Document management benefits
The benefits of document management are sometimes obvious (they save you from drowning in paper files), but sometimes are more subtle.
If you have employees who spend most of the day filing and retrieving documents, then you are dealing with one of the biggest hidden costs of a paper-intensive businesses. Let's say it takes a $20/hour employee five minutes (a very conservative estimate) to walk to your records room, locate a file, act on it, refile it, and return to his desk.
At just twelve files per week, that's over 52 hours per year spent filing - which adds up to over $1000 in wages. At thirty files per week, those number increase to 130 hours per year and $2600 - for only one employee. A system that makes it possible for employees to find and work with documents without ever leaving their desks can instantly improve efficiency and slash costs.
Document management systems also eliminate so-called "lost document" costs - the time it takes to recreate a document that's been destroyed or misplaced. Based on research done in this area, some suppliers estimate the cost of replacing each lost document is $120 or more.
Additional cost savings come in the form of office space that can be freed-up by eliminating paper records. With real estate costing $15 to $40+ per square foot in many major cities, converting records rooms into usable office space can save considerable amounts of money. In other cases, companies are able to eliminate the cost of warehousing years of archived records.
If you're not taking data security seriously, you should be. Threats from outside and inside your company jeopardize the integrity and value of your most important information. Document management systems can provide several layers of security against identity thieves, hackers, disgruntled employees, and the prying eyes of the competition. Standard security measures include:
- Multiple levels of password-protected access for groups and individuals
- Encryption of document contents
- Audit trails showing who has accessed or updated documents
Whether your existing documents are paper or electronic, chances are you don't have adequate disaster recovery plans in place. Document management systems protect your paper records by creating electronic copies that can be backed up in multiple ways. They also can include off-site data backups and other steps to ensure that a fire, flood, or break-in won't cripple your business.
Even as the web makes it increasingly easy for employees to work remotely, paper records remain a serious roadblock for widely distributed organizations. The right document management system allows your employees access to vital records wherever they may be.
Furthermore, by allowing more than one employee to look at one file at the same time, document management systems can improve office efficiency. And as previously mentioned, multi-layered access allows employees to see and change only the documents they're authorized to handle.
One benefit many larger companies see from document management systems is the ability to enforce consistency in document handling processes. Different departments may have different approval processes - but once those are defined, the system will make sure they're followed. No longer will inconsistency in filing and naming conventions hamper your workflow as you add new employees or cover for vacationing staff.
Document management in action
One document management vendor offered this example of how document management solutions can transform a business. A salmon distributor based in Seattle would move their entire operation to Anchorage every summer for fishing season. This included putting their corporate servers and pallets full of paper files on a barge and sailing them up the coast. At the end of the summer, they'd pack everything up and get back on the barge.
Not the most efficient business plan, perhaps, but they couldn't operate without their records. Once their document management system was in place, all they had to do was bring a laptop and small scanner with them to Anchorage, and they could still access all their records as if they were back in Seattle.