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.
Businesses pay high prices for marketing data. Mailing lists, for example, cost anywhere from $3 to more than $1000 per thousand. List provider Click2Mail starts their pricing for a consumer list at $33.66 CPM (cost per thousand). If you want a tightly targeted list, and you want to use it more than once, the price only goes up.
Yet many organizations have a ready-made source of marketing data in their client files – if they have imaged their documents.
A couple of examples:
1. Marketing data for external sales: A large law firm provided services in multiple specialties, including intellectual property (IP), family law, and estate law. The firm’s IP clients were becoming wealthy thanks to the efforts of their attorneys. Other clients had successfully adopted children through the work of their family law attorneys. Both groups of clients needed estate services to organize their wills and trusts for the benefit of their dependents.
But the estate lawyers didn’t know these clients needed their services. Busy attorneys don’t have time to extract marketing intel from client files.
Then the law firm imaged their client files, creating a searchable, sortable database. The firm’s marketing manager can now query the client database for existing clients that fit the profile for estate services. The firm can serve their clients better and generate additional revenues – a win for everyone.
2. Marketing data for internal sales: A major corporation established a business travel and commuting office for its employees. This office was tasked with assisting employees in making reservations, finding the best travel value for the dollar, and distributing reimbursement for certain commuting modes. Management’s expectation was that the travel office should deliver a quick ROI in order to justify its existence.
Prior to imaging the accounting department’s travel reimbursement forms, the travel office had to examine the individual paper forms to determine employees’ travel and commuting habits – an error-prone and time-consuming process. Now the travel office pulls internal marketing lists from the imaged reimbursement forms, with electronic speed. They can target specific groups of employees to alert them to travel savings that dovetail with customer locations, and they can keep commuters up to date on opportunities like new bus routes and carpools.
“Everyone sells” is the business principle that every employee encounters chances to sell their company’s products or services. It’s a low-cost way of bringing in more business. Your client data can sell too, if it’s not locked up on paper. A database of imaged documents will provide actionable marketing intel, without the high price of outsourced marketing data.
RFID began as an inventory management tool, but now it interfaces with every part of an organization. Today there’s an RFID application that will make your operations more efficient, more productive, and more profitable, no matter what your business is.
RFID’s digital records replaced pen-and-paper recordkeeping. As Jeff Schmitz writes in Forbes, RFID began by tracking the location and number of tangible items in a company’s inventory. Its speedy information delivery gave businesses a greater degree of agility in managing the flow of goods.
Then operations managers began to realize that RFID could transform from an inventory monitor to an enterprise-wide information system. An RFID-based “enterprise intelligence” system provides real-time or near-real-time updates on:
Levels of supplies
Work in progress
In addition to inventory reports, of course.
RFID is even integrated into automated manufacturing, connecting manufacturing execution systems (MES) to enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and the production floor.
But RFID doesn’t stop with manufacturing and warehousing. Service industries too are benefiting from the speed, accuracy, and efficiency of an RFID intelligence system. Just a few of the service sectors making use of RFID:
Transportation, Logistics and Postal Services– Have you received a notification of a package delivery or updates on a shipment? These service companies use an RFID-to-customer-order interface to keep recipients informed.
Law Firms and Libraries– RFID doorway readers monitor the movements of paper documents embedded or tagged with RFID. One-of-a-kind documents are no longer at risk of being lost or misplaced.
Healthcare– Medical equipment, medications, and staff can be located without delay,
IT– Equipment in system control rooms and server vaults is tracked to eliminate loss or theft. Company-owned electronic devices (tablets, laptops) assigned to staff are tracked throughout company facilities, and as they leave and return to the building.
The bottom line: Practically every type of business has a need for RFID in many parts of its operations. But as Schmitz points out, “There is no such thing as a standard implementation strategy for RFID, and there is no single ‘best’ RFID solution for all organizations — or even for a particular industry.” An experienced RFID integrator can develop a custom solution for your unique business, and you can begin accruing the benefits of expanded digitalization.
Speed is the name of the game when it comes to inventory and asset management, and RFID delivers the data faster than any other technology.
RFID is everywhere. Those plastic tags you’ve seen in retail stores; the small square metallic stickers on packaged goods; even your pet’s ID chip – those are all RFID tags. They store information about the item they’re attached to, and they deliver that information to an RFID reader’s screen.
Don’t bar codes manage information the same way? Not exactly. The key difference is in the way an RFID tag communicates with the reader. Bar code readers must “see” each bar code to collect the data. There has to be a clear sight line between the bar code and the reader. RFID readers, in contrast, don’t “see” the tag. They “hear” it, via radio waves sent by the tag. RF = radio frequency, ID = identification.
RFID readers can “hear” the signals from all the RFID tags in an area, all at the same time. Bar code readers, because they rely on “seeing,” can record only one bar code at a time. This video shows a bar code reader and an RFID reader in a head-to-head race.
Spoiler alert: The bar code reader is not going to be invited to the Kentucky Derby.
RFID technology has an application for every business sector.
Every business has a need for speed, because time is money. The less time it takes to collect information about assets, the more time you have to spend on your organization’s primary mission. RFID streamlines your workflow, improves inventory accountability, and monitors assets. Turbocharge your business with RFID.
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.
The IRS is acting like Oprah, and small businesses across the U.S. are benefiting. Thanks to Section 179, the IRS is handing out a $1,000,000 deduction to every small business that puts qualifying equipment and/or software into use before the end of the year. Rather than depreciating equipment over the course of several years, Section 179 allows businesses to deduct the full price of equipment in Year 1, up to $1,000,000. That’s an enormous tax benefit.
And it gets better: Even if you finance the equipment rather than paying for it up front, you still qualify for the deduction. Leases as well as purchases are included in this rule. You don’t have to hand over a pile of cash in order to reap the Sec. 179 benefit.
Almost any tangible business-related product qualifies for the deduction, including:
Tangible personal property used in the business, or equipment with a partial business use
Some improvements to existing business-only buildings, including security systems, HVAC, and roofing
There’s one small but essential thing to remember: The new equipment must be placed into service by December 31.
With only a few weeks left in the year, that deadline may seem like an insurmountable scheduling problem. Luckily, many business-equipment vendors offer quick-ship programs for their clients who want to take advantage of the Sec. 179 deduction. If you’re planning an equipment acquisition in the first quarter of next year, why not buy it now, put it into use before the end of this year, and get the money the IRS put under your seat?