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.
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:
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.
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.
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?
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.
This is the first in a series exploring Dr. Kristen Lee’s (Northwestern University) lessons in personal and collective fortitude. Seen through the lens of a business operation, each example has application in the current national health and economic challenges, and for successful endeavors in the future.
Business leaders often find themselves having to venture beyond their fields of expertise in order to make management decisions. These decisions have far-reaching impact, negative or positive, upon an organization’s future success, and there’s usually little time to research all the available data. The stakes are high, and as business leaders, we are expected to know everything. But that’s an unreasonable expectation.
Isaac Newton said, “What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean.” Say, for example, your organization is shifting to remote working. What you know is this: Your remote staff will need access to information currently contained in paper documents. Therefore you plan to convert paper documents into searchable digital documents.
What you don’t know is this: What conversion software should you use? What metadata fields? What file format? How many levels of security? How is the imaging actually done? Exactly what is “imaging” anyway?
It can feel humiliating to say, “I don’t know.” But there is no shame in calling upon experts when faced with a decision that is outside our training and experience. In fact, it’s the smart thing to do. Great leaders recognize their weaknesses as well as their strengths. They reach out to others to fill in the gaps in their knowledge.
We are comfortable with calling upon doctors, lawyers, and accountants to advise us, because they are experts in those fields, and we are not. Other operational areas should be no different. Consider how you chose your business’s law firm or accounting firm – most likely, through your spheres of social and business influence. If these challenging times are pushing you to make decisions far outside your comfort zone, reach out to a colleague who can steer you toward an expert.
Everyone is working remotely these days. Knowledge workers, client service workers, coders, even professionals like lawyers and doctors, are doing business outside the traditional office setting. A Stanford University study found remote work yielded tremendous productivity gains – a 20% increase, in fact. But without the right infrastructure, productivity can actually drop. What does your business need to do to ensure your remote workers are supported for maximum productivity?
Document Accessibility/Findability: Remote workers need to reference a variety of documents. Data on paper documents isn’t easily accessed or shared. But if those paper documents are converted to electronic format via an imaging program, distributed team members can locate the information they need, with electronic speed. And you can be confident that sensitive data is accessible only by authorized users.
Personal Lockers: There are times that remote workers need to come in to the office. But no one comes to the office empty-handed. Remote workers without assigned desks or private offices need a place to stash their stuff. Secure lockers provide remote workers with safe storage for their personal items, letting them focus on work instead of hunting for a place for their bags, lunches, and electronic devices.
Technology Storage: If you’re providing laptops and cell phones to your remote teams, the nature of your business may require a high degree of security for that distributed electronic equipment. Portable technology storage like the Intellerum line of products keeps the equipment safe in off-site locations, and keeps devices powered up and ready for your remote teams to use.
Increased productivity is just one of the benefits of a remote workforce, benefits which have a direct positive impact on the bottom line. Employee satisfaction and retention are improved, with a resulting reduction in recruiting and onboarding costs. Sick days are reduced, keeping workflows on track.
Most impressive are the real estate savings: $10,000 per employee, per year, as reported in Forbes. With such a quantifiable benefit, remote working is here to stay. Make sure your distributed workforce has the right productivity tools, and watch your profits grow.
Those bold, shameless porch pirates are out in force, appropriating delivered goods and selling them for whatever they can get. But there could be a different kind of “porch pirate” targeting your business – data thieves who trade in the business of stolen information.
Whether it’s package theft or data theft, it affects your bottom line. In cases of HIPAA violations, identity theft, or other unauthorized information releases, you can face costly fines and lawsuits. And your profits take a hit when you have to replace shipments that the customer never received.
When clients don’t trust your security, they take their business elsewhere. Fortunately, there are some smart storage technologies that boost security and reduce your liability.
Imaging – Paper is often called an “ephemeral medium.” It’s easy to lose, easy to damage or destroy, and easy to steal. Document imaging shields your business from the liability of missing documents and information theft. The electronic versions of your documents are accessible only to authorized users. With the originals shredded or in secure archives, your imaged documents are safe in their virtual file cabinet. Those who shouldn’t touch your documents will not be able to lay their hands on them, quite literally.
Smart lockers – Amazon was one of the earliest adopters of smart-locker technology. A customer’s package is delivered to a numbered locker with an electronic lock automatically set to a one-time combination. The combination is emailed or texted to the customer, who can then retrieve the package at a convenient time. Smart lockers are now cropping up in apartment complexes, in college campuses, and in business settings, eliminating highly insecure door delivery. It’s a win for the package recipients and a win for the business or the property management.
Secure high-density storage – High-density storage systems are known for their space-saving attributes, reducing storage footprints by as much as 50%. Sliding on floor-mounted rails, these systems eliminate all but one aisle between shelving units. Their electronic locks eliminate something else: unauthorized access to sensitive material such as patient health records, legal documents, or intellectual property. Locks can be programmed to track access based on security codes. Biometric locks add an even greater level of security.
People are wising up to the ways smart technology can defeat porch pirates around their homes. Talk to a storage consultant who can help you assemble the right security solutions to keep the porch pirates and data thieves out of your business.