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Document mgmt. series: The dream of a paperless office

Personally I hate clutter and mess – I am a bit of a neat freak as my friends will attest. I especially can’t stand clutter on desks, I think that the in/out paper trays that frequent so many office desks are just a huge waste of money and space – I’ve never seen a document that is put into one of those trays ever be taken out of it and used or filed anywhere else.

One of my colleagues is legendary for the state of her desk – There is piles of paper, files, letters and notes everywhere to the point where you cannot actually see any desk. She once went on holiday so a colleague and I took the opportunity to empty all the rubbish off her desk – we kept anything that was 2 years old or less and we still filled 3 bin bags! Most companies dream of the paperless office but situations like this make it seem like it is impossible to achieve. So why do people still cling onto paper? there are lots of reasons: –

  • Old processes/ ways of doing things – Processes are less resistant to change than people are, as such the “this is the way we’ve always done it” mentality still exists even when the processes and technology have moved beyond that old way. Historically everything was done on paper and neatly filed away, the issue regarding change means that some won’t move beyond this.
  • Fear of losing an important document – Tangibly having a document on your desk or in your office somewhere can be a tremendous security blanket to some, some documents are obviously really important and the fear of losing it could have real consequences. Obviously such documents should be kept securely in, for example a safe but that still doesn’t mean you can’t have a digital copy for day to day use. This in fact means the original document is actually safer.
  • Historically some processes would only deal with paper copies – This has now been largely phased out as technology has improved but previously a lot of processes simply couldn’t be performed digitally. This meant you had no choice but to use paper copies. A company I used to work for got randomly inspected by HMRC a fair few years ago, at the time we stored all of our invoices digitally on our accounts system which was neatly split by customers/ suppliers and into relevant months and years – the auditor simply refused to engage with the system and insisted we printed out all the invoices, a waste of our time and money, thankfully digital copies are now (largely) accepted for scenarios such as this.
  • Some people are just like keeping stuff and don’t like to throw things away – Just like my colleague above. They know where everything is within the organised chaos and they have a system for finding and dealing with the important documents. The problem is that only they know what this system is and it’s only in their heads, so anyone else hasn’t got a chance of finding that important document.

So how can you combat this?

  • Use Online drives – such as OneDrive or Google Drive. These allow you share documents with colleagues.
  • Digital signatures – use software that allows documents to be signed digitally, Adobe Reader has this function built into it using the excellent Fill & Sign feature. This means documents do not have to be printed out, signed and sent back, cutting down on time, printing costs and the mundanity of rescanning documents so they can be emailed back to the sender.
  • Buy a document management system – A fully functional document management system will allow you to fully control your business documentation with your colleagues and your clients. It allows you to store documents centrally, you can grant permissions to the correct audience and you can use permissions to prevent the editing and printing of documents.
  • Online banking – Many are moving to online banking for the ease of access and convenience. Going Online also gives you the option of requesting paperless statements. With many you can also set up alerts to notify you when a new document is available
  • Phase out old tech that relies on paper – I’m looking at you, people who still have fax machines!

Document mgmt. series: Why use a document management system instead of emails

Why use a document management system instead of emails? This is the biggest rebuttal we hear when we tell people about document management systems. Emails are amazing; one of the greatest innovations in communication, providing a versatile system that allows you to have virtual conversations and ensures you have a written record of what has been said, they are simple and easy to use and very accessible. So why you should use a document management system and not email to send documents? There are several reasons, here are some of them: –

  • A document management system will centralise your data – This means that the document is located on a system where multiple people can access it, if you use emails for this then if the people who sent and received the document are not available you have to wait for them to become available if you want to view this document.
  • The document can get “lost” in the email trail – We use email as a communication tool, to provide updates to each other and send message updates, if we also push a document into the middle of this we run the risk of either to document or the message losing some of its gravitas. Using different systems for messaging and document management ensures we maintain focus.
  • Version control issues – Emailing a document means that you have to have to specify who your audience is going to be and sending a document over email to multiple people can lead to version control issues, especially if you have asked for comments or updates because as soon as all of the people you have emailed the document to open it, there will essentially be multiple versions of the document. Using a document management system eliminates this and ensures that documents to be collaborated on are centralised and version controlled.
  • Duplication – A big issue is resistance to change, people are simply used to using email. So even if you have a system in place some people will still use emails to send documents. This means that you are effectively using multiple systems to deal with one issue and is likely to mean that duplicated documents are in use, this can then cause issues relating to version control as described above.
  • Compliance – We will cover this in greater depth in a future post but with GDPR utilising a document management system over emails for sending documents will help you with compliance.
  • The biggest reason to not use emails for document management is that it’s not what emails should be used for! Emails are there to give and receive direct, timely, detailed information that ensures there is a record of the communication. However the average employer still receives 6 attachments per day.

