This is the second in a series exploring Dr. Kristen Lee’s (Northwestern University) nine lessons in personal and collective fortitude. Seen through the lens of a business operation, each lesson has application in the current health and economic challenges, and for successful endeavors in the future.
For years, fitness experts have been telling us that stressing our muscles makes them stronger. When we hit a fitness plateau, we’re told to challenge ourselves. Run a little farther, lift a little more weight, change our routine. That change is inevitably painful, but our bodies adapt. And after the discomfort, they are improved – faster, stronger, more resilient.
The same principle applies to the “fitness” of a business. A successful enterprise often falls into routine habits of doing business, just like a fitness plateau. Innovation and creativity are set aside in favor of “business as usual.”
Today’s economic challenges can seem like a too-heavy lift, unless we think of them as an opportunity for improvement. We have a chance to break out of the routine, dust off our creativity, and invent new strategies for business success. Consider some of the new ways you might do business:
- Make telecommuting a permanent part of your operations. Support teleworkers with electronics and remotely-accessed imaged documents. You’ll reduce the number of workers in the office and keep that ideal 6-foot separation.
- Re-shape your facility’s interior to accommodate social distancing.Condense your documents and supplies into a high-density storage system that reduces storage space and provides more area for personal space.
- Establish additional services or products to bolt on to your current ones. For example, add delivery to manufacturing, as many restaurants have. Or add installation to design, as some interior-fixtures companies are planning.
This period in our history may feel like an enforced “time-out.” But like switching up our fitness routines, today we have an opportunity to apply our innovative instincts, do something different, make a change, and grow stronger. Break out your business imagination!
Photo ©matteozin / AdobeStock
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.
Photo ©James Steidl / AdobeStock
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.
Photo ©Puwasit Inyavileart / AdobeStock
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Photo © Elnur / AdobeStock
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
Photo © Elnur / AdobeStock
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.
Photo © MStock / AdobeStock