Electronic document filing has been around for a long time. Inspite of its longevity there are still a large number of companies who have not considered it as a tool for improving their business operations.
In my experience this is largely due to an inertia that just leaves companies doing what they have been familiar with for many years. Unfortunately they miss the signs that point to a need to consider a new way of dealing with their short term and long term records.
Signs that you might be missing in your office.
Paper filing cabinets never seem to get cleaned out. The need for new ones keeps growing and growing.
Office workers find themselves hunting each day for important files they need to do their work. They might even go to the step of posting on a white board the details of what they are looking for to enable others to help in the hunt.
You find yourself looking for new multi form printers. Even using dot matrix impact printers so you can create paper forms to route to various departments.
The pile of back filing that grows on the filing cabinets never goes away since it is no-one's job.
No-one is charged with the responsibility to determine when old files can be shredded. They just get boxed and stuck in the back warehouse with a date on them.
When someone goes on vacation the ability for others in the office to deal with their files is a big challenge. Often the work just gets delayed till they return.
Shipments get delayed because the paperwork for matching POs and inventory is not available on time.
Dealing with pdf files from outside contractors and suppliers leads to increased print loads so the system can access the information on them.
You are still highly dependent upon fax in your office.
You get daily enquiries from your account reps wanting to know the status of their account deliveries.
You begin to see your customers broaden their supplier base and dealing with competitors on some products you used to supply to them.
You have several employees who don't regularly come to the office but work out of remote locations while still needing access to client files.
There are probably other signals which you might recognize in your office as well but the above twelve are common ones which I have seen over the years. In some offices you will see all twelve while in some others a handfull of these signs will dominate your workflow.
If you go down the list and identify with six of more then you should look seriously at the potential to move your systems over to an structured electronic filing software platform. The effort to do this will be well rewarded by improved productivity, less risk and happier employees.
Don't decide based only on perceptions
In one instance I experienced several years ago, we were reviewing the document workflows in a client office and the employee group identified many areas where the current paper system frustrated their performance. They embraced the idea of researching an improved system. In discussing the potential with the company President however, he felt the employees would not want to change the way they were working and he declined to participate in the research. Of course when asked if there were problems finding the files needed he said he did not think so. When his admin assistant was asked she indicated that no he did not experience problems because she found them for him, often after a hard search.
In this case the problems existed but were not identified or understood by senior management since they were insulated from them. Some structured research could have brough common data forward for decisions to be made.
Determining that there is a need for change is not a big challenge. With some assistance it is possible to quantify the impacts of your current systems and figure out what the level of benefit that would be required to make the changes viable and cost effective. Sometimes you may be surprised by the level of challenge that is created by how you are currently working.
The investment level required to be able to implement a move to electronic filing is much less today than most companies will expect. Hardware and software costs are substantially lower than historically was the case. Working with an experienced vendor will also help you avoid many of the pitfalls which can be experienced when inexperienced people try to build their own solution.
How many of the signs do you experience? Are there others you think should be added? How good is your workflow?
Photo credit: By Maggie McCain (Flickr: PB103495) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons