Enthusiasm behind paperless office concept
Many people hear the word “cloud” and expect to snap their fingers and become paperless overnight, completely organized and compliant, but it isn’t exactly as easy as the commercials make it sound. Yes, digital document management can be tremendous business tool, but some of the basic free solutions are risky and don’t help to keep your company organized or even in compliance.
One of the more robust options on the market is 12-year old eFileCabinet, which began as a cutting-edge tool to digitally store records in accounting firms, growing in popularity to a full-fledged electronic document management solution designed to help organizations capture, manage and protect their data in any industry.
Matt Peterson, CEO of eFileCabinet, notes that businesses adopt the concept of the paperless office with great enthusiasm, but grapple with the practical implications of getting such an implementation off the ground. “The transition from a paper-intensive operation to a completely paperless environment has seen several organizations abandon the initiative because of the stress such a transition places on their operating environment. The sustainability of a paperless office relies on the careful, well-administered execution of several cross-departmental initiatives that are pivotal to a smooth transition.”
Peterson adds that when executed incorrectly, the transition can hurt productivity and financial benefits that come with the paperless office. Based on his area of expertise, Peterson offers seven ways that most businesses are actually screwing up their digital document management. In his words:
1. Rapid, Disorganized Transition:
Expecting your organization to complete the move to a paperless environment in a few days or even a couple of weeks can throw several administrative and operational processes out of gear. Business constraints and imperatives often drive the pursuit of paperless operations at a pace that is far more than an organization can manage. More often than not, any productivity gains are nullified by the time spent learning how to use document management software, scheduling time on scanners. When implementing a paperless office solution such as eFileCabinet, it is important to do so in a planned, structured transition with pragmatic timelines.
2. File Hoarding:
The lack of proper indexing procedures or the absence of a streamlined process or policy that governs the creation, duplication, digitization, preservation and disposal of company documentation can result in an e-landfill—a large, unmanageable digital cabinet filled with orphaned files and documents that take up server space. Without proper training and clear file retention deadlines an organization runs the risk of wasting time by overloading the digital filing system with files that will never be accessed or have already passed their legal and useful life span. Consequently, the process of search and retrieval of documents takes far longer than necessary. While this may seem to be an elementary oversight, in reality, it is a costly mistake that wastes time, impacts productivity and is a frustrating experience, come audit season.
3. Placing Intellectual Assets at Risk:
Most organizations make the mistake of digitizing documents without a definite backup or archival plan. More often than not, scanned copies of files are saved into a random folder structure. The effect of a force majeure situation or a natural disaster on such an office could result in a partial or complete shutdown of operations. Some organizations establish a degree of contingency by relying on backup tapes or ISO-compliant folder storage to safeguard data. In the absence of such an effort, sensitive company data and intellectual assets may end up in a large group of un-indexed files and open to theft or accidental deletion.
4. Non-Compliant Storage and Sharing:
Saving and organizing files through Microsoft Windows folders can be a tedious, time-intensive effort and can often be in violation of the paperless standards set by many compliance governing bodies. Governance standards, international law and global financial regulatory requirements under several acts such as Sarbanes-Oxley and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), as well as the SEC require an organization to provide verifiable and timely access to digital records. The proper establishment of role-based security as a means to controlling access to digital is sometimes tedious but always necessary step for security purposes. When implementing a paperless office, it is important to use compliance-friendly features such as the eFileCabinet SecureDrawer to transfer confidential data and documents across operational environments.
5. Non-existent or Incomplete Data Backup:
An organization’s data backup process is a vital and indispensable component of its overall disaster recovery plan. Cloud based document management software offers a two-edged solution that features a scheduled backup of an organization’s data while ensuring data is backed up into a cloud mitigates the risks of local storage. Several organizations mistake data management software as a substitute for their IT backup services. While document management services do digitize and help an office manage paperwork more efficiently, these electronic documents need to be backed up as part of a business continuity plan. Particularly, if the organization has chosen a traditional on-premise software platform as opposed to the ever-increasing in popularity cloud based solution. A non-existent or incomplete data backup plan could have an adverse fiscal and reputational impact on a company.
6. Incorrect Formats:
One of the most common mistakes of going paperless is the digitization of documents into unreadable or unsearchable formats. A typical scanner converts documents into PDF files that do not allow form or text data to be read or copied. A robust document management solution needs to come with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) capabilities to truly leverage the power of paperless operations. The lack of OCR-enabled documents, tables, spreadsheets and presentations causes all scanned documents to become static — i.e., their contents cannot be recognized as text and therefore, cannot be copied. Scanning without OCR is one of the most significant hindrances to a paperless office because it prevents users from searching or copying text from within scanned documents.
7. Trapped by the Desktop Computer:
In a world that relies on the increased mobility and portability of data, the paperless office often extends beyond the boundaries of the office building. When organizations go paper-free, they often make the mistake of using a document management solution that does not offer secure, cloud-based access or the ability to access documents through a mobile app.
Peterson notes that “Understanding the potential roadblocks to a successful paperless office can help your organization avoid them and ease into the use of digital document management software without losing productivity and efficiency.”