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Information Indexing: The 2nd Step to a Paperless Office

  
  
  

Information Indexing: The 2nd Step to a Paperless Office

Untitled 1It’s Halloween! What are you afraid of? Global warming? Your mom? Getting toilet paper stuck to the bottom of your shoe? What about losing crucial company documents? Even on Halloween, there’s not much scarier than not being able to find something important when you need it.

Information is worthless if you can’t get to it. Even if you deal mainly with electronic documents, if they’re not well organized, they’ll still present navigational issues. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, employees spend up to 50% of their days looking for information, but only 5-15% reading it. Sometimes this is due to a filing system that only one or a few people know how to navigate, creating a bottleneck in business processes, or too many content repositories and information silos that keep needed information inaccessible to other staff members.

Regardless of the cause, the inability to find things when you need it can pose serious problems, especially if your position requires quick decision making or customer service, and all that staff time spent adds up to a lot of wasted money as well. Inefficient business processes aren’t just slow – they’re expensive, too.  Even after converting paper documents to electronic form, there’s still many more improvements that can be made. In order to reap the full benefits of digitizing your documents, you’ll need an efficient and effective way to store and manage them.

Content management solutions are often a great way to go about making your information easily retrievable so employees can turn all the time spent on searching into something productive. Once documents are scanned into your system, they’ll be captured by your solution and automatically indexed. Employees will be able to search for what they need by keyword and stay organized without allocating a ton of time to sorting things.

If your organization already has too many content management solutions, than enterprise content management (ECM) may be a great way to break down those silos and open up communication and collaboration between departments. ECM is also very scalable and capable of much more than just managing information, so if, in the future, you want to even further improve business processes, you can do it with the same solution.

Locating information you need shouldn’t take up a substantial portion of your day, distract you from other projects you’re working on, or create bottlenecks in otherwise smooth-running processes. If you’re content organization is creating unnecessary difficulties, it might be time to look into another way to store it. For more information on how a business process solution can solve your organization’s business process problems, download our infographic below.

Download Infographic:5 Stages of Going Paperless

Back File Scanning: The 1st Step to a Paperless Office

  
  
  

Back File Scanning: The 1st Step to a Paperless Office


row of old filing cabinets 560x350Maybe your office building is more like a maze with walls made of filing cabinets.  Maybe you can’t remember what color your desk actually is after it’s been covered in documents for so long. Or maybe you’ve got a warehouse haunted with the memories of files that have been lost for years, with enough spider webs to get anyone into the Halloween spirit (and out of the building). Whatever the situation, if you’ve got dreams of a paperless office, scanning all your back files and storing them electronically instead is the first step.

There’s plenty of reasons to use a document scanning service – lowering expenses, increasing productivity, freeing up storage space – but one of the biggest threats is security. If something should happen to the building in which your files are stored, like a fire or a natural disaster, all that information might be lost forever.

When asked about plans for the recovery of paper documents in case of a disaster, 55 % of respondents to a Fujitsu survey said they had none, and 65% said they’d be in moderate to severe trouble if those files were lost. In addition, given that only 21% of respondents said they were storing critical information electronically, there’s a lot of organizations out there who are at risk for a catastrophic loss of information.

Two other big reasons to scan and store documents are time and money.  Paper processes are inherently more expensive just from the cost of paper, shipping, and storage, but add to that the large amount of employee time spent processing and distributing paper documents, and those costs shoot up.  On the flipside, when those documents can be handled faster with electronic methods, that time can be spent on more important tasks and increase overall productivity.

Also improving productivity is employees’ ability to work remotely, for example, while on a business trip or in the field. It’s much easier to access information on your phone or laptop that has been emailed to you than it is to carry around and shuffle through a pile of papers you’ve been given.

Storage is often another issue. According to Fujitsu, 49% of documents need to be retained for 3 years or more, and as organizations continue to produce more and more paper files, the need for adequate storage can be a problem. A third of organizations even use off-site storage, requiring them to pay rent just to house their information.

As technological capabilities improve, it’s becoming more and more detrimental to businesses to maintain paper files and manual paper processes. In order to remain competitive in a digital world, organizations need adapt their operations to reap the benefits of a paperless office that their competitors may already be experiencing. To learn more about how document scanning services can start you down the path to a paperless office, download our infographic below.

