Paperless Office…. Fact or Fantasy
An overview of Electronic Document and Records Management
- What is the Paperless Office?
- Why paper filing is going the way of the manual typewriter.
- The benefits of Electronic Document and Records Management
- Is it possible?
- How do you get there?
- How we can help!!!
Okay, the answer is “YES” the “Paperless Office” is not only possible but inevitable.
Just as word processors have taken over from manual typewriters, Electronic Document and Records Management Systems or “EDRMS” (which is a more professional term than the Paperless Office) is taking over paper filing systems. This whitepaper will explain the advantages of EDRMS over paper filing systems and how to migrate from your existing paper system to the “PAPERLESS OFFICE”.
What is the Paperless Office
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Paperless as:
“Recording or relaying information by electronic media rather than on paper.”
So the Paperless Office is a work environment where information is stored and distributed electronically instead of by paper. I think most people would agree that this just sounds more efficient than doing things the old way on paper.
In most cases the Paperless Office or Electronic Document and Records Management System (EDRMS) is a computer based software solution that can reside on existing computers in the office or in the “Cloud”. These systems will store all electronic records such as Word files, emails, audio files, video files and scanned images of paper documents. These records may then be accessed on all of the computers in the office or from remote locations using the internet.
Inefficiencies of Paper Filing
In the mid 1990’s a UK Accounting Firm of Coopers & Lybrand did a study on the costs of storing paper in paper based filing systems and came up with the following figures.
- A typical four-drawer file cabinet holds 15,000- 20,000 pages, costs $25,000 to fill and $2,000 a year to maintain.
- Companies spend 5% of their total filing costs on equipment, 20% on space and 70% on salaries.
- Companies spend $20 in labor to file a document, $120 to search for misfiled documents and $250 to recreate a lost document.
These figures are from back in the 1990’s, with inflation those numbers are much larger now. Paper filing is expensive and it’s also inefficient.
There are a number of other problems with paper filing such as:
- Lost or misfiled records
- Difficult to share or distribute
- Expensive to reproduce
- Low security control
- Takes up a lot of expensive office space
- Slow and painful to retrieve
- Difficult to edit
- Slow customer service
- Susceptible to disaster such as fire or flood
The Advantages of an Electronic Document and Records Management System (EDRMS)
There is a wide range of advantages that result from implementing an EDRMS including:
- Save employee(s) time in finding and accessing needed documents
- Easy to distribute documents throughout an organization and to the public if needed
- No more lost files
- Version Control – everyone is accessing the most current version(s) of a document(s) with the ability to see how a document changes over time
- Greatly improves decision making processes in an organization
- Reduces paper records filing costs and makes it possible to move documents off-site freeing up valuable floor space
- Makes it possible to easily back-up documents in case of disaster (flood, fire, theft, etc…)
- Saves on wear and tear of paper records
- Makes it possible to easily comply with Government and ISO Standards
- Increases the ability to securely store confidential documents
Okay, how do I go Paperless?
The first thing to remember is “don’t try and do it yourself”. This is a complicated process with many specific steps that are broken down over the following pages:
Analysis of Paper Based System
It is impossible to properly implement an Electronic Records Management System if there is not a thorough understanding of the paper based system. This analysis is often performed departmentally and typically includes:
- Department group
- Document type
- Volume of documents
- Description of paper size (letter, legal, large format, etc.)
- Description of paper type (bond, fax, ncr, blueprint, etc.)
- Indexing structure
- Search criteria
- File retention schedule
- Requirement for later scanning
- Analysis of electronic documents
Analysis of Electronic Documents
It is also very important to know the location and types of electronic documents. This analysis is typically performed departmentally as well, along with the assistance of the IT department. This analysis usually consists of:
- Department group
- Document type
- Volume of electronic documents (amount of storage required)
- File and program type (Word, WordPerfect, AutoCAD, etc.)
