The Electronic Filing Cabinet
Can a paperless office save your company money and keep your clients happy?
By Aaron Rubin – President, Docutrend
New York (September 3, 2005) – New York Enterprise Report – How many times have you or your staff searched for a client-related document while an opportunity just whittled away? Any idea how much that cost your company? Ironically, technology has resulted in businesses’ using more paper, which slows them down.
Fortunately, the prices of electronic document management systems (EDMS) have fallen to a point where they are now within the reach of many small businesses. An EDMS allows your employees to secure, store and easily retrieve any document with just a few keystrokes.
What is it?
Document management is the collection, classification, archiving, retrieval and disposition of paper and electronic documents. Think of it as an electronic version of a file cabinet with extremely flexible searching capabilities. The benefits are too numerous to list in this article but include: reduced physical file space requirements, quick and easy retrieval of any document, the ability to simultaneously see the same document for multiple (and remote) users, and the security of knowing your documents are safe and accessed only by authorized users. Furthermore, if your business is in one way or another regulated by HIPAA, Graham Leach Bliley, Sarbanes- Oxley or the Patriot Act, an EDMS can help provide the necessary security and audit trails around documents to make you compliant in your industry.
Saving time and Money
An EDMS allows you to automatically send out an electronic version of a work order along with statements — no more back-and-forth questioning as to when the job was done, was it done completely, were all deliveries made, etc. If, say, you’re a small wholesale apparel company, you can benefit by simply scanning in all of your proof of deliveries and archiving them. When one of your big retail chain customers calls up and demands to see proof of delivery before they pay, you can e-mail the information in seconds, which will accelerate payment of your invoice.
A document management solution is composed of five elements:
Scanner. If you are going to eliminate most or all of the paper in your office, a high-speed automatic document scanner is a must, and should run you around $3,000 or $4,000. Otherwise, less expensive manual scanners start at $100.
Capture software. This is the software that will drive a high-speed scanner and do some image cleanup and recognition.
Repository/retrieval system. Once your documents are collected, you need to put them somewhere. This is your new file cabinet. There is typically a database that houses all the name labels and keywords associated with your documents along with a “pointer” to where the actual image or file is located. This software usually runs on a server; the users then access the repository through a Web browser or other software that gets installed on their local machine. Most systems have the flexibility to limit access to certain documents.
Network infrastructure. The network infrastructure consists of a server with enough hard disk space to hold three to five years’ worth of documents, a backup mechanism and possibly some form of optical storage (i.e., CD-ROM, DVD or Optical) for regulatory compliance.
Systems integrator. The systems integrator provides implementation support to put it all together. On average, a small business should budget between $10K and $15K to get started using a multi-user networked system with hardware, software and services for a small (say, 10-person) company.
Bottom line: If you are a customer service business that deals with a lot of paperwork, such as delivery confirmations and work orders, a document management system may give you the edge over your competition and keep them wondering how you were able to keep costs down and provide more timely answers to your clients’ questions.