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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It’s never easy being an HR recruiter. Whether the job market is tight or wide open, the competition for top talent is ever-present. One of the proven strategies for attracting the very best recruits is a visible, well-integrated corporate value system.
Prospective employees want to see their own values reflected in the workplace, especially when it comes to corporate social responsibility. From millennials to Gen Z, recruits view sustainability as an expression of corporate social responsibility. They’re not going to be satisfied with a token paper-and-plastic recycling bin. They want to see sustainability infused throughout the company’s operations.
Your business storage systems may not be the first things that spring to mind when you’re looking for ways to increase sustainability. Nevertheless, there are storage solutions that give your enterprise a definite sustainability advantage. These include:
- Electronic records – When you reduce the quantity of paper business records stored in file cabinets, you reduce your storage footprint. Less storage space means less overall space and lower utility consumption. Further, converted documents become digitally accessible to everyone who needs to work with them, eliminating multiple redundant copies and thereby reducing paper consumption.
- Modular casework – Unlike traditional casework, the “building block” modules of high-quality casework can be reconfigured as operational needs change.Yesterday’s credenza is today’s wall cabinet. It’s recycling at its finest.
- High density shelving – These space-saving cabinets slide along floor-mounted tracks, eliminating aisles between shelving units and reducing your storage footprint by as much as 50%. In tandem with an electronic records conversion program, your paper document storage will take up far less space than previously, and you’ll reduce your overall space utilization.
There’s a bonus to these sustainability-friendly storage solutions: lower operating costs, including real estate costs, office supplies and utility expenses, and build-out costs.
When you choose storage systems like these, you’re telling recruits that your business takes sustainability seriously. Your corporate values increase employee loyalty and retention, which in turn improve productivity and profits. Further, customers prefer to do business with socially-responsible companies.
When you can both do good and do well, it’s a win for everyone, including your HR department. Sustainability is a really good look for your brand, and your storage systems are part of the picture.
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You may already know how RFID* works, and how it benefits businesses through accurate, time-saving asset tracking. One surprising application is within the well-know bourbon distillery Wild Turkey, which adopted RFID to track its warehoused barrels of fine spirits. As reported in RFID Journal, the company formerly stamped each barrel with information about the barrel’s contents and the date the barrel entered the warehouse for aging. Keeping track of the whereabouts of each barrel was not just good business practice, it was mandated by government regulations. But maintaining a complete, accurate inventory required Wild Turkey’s warehouse crew to “eyeball” the information stamped on each of their 650,000 barrels – a time-consuming, labor-intensive and error-prone task.
Now, their RFID system starts tracking a new barrel at the time it’s manufactured, adding information to the barrel’s record when newly distilled bourbon is added to the barrel and when a warehouse location is assigned to start the aging process. Handheld RFID readers display the location and contents of every barrel in a warehouse, without the need for a warehouse staffer’s visual confirmation.
Regulatory compliance is now a simple matter of printing a report from the RFID software. Just as important, when a barrel has aged sufficiently and is ready for market, finding its location among its 650,000 neighbors is a snap. The fully-aged barrel is moved out of the warehouse, making room for a new barrel.
Even if you’re not operating a distillery, tracking the age of an asset is something that any business needs to do, particularly when the assets are documents. Like almost every enterprise, you probably have multiple file cabinets filled with documents. Many of those documents are long past their useful life, whether they were needed for operations or to fulfill regulatory requirements.
Add RFID tags to file folders, or even individual documents, and in the future any outdated documents can be identified easily, located quickly, and disposed of properly, whether disposal means scanning into a digital archive, or shredding securely. As you go forward, your files will contain only what’s required for current operations and record-keeping. And in the process, you’ll gain quite a bit of space formerly assigned to those old unnecessary documents – space that can be converted to more productive uses.
RFID pays you back in many ways: faster inventories, accurate asset records, and less storage space. An experienced RFID provider can show you how the benefits add up, and discuss a custom solution.
*(What is RFID? Find out here.)
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You’re well aware of the benefits of document conversion: secure document management, speedy document retrieval, reduced liability, improved sustainability, and smaller office storage area. So why haven’t you done it? For most of us, the problem is time. It takes time to get up to speed on the high-volume scanners, the information management software, the document disposal decisions. And once you know what to do, it takes even more time to execute the conversion.
In most organizations, time is the scarcest resource of all. Nevertheless, there are ways to spend just a little time and still get the job done. A few tips:
- Attend a Digital Asset Management (DAM) conference and get an overview of what document conversion entails. The Digital Asset Symposium and DAM New York are just a couple of examples of the numerous conferences devoted to DAM, with experts in a variety of industry sectors. Knowledge is a great anxiety-reducer, and once you’ve educated yourself about DAM, terms like “metadata” and “taxonomy” will no longer be intimidating.
- Seek out a consultant or service provider with a depth of experience in document conversion. Look for someone who understands the information needs of your type of business and who will design a customized conversion plan.
- Examine your calendar for opportune times to execute the conversion, in order to minimize any downtime in normal operations. A 3-day weekend? An office move, when you’d be shut down anyway? A normally-occurring slow time in your industry? Those can be great times to make the change to digital, with minimal disruption.
- Don’t do the work yourself. Bring in a service provider whose crew can move the paper documents through the conversion process quickly and expertly. Your costs to train your own team adequately, and pull them off their usual tasks to execute the conversion, will far exceed the cost of an outside service provider.
Remember that a successful document conversion project has two parts: A well-designed plan, and a well-crafted execution of that plan. Look for a service provider who can offer both, and your conversion project will be seamless.
It’s a well-worn axiom: Time is money. The more time you spend putting off your document conversion, the more money is lost through reduced productivity. Devote a small amount of time now to learning about the process, and you’ll be that much closer to the cost-saving benefits of document conversion.
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