We usually think of electronic files as the only medium to be targeted by hackers. Paper seems invulnerable to hacks. If the bad actors don’t have the paper documents, they don’t have the data. But is that really true?
Cyber attacks have been common occurrences. Many times, however, such hacks were preventable: Passwords were not protected, download and upload protocols were not observed, file-sharing rules weren’t enforced.
You may think paper-based data isn’t hackable. But if we define “hacking” as the theft of information, no matter the medium, paper documents have been hacked repeatedly, for many, many years. (Pentagon Papers, anyone?)
Now that employees are returning to the workplace, paper documents are once again reappearing on desks, in copiers, and in file folders. Those supposedly safe documents can be hacked in a number of ways. A few examples:
A confidential document left in a copier tray
A sensitive document tossed in the trash
A password written on a sticky note and pasted to a computer
A private report left in a conference room after a presentation
In each case, the information can easily make its way into the hands of people who shouldn’t have this sensitive data.
One way to make paper documents less hackable is to digitize them. Digitization converts a paper document’s information into electronic format, bringing it into the cyber world where new technology can keep it more secure. Digitization gives bad actors one less way to access information.
Document conversion simplifies data security because there is only one primary medium to secure.Security advocates recommend bringing paper documents into the purview of Chief Information Officers, who have traditionally focused on securing only electronic data. Digitizing paper documents makes them more manageable for CIO’s. With the reduction of paper-based information, there is only one door for criminals to get at sensitive information. And CIO’s can enforce strict data hygiene to protect that single door, and keep information safe.
Return-to-the-office, whether full time or hybrid, gives businesses an opportunity to reassess their information security. Now is the time to institute a digitization program and eliminate a significant security vulnerability.
Whether you’re managing life sciences research, product manufacturing, or a professional-services practice, process is at the heart of any successful business operation.
Waste and inefficiency inevitably lead to a downward spiral in profits, as proponents of Lean and Six Sigma have said for years. Some experts cite studies showing:
Teams spend almost 30% of their time on finding data and doing menial tasks rather than conducting analysis.
64% of a sales rep’s counted hours are spent doing things that don’t contribute to the company’s bottom line.
50% of companies also spend between $5 to $25 on manually processed invoices.
Improving processes is one of the keys to enhanced earnings. Writing in Industry Week, Jason Piatt outlines 6 criteria that go into a “good” process – one that improves operations, productivity, and throughput. Not surprisingly, RFID fits into each of these six criteria:
A good process should be simple, to avoid opportunities for error. RFID tags and doorway or handheld RFID readers provide easy and error-free tracking and inventories.
A good process should be robust, ready to handle unexpected environmental or emergency situations. RFID tags withstand extreme temperatures and can assist in emergency locational tracking of products and personnel.
A good process should be documented to maintain accuracy and information integrity. RFID systems output periodic reports providing confirmation of other system’s documentation, such as ERP and MISys.
A good process should be controlled so activities are repetitive and identical. RFID systems can be polled on a set schedule, conducted the same way every time, so areas of improvement can be identified.
A good process should be communicated among all parties up and down the line. RFID’s data can easily be shared among other systems and reported to stakeholders, adding transparency and accountability to the process.
A good process is error-proofed, with safeguards for novice-user mistakes. Because an RFID system is simple to use, it protects against the errors typically found in manual inventories and tracking.
Process is not merely a step-by-step series of activities. It is a deliberately designed sequence leading to delivery. A good process is flexible and test-able. It builds on test results to yield continuous improvements. Incorporate RFID into your operational process and move toward a good process.
The Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio) recently surveyed a large sample of its life sciences member companies to find out about their return-to-work plans. As the study’s authors point out, life sciences is a significant employer; when choices are made about the workplace, they have far-reaching implications for the greater community.
Transportation, housing, and family life are all affected by workplace location, as we witnessed during the rushed transition to remote work in 2020. Now that offices are reopening for in-person work, most employees are resisting a return to the full-time in-office workstyle of the “Before” times.
MassBio’s survey found that an astonishing 97% of its life sciences members are implementing a hybrid model for the long term. This embrace of the hybrid workplace is a response to employee preference, yielding benefits in employee retention, productivity, and lower overhead. It’s a win for the community too, as commutes are reduced, housing needs stabilize, and a positive work/life balance is preserved.
But how are these businesses shaping their hybrid workplace models? According to MassBio, life sciences managers say the number of days working on-site will depend very much on the individual’s role. But a McKinsey study counsels managers to consider more than just the number of days per week on-site. Managers should also ask:
How will meetings work best?
How will you balance mentorship and experience between in-office workers and at-home workers?
