and supply chain information. With this capability, JDF further integrates the business of printing (process steps) with the print business.