Many of us are working from home these days (kudos to the heroic first responders, healthcare workers, and essential-business employees keeping us safe, secure, and supplied!). It has been a disruptive transition for the many enterprises unprepared for telework. Even businesses that already had telecommuting policies and procedures in place have found their remote-work systems stretched beyond capacity. If you’re new to telework, your staff may be scrambling to stay productive while setting up alternatives to face-to-face collaboration – building the ship while you’re sailing it.
Despite all the disruption and anxiety, there’s a silver lining. On the upside: Businesses with established telecommuting routines are learning where the weak points in their systems are. Now they have an opportunity to fix the shortcomings of outdated VPNs and low-capacity internal apps.
A second positive consequence: Businesses that were previously reluctant to adopt telecommuting are now discovering that their organizations may actually benefit from remote work. One study in the Harvard Business Review found that telecommuting employees start work earlier, take fewer breaks (no “cake in the break room”), and work more diligently, as much as an extra day per week.
To make telecommuting work, however, the right infrastructure needs to be in place. As some organizations have discovered, there are plenty of productivity tools they can quickly adopt to support telework. Zoom, for video conferencing, and Slack, for remote collaboration, are two of the most popular.
But what about all the paper documents in file cabinets back at the office, the ones that need to be accessed routinely by teams? Companies in the finance, insurance, legal, and government sectors are especially paper-reliant. Telework is a challenge when the nature of the work requires paper documents.
That’s where document imaging fits in to the productivity picture. Digital versions of paper documents, stored on secure internal servers or cloud servers, can be accessed and shared among remote workers. In combination with other collaboration tools, imaging gives teleworkers the infrastructure to be even more productive than they were in the office.
Telework is upon us, like it or not. With the right tools and systems we can make it work to the benefit of our individual businesses, and the economy as a whole. And when the current crisis ends, telework will have proven itself to be the work style of the future.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Organizational apps have proliferated right along with apps of every other kind. If your business has started converting paper documents to digital documents, you can use a digital asset management (DAM) collaboration app to give your remote teams anywhere-anytime access to the documents they need. But if you still rely on paper documents alone, your remote workers are going to struggle to stay productive.
Remote work has grown over 91% in the past 10 years. Some companies have even gone entirely virtual. The staff of business-finance services company Guidant Financial, for example, works wherever they have a good internet connection. Guidant assists small-business owners with financing options, including retirement account franchise purchases, ROBS, and SBA loans. Business financing generates large volumes of loan and compliance documents for the SBA, the SEC, and the IRS.
Guidant uses a custom portal and app to electronically manage documents, including those which originate on paper.With all their clients’ documents accessible to Guidant’s finance teams, in servers that act as secure virtual “file cabinets,” Guidant’s staff can collaborate to complete and file all the documents their clients need for compliance or loan applications.
Employee satisfaction and retention are big benefits of Guidant’s virtual operations. An even bigger benefit is the company’s ultra-low real estate budget.With few documents to store, and most staffers working remotely, Guidant’s office space is far smaller than the average financial-services company.
Companies like Guidant commission custom software, but for many businesses, an off-the-shelf app provides all the digital asset management functionality their organizations need. Tadesite.com reviews 10 of the top rated off-the-shelf DAM apps with cataloging and search capabilities; some even have a search-within-document feature that is especially useful for collaborative teams.
But to get the best from your remote teams, you have to provide them with digital documents. And that requires converting your paper documents to digital format via a comprehensive imaging program. Imaging is a good bit more complex than simply scanning to a PDF. Properly executed, imaging creates “smart documents” that a DAM app can store, organize, and deliver to your remote workers with electronic speed. Paper documents are easily damaged, lost, or destroyed, but imaging adds a layer of security that controls accessibility and monitors usage.
Talk to an imaging expert and get your business ready for the latest productivity apps.
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The benefits of digital asset management (DAM), including RFID, are a hot topic these days. RFID applications are available for any sort of business. But owners and managers of organizations in the service sectors, from finance and law to healthcare and education, may think RFID is just an inventory tool for the retail and logistics sectors.
If you think your enterprise couldn’t benefit from RFID, think again.
- Asset Tracking – Ever notice how there are never enough chairs in the conference room? Furniture, laptops, and other work tools have a way of wandering from their assigned locations. RFID tags keep tabs on the location of these peripatetic items, as well as providing information on their age and condition. Office and facility managers can easily identify aging furnishings that need repairs or replacement, and pinpoint the location of every physical asset. Plus when inventory time comes, the RFID system can deliver a document listing the assigned value of each item currently in the facility, making financial reporting quicker and simpler. What is does it cost your business to update capital inventory records by hand?
- Personnel Tracking – In busy public settings like hospitals or schools, knowing the location of key personnel can save time, or even save a life. RFID-enabled personnel badges keep track of people’s movements and current whereabouts so no time is wasted when someone is urgently needed. RFID personnel badges work with an institution’s security system to manage access to restricted areas and maintain safety. And in emergency situations, an RFID system can tell first responders who is inside and where they are. What is the dollar value of RFID-managed security and safety?
- Document Tracking – We always advocate converting paper documents to digital documents via a well-planned imaging program; imaged documents are secure, shareable with teams, and save the real estate costs of large file rooms. But in many offices there are documents that need to be retained as paper even if they have been imaged. Paper files are easy to lose or misplace (one of the advantages of imaging), but with the addition of small, inconspicuous RFID tags, the location of a file can be tracked throughout an office. Doorway RFID readers monitor the movement of files from one room to another, and files can be located with a quick look at the tracking record. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates an average of 25 extra hours to recreate a lost document; how much would that cost your business?
Keep in mind that RFID, unlike bar codes, doesn’t require direct sight lines to record and track business assets carrying RFID tags. Once items or personnel are assigned their unique RFID tag, doorway readers track their movements automatically as they pass from one room to another. And inventory updates can be as simple as walking into a room and pressing a button on an RFID reader. You’ll instantly collect data on all the capital assets the room contains; no need to look through cabinets and underneath furniture to read bar code IDs. RFID is a timesaver, and like its other benefits, that translates into money.
RFID systems come in many shapes and sizes, and can be scaled up or down to suit your organization’s needs. When you start adding up the costs of lost documents, lost equipment, and lost time, it’s clear that you shouldn’t miss out on the benefits of RFID.
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