The 411 on Document Management
October 7, 2011
Wouldn’t you rather have your employees focus on their jobs instead of embarking on mad searches for essential documents?
On your mark. Get set. Go! A Discovery request has come down from Legal. Do you dare to guess how long will it take your team to find the supporting files? If the answer is “too long,” then your document management strategy needs an overhaul.
Like many fast-growing businesses, your company has probably been hobbled by the swell of information that accompanies most every transaction and process. As a result, you may need to wade through a sea of files (many, if not most being hard copies) every time a customer inquiry, employee expense report, invoice or order, crosses your desk.
Allee, Allee Files in Free…
Now that your records management group must satisfy the needs of the legal, compliance and finance departments, your firm can’t afford to play a costly game of hide and seek with critical information. The way in which you manage your records can seriously impact your business.
Done right, a document management strategy can:
- Increase efficiency and boost productivity. By pruning out extraneous documents, you can find the remaining important records more easily. According to Iron Mountain customer surveys, professionals say they spend literally half of their work hours searching for mission-critical information. What’s more, 81 percent expressed some concern about their ability to access their companies’ contract files. [Check out our Efficiency Advisor]
- Ensure compliance with state and federal regulations as well as Discovery requests. According to market researchers at the Gartner Group, a relatively mid-scale legal case could call for a $500,000 Discovery budget. [Check out our Unified Records Management Solutions Advisor]
- Reduce costs. These include the expense of document retrieval, recreating lost files and the fines and penalties incurred for non-compliance with federal or state regulations. Coopers & Lybrand has estimated that a business could spend $120 in labor to find a missing document; market research firm IDC says it costs a firm $14,000 each year in lost productivity due to poorly organized information. That’s steep! [Check out our Finance Advisor]
A Method to the Madness
When you take a look at the stacks of files, sticky notes, emails and other bits of information that you call your records, getting a grip on it all may seem daunting. But efficient document management is well within your reach, if you implement the following set of methods and best practices:
- Assess the current state of your document storage system, paying careful attention to inherent strengths and weaknesses.
- Eliminate extraneous information. By doing so, you’ll reduce your paper and electronic storage costs, of course. You’ll also maximize the usefulness of the remaining vital documents.
- Develop tiered management processes. Determine what to digitize, what to store and how to access relevant documents easily.
- Digitize paper documents. Start with the most-used files, including those germane to compliance or operational processes.
- Tag documents in a file with a tracking number. This ensures that all parts of a record are filed together for easy retrieval later on.
- Define document management policies, including those that govern the proper retention and destruction of records.
- Organize and define your document management program; be sure to specify roles and responsibilities for your team and explain any potentially new or complex terminology.
- Use a desktop upload tool that lets users store digital and converted documents in a single location.
- Keep it user-friendly. Develop a system with simplified document management and search capabilities.
- Allow simultaneous access by multiple users.
- Establish privacy and security guidelines.
- Implement an information management compliance program, then become its advocate throughout your business. Don’t forget to train employees in the program—and hold them accountable.
- Apply reporting and metrics to monitor performance and ensure data security, accessibility and integrity.
- Audit your document management program to monitor compliance.
So Get Out That Stopwatch…
Ostensibly, these practices will keep you above reproach in terms of meeting federal and state laws and regulations. They’ll also pare precious minutes or even hours off of response times, while also reducing possible non-compliance fines and penalties. So, the next time you receive an Discovery request, approve a vendor’s invoice or stamp an expense report “Approved,” the information you need should be at arm’s reach. And you might just cross that finish line ahead of your competitors.
On your mark, get set. Go!
The Checklist: How Do We Manage?
A document management plan should address these key business concerns:
- Q: “Are we in compliance?”
A: Organizing and indexing documents makes the monotony of searching through uncritical records that much easier. It should also help to prove compliance with federal and state regulations as well as fulfill legal discovery requests.
- Q: “How do we become more efficient?”
A: A professional can spend 50 percent of his or her time locating documents. Isn’t that time better spent actually doing his or her job? By ditching extraneous files and streamlining business processes and workflow, your organization will help its staff cut hours spent on records retrieval.
- Q: “Where will we save?”
A: That’s easy: You won’t spend thousands of dollars in lost productivity costs each year, caused by hard-to-find files.
Document Imaging: Just the Facts
Document Imaging is at the core of any document management strategy. How familiar are you with the lexicon of this growing field and the significant changes in technology that have reshaped the landscape? Here’s what you should know:
- Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology has advanced significantly, which means improved document-scanning accuracy.
- Servers can now handle millions of images a day, which equips them to host even the most extensive records stockpile.
- Backfile document imaging is the bulk conversion of paper records to electronic form.
- Day-Forward imaging applies to a firm’s daily processing of newly created documents.
- Image on Demand: The ability to scan only what you need, only when you need it. By doing so, you’ll save the cost of scanning pages that may never be accessed again.
- Document imaging solutions should be compatible with your broader document management system.
Iron Mountain Suggests:
As you slowly embrace a document management strategy, consider taking the following steps:
- Reduce your firm’s volume of information to maximize the usefulness of both its paper-based and electronic data.
- Identify vital documents and prioritize information; make the most-used information more easily accessible.
- Better organize remaining records. Apply process changes and technology to improve information flow among people and locations, reducing inefficiencies and streamlining workflows.
- Adopt a hierarchical approach to information management. Create and apply storage structures based on access requirements, which helps to optimize costs.
- Choose a vendor partner that adheres to the highest security standards.
Do you have more questions about your firm’s document management options? Read additional Knowledge Center stories on this subject, or Contact Iron Mountain’s consulting services team. You’ll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services specialist who can address your information management challenges.
It All Adds Up: The Positive Effects of Smart Information Management
Document Management Briefing: Brother, Can You Spare a File?
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