It’s Time to Go Digital

It’s Time to Go Digital

Digital asset management is a phrase that gets tossed around in business conversations, but what is it, really? And how do businesses derive value from it?

As the name implies, an organization’s “digital assets” exist in the digital realm, and have intrinsic value to a business. Digital assets can be as simple as a spreadsheet of customers’ contact information, or as complex as a searchable library of a feature film’s visual effects, script, schedule, musical score, and legal documents. Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems store, organize, retrieve, and share an organization’s digital property.

DAM delivers value in two ways: security and productivity. Bethany Landing, VP of Client Operations for DAM services company 5thKind, discusses both aspects in an interview for this article.

Regarding security, Landing says, “5thKind serves film and television clients. No one in a film studio wants to have scripts or film clips leaked to the press or the public ahead of time. If the audience already knows what happens at the end of, let’s say, “Black Panther,” why would they buy a ticket? The potential loss of income is enormous.” Likewise, in other types of businesses, there can be significant financial consequences if confidential agreements or patient records or financial documents find their way into the wrong hands.

Landing mentions the work-from-home (WFH) trend as a potential security risk that DAM helps to mitigate. “Every film clip and digital document is watermarked, and access is controlled and monitored. Film executives can review clips and documents from anywhere, on any device,” she says.

Any business with paper documents that are ordinarily stored safely in an office runs a risk when those papers are removed to a WFH setting. Converting paper documents to digital format keeps the information secure yet accessible.

As for productivity, DAM speeds up information search and retrieval many times faster than manual searches through paper documents or other physical elements. One of 5thKind’s clients estimates saving $1.5 million per film, thanks to the speed of digital search. Fast digital searches allowed producers and editors to find and re-use various animated backgrounds and visual effects, without spending hundreds of hours (and many thousands of dollars) on manual searches.

Other industry sectors, too, find DAM to be a productivity winner. The American Records Management Association estimates that office staffers spend 7.4% of their time looking for documents. That’s nearly 3 hours of each employee’s 40-hour work week. If your business has paper documents, you’re paying for a lot of unproductive hours. What does it cost your company to lose 3 hours of productivity multiplied across an entire staff, week after week?

When you add up those lost hours across an entire organization, one thing is clear: It’s definitely time to go digital. And that means document imaging –  transforming your paper documents into a secure, searchable database of digital assets. Talk to an imaging expert and get all the latest digital benefits for your business.

 

Photo © Rawpixel / AdobeStock

Lesson Six: Re-Examine Business and Personal Fundamentals

Lesson Six: Re-Examine Business and Personal Fundamentals

This is the sixth in a series exploring Dr. Kristen Lee’s (Northwestern University) nine lessons in personal and collective fortitude. Seen through the lens of a business operation, each lesson has application in the current national health and economic challenges, and for successful endeavors in the future.

 

The fundamentals – interpersonal connections, the natural world, a spiritual-values focus – are easy to lose sight of in the middle of an economic crisis. When things seem to be falling apart, it’s a good time to get back to basics and make sure your foundation is solid, ready to support a new structure.

On a personal level, a few minutes a day for a phone call to a friend or a face-to-face with a family member keeps everyone feeling connected. A walk through a park or a hike in the woods puts us in touch with the natural world. And setting aside time for meditation or worship renews our spiritual selves. A strong personal foundation makes it possible to be a strong business leader.

In the business realm, the same fundamentals of humanity and spirit are basic to a successful enterprise. John Mariotti, President and CEO of The Enterprise Group, recommends keeping these nine business fundamentals top-of-mind:

  1. “The purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer.” (Theodore Levitt)  It seems self-evident, yet many businesses end up focused on process instead of customer relationships.
  2. Provide high-quality and reliable products or services. As Mariotti points out, customers value reliability. Quality and reliability are the underpinning of your brand.
  3. Keep the customers you have by selling them the products or services that made you successful. Keep your core business solid, especially when presented with new opportunities (and the risks that come with them).
  4. Charge a fair price. Too high, and you lose customers; too low and you lose your business.
  5. Always consider what is important to your customers. Listen. What are their pain points, and what can you offer as a solution?
  6. Know your costs and charge enough to make a profit.“Lose money on every sale, make it up in volume” is not a viable business model.
  7. Manage your cash flow. Monitor your projected cash flow to stay ahead of any finance issues.
  8. Keep your eye on the competition, and focus on what made you successful. Your value proposition and your distinctive brand will make you stand out.
  9. Hire the right people. Team up with people whose skills and attitude complement the values of your business. Protect the team and the brand by swiftly removing any “bad apples.”

