Why Electronic Document Management?
by David Bailey
Why Electronic Document Management?
Electronic document management means learning to manage content and the documents that support it in a digital world. Being Paperless could mean different things to different people.
Document Management - The management and retrieval of both paper scanned images and electronic files such a MS-Word, Excel and Outlook.
Document Imaging - The retrieval of document images, with an association to supporting data.
Content Management - The management of data primarily derived from website, internet and practice management transactions.
Records Management - Generally thought of as retention policy making for paper, electronic images and data.
Document Capture - The capture of paper from an electronic scanner, such as a digital copier, scanner and fax. In addition to images, Index data such as a name, number or document type descriptions are generally collected during the capture process. Document Capture will store the scanned documents on hard drives, network or CD with no capability to manage, locate or retrieve the documents at a later date.
To be paperless you should consider the importance of managing digital information and maintaining the integrity of the document as the source. Managing digital documents requires a certain degree of discipline. Consider the following:
- What is the document?
- Why is it needed?
- How will the documents be accessed and used?
- Who needs access to it?
- Is the information sensitive?
- Am I fulfilling my responsibilities for legal compliance and privacy laws?
- How long the documents are active and frequently reviewed vs. archived for legal retention?
- How long the information must be kept?
Your source files must be reliable or an accurate representation of the original.
When you are evaluating going paperless, the archive file you choose must be reliable 5, 10, even 30 years from now.
For electronically born documents, such as MS-Office, retaining the native format is the most desired format. For paper to image files, PDF is the ideal format for sharing, archiving and meeting legal requirement.
PDF image + text is a searchable document and a viable archive file format for storing scanned paper.
PDF image + text stores both color and B&W images in the form of tiff and jpg. PDF will store the entire multipage document in one file as opposed to file formats that store one page per file. In addition to the image and fully searchable text, a PDF file may also be the storage container for the meta data record or field data associated with the document images contained in the PDF file.
This type of PDF remains independent of proprietary external database index tables, links and pointers.
A completely paperless office in a typical business environment today is not realistic. However, there is no reason not to begin the initiative, improve processes and benefit from better leveraging information immediately.
The Cost of Paper
Are you ready to go paperless? Not yet, what are you waiting for? "I can't afford to go Paperless, it cost too much!" The following will reveal why you really can't afford NOT to go Paperless.
- Information is doubling every 2.5 years (Gartner)
- Pages per employee is increasing at 10% per year (Gartner)
- Organizations now maintain 30 times more data than in 1999 (Gartner)
- The U.S. annually spends $25-35B filing, storing and retrieving paper. (IDC)
- The number of pages consumed in the U.S. offices is going up at the rate of 20% per year.
- Dollar cost of a document, as a percentage of total company revenue, ranges for 6-14%. (All Associates)
- 75% of the cost of a document is in management and logistics (All Associates)
- Typical office workers spend 40% of their time looking for information.
- Professionals spend over 500 hours annually reviewing and routing files, and another 150 hours looking for incorrectly filed documents.
- The average document is copied 9 times (Gartner)
- It is estimated that 80% of information is still retained on paper even though more than 80% of the documents we work with are already in a computer somewhere. (CAP Venture Group)
Cost of Handling Paper
A survey published by futurelawoffice.com with regard to a modern law office shows:
- 70% of time is spent processing paper
- 90% of documents are paper
- 7.5% of documents are lost
- 15% of documents are misplaced
- 30% of documents contain obsolete information
- One four drawer file cabinet holds 15K-20K of pages, costs $25,000 to fill and costs $2,000 per year to maintain
Cost of Mishandling Paper
According to INC Magazine.
- It costs $20 to file a document
- $120 to search for a misfiled document, that is if you can find it
- It costs approximately $250 to recreate a lost document
So why do we still have so much paper in the office?
- Paper is comfortable to many
- Paper is easy to use and requires no special training
- Comparing documents is easy
- Paper requires no technology
Paper is an expensive luxury in comparison to what it cost to manage it digitally.
How do I begin going paperless?
1. Choose a software product that meets your objectives. There are plenty of packages out there that will sell you more features than you will ever use.
2. Choose a folder method of storing your digital files. For many, it is a similar method to storing the physical paper.
3. Settle on a file format that is not dependant on the software or proprietary in any way.
4. Visualize the paper-to-digital process as working within your existing daily workflow.
5. Choose a document management product that will locate and retrieve both your electronically created (Microsoft office, ASCII) and paper converted digital files (PDF).
If all this does not help, there is still the very real issue of compliance with the ever increasing legislature regarding regulations that require you to keep and be able to readily access vast amounts of information.
-  Sarbanes-Oxley
-  Regulation #302 & 404
-  DoD 5015.2-(records management standards)
-  ISO 15489
-  HIPAA
-  Gramm Leach Bliley Act
-  SEC
-  FTC, Safeguards ACT