Download Infographic:5 Stages of Going Paperless  

5 Key Steps to a Successful Software Solution Upgrade

  
  
  

5 Key Steps to a Successful Software Solution Upgrade

software solution upgradeWindows 95 was great… in its time. There was Paint and Internet Explorer and 32-bit applications – it was a magical world! Today, if we found someone playing Doom on Windows 95 with a monitor the size of a microwave oven, we might suspect some strange sci-fi plot involving a time vortex or a DeLorean. We might say, “Don’t you think it’s time for an upgrade?”.  And if they responded with “Nah, I know how to use this already,” we might consider an intervention.

Comfort and familiarity is no reason to miss out on the technology opportunities of today. Software solution upgrades take planning, effort, and the acceptance of a little risk, but they can be rewarding as well, with the promise of new features and more ways to improve business processes.  Here’s a few steps to help you get through your next upgrade unscathed.

1.   Make assessments

Talk to your end users and figure out what your needs are, both from an IT standpoint and a business process standpoint. Note what changes will need to be made, who will be involved, and how it will affect your staff, then plan accordingly. From here you can start to build out a timeline.

2.   Consider your options

You can upgrade in steps or all at once, but upgrading your software solution incrementally carries much less risk and allows users to learn and adjust more easily. Strategize about what needs to be upgraded first and remember to consider third party integrations as well. Make sure your other software will still be compatible with software solution once it’s updated, or even upgrade them at all together.

3.   Practice effective communication

Good communication is key in any organizational change, and in this case, it’s important to keep both your solutions provider and your stakeholders in the loop. Working with your provider will allow them to offer valuable insights into your software and make suggestions based on what they’ve seen work in the past, and you’ll be able to offer information about your business processes to them. 

Internally, keeping staff informed of what will happen and why will help to unite employees and create an air of excitement instead of trepidation.

4.   Upgrade during a slow time

This is for obvious reasons – in case difficulties arise, it’s better to deal with them when you have more time and your organization’s quality of services will be less affected. It’s also less stressful for employees to adjust when there’s less pressure on them.

5.   Test!

Create a testing environment where you can try out your new solution upgrade, risk-free. This allows you to work out any kinks and see firsthand the effects your upgrade will have on your organization without actually affecting your operations.

 Upgrading might sound like a hassle, but done correctly, it should go quite smoothly and provide new opportunities to streamline operations. We hope these tips will make the process easier for you! If you’d like information on how DataBank has helped other organizations in the past, view our complete list of case studies below.

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4 Ways to Prepare for Storage in the Cloud

  
  
  

Cloudy with a Chance of Productivity: Preparing for Storage in the Cloud

Cloud Comic 110Fifteen years ago, if asked what a cloud was, one might answer “tiny droplets of water that form around dust particles in the air” or “the white things in the sky”, depending on how well they did in 5th grade science. Just five years ago, their answer might be “You mean the ones in the sky? Or I think that’s something that has to do with computers? I’m not sure.” Now, cloud computing is becoming an everyday household term and one of the hottest topics in IT.

In the midst of all this buzz, many organizations are considering the pros and cons of moving their content to the cloud and weighing their options. If you’ve decided cloud storage might be right for you, make sure to consider these four things as you progress towards searching for a provider.

 

1.   Security

“Is the cloud secure?” This is one of the biggest concerns among those with the cloud on their mind. Moving your data into the cloud means storing your information on someone else’s server, out of your control, and that sounds scary. Even though moving to the cloud actually boosts security in many cases, (as most breaches are a result of an internal mistake or lapse in judgment), you should still do your research. Some good questions to ask are: 

Does the provider have sufficient backups in place?
Are they firewall protected?
How often are they audited?
What sort of physical security measures are utilized at their facilities?

2.   Which documents go to the cloud

Decide which department would be most suited to pilot your move to the cloud, and then pick which documents need to go first. If you’re choosing a provider that charges according to the amount of space being used, be prudent in choosing what actually needs to be in the cloud and what doesn’t. Also consider the security and compliance requirements of the files in question, and choose a provider who knows about and understands them.

