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Shred It – Is a document outdated?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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Those bold, shameless porch pirates are out in force, appropriating delivered goods and selling them for whatever they can get. But there could be a different kind of “porch pirate” targeting your business – data thieves who trade in the business of stolen information.
Whether it’s package theft or data theft, it affects your bottom line. In cases of HIPAA violations, identity theft, or other unauthorized information releases, you can face costly fines and lawsuits. And your profits take a hit when you have to replace shipments that the customer never received.
When clients don’t trust your security, they take their business elsewhere. Fortunately, there are some smart storage technologies that boost security and reduce your liability.
- Imaging – Paper is often called an “ephemeral medium.” It’s easy to lose, easy to damage or destroy, and easy to steal. Document imaging shields your business from the liability of missing documents and information theft. The electronic versions of your documents are accessible only to authorized users. With the originals shredded or in secure archives, your imaged documents are safe in their virtual file cabinet. Those who shouldn’t touch your documents will not be able to lay their hands on them, quite literally.
- Smart lockers – Amazon was one of the earliest adopters of smart-locker technology. A customer’s package is delivered to a numbered locker with an electronic lock automatically set to a one-time combination. The combination is emailed or texted to the customer, who can then retrieve the package at a convenient time. Smart lockers are now cropping up in apartment complexes, in college campuses, and in business settings, eliminating highly insecure door delivery. It’s a win for the package recipients and a win for the business or the property management.
- Secure high-density storage – High-density storage systems are known for their space-saving attributes, reducing storage footprints by as much as 50%. Sliding on floor-mounted rails, these systems eliminate all but one aisle between shelving units. Their electronic locks eliminate something else: unauthorized access to sensitive material such as patient health records, legal documents, or intellectual property. Locks can be programmed to track access based on security codes. Biometric locks add an even greater level of security.
People are wising up to the ways smart technology can defeat porch pirates around their homes. Talk to a storage consultant who can help you assemble the right security solutions to keep the porch pirates and data thieves out of your business.
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A deadline is looming for government agencies: By December 31, 2019, they must be able to manage all their records in an electronic format. In the private sector, too, businesses and professional practices have been changing over to electronic record keeping. When your organization’s leaders mandate a move to digital operations, what will that mean for your area of responsibility?
Last year, the director of records management and outreach of NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) issued a useful cost-benefit breakdown that the private sector, as well as the public sector, can utilize for planning a document conversion program. Now that this multi-year conversion effort is nearing its deadline, the same office has published criteria for the successful management of electronic records. And like the cost-benefit analysis, the NARA success guidelines can be applied to private-sector organizations as well.
Among the key benefits of imaging are security, searchability, retrievability, and audit trails. A successful document conversion program will produce these benefits. While the NARA success guidelines are intended for records that originate electronically, a number of the success criteria are applicable to enterprises making the transition from paper to digital documents via an imaging program, including:
- Well-designed access controls that let your organization perform its business functions without additional productivity roadblocks.
- Imaged documents that comply with NARA format and metadata requirements, as well as Sec. 508 regulations, for those enterprises doing business with the federal government.
- Policies that support digital document management, especially organization-wide communication, stakeholder involvement, and personnel training.
When the document conversion mandate comes from your private-sector business’s C-suite, there won’t be an agency like NARA to help guide your transition to electronic records management. But that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve the same document-conversion success that the federal agencies have. Reach out to a specialty vendor or consultant working in the imaging field to have them develop a custom conversion program designed for your specific needs.
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Coworking space is a hot topic in commercial real estate. Companies like WeWork and Regus continue to lease more and more office space for the temporary use of their subscribing members. Even the GSA is looking at coworking space as a way to meet some of its space needs. However, coworking spaces can create process challenges for distributed teams and their managers. Imaging is the solution.
Statistics compiled by real estate service company JLL show the proliferation of coworking space, particularly in the past two years. The benefits of coworking office space are well-documented: few or no build-out costs, no long-term lease, tax benefits, and simplified telework. From a facilities management standpoint, coworking office space is an ideal solution to the need for temporary space.
For the occupants, too, the quality of coworking space has improved considerably since the early days when complaints about privacy and noise were common. Many coworking space providers are now reconfiguring their spaces to offer privacy pods and noise abatement.
