by August 4, 2005 0 comments

X-ray films, DNA prints, finger prints, ECG reports, live tissues and cultures, leaves and tree barks on one side, and paper and electronic files on the other. What do they have in common? You may wonder at the irrelevance of this question while it is not. Well, all of them are various forms in which you can document your observations, results and findings. Not to confuse documents with only print, paper or electronic, there are other forms as mentioned above, in which the documents are saved. Medical science, for instance, uses tissues and serums from living organisms as documental records. They also record data on photographic films (as in x-ray films) and paper (say the long ECG reports). But all these have one common thread-they need to be managed. Today, more and more organizations want to optimize their IT resources. And two important issues govern this need-that of efficiency and productivity. The same are the drivers for rising criticality with which we need to manage documents. This is because efficiency is directly proportional to cost optimization and productivity from improved process effectiveness.

Benefits of document management
  • Better information dissemination and flow: Multiple users can access the electronic documents kept in the servers/intranet at one time, which could never have been possible with printed files. Thus, document management endeavors have enabled better information dissemination and flow.
  • Anytime, anywhere access: With proper document-management infrastructure and practices in place, you no longer have to waste those crucial man/machine hours searching for a misplaced or lost record
  • Archiving and longer lifetime: Once the documents are managed and converted to electronic formats such as
    PDF, TIFF, scanned documents, etc the records and blue prints are safe for future use/record. You can also create
    CDs/DVDs and keep them. Also, electronic documents have much longer life than printed ones, as they do not decay that fast and the wear and tear issues are less.
  • Communication: Today MFDs and other document management devices offer various features that enhance the way in which you communicate. Features such as highlighting, adding notes, etc are added as a separate layer to the image files, without disturbing the original one, that can add impact to your document.
  • Organized files and information: The available document management solutions give you options such as property field indexing for dynamic file sorting. For instance, there are filing systems in which you can sort files according to their numbers or names. 

And an important and appreciable fraction of the expenses is attributed to inefficient processes that the organizations follow for documentation and keeping the records. This statement may sound a little extravagant but it’s true that almost 80% of the office processes require intensive documentation. These documents may be in any form/format-printed or electronic. And thus arises the need for managing them, keep them available for use at any time required. This in turn requires sound document management solutions in place so that each organization can save on the time, money spent on these processes. While there are many aware enterprises that have already begun to realize the importance of this issue, most of the mid-sized businesses are yet to step in. So document management forms and essential part of developing a strategy for effective IT infrastructure implementation that you dare not forgo.

Document management is not only to do with scanners, MFDs, filing systems, data centers, etc. Instead it comprises issues such as document conversion, storage, integrity and security, deployment and maintenance as well as legal issues.

Organizations first need to prioritize their concerns and then get down to solving each of them. 

Why do this?

are a hidden aspect of business cost and IT infrastructure. If you cannot
measure it, you are not managing your business effectively. Office workers
produce about 7.5 billion documents a year. IDC estimates that executives spend
45 percent of their time working with documents. This means that costs are
increasing year-on-year in an area, which is traditionally not measured and not
managed. Findings of current office document management indicate that searching
for documents accounts for more than 4 hours a month for the average employee
while the total time required to recreate lost documents accounts for more than
6 hours a month. Hence document management can make dramatic improvements to
organization making important contributions to organizations both in increasing
efficiency and also minimizing costs.
L V Sastry, Associate Director Xerox Global Services

For instance, the organizations that already have some such system running need to look into the security issues-that the document banks are safe from any malicious activity, or that only authorized people have access to the right set of documents. Such companies also need to abide by rules and regulations that place legal bindings on how to manage documents within their company.

Document conversion
Often you require converting one form of documents to another and from one format to another. The printed records need to be scanned and kept in electronic format, or photocopied. So you must know which method is the best. For example, when you have something on paper and want to work on it in your computer, you would scan it, OCR it, correct the OCR’s output and then use the result file in a word processor. Or, create a PDF of the file. At each stage, the document’s format changes. Further, mere scanning and saving a document may cause errors to creep in during scanning. So you need have a system to fix them. An intelligent document management system manages all these stages. 

Among the various options available, you can store documents either in the physical form, as hard copies, or convert it into digital format and then store it. Proper storage of documents is essential for keeping them safe and allowing quick and easy retrieval whenever required.

STATS: Facts and figures
  • 82% organizations say documents are critical to the successful documentation of their businesses. According to
    IDC, documents consume up to 50% of IT budgets
  • As many as 90% of the companies do not track the expenditure on producing and maintaining documents or the cost associated with output device management, says IDC
  • Output volumes are increasing by up to 21% per annum due to the use of technologies such as the ERP systems, Internet and intranet-estimates IDC

Despite the advent of digital and electronic formats, they are not the media that can be trusted as far as the security and document frauds are concerned. Even today, the safest means of storing the most important of the documents remain keeping them in physical hard copy form, neatly stacked and locked (if they are confidential in nature). This can be in the form of both, papers or microfilms (microfilms are mainly used to store copies of books and legal documents). But there are some problems with physical storage also. These include these methods as consuming lot of space and increasing the time required to search and retrieve them. Storing documents in electronic formats can solve the search and sort issues. At the same time, this saves a lot of space too, both physically and virtually. 

The ideal process
While there is no magical potion that would make the complete process of document management foolproof, effective document management processes should aim to reduce IP (Intellectual Property) access and retrieval times; increase use and value of IP; increase knowledge about accessing files; support knowledge sharing; reduce the time and energy spent; reduce work and document duplication; improve document security; abide by the legal rules and regulations; ensure better space utilization; improve quality; reduce distortion; and enhance effective information flow. Also it should help reduce the work and document duplication.

This is incomplete unless such a system aids reduction of the various costs involved. So unless you ensure that your enterprise is adopting and exploiting the correct document management systems, you cannot address the issue of huge expenditures that you have been incurring over documentation.

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