Many of our solutions are Made in America and readily available on GSA Contract.
Imaging in Review: Managing Space by Managing Documents

Imaging in Review: Managing Space by Managing Documents

Here at NOS we are big proponents of managing space by managing documents.

We’ve been talking about the benefits of document imaging for quite some time. Here’s a recap of our top stories from this year.

  • Are Your Documents Future-Proof?  Digital conversion of paper documents offers valuable cost-saving benefits, but it takes the right imaging tech to truly future-proof your documents.

When you digitize your documents, you will:

  • Improve information security
  • Enhance accessibility
  • Simplify compliance
  • Increase sustainability
  • Save space

There’s really no downside. Talk to a document imaging expert and begin benefiting from better document management.

 

Photo © wladimir1804 / AdobeStock

Law Firms: Are You Hoarders?

Law Firms: Are You Hoarders?

No one wants their place of business to look like an episode of the television show “Hoarders.” However, the practice of law can reinforce tendencies to hold on to any and all documents. “You never know; we might need them some day.” By its very nature, the law looks to past events in order to determine relationships in the present and the future. Precedent is everything. And precedent relies on records, many of them on paper.

Lately, law firms have been accelerating their transformation from paper-based to digital practices – electronic files, digital workflows, and online applications. They are working hard to reduce the amount of paper in their offices. But mass quantities of physical documents are still stored offsite.

And those archived paper records create unnecessary costs, in terms of time and storage space.

  • How much time is required to search for documents in off-site storage?
  • How much time is required to visually review and research the information in those documents?
  • What percentage of overhead is spent on off-site storage?

When those stored documents are digitized, they become instantly searchable – no more digging through boxes and poring over multiple pages. And instead of taking up many bulky boxes, five million digitized pages fit on one small external hard drive.

This is not to say that every document should be imaged. Properly managed, the document conversion process includes a thorough document assessment.  Certain documents should be retained as paper. Some should be scanned, then shredded. Still others don’t have enough value to warrant the cost of digitizing.

An assessment of stored documents lets records managers determine which documents should be digitized and which should be destroyed. Even digitized documents may be destroyed once their digital versions have been confirmed and backed up. The goal is to store paper versions of only those few documents that must be kept in their original medium.

It’s tempting to just hang on to every piece of paper that comes through the office, but a law practice full of hoarders is a really inefficient operation. Law firms that price themselves on efficiency will find additional efficiencies if they digitize many of their stored documents.

Photo © stokkete / AdobeStock

Are Your Documents Future-Proof?

Are Your Documents Future-Proof?

“Prediction is difficult – particularly when it involves the future.” Attributed to Mark Twain, this statement perfectly captures the dilemma faced by business organizations every day. Business documents need to preserved, some for a short time, some for a longer term, some forever. And when those documents are paper, the choice of preservation format demands special attention.

Paper is an ancient technology, and writing is a universal format. The format is still readable  after hundreds, even thousands of years, and it will be so into the future. For some documents, paper is the obvious choice for long-term information preservation: deeds, contracts, and health records, for example.

But paper records have certain disadvantages:

  1. Susceptible to loss, deterioration, or destruction – fire, insects, humidity, filing errors, and pilfering make paper inherently risky. Guarding against these risks is expensive.
  2. Bulky – the average business today spends 3% of its revenue on paper costs, according to research company Gartner. Document storage is a significant part of those costs.
  3. Labor intensive – filing paper documents, searching for filed documents, and disposing of outdated documents requires many person-hours of labor. And labor costs are only going up.

At NOS, we have been recommending document imaging to our clients for some years. Imaging makes a digital version of a paper document. The digital version has all of the advantages of any digital file: searchable, shareable, secure, space-saving, sustainable. Even if you retain your paper documents after imaging, you’re avoiding many of the disadvantages of paper-only records.

But imaging – a far newer technology than paper – can have pitfalls for the unwary. One thing that is certain about the digital future: It’s guaranteed to change. How many people still play CDs in their cars? Still have a laser disk player? Still use floppy disks? Have even seen a floppy disk?

Rapid obsolescence of digital technology can be a disaster for businesses. When an organization images its documents to a format that isn’t future-proof, it has set itself up for the loss of vital information. An obsolete digital format is just like a fire destroying paper documents; the information is gone.

To guard against the consequences of digital obsolescence:

  • Talk to peers who have gone through a digital conversion process.
  • Consult with a vendor who has an extensive track record in the field; they will steer you toward a future-proof imaging format.
  • Practice good digital hygiene by updating software and converting files to newer format standards in a timely manner.

Another quote from Mark Twain: “Plan for the future because that’s where you’re going to spend the rest of your life.” And that goes for your business documents too.

Photo © wewi-creative / AdobeStock

Decision Math: Calculating the Cost of In-House Document Imaging

Decision Math: Calculating the Cost of In-House Document Imaging

Decision math is something business managers use every day. There’s nothing like cold, hard, inarguable math to help decision-makers who are faced with multiple solutions. Decision math lets you analyze and compare the costs associated with each solution, and choose accordingly. Straightforward, right? But it can be trickier than it seems, especially when comparing in-house processes versus outsourcing. When it comes to highly complex processes like document imaging, the equation factors are far-ranging.

First, take a look at your resources:

  • Office space – Do you have sufficient room for the imaging equipment, the personnel, and the workflow? Or will you need to spend money on extra space?
  • Materials – Do you already have scanners, servers, and software license subscriptions, or will you have to procure those?
  • Labor – Do you have trained personnel you can deploy for a major imaging project, or will you need to hire and train additional staff? If it’s the latter, what is the current labor market?
  • Time – Do you have an unlimited time horizon for your imaging project, or is there a need to complete it sooner rather than later?