One problem most coworking spaces can’t solve is document storage and information accessibility. Coworking offices are in the business of offering working space, not paper-document storage space. Document-dependent organizations struggle with their work processes if their teams are distributed in several widespread co-working spaces, without access to the paper documents they need.
Fortunately, there’s a solution for that: Imaging. Converting paper documents to digital documents makes those documents shareable. Distributed teams can have full access to all the information they need. Further, the converted documents are even easier to use than paper documents, since the conversion process makes them searchable – a key word or phrase can be delivered with electronic speed.
Converted documents offer a level of security and safety that paper documents can’t match, especially in a coworking environment where outsiders might have unauthorized access to confidential papers. With a database of imaged documents, managers can ensure information integrity by setting access permissions and tracking document usage.
Judging from the results of JLL’s study, coworking is going to be a significant part of many organizations’ real estate choices. If your enterprise is considering adding coworking spaces to your real estate mix, now is the time to put an imaging plan into action and add speed, security, and information accessibility to the other benefits of coworking.
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Google, Bing, and all the other online search engines have raised the bar for information accessibility. We have come to expect, in mere seconds, the answers to queries that used to take many man-hours of research and compilation. Such easy access to data is a great time-saver for any business operation, and as we all know, time is money. But if your business operations rely on paper documents, you may feel there’s a lot of staff time spent hunting down data stored on paper, whether it’s a single document in a file folder, or a single sentence buried within that document. If you think it’s reducing your profitability to operate this way, you’re right.
Findability is the key to speeding up your document searches, and the best way to improve findability is to convert your paper documents to digital documents.
Imaging, also known as document conversion, is much more than creating a simple PDF. Digital e-documents are searchable and sortable. They are essentially “smart” documents, and because they are stored on a server, your data’s findability rate is as fast as a search engine. Instead of having to go look for data in a file cabinet, the data comes to you. It’s like having your own internal Google for your documents. And while Google’s documents are public, your imaged documents are accessible only to your authorized users.
Information is an asset. Likewise, your team’s time is an asset. When you improve document findability, you maximize the value of your informational assets. Your team is able to get vital information quickly, and everyone remains focused on your organization’s primary mission, with all the assets – information and time – working together to increase throughput. And as economists tell us, increased throughput will lead to increased profitability.
Findability could be your success tool to improving productivity and profitability. A document organization specialist will help point you to the right system for your enterprise.
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Congratulations to the honorees of Fast Company’s 2019 Innovation by Design Awards for retail environments. These companies are recognized for their forward-thinking designs that serve markets better and offer more productivity and profitability to their owners. From our perspective as space utilization and information management experts, two businesses in Fast Company’s 2019 class stand out for ingenious uses of commercial space and data technology:
The co-working company Spacious is built on an inventive model that takes freelancers out of their overcrowded daytime “Starbucks office” and places them in restaurants that are closed during the day, open only for dinner. These restaurants are climate-controlled, and the lights are on for the day prep crew, but the dining areas are completely empty until late afternoon; in essense, the restaurants are paying for underutilized space. Restaurants team up with Spacious to provide co-working space in the unused dining rooms, and the Spacious on-site team provides power points, wifi hookups, and user assistance. With memberships set at an affordable $95 per month, which Spacious splits with the restaurants, it’s a win for everyone.
This is the kind of maximized space utilization that NOS encourages with our document conversion services and high-density storage systems. Big thumbs-up to Spacious!
Walmart has been a pioneer in retail technology for many years. An early adopter of supply-chain RFID, Walmart recently installed a pilot program of retail AI in the form of an Intelligent Retail Lab (IRL) in one of its highest-demand locations. Sensors and cameras send information to a room-size data center, which in turn generates alerts to maintain the in-store inventory. Availability of products, freshness of produce, even the number of empty grocery carts in the parking lot, all is monitored by the IRL rather than by store associates. Staff are freed up to focus on face-to-face interactions with customers. Productivity goes up, and the cost of outdated inventory and lost sales goes down.
We strongly advocate the use of asset management technology. RFID and bar coding are proven information management systems with a positive impact on profits. Well done, Walmart!
Good design isn’t just an aesthetically-pleasing façade; it contributes to the success of a business, and enriches the community in which that business operates. Our highest compliments to these enterprises for their outstanding designs!
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