We would add a tenth item to this list: Cultivate relationships with vendors who share your customer-centric orientation. Your business relies on customers, but it also relies on vendors to provide services or goods that you don’t make in-house. Seek out vendors who treat you the way you treat your customers.

When you keep your eye on the fundamentals that support all of your endeavors, both personal and business, you will weather the storm.

 

Photo © Robert Kneschke / AdobeStock

Lesson Five: Adversity is Good for You and Your Business

Lesson Five: Adversity is Good for You and Your Business

This is the fifth in a series exploring Dr. Kristen Lee’s (Northwestern University) nine lessons in personal and collective fortitude. Seen through the lens of a business operation, each lesson has application in the current national health and economic challenges, and for successful endeavors in the future.

 

Adversity introduces us to ourselves, as the saying goes. Adversity is actually an opportunity. We discover unexpected strengths and resources when we’re faced with difficulties. This is true in business just as it is in our personal lives.

The pandemic is unquestionably adverse for business. Writing in Forbes, Dana Gerdman recommends examining business adversity from these points of view:

  1. Identify those areas where you and your team can have an influence. Can you revise your business model to fit within the new community health parameters? Can you put modified workflows in place to promote safety? Control what you’re able to control, and don’t waste resources on things you can’t control.
  2. Think about how you can step up to address the problem, and what encouragement and support you can give to others so the entire team is involved. Communication is vital during adversity. Make sure everyone understands their part in meeting the challenge, and use technology (Zoom, etc.) to promote team cohesion.
  3. Look at the size of the problem, and what steps you can take – even if they’re small ones – that will make a difference. Curing a pandemic may not be practical for your business, but you can certainly move to ensure your staff’s safety. WFH (work from home) has suddenly become the standard for many in the service sector. Support WFH by providing document imaging and home office equipment – a useful step to keep staff healthy and help end the pandemic.
  4. Every problem has an end. We may not know when a cure or a vaccine will be discovered, but we can make accommodations to remain productive in the interim. Now is the time to make sure your business has productivity tools for the present, and for the future. Asset management systems like RFID support productivity with social distancing tools for the short term, and inventory and process management both now and in the long term. Invest in systems that can take you through the current adversity and remain useful long after the problem is solved.

When we face adversity, we have a chance to be our best. Historians point to World War II as a time when America faced tremendous adversity, and we discovered how great our collective strength was – the Greatest Generation. Take on the current adverse conditions and discover the greatness within yourself and your business.

Photo © David Pereiras / AdobeStock

 

Lesson Four: Kindness is Catching, in a Good Way

Lesson Four: Kindness is Catching, in a Good Way

This is the fourth in a series exploring Dr. Kristen Lee’s (Northwestern University) nine lessons in personal and collective fortitude. Seen through the lens of a business operation, each lesson has application in the current national health and economic challenges, and for successful endeavors in the future.

Kindness is a characteristic that isn’t often applied to businesses. It’s thought of as a strictly human trait, but businesses are made up of individuals – individuals who, as part of a business, can be collectively kind. How can a business build a “kindness mindset” that spreads kind behavior both within its own walls and outside in the larger community?

Like other attributes, kindness is expressed in action – taking action to improve a sub-optimal situation, like the classic Boy Scout good deed of helping an elderly lady across the street. In a business setting, the kindness mindset can be applied in four broad categories.

  1. Leadership: Recognize and reward kind acts by staffers. Demonstrate kindness in speech and attitude by avoiding belittling, negative behaviors. Support employees’ career goals with additional training and education.
  2. Operations: Look for ways to improve staffers’ work-life balance, especially in WFH; do they have adequate e-resources like imaged documents and electronics?  Safety is a form of kindness too: Utilize ergonomic vertical lifts, track-mounted file storage, and other safety equipment to reduce work-related accidents.
  3. Clients: Being kind is part of relationship-building. If a client has a temporary setback, set aside short-term profits and brainstorm with your own suppliers for solutions that fit your client’s finances.
  4. Community. Establish opportunities such as career tours and internships for disadvantaged populations. Volunteer time as well as money; showing up and taking part is a visible commitment to your community.

Kindness is not weakness. It is a form of strength. At its essence, kindness is an acknowledgement that everyone in a community has value and deserves the resources needed to reach their optimal worth.

