Even simple technologies can transform organizations. Consider digital cameras and the construction industry. Before this technology, contractors relied upon people to describe a job and would have to do an initial site visit. After, people simply took a picture, emailed it, got a swift answer, an estimate, then a solution.
While many companies implement accounts payable automation services that include automatic data extraction, integration with ERP systems and workflow automation, simple document management in the form of scan-store-retrieve can have the same transformative capability as digital cameras in construction—especially for small to medium-size companies.
Some call this “old-school” document management services, which are defined as follows:
- Document Scanning: this may be accomplished in your office with a document scanner and software with no need for OCR, auto-indexing, database lookups, and the like—just scan it. Or you can outsource it to a document scanning company.
- Document Indexing: accounts payable documents have no more than four or five unique identifiers that need to be keyed, one of which is usually a date and the others are typically vendor name, invoice amount or purchase order.
- Digital Storage and Retrieval: these electronic documents can be securely stored and easily retrieved in a digital file cabinet hosted in the cloud or on your internal network.
For many small and medium-sized companies, only a handful of people are needed to handle all accounting functions, which usually amounts to 1-3 clerks and a CPA/Controller. They have created institutional knowledge about how things operate and don’t need any additional assistance to manage the company’s activities. Most invoices are processed quickly, purchase orders are well managed, and all documents found fairly easily in filing cabinets.
Even in this scenario, storing these documents in an organized and electronic fashion provide significant organizational benefits that go beyond process improvement. Even if you perform these actions after the transaction has been processed, you can ultimately save time and money, and improve your risk profile.
In many cases, the documents that drive your processes are critical to ongoing business. Contracts, invoices, and HR files all must be managed. In an unplanned event, such as a fire, flood or vandalism, your paper documents can be permanently damaged or destroyed. Reassembling them can be expensive, if not impossible, and can drive you out of business. Having these documents in a document management repository that is regularly backed up enables you to quickly and easily get back up and running with little or no interruption.
Simplified Retrieval & Enhanced Customer Service
Sit down at your desk and start a timer. Track how long it takes you to get up, find a file, make a copy, put it in an envelope or fax it to your supplier/customer, and re-file the folder. Now, imagine doing a quick file search while you have the person on the phone, clicking an email icon, and sending it to them right away. Electronic documents save you time.
Never Lose Anything
Even if you don’t have a natural disaster, people like to hoard information. An employee may take a file and hold it on their desk (for a perfectly legitimate reason). If another employee needs that file, how will they know that it is on someone else’s desk—especially if the first one is out of the office traveling, sick or on vacation? Having an electronic solution makes all the files available whenever anyone needs it (not to mention being able to keep prying eyes out of things that they should not see).
Transfer of Knowledge
Having all of your documents in a single repository may enable you to transfer the institutional knowledge contained in the heads of your employees, quickly and efficiently. For instance, in an electronic world, you can put notes and non-related documentation into the repository. When the person leaves the organization (which they eventually will), this information can be easily retrieved and acted upon.
In short, even small organizations can benefit from a simple document management application. Reduced risk, knowledge transfer and information accessibility are all legitimate reasons. These are in addition to the costs savings associated with paper, toner, copier click charges, and offsite storage.