Document imaging, as most business managers know, has quantifiable ROI measured in dollar figures with many zeros. One example: A small community college invested in imaging to help process their thousands of paper admissions applications each year, as well as thousands of operational documents of every kind. To learn if their investment was paying off, they applied the four imaging ROI factors from Forrester Research’s imaging analysis:
- Benefits– What are the tangible and intangible benefits to an organization, in dollar terms?
- Costs– How will the organization pay for imaging, both in hard costs and in resources, and are there finance or tax aspects of the cost that can be beneficial?
- Risks– How do uncertainties – usage, growth, obsolescence, etc. – affect the total impact of imaging on the organization?
- Flexibility– How does imaging create future expansion opportunities for the organization?
When the community college calculated these factors, they found they had received an immediate ROI of $150,000 in the first semester of using an electronic content management (ECM) system. Your results may vary, possibly even better.
Imaging has numerous advantages:
- Centralized information source
- Simplified file sharing for collaboration
- Faster information search and retrieval
- Reduced loss and security risks
- Reduced storage space real estate costs
All these advantages add to the cumulative ROI of imaging. But are there any disadvantages? The answer is “Possibly,” if you:
- Invest in imaging technology that is not robust, from an inexperienced or unreliable vendor.
- Ignore the organization-wide need for digital security, not just for your Electronic Content Management (ECM) imaging system, but for all your connected e-devices.
- Overlook the cost of the learning curve when introducing new technology in-house, rather than outsourcing the steepest part of that curve to an expert service provider.
We’ve never seen an ROI analysis of less-than-optimal ECM investments. Why would anyone want to start from a point of disadvantage? Contact an imaging expert and optimize the imaging advantages, and the ROI.
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Seventy percent of employers anticipate downsizing their office space, according to a KPMG survey of CEOs. Pandemic-enforced work-from-home (WFH) has evolved into widespread adoption of the hybrid work style, a flexible combination of time in the office and time working remotely. Some businesses are going near-100% remote, reducing their footprint to a single small office. Many others are shifting to hub-and-spokes offices for their hybrid operations, letting employees put in their office hours in smaller “spokes” offices close to home, and reserving a downsized downtown “hub” office for central administration, IT, and major meetings.
The shift to smaller spaces inspires fear and loathing in facilities managers and operations administrators everywhere. The design phase alone is a daunting challenge; every department has to weigh in with their different, and sometimes conflicting, needs and wants. And then there’s the relocation logistics – what to move, when and how to move it, and where to put it all when it arrives at its new home.
It’s the stuff of nightmares.
It’s also a great opportunity to review office operations and make positive, profitable changes.
- Convert your documents to digital format via imaging
- Save the cost of moving all that paper, not to mention all the filing cabinets to house it. Retain only the necessary paper documents, and shred the rest.
- Support your “spokes” offices and WFH workers with an accessible, searchable database of imaged documents. Keep them on-task instead of spending time searching through folders in filing cabinets.
- Boost your community goodwill (and your bragging rights) by reducing paper consumption and increasing your sustainability rating.
- Convert to an RFID asset management system
- Save the cost of replacing lost furnishings. Tag furnishings to create a locational database, tracking items from office to office, and from room to room.
- Keep track of electronic devices that move from business office to home office and back again.
- Save the time and labor costs of a manual inventory that requires visual identification of assets. Output an accurate report of the business’s assets automatically.
Incorporate these upgrades into your office relocation plan, and you’ll begin reaping the benefits before your move as well as after. The right technology will banish those downsizing nightmares and set you up for hybrid workplace success.
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Picture this: A hospital acquired new equipment that could tailor asthma medication to each patient’s needs. The marketing team wanted to contact all the hospital’s patients who had asthma. Hospital administration expected the new service to be quite profitable.
However, most hospital patients had been treated for other conditions, not for asthma. The hospital’s electronic records only tracked the treatments the patients received, not other conditions being handled outside the hospital. Many patients’ asthma was noted only on paper documents filled out during admission.
To build a list of asthmatic patients, the marketing team would have to search by hand through every patient’s paper file, to see if they had checked the “asthma” box. Given the number of hours needed to review each and every paper record, the cost to identify prospective patients was roughly the same as the cost of the hospital’s new equipment, deferring ROI far into the future.
This is just one example of how unstructured data (data found only on paper, or in various incompatible databases) locks up information that could otherwise contribute to the bottom line. Structured data – a spreadsheet, for instance – is searchable and sortable with electronic speed. Searching unstructured data requires time-consuming manual efforts.
Document imaging is one of the ways that unstructured data is transformed to searchable, sortable structured data.
Don’t mistake imaging for a .PDF, however. A .PDF is essentially a picture of a document, and it’s no more searchable than the original paper. By contrast, an imaged document can be read by software. Text and numbers can be extracted, sorted, searched, and linked to other data.
With the speed of automation, the imaged information is compiled into a database. It becomes actionable business intel. Every department can access the data, make better decisions, and operate more productively.
Returning to our case-study hospital: Marketing collaborated with IT to spearhead a pilot project, transitioning to imaged patient-admission documents. As they assembled the now-usable data, they realized that they had a treasure trove of marketing information. They stopped missing opportunities to offer additional services to patients who could benefit from them. And that new equipment became profitable much sooner than expected.
If your business has paper records, you have unstructured data. Transform it into structured data, via document imaging, and start monetizing the information.
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Who doesn’t want to be in a good neighborhood – one that’s aesthetically pleasing, has a controlled traffic flow, with great neighbors close but not too close? The office “neighborhood” is predicted to become the primary workplace model for the new hybrid workstyle.