If there are resources lacking in any area, calculate the costs of eliminating the deficiencies. Add those costs up.

Then consider your utilization. Is this a quarterly archiving project? A project to convert a warehouse of old documents? A high-volume every-work-day process? And what is the likelihood of relatively quick equipment and software obsolescence?

Continuous full-time utilization is, of course, the most cost-efficient. Idle resources cost money. Most imaging projects, however, are infrequent.

And finally, your mission. Unless you’re in the document business, your business mission is something other than piles of paper. Distractions slow down achievement. What does it cost your business to lose focus, even temporarily?

So… is it a good decision to pay for everything above — additional space, increased head count, expensive equipment and software licenses, and loss of focus – for an infrequent project?

That’s a rhetorical question, of course. Every enterprise is different, and each one has its own unique volume of documents for imaging. But for the great majority of businesses, outsourcing your document imaging is always the right answer.

 

Photo © luckybusiness / AdobeStock

The Technology that Turned Some Offices into a Pre-Pandemic Museum

The Technology that Turned Some Offices into a Pre-Pandemic Museum

As some non-essential workers begin to return to the workplace after a year of working from home, they are discovering a museum-like scene: offices frozen in time. As reported in this Washington Post story, some offices look a bit like Pompeii after the Vesuvius eruption. Dusty post-it notes and coffee cups sit on desks where they were left a year ago. Break-room refrigerators hold months-old food. Calendars still show March 2020 appointments.

And yet, through the weeks and then the months that piled up into a year or more of office absence, we somehow continued with the work we were doing when we were all sent home. How is it possible that businesses kept functioning productively, remotely, while their offices became dioramas of The Early-2020 Workplace?

Information technology is the answer, of course. When a business has converted from paper-based operations to digital format, work from home (WFH) isn’t just possible, it’s practical. A remotely-accessible database of imaged documents keeps the wheels of business moving.

Employees have discovered the benefits of WFH and they’re unwilling to give them up. The scheduling flexibility of WFH has improved staffers’ work-life balance even as their productivity has increased. Nevertheless, in-person collaboration and culture are sorely missed, and valuable professional relationships are suffering. The hybrid office is predicted to become the dominant workstyle as we move toward a post-pandemic world.

McKinsey researcher Dr. Susan Lund, quoted in Fast Company, states that the return to work will emphasize the kind of social interaction that supports collaborative work. Face-to-face team projects will happen in business offices. Individual tasks or extended heads-down work will be done at home.

With 68% of CEOs planning to downsize office space, design and FM professionals have an opportunity to reshape offices into updated team-supportive offices. IT, too, is part of the design picture; with IT imaging a business’s paper documents to a digital data source, less filing space is needed, making room for more teamwork in less total area.

Tomorrow’s hybrid-office-space design will emphasize togetherness, encouraging what the Harvard Business Review terms “unstructured collaboration:” those water-cooler moments that lead to fruitful connections and breakthroughs. The new offices will probably look rather different than the work spaces we walked away from a year ago. Will anyone preserve a piece of the museum-quality time capsule of the old offices? If you are returning to work in old Pompeii, we’d like to hear from you.

 

Photo © stokkete / AdobeStock

Lost Productivity: Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts

Lost Productivity: Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts

Paper is still the gold standard for many types of documents. Major personal events – marriages, wills, deeds, birth certificates – are still memorialized on paper. Such documents are typically filed away, and rarely accessed again. They’re a passive form of media.

But in business, paper documents operate differently. Paper is a highly active medium in any paper-reliant organization, going in and out of file cabinets, across desks, through many hands.

The more times a document is touched, the greater the loss of productivity.

Paper-based processes kill productivity in three ways:

  1. Movement– Inputting information by hand (a form, for example), and walking a document from one place to another (an approval process , for example), all happen at human speed. And if the recipient isn’t present to immediately handle the document, or the document travels via the USPS or another carrier, the process becomes even slower.
  2. Loss– DeLoitte & Touche have calculated that the average U.S. manager spends 3 hours per week looking for lost documents. That’s roughly 150 hours per year, per person, in lost productivity.
  3. Security – It is estimated that 70% of businesses would fail within 3 weeks in the event of a catastrophic loss of paper records due to fire or flood.

The explosive growth in work-from-home (WFH) adds a fourth productivity challenge. WFH staffers need access to papers locked away in the office. When staffers travel to the office, the commute time translates to lost productivity. And when documents are taken out of the office, there’s an increased security risk. 61% of data breaches in small businesses involve paper. Productivity plummets while damage is assessed and repaired.

The solution to paper’s productivity-killing tendencies is digital:

  1. Imaging (document conversion) of paper documents creates secure, accessible, searchable digital documents. Instead of moving at human speed from one desk to another, imaged documents move at near-instantaneous internet speeds. Imaged documents never get lost under a bookshelf or left in the copier. Usage authorization is managed and monitored for improved security, giving remote workers the access they need to be productive.
  2. Enterprise content management (ECM) software helps businesses move many of their paper-based processes to a digital format. Documents originate digitally, and remain in that medium throughout all operational processes. Errors are reduced, and, like imaged documents, these digital-origin documents move quickly and safely through the pipeline.

Even when businesses convert to ECM, however, paper is still generated. Signatures may be added, hand-written revisions can be made, notes may be added. An imaging program works alongside an ECM system to preserve a record of those document outputs, in digital format. Can your business gain efficiency and productivity by going digital? If you have paper-based processes, the answer is Yes.

Photo © Elnur / AdobeStock