3.   Service Level Agreements

Make sure you understand what is outlined in the contract, which should include information on the availability, security, and ownership of your data, and state your ability to switch cloud providers as you see fit. Wired.com has a good article on things to look for in your SLA. 

4.   Provider Flexibility

If your organization is smaller, most providers will probably be able to meet your information storage needs, but as your organization grows, you’ll need to make sure your cloud provider has the resources to handle your changing requirements. If you choose a provider that can’t handle your growth, you may have to move your data all over again, this time to a different cloud.

Moving to the cloud is an exciting and rewarding step for many organizations, but it’s something you’ll want to do right the first time.  By staying informed and choosing the right provider, you’ll already be heading in the right direction. For information on trends in Enterprise Content Management in the cloud, download our infographic below. 

Infographic ECM in the Cloud Button

How Organizations Can Improve Outside Relationships with Business Process Solutions

  
  
  

How Organizations Can Improve Outside Relationships with Business Process Solutions

high five friday   435What do the following sentences have in common?

1.   “I wish I had been put on hold a little longer.”

2.   “It’s too bad I got paid for my services on time.”

If you guessed “They’re both things that have never, ever been said in the history of humanity,” you would (probably) be correct. Waiting is no one’s favorite pastime, and chances are you’re going to try to avoid it the best you can.  On that note, it’s also probably safe to say that slow business processes are never going to draw people to your organization, and they may even drive them away. Because of that, you could miss out on a lot of business opportunities.

Customer Relations

While the modern world is becoming more and more tightly networked through social media, customer testimonials and reviews are growing in importance. To prospects, your services might look the same as your competitors, but it’s the recommendations of other people that could potentially set you apart.

When customer service is a game changer and your business is on the line, casting it by the wayside can have substantial consequences. Many people picture customer service as smiles and friendly greetings, but employee disposition isn’t the only thing that counts. If your business processes are slow and outdated, that can be just as frustrating to customers as a grouchy employee. By streamlining those processes, employees can access information easier and faster to more quickly and accurately answer customer queries, and by providing online forms and portals, relations with your organization become more convenient and hassle-free. When you make yourself pleasant to do business with, people will come back and maybe even bring their friends.

Vendor Relations

Customer relations aren’t the only important relationships at stake when it comes to the efficiency of your business processes. Vendor management is another example, and it, too, can affect your bottom line. Accounts payable departments are often riddled with paper-intensive manual processes that create bottlenecks and slow down productivity, resulting in late fees and frustrated vendors.

Vendors appreciate customers who are diligent with their responsibilities just like customers want and even expect the same from businesses they’re purchasing from. Optimizing and automating accounts payable processes does more than save time and reduce the costs of paper processes – it also allows your organization to take advantage of early payment discounts and build positive vendor relationships with consistently on-time payments. Vendors will want to keep you as a customer and may even cut you a deal to do so.

Solutions like content management and business process automation bring a lot of organizational benefits, not the least of which is improved customer and vendor relationships. By eliminating efficiencies in your processes, you are not only saving money and increasing productivity, you are drawing more repeat customers and capitalizing on vendor discount opportunities. 

 To learn more about how you can improve operations and reap the benefits of a business process solution, check out our infographic below.

Download Infographic:5 Stages of Going Paperless

5 Sustainability Tips for the Office to Cut Costs while Conserving

  
  
  

5 Sustainability Tips for the Office to Cut Costs while Conserving

photo creativity 6 thumb[1]There’s some pretty cool stuff floating around out there in that giant space vacuum in which Earth currently resides (as it always has). For example, one planet named upsilon Andromedae B has one side that always faces the sun, resulting in massive temperature differences. The sunny side is around 2700 degrees Fahrenheit, and the other side is a balmy -148 degrees. If that doesn’t sound uncomfortable, there’s also planet HD 189773b – which rolls right off the tongue – where it rains sideways at 4,000 mph. Oh, and that rain is made of glass.

As you and most other people probably know, there’s not a whole lot of other options for viable living spaces if Earth was no longer in the picture, so I prefer it to stick around for a while. Here’s a few sustainability tips for the office so we can all help make sure that happens.

