Going Green: Planning for an Electronic Document Management System

Photo by Peter Skadberg

Just recently, I was having a conversation with my friend, renowned architect, interior designer and furniture designer, Ricardo Ramos of Studio Ramos about his document management process. I was completely inspired by the fact that Ricardo runs a paperless office. Every document, photo and file that he has is digital. While I'm known for my God-given gift for being well organized and keeping a spotless space, I am far from paperless.

I've seen An Inconvenient Truth and even have a copy of Al Gore's 2007 Nobel Prize winning lecture beautifully framed in my livingroom. I actively promote environmental conservation in my home and office and try to have as little negative impact on the planet as possible. However, I must admit that I keep stuff…. The abundance of magazines and inspiration files are neatly filed, labeled and tucked away- and I'll recycle them when I'm done- but Ricardo has inspired me to pursue a better method of document management.

If you're looking to cut down on your paper piles, you'll find this article timely. If you decide to go digital, you'll save yourself some precious time, real estate and the planet in the process. Read on as Reagan Goodson tells us how to plan for the digital conversion.

V. Carr
Managing Director

Photo by Peter Skadberg
Going Green:
Planning for an Electronic Document Management System

In today’s fast-paced business world, more and more businesses are deciding to become paperless. ‘Becoming Paperless’ is basically the process of taking all of a company’s paper records and converting them into digital images, retrievable through the company’s network of computers and workstations. This allows the business to access the paper records in a fraction of the time it would take them to retrieve a paper file and prevents the employees from having to re-file the documents that they retrieve.

The efficiencies gained from a paperless office are tremendous. These efficiencies allow the company to increase its processing speed, reduce is storage space, and improve security over its important business documents. It also allows the company to easily backup all of its records in case of a disaster or theft of those files.

The initial investment for the business that is becoming paperless is usually in an Electronic Document Management System (EDMS). This EDMS is the tool that the business uses to scan and manage all of its electronic files. It provides the interface for the employees to retrieve the files and provides the security to prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing these files.

Before a business can become paperless, it is important that they do some important upfront planning in order to reduce critical mistakes made in the future. The first thing that needs to be looked at is the types and amount of files that will be stored within the Electronic Document Management System. For example, will this system need to store only scanned documents, or will it also need to store working documents, such as Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel documents. Some systems only store scanned images, so if you need this flexibility, be sure to ask that question.

Also, some EDMS’s will store the images directly on the individual employee’s desktop computer. This is fine if you are storing a small amount of files and it is not necessary to share the files between multiple employees. It is usually a better idea, however, to purchase a system that stores all of the files in a central repository, so that all users are able to access the files. These systems will also provide permission-based security, so it is easy to specify exactly who can access specific files.

The most important part of becoming paperless however is the getting the files into the system. This is generally a time-consuming process, and can also be a costly one. You should decide upfront which files should be stored in the system. At first, you would probably be inclined to want to include all of your files in the system. It is usually more feasible, however, to just include the documents that will likely be retrieved often. This will allow you to keep your upfront costs down, and when your company has become familiar and comfortable with the system, then you can usually justify putting all of your files in the system.

By Reagan Goodson
Image by Peter Skadberg

Reagan Goodson is a Certified Document Imaging Architect and the president and founder of Imagine Document Solutions, a company that specializes in helping organizations of all sizes become paperless.