The Silver Lining of Mandated Telecommuting

The Silver Lining of Mandated Telecommuting

Many of us are working from home these days (kudos to the heroic first responders, healthcare workers, and essential-business employees keeping us safe, secure, and supplied!). It has been a disruptive transition for the many enterprises unprepared for telework. Even businesses that already had telecommuting policies and procedures in place have found their remote-work systems stretched beyond capacity. If you’re new to telework, your staff may be scrambling to stay productive while setting up alternatives to face-to-face collaboration – building the ship while you’re sailing it.

Despite all the disruption and anxiety, there’s a silver lining. On the upside: Businesses with established telecommuting routines are learning where the weak points in their systems are. Now they have an opportunity to fix the shortcomings of outdated VPNs and low-capacity internal apps.

A second positive consequence: Businesses that were previously reluctant to adopt telecommuting are now discovering that their organizations may actually benefit from remote work. One study in the Harvard Business Review found that telecommuting employees start work earlier, take fewer breaks (no “cake in the break room”), and work more diligently, as much as an extra day per week.

To make telecommuting work, however, the right infrastructure needs to be in place. As some organizations have discovered, there are plenty of productivity tools they can quickly adopt to support telework. Zoom, for video conferencing, and Slack, for remote collaboration, are two of the most popular.

But what about all the paper documents in file cabinets back at the office, the ones that need to be accessed routinely by teams? Companies in the finance, insurance, legal, and government sectors are especially paper-reliant. Telework is a challenge when the nature of the work requires paper documents.

That’s where document imaging fits in to the productivity picture. Digital versions of paper documents, stored on secure internal servers or cloud servers, can be accessed and shared among remote workers. In combination with other collaboration tools, imaging gives teleworkers the infrastructure to be even more productive than they were in the office.

Telework is upon us, like it or not. With the right tools and systems we can make it work to the benefit of our individual businesses, and the economy as a whole. And when the current crisis ends, telework will have proven itself to be the work style of the future.

 

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Telework: Removing the Document-Sharing Bottleneck

Telework: Removing the Document-Sharing Bottleneck

Telework has unquestionable benefits – employee satisfaction, health, and productivity are often cited – but without easy access to business documents, those benefits may not be realized.

Forbes reports telework savings averaging $11,000 per employee per year, including the value of healthy, productive employees and the cost savings of reduced real estate and other facilities expenses.

But teleworkers need access to information in order to work efficiently, and that includes access to data which may currently be available only in paper form. Remote sharing of physical documents is obviously unwieldy. Teleworkers must to come to the documents’ location or the documents must be delivered to the remote workers. And if teleworking team members all need the same documents, the logistics get even more complicated and expensive.

All the teleworking productivity gains are wiped out by the paper document bottleneck.

You might think that a simple PDF of a physical document would be easy to share with any teleworker who needs it. That’s true. But what if there are hundreds or thousands of pages that teleworkers need to access? Further, what if they need to search for specific individual elements within those many documents?

That’s where enterprise-level imaging becomes a vital component of teleworking productivity. Imaging, also termed document conversion, creates “smart” digital documents – secure, searchable, and shareable via cloud computing. When paper documents are converted to a smart digital format, teleworkers’ productivity is preserved. Digital documents remain secure (have paper documents ever been lost or destroyed in your business?). And managers can monitor staffers’ work and support their collaborations remotely.

Some businesses have the time, expertise, and resources in-house to plan and execute a comprehensive imaging program. For many, however, an experienced outside vendor saves them the time and cost of a long learning curve and the personnel to administer an imaging program. If your business is making a move to telework, and time is of the essence, talk to a trusted imaging vendor about the best way to convert your paper documents and avoid the information bottleneck.

 

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The True Cost of Paper in Your Business Operations

The True Cost of Paper in Your Business Operations

Research firm Gartner estimates that as much as 3% of a company’s revenue is spent on business paper. Copy paper, note paper, invoices, letters, file folders…it all adds up, and it’s easy to quantify. But that’s just the hard costs. What is rarely calculated are the hidden costs all that paper generates.

A few statistics from a PriceWaterhouseCoopers study:

  • 8 hours– the amount of time an employee spends managing paper documents each week
  • $122– the cost of finding a single lost document
  • 750– the number of lost paper documents per year, per mid-size business

There’s a dollar figure attached to this kind of lost productivity. Even though the math may not show up on a spreadsheet, lost documents alone can be calculated to cost the average mid-size business $91,500 per year.

And that’s before calculating the cost of office space to store all those documents. Paper is undeniably bulky. Just 250 standard file cabinets take up 2,500 square feet. That adds up to a significant sum, too: $135,000 per year, on average.

Knowing those costs could make you think twice about using – and retaining – all that paper. But do you have a choice?

Imaging is the alternative. Converting paper documents to digital documents saves businesses the cost of all that storage space for physical documents. The contents of those 250 file cabinets, after conversion, will fit onto a single hard drive. With imaged documents safely stored on a drive, lost documents are a thing of the past, as is the cost of finding those lost documents.

Even better, businesses can take advantage of the cost savings of a remote workforce. Digital documents, unlike paper documents, can be shared readily with members of a distributed team. And remote teams require less office space, adding to the cost savings.

Of course paper still provides a valuable function even in the digital era. People have a positive response to information presented on paper, and they absorb and retain that information longer. Sales and marketing materials, for example, have a greater impact if they’re presented on paper.

But for many other areas of business operations, imaged documents present a significant value in the form of reduced real estate costs and improved productivity. Take a look at how your enterprise uses paper, uncover the hidden costs, and make a profitable move to imaging.

 

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In-House or Outsource: Which One Fits?

In-House or Outsource: Which One Fits?