1.       Think about lighting

There’s a lot of ways to save both energy and money by being strategic about the use of lighting throughout your office building. One of the most substantial is considering the type of light bulbs being used.  CFLs use over 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last about 7 times as long, and LEDs use about 90% less energy and last over 40 times as long. Also try to take advantage of any natural lighting and install light timers and motion sensors in rooms that aren’t used on a constant basis.

2.       Recycle everything you can

Set up recycle bins around the office to reduce the amount of waste that will end up in a landfill. Recycling scrap paper is a great place to start, but there’s a lot of other things laying around the office that can be recycled too, like magazines, food containers, bottles and cans, and even electronic waste like printer cartridges and batteries.

3.       Turn things off

Set your computer monitor to turn off after 10 minutes of inactivity, instead of going to a screen saver. Turn off lights when no one is in the room. Unplug appliances that are not being used. Although these are great policies to keep in mind all day, they’re especially important when everyone leaves for the night. Turning off computers at night and using every saving settings during the day saves $250 per computer, per year. Also remember to turn off copiers, printers, and any other office electronics that don’t need to be on overnight.

4.       Watch your air conditioner and heat usage

Heat and air conditioner are responsible for a big portion of the energy used in office buildings.  To save electricity, try to adjust your thermostat according to the temperature outside. Harvard University suggests 74-78 degrees in the summer, and 68-72 degrees in the winter, but even adjusting the thermostat a couple degrees can make a difference.  You can adjust the thermostat even further over the weekend when no one is present.

5.        Reduce the use of paper

Ways to cut down on paper range from tweaking every day operations to implementing streamlined, electronic business processes. You can start using less paper right now by making sure you print on both sides of each sheet and creating a scrap paper pile next to the printer so employees can reuse otherwise wasted paper. For a more drastic approach with bigger returns, look into converting paper back files into electronic formats and switching from manual to automated processes. In addition to the conservation of natural resources and the self-satisfaction of knowing you’re saving innocent trees, this brings a variety of other benefits to your organization, from reduced costs to faster business processes to reduced storage space to higher productivity.

Office sustainability is a win-win: you save money, and you save the earth. By combining tactics as simple as these, you can make a difference in the toll business operations take on the environment. For more information on how DataBank can help your organization to cut costs and streamline processes by going paperless, contact us or check out our infographic below. 

Download Infographic:5 Stages of Going Paperless

How to Stop Looking for Documents and Get Your Time Back

  
  
  

How to Stop Looking for Documents and Get Your Time Back

pirates telescope 590x350Did you know that employees spend an estimated 30% of their time at work just looking for things? Assuming you work an 8 hour day, that’s 2 hours and 24 minutes that you’re losing to searching for information, every day. That’s over 11 hours a week. You can do a lot with that much time – drive from an office in Chicago to a Braves game in Atlanta.  Wait in line at the DMV. Watch the entire first season of Game of Thrones, and still have an hour left to - I don’t know – start the next season. You can probably get a lot of work done, too.

The point is that not having access to information when you need it means your productivity is taking a hard hit (yes, I do consider watching Game of Thrones to be productive. Obviously.) The good news is that this obstacle isn’t a necessary part of your day.  It’s a problem that can be fixed. There’s a lot of ways to actually going about doing that, but the first step to a lot of these options are the same – converting paper documents into electronic files. This in itself solves a lot of problems, some of which have nothing to do with knowing where your documents are. In addition to that, though, electronic files means organizing and searching your information is easier and faster, and it opens the door for other efficiency-driving projects in the future, such as an electronic document management system.

Maybe your organization already has that part down, or you’re at least part way there. It’s possible you’re in the 60% of organizations that have 6 or more content repositories, or the 31% that have over 20. Holy cow that’s a lot, and things get even more complicated if one of your tasks requires content that is spread out over multiple repositories. Many times, this is due to multiple solutions being used across your organization, possibly different ones for each department.  Regardless of the reason, this is where an Enterprise Content Management solution (ECM) makes a huge difference.