What are the in-person collaboration needs of a team working on the same project?
How will you demonstrate the equal value of in-office and hybrid workers?
As pointed out by the McKinsey study, the hybrid model is evolving rapidly. It will take a number of years to mature, and it will be different for each organization.
But one thing that will remain the same for every life sciences business: the need for technology that supports the hybrid model. In every life sciences endeavor, the free flow of data is essential. Paper-based data is challenging to share; a database of digitized documents lets collaborators access information quickly and securely. Imaging, or digitization, eliminates the risk of paper documents being lost between office and home, or falling into the wrong hands.
As your enterprise makes the shift to a hybrid workplace, ask yourself the questions above, and add another question: Is your document technology ready for the change?
The military has often been a testing ground for advanced technology which later makes its way into civilian life. Even civilian-developed products initially used on a small scale have been widely expanded by military usage: canned foods (Civil War), nylon and penicillin (WWII), and the annoying but popular camera drone (Iraq/Afghanistan). Today’s consumers are the beneficiaries of the military’s creation or adoption of these and many other products.
As reported in “Defense Systems,” now it’s RFID’s turn to have the armed forces amplify the use of RFID asset management capacity. And hybrid-office facilities managers are benefiting from the military’s example.
The covid pandemic forced military installations into a remote-work crisis, just as it did civilian offices. On-site personnel were re-assigned as WFH workers, and office technology assets (tablets, laptops, etc.) went with them. The military already used RFID extensively for personnel credentialling and inventory management. It was a simple matter to add RFID tags to e-tech assets. The existing RFID system updated equipment’s status as it was checked out for WFH.
And as personnel began to return to the workplace, RFID continued to track the e-tech assets in the military’s new hybrid-work format of flexible schedules and hot-desking.
It wasn’t enough to know that a particular laptop, for example, was in the building; it was important to know which room it was in, whether it was operational, and when its last service had taken place. Doorway readers captured assets’ movements in and out of a building. Within a building, handheld mobile readers quickly read an entire room of equipment to locate a specific unit.
Savvy civilian facilities managers have already been using RFID to track furnishings and large equipment within their buildings. The hybrid office has added a new dimension to asset tracking, as electronics and documents move back and forth between on-site and off-site offices. Lost electronic equipment adds up, and lost documents can cost even more if the data they contain cannot be replicated.
But the additional asset tracking doesn’t have to be a burden to facilities managers. Lose the paper-and-pencil check-out system, add RFID tags to your hybrid-office assets, and let an accurate, fast RFID system keep track of them.
The strange thing about our twenty-first century digital life: All our technology was supposed to give us more time – more leisure time, more family time, more creative time. Instead we’re exhausted, feeling pressured to deliver everything instantaneously.
We might call this the Amazon effect – the expectation of instant delivery. “Waiting is weakness,” says author Juliet Funt, reporting on the prevailing attitude in the workplace. In a discussion of what she calls “hallucinated urgency,” the never-ending need for speed causes us to race from one emergency to the next, constantly interrupted, never focusing deeply, and never doing our best work. It’s a feedback loop that guarantees burnout and failure.
Unless you work in an emergency room, this sense of constant urgency is an illusion, according to Funt. Technology can in fact give you more time if you use it to support the three assets everyone brings to the workplace: time, energy, and priorities. Some people swear by Google Calendar to keep daily “rinse and repeat” tasks from taking up mental space. Those who know the dangers of multi-tasking (reduced productivity and quality of work) use Zapier Chrome Extension to collect inbound information for later review.
Whatever organizational software you choose, experts recommend apps that minimize interruptions and contextual shifts. And managers should take a hard look at what tasks are truly urgent. An in-app completion-time/date will help everyone prioritize, as well as making your expectations more specific than “ASAP.”
However, there are times when information is needed urgently. Tech will deliver here, too. A prime technology for fast information delivery is digitization: converting paper documents to digital format. If your documents are digitized and someone has a time-sensitive need for information, staff can execute requests with electronic speed, without diverting much energy or rearranging priorities. Digitized documents are:
Searchable on keywords
Space-saving, reducing physical filing space
Secure, unlike paper which is susceptible to loss or damage
Accessible to remote staffers as well as in-house personnel
Recent studies show that productivity is higher in WFH and hybrid office settings, compared to traditional offices. However, some managers worry that productivity increases are the result of employees working extra hours. Like hallucinated urgency, overwork is a recipe for burnout. With proper training on organizational apps, supported by a database of digitized documents, you can use tech to manage time, set boundaries, and promote a healthy work/life balance. Make tech work for you, rather than letting it be the boss of you.