Document Management Systems

Document Management Systems

The Benefits of a Paperless Office

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The paperless office promised since the first desktop computers started appearing in the 1980s, has yet to become a reality for most companies. Despite the predominant use of computers, a good portion of most day-to-day work is still paper-based, much of which can be attributed to basic human behavior. Many employees still want to print documents for careful study or to bring to meetings, a practice that works against a truly paperless office. So for now, the perfect paperless office system remains an elusive goal.

Document Management

Despite these challenges, you can drastically reduce the amount of paper documents your business depends on by choosing a document management system. The term "document management" (DM) covers a range of systems for managing paper and electronic files. When working toward a paperless office, a more specific term is document imaging systems. These solutions include tools to help you convert paper records into electronic files.

Benefits of a paperless office solution

One of the biggest benefits of getting rid of your paper files is the cost savings. If it takes five minutes to retrieve and replace a paper file and an employee works with 10 paper files per day, that's 216 hours a year - more than five weeks full-time - spent walking files around. At $20/hour, that's $4,300 per year. A system that lets employees find and work with those documents without ever leaving their desks can instantly slash those costs while freeing them to invest that time in business development, innovation, expansion, or customer service.

Document management provides additional cost savings by eliminating paper records. Converting records rooms into usable office space allows you to make much better use of expensive real estate. You may even be able to eliminate warehousing costs entirely.

Plus, with certain industry regulations, some companies have been forced to adopt DM by laws that govern the safekeeping of data. These include Sarbanes-Oxley in the financial industry and HIPAA in the medical field, among others. In these instances, document management systems are the best way to initiate an automatic audit trail, ensuring compliance with these strict security and record-keeping rules.

A few other notable benefits include:

What about your existing documents?

Implementing paperless software doesn't mean your old paper records become irrelevant - far from it in fact. By converting your paper documents to digital files and embedding them with keywords, you and your employees dramatically increase the scope of your business knowledge by simplifying search and retrieval. This ability allows you to factor past performance into real-time reporting and provide customer service in a fraction of the time and expense.

But it's important to understand that you don't have to convert everything all at once. Instead, try a "scan forward" approach to conversion. Choose a cut-off date, after which all new documents will be created electronically.

When dealing with older documents, only scan existing paper records if they're used. In many cases, documents that don't get scanned after a year can be archived or simply destroyed. This approach lets you get started much more quickly. And you can always scan older files in the future if you decide you need to.

For some businesses, access to all of their paper files is essential. In these cases, you'll need something called "backfile scanning services." These niche vendors have expensive, high-volume scanners and plenty of specialized staff to operate them. Typically, you have to ship your documents to their location. But if your files contain highly sensitive material, it may be worth the extra cost to select a scanning service that will come to your office.

Once they're scanned, you can shred your old documents, and you're one step closer to a paperless office!

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