Even more important, kindness is contagious. It’s a truism that you get back whatever you put out, whether it’s positive or negative. When your business acts in kind ways, that behavior will come back to the business in unexpected and beneficial ways. Make kindness a prominent part of your brand.

Photo ©dizdain  / AdobeStock

Paper Documents Are a WFH Security Risk

Paper Documents Are a WFH Security Risk

Paper documents are a part of every business – legal contracts, titles, licenses, healthcare data, HR records, and many more, depending on the type of business you’re in. Your offices probably have multiple layers of security protecting those important documents. Maybe you have biometric locks on your file cabinets to prevent unauthorized access. Maybe your documents have RFID tags so their whereabouts are tracked throughout the office. Anyone needing to work with your organization’s secure documents has to be properly authorized.

But what happens to document security when your business operations pivot to working from home?

Thousands of organizations shifted to WFH (work from home) at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. For some, the unplanned move to WFH is proving to be economical and productive, and now they’re planning to continue WFH more or less indefinitely.

Others, however, are finding their WFH business operations are severely impeded due to their reliance on paper documents. Productivity plummets when remote workers need to access documents stored in an office they can’t enter, either because of their own health risk or because the office is closed.

Even if critical documents are retrieved and distributed to WFH staff, it’s difficult to maintain document integrity and chain-of-custody. Families are isolating together, and accidents happen, even with the best intentions. Neither clients nor insurers look favorably upon businesses that place confidential documents in an insecure setting.

There are regulatory considerations, too. Certain types of documents cannot be taken out of a secure office setting without running the risk of fines and lawsuits. And those fines can be hefty; the first two HIPAA fines imposed on hospitals totaled $5.3 million.

Document imaging is the solution. Converting your sensitive documents into digital form gives WFH teams remote access to the information contained in the documents, without any of the risks of taking paper documents out of a secure environment. Confidential information remains confidential.

Document imaging reduces the risk of paper in another way, too. In the event of fire or natural disasters, the imaged versions of your documents act as a back-up for the destroyed or missing paper documents. If you’re requesting a duplicate permit from a government agency, for example, having a digital image of the old permit can speed the process along.

Like RFID document tracking and controlled-access file cabinets, document imaging adds another level of security to your business. For WFH operations, document imaging keeps productivity high and risk low.

 

Photo ©Photo Art Lucas  / AdobeStock

3 Technology Tips to Get Your Business Through Emergencies

3 Technology Tips to Get Your Business Through Emergencies

Business owners and managers seem to be in constant disaster recovery mode these days. A perfect storm of catastrophes is pushing many companies’ disaster plans far beyond their original parameters, but there are technology tools that can help your organization weather the effects of the next emergency.

To bring the right technology to bear, first look at your business model. Ideally, it was designed with resilience in mind, adaptable to sudden change. Then identify the elements – human, physical, and digital – that are vital for the business to continue.

  • Physical assets– paper documents and records, communications and IT equipment, inventory, operational facilities, manufacturing equipment
  • Digital assets– Broad informational resources, from accounting and customer data to inventory and logistics information
  • Human resources– Department heads and key teams with intimate operational knowledge; line workers with specialized training or experience

Once you know what’s essential, take a look at the technologies that support those vital elements you’ve identified. Is your business taking advantage of all the available technology? Here are three ways to apply existing technology to bridge asset-management gaps:

  1. Paper documents– Institute an imaging program to convert documents from physical assets to digital assets, stored safely on off-site servers. Remote access to imaged documents lets knowledge workers remain productive if the workplace is off-limits during a disaster.
  2. Communications and IT– Provide portable IT and telecom resource centers in safe zones. Employees can access and recharge work-related electronic devices at off-site locations, continuing their work even in the event of power cuts.
  3. Employees– Utilize RFID-equipped wearables in the workplace to maintain social distance and preserve employee health. And in emergency situations, these same wearables will help locate workers for evacuation or rescue.

The above technologies don’t necessarily require complete new systems to be put in place. Depending on how you do business, you may only need to expand what you’re already doing. For example, if you’re already providing electronic devices to your employees, it’s quite simple to have several portable charging and storage stations on hand as part of a readiness plan. Or if you’re already providing work uniforms to workers, RFID wearables are easy to bolt on to your current program.

If this year has taught us anything, it’s to be prepared for the unexpected. Emergencies of all kinds, whether natural or human-caused, can wipe out the unready. If technology can keep your business assets safe and keep your business operations productive, shouldn’t it be part of your disaster plan?

Photo © LightfieldStudios / AdobeStock