- Indexing structure
- Search criteria
- File retention schedule
- Location (server, individual hard drives)
- Location and size of backup files
Analysis of Email Requirements
Many emails are records of the organization and should be treated as such. There are two methods that can be utilized to deal with these records. 1) All incoming and outgoing emails are saved into the system or 2) Have the users determine what e-mails are records of the organization and only save these e-mails into the system as they would with any other type of record. If the second choice is made then there must be clear records management policy regarding the saving and retention of emails and it must be strictly adhered to.
Organizations typically have a number of internal processes for tasks such as order processing, purchase requests, travel expenses, and so on. The workflow engine of an EDRMS streamlines the review and approval process of documents as they proceed through their lifecycle. In collaborative work environments, this labor intensive growth stage of the document is where the most time savings can be realized through the use of workflow. Workflows need to be looked at from an organizational and departmental level to ensure simple and/or complex processes can be automated where possible.
Analysis of Existing Computer Infrastructure
There must be an analysis of the existing computer infrastructure in cooperation with the IT Department which would include:
- Server(s) (type, software, processing power)
- Server(s) storage (how may gigabytes/terabytes)
- Network (type, speed)
- Workstations (number, speed)
- Multifunctional devices
- How is the current system backed up?
- Is there room for expansion?
- Is there redundancy?
- Is there off-site backup?
- Is there a RAID?
- Is there SAN’s or NAS’s?
Creation of File Classification System
Once the previous steps have been completed there should be a departmental file classification system created. This is a system that completely details every type of document throughout the organization whether it is paper or electronic. The File Classification System must include:
- Department (Primary Classification)
- Type of document (Secondary Classification)
- Index fields
- Scanning importance
Analysis of Electronic Records Management System Requirements
The requirements for an Electronic Records Management System may now be defined. It is also useful to assign a priority level to each feature to help with the final selection of the Electronic Records Management System. These features could include:
- Ability to scan documents directly into system
- Import all of the different types of electronic records of the organization
- Enter and search by multiple index fields
- Search by multiple criteria
- Multi-level folder structure
- Integrate with Microsoft applications
- Client server and web access
- Viewer for different types of files including cad
- Batch upload of files with associated indexing metadata
- Check in/check out
- Revision control
- Email management
- Ability to integrate with multifunctional devices
- Ability to integrate with SharePoint
- Ability to integrate with GIS systems
- Ability to use multiple storage devices and servers
- Active directory synchronization
- Audit trail
- Full text search capability
- Ability to link documents
- Annotation and redaction
- Local support and training
- Zonal OCR
- Retention scheduling
- Auto numbering
Purchase of Electronic Records Management System
The ability to purchase a suitable Electronic Records Management System for your organization is one of the most important decisions that can be made. Selecting the right system and having it set-up properly will greatly increase the productivity and capability of your organization for years into the future.
A Request for Information (RFI) should be created with a brief description of the requirements for the system. The responses to the RFI should be analyzed by your Management and IT staff and at least five vendors chosen from it. There should then be a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) sent to those vendors and the vendors should then be allowed to perform presentations of their systems. The presentation and proposals should be evaluated using the internal analysis that is outlined in Section 8 above. The requirements could be ranked by order of importance.
Once an appropriate solution has been chosen, the software vendor may begin the installation of the system and the training of staff. Some new hardware may have to be added such as scanners and backup devices. The post installation duties are as follows:
Hardware additions to support system (scanners, backup devices, etc.)
- Installation of software system
- Testing of software system
- Implementation of the file classification system
- Assigning of users and rights
- Training of staff
- Defining of workflows
- Backfile conversion (scanning of documents into the system, usually by a third party service)
- On-going support and training
As you can see the process of moving from a paper based system to the “Paperless Office” is time consuming and has significant costs associated with it. In the long run the benefits outweigh the pain. It is important to have qualified consultants (such as Image Advantage Solutions Inc.) to walk you through the process so that in the end you will have a system that functions optimally and that will give you the greatest benefits.
Most organizations these days are in some stage of migrating to the Paperless Office. Although this process can be time consuming and expensive its benefits greatly outweigh the pain. Once the process has been completed the organization will operate much more efficiently and cost effectively. These systems also protect the organization from disasters that may happen to paper documents such as floods and fires.
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