Contrary to our expectations technological advances have increased the volume of paper generated. We can reverse this trend: The reality of electronic document storage and the less-paper office has arrived. This guide is designed as an entry-point.
Legal and regulatory requirements demand that organizations retain a significant number and variety of records in the form of contracts, transactional records, employment records, accounting data, research data and in some cases correspondence.
Most countries now accept electronic communications as legally binding, based on the following two principles:
The commonly accepted basic requirement for any electronic communication is that it must be readily accessible so as to be usable for subsequent reference. A person must also consent to receiving electronic communications. Consent, however, can be express or inferred from a person's conduct.
Speed, space-saving, efficiency and cost and even improved disaster recovery are all solid benefits that can be gained from document management systems.
Document scanning generates mountains of data. Unless you devise a proper structure and processes for dealing with it, you may ultimately find that the sheer volume of data begins to undermine the advantages that drove you into document management.
Scanned image files just give you a picture of the document and store it in a file. The user or manager responsible for the system will need to determine naming conventions and directory structures for easy retrieval and whether to convert the image files into searchable text with optical character recognition tools.
The workflow aspects of the paperless office can take you down many tracks. Do not embark on a paperless project unless you have worked out a clear picture of the existing information flow within your organization and considered how documents will be logged in and out of the database, and how users might raise them for action by other team members, and the authorisation process to clear them for deletion or long-term storage.
Tip: You may just want to replicate the structure of your paper files as everyone is familiar with this.
The following key questions will need to be answered:
You will need to tackle the problem using small steps:
On day 1 of the implementation, most organisations begin by capturing new documents as they arrive. It may not be a great idea to schedule the transition around the time of your year end. But once they're up and running, users often discover how little they actually refer to older documentation. This is a useful insight, as it helps to define how much of the old archive you digitise. Prioritising documents that must be saved for legal purposes is a useful first step, and in some cases "active" paperwork can be identified.
It is the older, dormant stuff that poses the biggest question: Do you really need it? If the answer is yes, the decision rests between packing it away in crates, or going through the effort of scanning and filing it electronically. Depending on how densely you pack your files, the estimated cost of capturing the contents of a filing cabinet is between $500 - $1,000.
The volume of incoming and stored documents will influence the types of software, scanner and storage you choose. One paperless firm estimates it consumes 1.5-2Gb of storage per 100 users per month.