The hybrid workplace, combining a flexible schedule, WFH (work-from-home), and in-office work, sprang up as a way to reduce the risk of covid transmission. It has delivered unexpected benefits: Surprising productivity increases, along with reduced real estate overhead.
Even with a covid vaccine in sight, the hybrid office isn’t likely to disappear any time soon. According to research this year by workplace design consultants Gensler, 52% of workers want to continue dividing their time between home and office. Only 19% wanted to work in the office full time.
Now designers are defining the shape of the ideal hybrid workplace, and the “neighborhood” format seems to answer all the design criteria. Work activities are clustered into “zones” based on the need for privacy or collaboration, quiet head-down tasks, or work involving conference calls or in-person conversations.
Elizabeth Lowrey of Elkus Manfredi Architects describes the hybrid office neighborhoods as incorporating support tools for remote workers (video conference equipment and imaged documents), and flexibility to manage future workplace change. She emphasizes the need to make the hybrid office a magnet. If the office is a choice, not a mandate, it has to be an attractive one.
Neighborhoods also have to be defined physically. As Robert Frost said, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Guiding foot traffic through the office is especially important for maintaining social distance and for preserving quiet in heads-down neighborhoods.
One option for office boundaries and traffic is a locker structure. Modern lockers have customizable finishes to complement office furnishings, adding to the attractiveness of the workplace. Many include keyless touchless locks to reduce contagious touch surfaces.
And lockers provide essential storage for hybrid workplaces. Employees who aren’t in the office full time tend to bring a lot of stuff with them when they come into the office. Without an assigned workstation or office, all that stuff has to be stored somewhere.
The new hybrid workplace can be defined as a place where people feel welcomed, where they have supportive tech and a sense of social belonging, where their best work can be done. That sounds like a neighborhood we’d all like to live in.
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Integrating new digital technology in the workplace inevitably creates a change in corporate culture. You may be digitizing documents to build a searchable, secure e-document database. You might be adding an RFID system to link your ERP system to your MES (manufacturing execution system). But workplace change is not always welcome. How can you build a “digital-positive” culture where the tangible benefits override the resistance to change?
If you’re spearheading a digital integration, these tips can make the transition easier:
- Plan, plan, plan. It would be great to have a crystal ball to tell us what our future needs will be. The next best thing is a cutting-edge industry expert to guide your digital expansion. Work with a vendor-consultant to develop a plan suited to your organization’s specific operations.
- Promote the digital changeover to staff. A lack of buy-in can sabotage your plans. Sell the digital improvements internally, and get everyone excited about the benefits. Keep communicating throughout the integration, and report the results. Upper management may respond to financial benefits, staffers may be interested in making the work easier, but everyone loves productivity improvements.
- Provide training and reinforcement. Some people instinctually understand digital technology. Others don’t. An effective training program tells employees that they are valued, and saves the cost of replacing staffers who might otherwise struggle with digital tech. Further, it ensures that the technology will be used properly and will deliver its promised benefits.
- Establish boundaries for the “always-on” digital environment. The internet never sleeps. It’s easy to start expecting instant responses no matter the time of day. But workers require an “off” switch; insufficient down time results in reduced productivity and burnout. Create a “digital etiquette” policy to set boundaries on staff accessibility.
Digital technology is ubiquitous, and new digital applications spring up like mushrooms every day. No matter how much digital technology your business already utilizes, you will continue to expand your tech systems regularly. Consulting firm Deloitte recommends taking a proactive approach to each new integration of technology, re-interpreting your corporate culture for the new application. When you keep your corporate culture digital-positive, your business will stay productive, retain employees, and increase the customer base.
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Here’s yet another important reason for converting your paper documents to digital imaged documents: the global pandemic. Whether you have switched to a hybrid office, or your business is classified as essential, your staff is touching paper documents every day. Those documents can be a transmission point, not just for the coronavirus, but for a host of other infectious agents as well.
The National Institutes of Health, UCLA, and Princeton University tested the longevity of covid-19 on various surfaces. They found that, in general, the smoother the surface, the longer the virus could live. Cardboard, rough and uncoated, was less likely to transmit the virus. Other forms of paper – smooth, coated printer paper of the type used in many business operations – provide a somewhat friendlier surface for the virus. The science is far from conclusive, and research is ongoing, but any reduction in risk is beneficial to everyone.
Paper is a high-touch element in any business. A few examples:
- Order forms– touched by the sales rep, the customer, the sales manager, the order filler, the file clerk
- Patient forms– touched by the desk personnel, the patient, the nurse, the physician, the lab, the accounting clerk, the file clerk
- Sales brochures– touched by the marketing coordinator, the sales rep, the customer, and (in the case of displayed brochures) the general public
It’s easy to see how viruses and bacteria can get passed around on paper, despite having all the recommended contagion measures in place. But when a document is imaged, it’s removed from the touch chain, and from the chain of potential contagion.
And in addition to breaking the contagion chain, you get all the other benefits of imaging, too. Imaged documents are readily accessible via electronic devices, speeding the flow of information. They are secure from loss, accidental damage, and unauthorized access. And they take up a fraction of the space of paper documents, reducing your storage footprint and your real estate costs.
We have advocated touchless technology for quite a while, not just for health reasons but for cost efficiency and for connectedness to the IoT. Imaging your paper documents is part of the wave of touchless tech that does more than just improve your business operations. It’s a risk management tool, keeping your staff and your community safer during and after the pandemic.
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