Even though a paperless office might not be a possibility, using document imaging and digital storage is a good idea for almost every business. Document imaging allows for the storage of more information in less space than traditional paper files and file cabinets. Many offices have entire rooms devoted to paper file systems and in some cases, such as legal offices, the original document is the only one that matters.
But in most offices, documents can be stored digitally and be of more use to office staff than the original if it is available through the computer on their desk. Document imaging can be used for sending faxes by email or over the internet. When used in this manner, the fax may be scanned from a paper document, sent electronically, read by the recipient, who stores that information on their computer without the need to produce a paper copy. Document imaging can be used to produce a questionnaire, feedback report, or test that is transmitted electronically, completed by the recipient, and returned to the sender electronically. In this manner, information is gathered and no paper was ever involved. Because so many people carry PDA’s today, many documents can be scanned and made available to employees even when they are away from the office.
Directly scanning a document to be saved electronically, stored and retrieved at a later time, is a great method of retaining copies of documents for information and archival purposes. This storage method saves businesses thousands of dollars a year in paper costs, actual storage space within the office, and in time spent by employees handling paper documents through the process of filing, retrieving, and later re-filing once a task is complete. By using document imaging, office staff can call up an image of any document with a few key strokes and put it away with even fewer strokes. Depending on the type of storage system a business uses, others can view the same document from another location at the same time, even if that location isn’t in the same building. With the huge hard drive and CD storage space available today it makes sense to keep digital copies of documents even if you still prefer to keep the hard copies on site. By having a backup of all your data, you are protected from their permanent loss in case of fire or other disaster.
Document management is an overall business strategy based on digitizing print information so you can manage and share business information efficiently. A well-designed document management system has much to offer your business. It can help:
• Reduce filing costs - Digital documents can be easier to file and easier to access than paper;
• Reduce distribution costs - You can save printing and toll charges when you e-mail a document rather than fax it;
• Protect information - You can control access to digital files, and maintain a history of who reads the document. Encryption options for e-mail and stored files provide even more control;
• Improve access to information - Groups of employees can share digital files more easily than they can paper. Multiple copies can be sent to appropriate users via e-mail in seconds, and Web-based information can be viewed by anyone on the Internet (with proper authentication, if necessary);
• Regulatory compliance - Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA require organizations to maintain appropriate security and controls for both accounting and patient information. Paper based filing systems do not offer the sophisticated security and controls as a document imaging system does.
An electronic imaging system (imagingconnections.com) is a blend of hardware, software, telecommunications, supplies, maintenance, people, training, and policies. Thus, it is important that your top senior management support the project. Support is required not only because of the potential costs involved, but because these systems will cross departmental lines and change the way large groups of end-users do their jobs. There are a number of important items to consider and plan for. You will want to prepare a good specification and/or request for proposal known as an RFP in order to avoid misunderstandings with vendors. When selecting a vendor, you will want to consider service in your geographic location, support, and financial stability as well as price. Don't forget to develop an installation plan covering when wiring will be done, the phase-out of the old system and phase-in of the new one. Be sure to provide for maintenance contracts and a method of operating when part of your system goes down. It is also a good idea to develop a disaster plan with back up copies of your electronic records, your index, software and accessibility to hardware. Development of a training program for system operators and users is very important. When you think you're done, you're not] It's now time to plan for expansion, perhaps more applications and/or more users and migration to your next phase of automation or to a bigger and better system.
Gartner study says, 80% of business applications will be Internet based by 2008. Why the trend? IT professionals and businesses are tired of purchasing software, paying ongoing software support fees, managing upgrades, and dedicating IT resources to software applications. The traditional document imaging system requires client software to be installed on a network server and/or PC's. In most cases today document imaging software is installed as a browser based application for easier installation and single point of technical support. In the last few years there has been a shift towards web hosted secure online document repositories. There are a few very good reasons for this, since there is no software to purchase or on going software support fees, there is no capital expenditure. Since there isn't any software to manage there are very little IT resources dedicated to managing the scanning project. In most cases since there are no software licenses online document repositories are typically unlimited to the number of authorized users that can be on the system at the same time accessing documents via an Internet connection.
Outsourcing continues to be a strategic consideration for more and more business applications. The obvious reason for this is because organizations-any size, any industry, for profit or non-profit, etc. -will employ proven methods to hold down costs if performance and operational quality can be guaranteed. As we move toward more technology-driven operations, more applications for outsourcing are emerging. One application in particular is in the area of document imaging. Document imaging projects involve a healthy variety of considerations and challenges, and for these reasons outsourcing lends itself well to moving forward with such an undertaking. Unless an organization has available in-house resources and expertise and can secure both for the duration of an imaging project, outsourcing provides a timely and potentially cost effective answer.