ECM is a versatile, scalable solution with a wide range of possibilities, and providing a single repository for all of your content, enterprise-wide, is one of them. ECM indexes every piece of content it takes into its system so you can find it with keywords, and if you’re storing information in the cloud, you can find it from anywhere. In fact, you may not even need to retrieve it. When you open a document using ECM, other related documents are made readily available if your ECM system thinks you might need them.

By taking measures to make information available to those who need it, employees can go from avidly searching for it for hours to having it given to them before they even ask. This is substantial not only because of the time saved, but for your organization’s relationships with vendors, customers, and stakeholders. When you have what you need, your business processes become much more transparent, and you can respond to others’ queries quickly and accurately.

To learn more on what enterprise content management can do for your efficiency and productivity, check out our guide to ECM below.

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4 Steps to Finding and Breaking Bottlenecks in Your Business Processes

  
  
  

4 Steps to Finding and Breaking Bottlenecks in Your Business Processes

business bottleneckI have a confession to make: I have a terrible habit of making to-do lists and then forgetting about them, resulting in multiple to-do lists full of the same things that never get done. I should probably start renaming my to-do lists to “Things I Should Do but Will Instead Just Repeatedly List Out.” How many things on your to-do list have been there for weeks or months? Maybe some can even be done in just a few minutes!

Your business processes should not fall under a list of things to be ignored and left alone, because you can’t reap the benefits of improving them if you’re not aware of them. It’s worth it to put the effort into assessing your operations and brainstorming ways to streamline business processes to make them more efficient and less costly, and uncovering bottlenecks is sort of like playing detective…so…fun right? Sort of? Moving on to Step 1.

Step 1: Figure out which processes are giving your department the most problems. Sometimes it doesn’t take much looking to find the bump in the road, but a good question to ask is “Which ones are causing the most stress among employees?”. That’s typically a pretty good indicator of where the biggest issues lie.  

Step 2:  Find the exact problem area within those stressful processes.  Many times, bottlenecks occur around decision-making parts of your operations – for example, invoice approvals. Most of the workflow may be moving along just fine, except there’s only one employees who has the authority to approve all of your organization’s invoices, resulting in a pile-up and an overall slow process. Just this one step is making a difference on all the following ones. It’s silly how much power one step of a business process can have, but once you identify where exactly the problem is located, you can begin to make steps towards higher business process efficiency.

Step 3: Figure out why these bottlenecks are occurring.  Are there too many invoices for one person to approve? Are they ill-equipped to complete that task due to slow software or some other reason? You may have to work your way backwards a bit to find the root cause of the problem, and there may be more than one bottleneck in a process. If that’s the case, it’s more beneficial to fix the largest one first, or else the rest of the process may not be affected by your changes.

Step 4: This is the most rewarding – this is where you get to fix the issue. Sometimes, the problem might be easy to fix. Maybe only certain invoices need to be approved instead of all of them. Other times, the most effective solution, which might be implementing accounts payable automation for example, may necessitate some outside help. Content management and business process automation are both highly effective business process solutions that can make a huge difference in the efficiency of your operations and can be scaled and fitted to your needs. If your problem isn’t easily fixable, this may be your next step.

The most important part is that you make an effort to be aware of opportunities for business process improvement and then take action, as that can benefit your organization in a plethora of ways, from reduced costs to increased productivity to simply less stress and a healthier work environment. Invest in a little business process analysis and respond to findings that are less than ideal. In the end, it’s not always easier to keep processes the way they are.

For more information on how business process automation and content management can make a difference in your organization, download our infographic below.

Download Infographic:5 Stages of Going Paperless

4 Ways to Prepare for a Fall Document Scanning Project

  
  
  

4 Ways to Prepare for a Fall Document Scanning Project

pumpkin scannerEverything is suddenly pumpkin-flavored. Halloween decorations are prematurely appearing in stores. Your whole office is sneezing, a large bottle of hand sanitizer has taken up residence on your desk, and you can’t remember whether or not you actually like butternut squash. Yep, it’s fall.

Fall is a time for preparations. Prepare for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and then Christmas. We prepare by getting a flu shot, and we prepare by harvesting crops. These are important. Being unprepared has consequences and, a document scanning project has the same story.  By going into a project like this blindly, you run the risk of lots of wasted money and effort, but with a little bit of planning, the road will be a lot smoother. Here’s some things to check off your to-do list before getting started.

