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 a horrific loss to cultural heritage whenever an iconic structure and its precious contents go up in smoke, like the recent Notre Dame fire in Paris. Notre Dame isn’t just an old historic building, a symbol of the City of Light. It held a collection of some of Europe’s most important Gothic and Renaissance art works, and unlike replaceable (albeit not original) architectural features, a number of those art works are now gone forever.
The lesson reaches far beyond libraries, museums, and other cultural repositories, however. Disasters, whether fire- or weather-related, almost never allow time for the protection of essential items, whether they’re works of art or vital business documents. Notre Dame reminds us that, no matter what sort of organization you’re operating, disaster planning makes survival and recovery possible.
A key element of disaster planning for any enterprise is deciding in advance what documents and other media must be protected, and how best to protect them. Fireproof files are one way to preserve paper documents, tape, and film. These insulated cabinets protect contents from temperatures up to 1700 degrees, for up to 3 hours. If the floor burns away, fireproof files can withstand a drop of up to 30 feet without damage to the contents, and during clean-up, their locking mechanisms prevent unauthorized access.
Document conversion (digitizing) or imaging is another way to guard against the loss of important media. For paper documents in particular, conversion offers multiple benefits. These processes create digital versions of your original paper documents, suitable for cloud storage, physical drives, or both. Regulated industries are especially concerned about the loss of paper documents, putting organizations in a non-compliant situation with no way to recover missing records. With important documents safely stored on remote servers, compliance is ensured even when offices are destroyed.
Fires strike more than 3,000 U.S. offices per year, with fire and sprinkler damage amounting to $112 million annually. FEMA estimates that 40% of businesses never re-open after a disaster. With so much at stake, it’s just good business sense to plan for a worst-case scenario, then put safe, secure storage between you and disaster.
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When a newspaper erroneously reported his demise, Mark Twain famously said, “The report of my death is an exaggeration.” Paper documents could say the same. Paper is a remarkably persistent medium in this modern digital age, and it seems our brains are to blame.
Using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging), researchers at the U.K.’s Bangor University compared people’s responses to paper documents and digital documents. They found that tangible materials (i.e., paper) created a deeper emotional response in subjects’ brains, and the emotional response in turn made the information more memorable and created more positive associations. While subjects were able to understand and absorb text presented in a digital medium, they retained the information from paper documents better, and they made deeper connections to the information.
When the Paper and Packaging Board conducted a survey on paper usage among students, they found that 61% of middle school and high school students studied with flash cards, and 70% prepared for tests using handwritten notes. College students too used paper in their studies; 81% stated they always or often used paper tools to prep for exams.
Perhaps, after so many centuries of reading and writing on paper, our brains have become well-adapted to the medium. It may just take the human brain a few more generations to fully adapt to the digital world.
This is not to say that today’s digitally-delivered information is less valuable than paper-based information. Digital information has the great advantage of reach – it can be instantly available everywhere in the world. It also can convert information into formats that can communicate with people who have special needs. A Sec. 508-compliant “smart” document can be delivered as spoken text or as enhanced images for the visually impaired, for example. And lower paper consumption boosts a business’s green rating.
Digitally-converted documents have other advantages as well: They are a secure backup for paper documents (vulnerable to fire, insects, theft, and a host of other threats). Record retention can be monitored and managed automatically. And digital documents, unlike paper, take up almost no room. Paper is bulky; 250 filing cabinets take up 2,500 square feet of space. That space has a direct effect on overhead. When you factor in the near-instantaneous retrieval time of digital documents compared to the time needed to locate a paper document, the cost of paper really starts to add up.
Nevertheless, paper does seem to aid in the retention of information, and businesses and educational institutions are understandably reluctant to eliminate it all together. Each enterprise, and each department within it, must find a balance between paper and digital documents. Marketing departments may rely more heavily on paper, with its emotional appeal and message retention, while accounting departments may be nearly 100% digital. A top-to-bottom assessment of information workflow and archiving will help determine what part of your business will benefit from digital conversion, and what part will do well to keep using the old familiar medium of paper – stored in a space-saving high density shelving system, of course.
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Document conversion is unquestionably advantageous. Businesses save space, create easily-accessible archives, and build searchable databases of “intelligent documents” that make labor-intensive research a thing of the past. And as with any major workflow change, good planning is the key to a successful outcome. With document conversion, good planning means documenting your documents – creating a master document that analyzes the types of documents to be converted, the ways the converted documents will be used in the future, and the kinds of content that will be used in the database.
Your conversion planning documentation should include:
- Document Analysis – Decide on document categories – correspondence, manuals, accounting records, etc. – and define the parameters for each category.
- Document Usage – Envision how the e-documents will be used in your organization’s typical workflow. Will they need to be printed out? Emailed? Updated with new information? Linked to other documents?
- Document Intelligence – Decide what kinds of data will need to be extracted from the content of the converted documents, and set up categories of data that fit your type of organization. Will you need to search for past tax return items? A series of client letters? HR hiring history? These decisions will make your database truly usable and add efficiency to your post-conversion workflow.
A document conversion plan is complex, requiring input from leaders throughout the organization. Each department or division should be polled about its document needs and usage. And in the words of Gen. George Patton, “Document everything.” Your planning document should memorialize every decision you and your colleagues make, in order to inform future decision-makers who will be tasked with updating the database as technology changes.
Every business organization is different, and every document conversion plan requires a unique set of conversion tools from the array of conversion solutions. Document conversion is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Partnering with a document conversion expert will guide you through planning and conversion to a customized and successful document management system.
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We’ve all heard the old saying, “Failure to plan means planning to fail.” This is doubly true in medical office management, where exam and diagnostic equipment, accessibility, patient records filing systems, and IT systems add extra complexity to the spatial requirements. Careful planning is the key to a successful move or expansion, as cited by Eric Kahn in Medical Economics.
Kahn lists questions that practice managers should address:
- What’s more important to your practice – price or image?
- What are your patients’ accessibility needs?
- How important is parking?
- How important is public transportation?
- Does location outweigh other considerations?
An important sixth question to ask: Will your current office furnishings and filing system adapt to a new space?
If your current practice space was built out with modular cabinetry, there’s a good chance the cabinetry and workbenches can make the move. High density filing systems, too, can often be re-installed in a new space. But just as patients should consult with healthcare experts, medical practice managers should consult with real estate, space planning, and furnishings professionals. Good planning will ensure success and save money.
Read Kahn’s full article at http://bit.ly/1912VkF
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