The Paperless Office: Managing Your Documents Electronically

A DMS can help make any organization more efficient when dealing with clients and their associated paperwork by streamlining the document flow through the office.

Channel Partners

July 9, 2012

5 Min Read
The Paperless Office: Managing Your Documents Electronically

By Jim True

In todays business world, the ROI of any project is important. As competition increases, it is imperative that a companys investments generate a large enough return. Increasing business efficiency is the most compelling reason for investing money in any project and technology alone has helped businesses over the last 10-15 years become more efficient. For example, replacing typewriters with word processors and calculators with spreadsheets initiated a huge increase in productivity per employee. However, with the amount of paperwork necessary to run a business increasing, maintaining status quo required businesses to move to the next level in office productivity implementing a paperless office” with a complete document management solution.

What is a Document Management System (DMS)?

Simply put, a DMS replaces not only the paper files and documents in an office, but enables the user to send an electronic document through the same steps a paper document or file would follow. For instance, if a financial services firm has a new account form that is filled out for each client account and it must proceed from the agent to the trader and then to accounting, then a document management system must provide the same path. So, a true management system not only provides storage, but must provide the same workflow capabilities. Along the way it must also protect documents so that only the necessary people can view them. An example might be a medical clinic which must comply with HIPAA regulations. Patient records must be kept confidential and an audit trail kept for all record access.

A DMS can provide a method for storing all relevant documents about a particular customer or vendor allowing office staff to gain a total view of the customer or vendor. If the DMS can be integrated into the point software solutions that each department uses, significant gains in productivity and efficiency can be gained. For instance, the accounting department could access documents (orders, invoices, contracts, etc.) online from their accounting application. Sales could access documents from their CRM (customer relationship management) software. The goal of a DMS should be the software glue that ties the different software packages together in such a manner that all departments in a business gain efficiencies.

Benefits of a DMS

Documents are stored in an electronic format which is easily backed up. Multiple copies of documents are eliminated by allowing controlled access to multiple users. In contrast, a paper-based system would require copies of each piece of paper as they are generated. At 5 cents per page, this can become prohibitively expensive and is less secure.

Misfiled documents can be easily found using the search capabilities built into the document management system. Misfiled documents in a paper-based system can be impossible to find depending on how and when they were misfiled.

Filing documents is consistent and easy, particularly if the document management system uses templates to standardize the filing process. Filing paper documents requires a trip to the filing cabinet.

Moving documents from one point to another in the process becomes automatic using workflow. Determining who has a document or folder in workflow is available at all times. Finding a paper folder somewhere in a manual process can be difficult at best, particularly if its buried on someones desk.

Convert paper forms to an electronic version. Data can be captured and populate a database and the paper is no longer necessary. Filling out paper forms can be tedious and prone to human error. Using electronic forms allows most data to be prefilled eliminating these types of errors.

A DMS can be a very valuable tool for small-to-midsized businesses. Lost documents become a thing of the past, saving time and effort on the employees end in searching for files that are nowhere in sight. Misfiled documents are a huge problem and can turn an office upside-down when looking for them, but that also becomes a non-issue. Powerful search tools built into a DMS allow misfiled documents to be easily found and refilled in the correct place. Answering a customers query while on the phone with them is also a source of significant savings. Imagine the following scenario a customer calls in with a question about their last order. If the customer service representative can pull up the document on their screen and answer the question right then without having to pull the file and call the customer back, a huge time savings is generated for the business. It is also more efficient for the customer and the telephone tag game is avoided. Being able to email or share documents in a secure portal with the customer has the same benefit.

Another time-saving illustration is using electronic workflow to distribute and route documents through an organization. Think of the time used in moving paper from one point in the company to another. Some companies still have a person that goes around and picks up paper documents and moves them from one point to another. With a DMS this function is eliminated entirely.

A DMS can help make any organization more efficient when dealing with clients and their associated paperwork by streamlining the document flow through the office. While many of the above listed benefits correlate directly with their physical paper counterparts, they also overcome the inherent deficiencies of a paper-based system.

Jim True is VP of product management at Cabinet NG, a provider of electronic document management and workflow management software, located in Madison, Alabama. Jim can be reached at [email protected].

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