 

1.  Choose a vendor

This is one of the most important parts, and a lot of future planning goes into this. At this point, you may not even be sure what all you need. Consider your long-term goals as well as your current requirements and what role your organization will play in this project.  Will you only need scanning? Where are the documents being stored? Do you plan on implementing a document management system, or even Enterprise Content Management in the future? If you know you’re preparing for content management, it may be good to find one provider that does both.

2.  Review your retention requirements

These can determine what order you need to scan your files in, as well as if some of these documents even need to be digitized at all. If certain documents are set to expire before or shortly after they’re scanned, you might as well just keep them as is.

3.  Figure out what to do with paper documents after scanning

Do you shred them? Do you keep them? Feed them to gorillas? Fashion them into thousands of paper cranes and fill your boss’s office with them? Documents are typically kept for at least some period of time after scanning in case something needs to be rescanned for some reason. Your organization may have compliance policies about this that you need to be aware of, but regardless, they’re going to have to go somewhere.

4.  Plan an indexing scheme

One of the main objectives of digitizing your paper files is to improve organization and reduce retrieval times. In order for that to work, you need a solid, consistent filing system to make documents easy to find across your department or organization. This needs to be set up before the scanning takes place, so documents can be indexed as they are entered into your electronic system.

The idea of taking steps towards electronic, streamlined processes is exciting, but the value of it may be diluted with improper planning and subpar preparation.  Talk to your vendor about any additional steps you may need to take to make your scanning project a success. To learn more about why using less paper in your processes is a good idea, check out our infographic below.

  Download Infographic:5 Stages of Going Paperless

3 Important Steps to Championing a Change in the Workplace

  
  
  

3 Important Steps to Championing a Change in the Workplace

melting iciclejpg 86a13b2f0d893ac6Going through any big change can be hard. Being the leader of a change is harder.  We keep things a certain way because that’s how we like them, and convincing people to do things differently than how they’re used to is tricky business. We’re talking about a world where our local Starbucks running out of our favorite flavor of coffee elicits a look of flabbergast and a panicked “What?!”.  (Note: Do not talk to people about any changes before they’ve had coffee.)

However, without change there is no growth, and thanks to technology, the world is changing and moving faster than ever. Organizations who don’t improve their business processes in order to adapt will be left behind. Here’s a few tips on not only bringing change to the office without getting yourself uninvited to happy hour, but making that change successful and opening the door for easier improvements in the future.

1.       Prepare yourself for preparing others

Before you go spreading the good news of whatever it is you’re doing, it’s important to have a plan of action for communicating this change in the workplace. People won’t just take your word for it – they need a reason to believe you. Be able to produce thorough research and meaningful numbers to back up your claims and show how this new frontier will be filled with waterfalls and greenery, not new giants to battle. If you can’t effectively articulate your reasoning, no one will listen.

2.       Get everyone on board

Knowing what you’re going to say is only half the battle. Next, you have to sell it. One key to doing this is taking the focus off of what’s going to change, and instead put it on what’s going to be better and what’s going to remain the same. For example, in the case of business process automation, emphasize the aspects of their job that will be made easier. Will they need to do substantially less data entry? Will they have faster access to information? Tell them that, and explain why and how you know. The goal here is to replace trepidation with excitement and give people something familiar to anchor onto as they’re adapting to change in the workplace.

3.       Shout your success from the mountaintops

Was your project successful? Is it saving time? Is it cutting costs? Wonderful! Break out the champagne and party hats and TELL. EVERYONE. It’s important for people to know your efforts made a positive difference, and not just for gloating purposes. Especially if this is a small-scale change that could be rolled out to other departments or processes, when people get wind of previous success, they’re much quicker to hop on board next time around.

Implementing change in the workplace can be a bit of a challenge, but it’s made easier with attention to these guidelines. Remember to empathize with others and consider what their main concerns might be, and let that guide your approach to communication.

In need of some business process optimization success stories to back up your cause? Check out our customer testimonial of how Sarasota County overcame their paper overload below.

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