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Managing a mix of paper and digital

Most organisations and businesses large and small will have policies or regulations that help determine how their business documents and records are managed and maintained.

The systems and processes that help a business manage its documents and information vary greatly; some may have been instigated long before the introduction of any computerised office and others may have been introduced directly as a result of the digital age. Irrespective, these systems and procedures are adapted and redefined to cope with a mix of the old – predominantly paper, and the new – digital. The conceptual “paperless office” has in reality become the “less paper more digital office” as the relentless move to digitise everything marches on!

Digitising paper

Digitising paper is often seen as an unnecessary task for a lot of businesses. So much paperwork is kept simply because no one knows what is important and if it should be kept at all, so what’s the point spending time digitising it? If you don’t know what to keep, then you’re probably safer keeping it all! 

However, paper documents should be protected - so make sure there is a back-up copy/duplicate. If you don’t and the original document is damaged beyond repair it will be lost for good and you’ll not be able to get it back! 

The easy thing to do is convert it to a PDF (portable document format).  Most businesses have the capability to scan a document and convert it to a PDF direct from a printer and sometimes even a mobile phone! 

Many business insurers require electronic data to be backed up in case of a disaster, so what’s the difference between this and paper?  Make sure your paper documents are backed-up too! 

Managing the electronic

Electronic Document Management (EDM/EDRM) is much simpler than it may first sound. Essentially, it brings all your different business information silos together in to one secure central electronic searchable repository that is instantly accessible. It may contain your in-coming letters and out-going correspondence, emails, other internal communications, company transactions, official documentation, financial documents, HR documents, internal policy documents, health and safety policies, quality manuals, customer records, supplier information – in fact anything that would have been stored in a filing cabinet conventionally or your computer network.

Once digitised and indexed in a document management system (DMS), there will be features available that allow you to process the scanned documents and electronic files. There will be tools that allow you to annotate and mark-up documents.

There should be workflow features that allow you to send documents to colleagues for action. Documents can be versioned, they can be re-used and they can be securely delivered to others, indexed and catalogued. A document management system also provides security: access controls and permission features for internal and external users and the all-important audit trail detailing activity within the system.

Digitising paper delivers some key benefits and will offer:
  • More space and less confusion 
  • Reduced storage costs and office floor space can be used more cost efficiently
  • Sharing information is more effective and efficient
  • Collaboration
  • Searching is quick and easy - OCR optical character recognition allows search of content in documents
  • Fast information retrieval times maximises working time
  • Easy remote access offers flexible off-site working
  • Increased security – remember paper documents are extremely vulnerable to the old damage enemies: fire and water. Digitising ensures there is a backup!
  • Audit trail – system and user activity and a document of a documents life-cycle

All that said, through necessity or due to preference, there will be many businesses that still will continue to store paper!

Get help to protect your knowledge base, the data and your reputation

We all seem to be obliged to obey more official rules and regulations than ever before. Business is expected to comply with the code of official regulations and also the specifics of internal procedures. With these come added pressures: a forthcoming internal audit, an unannounced external audit, demands to see a client file from years back or an invoice filed last week, a GDPR request from a customer who wants to know what personal information and documents you hold. Just the thought of an audit can result in days of additional administrative burden and at worst, there is the risk of something worse: a fine, lost accreditations and tarnished reputations!

Get the help you need to manage and protect this information and electronic data. There is reliable, mature document management software to help you store and process electronic documents and communications and improve efficiency and productivity. There are secure storage companies that can index, archive and store your paper documents in secure purpose designed facilities. There are IT providers that can ensure your business is protecting its electronic data. 

There are also niche solution providers that meld the old with the new; particularly suited to those organisations with a requirement to keep signed paper documents and a propensity to also store an efficient digital version. These solution providers offer a variety of services and systems to help manage the mix of electronic and paper documents such as:
  • Document management systems 
  • Audit Trail & Version Control
  • Tracking of record and document movements
  • Scanning and electronic retrieval services
  • Invoice scanning and intelligent data capture
  • Data Capture, Indexing and onward processing 
  • Outsourced mailroom services
  • Secure off-site archive storage for paper documents, tape archives/backup, wills and deeds etc
  • Legal Document Storage Made
  • Rapid document retrieval - electronic delivery and physical delivery of items
  • Certified document shredding and file destruction services
  • Physical transfer services 
  • Expertise including advice about data protection and retention policies, document auditing, indexing, barcode tracking and workflow

Although many companies have decided to ditch paper as best they can, there are still paper documents that need to be protected. Also, there are still thousands of businesses that still process paper and need to manage securely physical records and documents alongside their electronic counterparts. These niche solution providers offer the flexibility many businesses often need to help implement hybrid document management solutions, to provide custom services and secure off-site storage that will help a business manage the mix of paper documents and electronic files.

To meet document management companies and discuss your needs, or simply to find out more information about any aspect of business, why not visit the biggest business event in the North of England? It’s free, and will be on 17th & 18th March 2020 at Manchester Central. Just get your free ticket now!

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