In almost every industry, business owners are considering ways to outsource some business functions. Others are looking at bringing everything in-house. It’s not a one-size-fits-all proposition. How do you decide?

Home Depot, for example, has taken a big step toward moving its entire supply chain in-house. The building-supplies giant recently opened an 800,000 square foot distribution center in Dallas, Texas, with the goal of being able to provide same day/next day delivery to 90% of the U.S. This new distribution center gives Home Depot “the opportunity to own its entire supply chain,” according to SVP of supply chain Stephanie Smith.

Outsourcing has its own set of benefits, however, and the risks and rewards have to be evaluated for each unique situation, according to Micah Pratt, writing in Business.org. The upside of outsourcing includes:

  1. Expertise without the learning curve– Business functions from accounting to document imaging, inventory systems, and facilities management all require a fair amount of expertise to establish and maintain. Outsourcing provides immediate access to expert professional services without the delays of the in-house learning curve.
  2. Focus on core business– When you outsource some functions, you can turn your attention to the important tasks of sales growth, customer retention, and innovation.
  3. Lower-cost growth– Outsourcing to a professional-services provider allows businesses to grow without all of the capital costs and operating expenses associated with expanding those functions in-house.

Outsourcing is almost always a cost saver. Some business owners and managers worry, though, that they will lose control of essential information or product quality.

If reduced oversight and control is a concern, look for a single vendor who can provide more than one outsourced function. A vendor who provides storage products, professional services, and inventory systems, for example, will be easier to monitor than three different vendors for these three different functions. Start off with a single project, and as a vendor proves to be trustworthy, add more functions to the vendor’s outsourcing contract.

A careful cost-benefit analysis yields useful insights into the relative value of outsourced vs. in-house, and accounting expert Kenneth Boyd offers a template to help weigh the pros and cons. As businesses everywhere face downward pressure on costs, now is the time to evaluate whether some business functions should be in-house, and others can be beneficially outsourced.

 

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There’s an App for That – If Your Business is Ready for It

There’s an App for That – If Your Business is Ready for It

Organizational apps have proliferated right along with apps of every other kind. If your business has started converting paper documents to digital documents, you can use a digital asset management (DAM) collaboration app to give your remote teams anywhere-anytime access to the documents they need. But if you still rely on paper documents alone, your remote workers are going to struggle to stay productive.

Remote work has grown over 91% in the past 10 years. Some companies have even gone entirely virtual. The staff of business-finance services company Guidant Financial, for example, works wherever they have a good internet connection. Guidant assists small-business owners with financing options, including retirement account franchise purchases, ROBS, and SBA loans. Business financing generates large volumes of loan and compliance documents for the SBA, the SEC, and the IRS.

Guidant uses a custom portal and app to electronically manage documents, including those which originate on paper.With all their clients’ documents accessible to Guidant’s finance teams, in servers that act as secure virtual “file cabinets,” Guidant’s staff can collaborate to complete and file all the documents their clients need for compliance or loan applications.

Employee satisfaction and retention are big benefits of Guidant’s virtual operations. An even bigger benefit is the company’s ultra-low real estate budget.With few documents to store, and most staffers working remotely, Guidant’s office space is far smaller than the average financial-services company.

Companies like Guidant commission custom software, but for many businesses, an off-the-shelf app provides all the digital asset management functionality their organizations need. Tadesite.com reviews 10 of the top rated off-the-shelf DAM apps with cataloging and search capabilities; some even have a search-within-document feature that is especially useful for collaborative teams.

But to get the best from your remote teams, you have to provide them with digital documents. And that requires converting your paper documents to digital format via a comprehensive imaging program. Imaging is a good bit more complex than simply scanning to a PDF. Properly executed, imaging creates “smart documents” that a DAM app can store, organize, and deliver to your remote workers with electronic speed. Paper documents are easily damaged, lost, or destroyed, but imaging adds a layer of security that controls accessibility and monitors usage.

Talk to an imaging expert and get your business ready for the latest productivity apps.

 

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3 Steps to Prepping for Next Year

3 Steps to Prepping for Next Year

It’s time to wrap up this year’s business activities, and often it can seem like a mountain of paper has collected while you were tending to your organization’s core mission. To get a fresh start in the new year, you’ll have to deal with all those documents. Conquer the paper mountain by sorting documents into three categories: Scan, File, or Shred.

Scan It – Transform your paper documents into digital assets through a well-designed imaging program. Much more than a simple PDF document, imaged documents offer the advantages of secure information access, speedy information searches, and extraordinary space savings. The National Association of Productivity & Organizing estimates that a four-drawer file cabinet holds 18,000 documents. A single desktop hard drive can store the contents of 100 file cabinets. What could you do with all that extra office space?

File It – Certain original documents simply have to be retained in paper form. However, they don’t have to take up an excess of storage space. Offices can reduce their document storage footprint by 50% with a high-density shelving system that eliminates all but one of the center aisles between file cabinets. Add security features like biometric locks, and your one-of-a-kind documents won’t fall into the wrong hands.

Shred It – Is a document outdated? Or if it’s still relevant, has it been imaged? Or do you have multiple redundant copies of a document? If you answer “Yes” to any of these questions, you may not need to hold on to the original documents any longer. Shredding unneeded documents, like imaging, reduces your physical storage footprint. Take care, however, that your documents are shredded securely, so intellectual property, private information, and trade secrets aren’t exposed.

SmallBusinessTrends.com offers a number of ideas for office organization, including document management tips. Make your New Year’s resolution now to talk to a document management consultant in January, and next year you’ll avoid the end-of-year paper mountain. And if you’ve already implemented a well-organized document management system, you can enjoy the holidays without paper anxiety

 

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