Document Management Quickly Becomes Information Management4 Aug, 2014 By: Mike O’Leary, CEO Ambir Technology, Ambir Technology
As the CEO of a scanner company, I’m tempted to write that implementing a successful document management strategy equates to one approach: scan everything!
While document capture via digital scanning technology is definitely an important element in implementing a document management strategy for your business or practice, it is, perhaps, the first step in attaining what should be your ultimate strategic goal of turning document management into information management. Let’s face it, the lifeblood of your business or practice isn’t piling, arranging and storing documents, it’s managing, sharing and using information, expertise, and know-how.
Establishing the right information management strategy for you depends on a number of factors— the nature of your business or practice, legal and regulatory requirements and, of course, cost. For example, law firms may need to keep certain documents for legal compliance. Medical practices and healthcare providers are under regulatory deadlines to handle patient records and billing information as digital files. Commercial businesses are increasingly moving to completely digital technology to manage information requiring comprehensive business process automation solutions.
Nonetheless, we all have documents and hardcopy images somewhere in our midst. What is the best way to deal with the information residing on paper? Will you continuously access older records? Does paper-originated information, like hardcopy order forms, make sense for your operation? Do you have the physical storage space to house documents? Are stored documents safe from theft, fire and flooding? Are your customers comfortable with digital signatures for approvals? There is a lot to consider in implementing a document management strategy. Key to moving from it to an information management strategy is taking a future view to frame your present situation and where you want to be in a few months or years. Taking a flexible approach in regard to process and technology options will help you choose the optimum solution for cost-effective management of, and quick secure access to, critical information, enabling you to better satisfy customers needs, comply with regulatory requirements and, in the midst of it all, grow your business or practice.
Managing Documents According to the Resource Conservation Alliance, the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year, most paper records are not electronically indexed and because of that, the costs of using paper in the office—printing, reproducing, sharing, keying and re-keying, filing and storing—can be 13 to 31 times the purchase price of the paper itself. Okay but what the heck, you may have a number of filing cabinets in which to organize, file and store documents. Do you realize the cost of doing so? Industry sources cite the annual cost of $1,400 to store documents in a four-door file cabinet. That’s not a large cabinet! Add potential costs of approximately $120 to locate a misfiled document and double that to reproduce a lost one. Maybe using those filing cabinets isn’t so enticing after all.
How about offsite storage for documents you are not currently accessing? In general, offsite storage is less expensive than on-site; however, long-term storage costs can be, well, costly. Most commercial records centers charge by the cubic foot and that charge includes storage in climate controlled and fire proofed environments. A recent article by Mark Diamond in Inside Counsel magazine cited a cost of more than $8,200 to store 1,000 standard legal- or letter-sized cartons (1.2 cubic feet each) in a commercial records center for a period of three years. That’s just storage—add to it your time to sort and prepare files for storage, transportation to the offsite facility, administration fees, certified destruction and carton withdrawal fees and the cost significantly goes up! Diamond advises to avoid managing and storing paper in the first place. Keep electronically generated and received records as electronic and digitally convert others to files. Keep only those documents created and existing solely on paper; categorizing and tracking what you keep and establishing a retention period for when you can compliantly delete them. I agree completely.
Document Conversion Converting documents to digital files greatly increases operational efficiency and employee productivity over working with documents, which industry sources cite at 20 to 100 times more costly than working with electronic files. Remember the $1,400 yearly expense to store documents in a file cabinet? Well, total cost of ownership for a desktop digital scanner works out to approximately $1,600 over three years. Document capture via digital scanning technology is the most common and cost-effective conversion technology. Image capture via smart phones and tablets will also provide digital files. That noted, no other technology offers the image resolution, duty cycle volume, capture speed, format acceptance and file output choice—PDF, TIFF, JPEG—found in document digital scanners. When choosing a document digital scanner for your business, evaluate the capture software package and drivers to be sure that both dovetail to your operating system. Having the capability to create custom files, categorize information via optical character recognition and glean information from barcodes enable you to do more at capture to categorize, manage and use files.
In addition to converting documents yourself, service bureaus offer conversion services. I recommend looking into these services should you have a large number of documents to convert as service bureaus employ high-volume production document digital scanners which offer you a better per-page cost than handling a large number of documents yourself. In addition to legal- and letter-sized document conversion, most service bureaus offer large- and wide-format scanning, microfilm and microfiche conversion.
Business Process Automation As digital technology advances become widespread, implementing Business Process Automation solutions becomes less costly each day to you. This alone may motivate you to move away from paper to digital. Implementing Business Process Automation means that nearly all information in your business or practice originates digitally. There is no or little paper. Business Process Automation requires installing the right combinations of software, hardware, security and internal system controls to tie it all together. It can include on-premise, offsite and cloud-based image hosting and retrieval, advanced capture and data extraction, email integration, internal and external e-forms, automatic document classification, pre-determined lifecycle criteria for information removal and even mobile access—all set in motion with the click of a mouse.
There are a number of Business Process Automation and Enterprise Content Management solutions available today. Some address overarching information management needs and others address specific niche application such as medical records and invoice and accounts payable processing. For you, implementing a totally digital information solution may make sense as a going forward process. Existing documents and hardcopy images are either managed as paper or, more likely, scanned into digital files for use in the new digital process. Do your homework regarding which sort of digital information solution will work for you today and tomorrow. Employ the assistance of in-house IT and/or a Value Added Reseller in specifying and implementing a solution.
Taking Document Management to Information Management provides solid return on investment through increasing the efficiency of your business or practice, maximizing the productivity of your employees, eliminating errors due to misfiled documents and rekeying, and lessening paper and associated costs.
About Ambir Technology
Ambir Technology, Inc. is an industry leader in digital capture and document management solutions. Combining professional-grade ID card and document scanners, unique digital imaging software and expert-level customer service, Ambir provides their customers with comprehensive, enterprise-level business solutions. Specializing in the healthcare, legal and financial sectors, Ambir helps organizations reduce costs, increase productivity and strengthen data security. For more information, visit www.ambir.com.