We use emails a lot in our working lives with a 2015 study showing the average employee receives 122 emails per day and sends out 40. It’s estimated that we spend 30% of working week dealing with emails that equates to around 2.5 hours per day. We need to find effective ways of dealing with the information we receive and send and using a document management system is a way of achieving this. If your sole reason for composing an email is attach a document to it, then you would be much better served using a document management system.

Room Booking

When it comes to booking a room I know a lot of people will be like me and assume it’s got something to do with a holiday or an event…No just me? I don’t know if it’s just good marketing from Roombooking.com or Trivago but my mind just immediately thinks of them two. But of course in true BBC fashion other hotel booking provides are available.

Anyway, let’s put our working or business hat on. Booking a room is usually done for a meeting or an event, right? And this is more often than not done by contacting the receptionist (if you’re lucky enough to work with a receptionist) and asking them to check if said room is available. To which they will need to check their diary and relay the information back to you, who will then need to see if the time and date available is suitable for you and the person your meeting with. To then find out it isn’t and the process starts again taking up precious time we could be spending doing other important tasks like….making….doing….erm…..you get what I mean. Surely there’s a better way?

Yes, of course there is. Just wing it and walk into your own meeting room and hope that no one comes in whist you’re meeting with your very important client. And if someone does walk in simply say, “Oh I thought I’d booked it?” or the classic “It must have been double booked.” I’m sure that will look professional in front of Jeff Bezos when he comes to chat about your company. Imagine not doing business with Bezos because someone walked in half way through your meeting asking you to get out, all because the room wasn’t correctly booked.

Ok, maybe Jeff Bezos was a little optimistic. But I’m sure you’re getting the picture now. The reason we’ve chosen to highlight Room Booking in this blog is because we (Red Robot) use to be like many others and wing it! And it got to the point that all the companies in our business hub were getting frustrated and in fact losing business. So being the cool guys that we are, we decided to create a solution. Thus our Room Booking Software was born. I know…catchy name right!

We developed this software with the purpose to help ourselves run that bit smoother and save time. We have since decided that because it’s worked so well for us that we would like to help other business centres and offices run as smooth as we do. Also, after receiving feedback from business centres who are already implementing it, we are currently working on adapting the software to be a marketing tool for external bookings for those of you who hire out your lovely rooms. Pretty cool right!

If you would like to find out more information on our Room Booking Software then don’t be shy. Get in touch…

Document mgmt. series: why should I have one in my business?

This is the first article we are writing in a mini-series all about document management, how it can help your business and the tips you can use to help you integrate this system into your business. First up is the biggest question of all – why do I need a document management system?

Right out of the gate; we have developed a document management system that we are looking to sell (why else do you think we’re writing these articles? J) The reason I mention this is because when I am visiting a current or potential client and I tell them about our document management solution I often get a response like “Why do I need one of those? – we just email and that works fine” in response to using emails to manage and send documents – we have a whole article on that coming soon. The reasons you would have a document management system are plentiful, including: –

Improved collaboration – A document management system enables multiple people to view the same document at the same time, features such as comments and workflow enable groups to do things with the document quickly, efficiently and concurrently. This means that the process for approval / authorisation of documents is expedited.

Better security – Document management systems offer added layers of security; in the first place only registered users can access the system. You can also go one step further by configuring your document management system so that access requests need to be approved by an administrator and you can also set the parameters for passwords. Secondly, keeping documents on a document management system makes it a lot more difficult for documents to be read/ used/ amended or deleted by users who are not authorised to do so as permissions can be set on an individual level so each user will only be able to view and perform actions on documents that they have been authorised to do so.  

Improved version control – Using a document management systems ensures that you are working on the most up to date version of a document. Many document management systems have a versioning process built into them and some even allow you to view and (if necessary) access previous versions of that document. If you rely on emails or paper copies then you are always running the risk that you are not using the most current version of the document. Also as there is only one document on the system you can be sure that everyone is working on the same document.

Easier to search through data – Most document management systems will have an integrated search facility built into them enabling you to enter key words. You can also run searches based on defined parameters or filters such as a “From” and “To” date allowing you to hone in on the documents you want to find. With paper based storage, searching for documents is extremely tricky, even if you have labelled storage boxes/ files correctly you still have a lot of searching to do and you always run the risk of someone filing something in the wrong place meaning a document is not where it’s supposed to be. Having a document management system eliminates this and means searching for documents is a quick and painless process.

Saving space and money – Physical storage costs can be extremely high, when you consider the associated costs for paper, a storage box/ file of some sort, folders and inserts and of course the cost of physically storing documents. If you use space on your business premises, it means you have less office space limiting your aspirations for growth. If you store your files off site there are warehousing costs to pay for and of course if you need to retrieve any documents you have to travel to go and get them. In comparison storing documents digitally takes up very little physical storage space and you of course eliminate the costs associated with physically storing documents. There is of course a cost associated to storing documents digitally but this should be much less than the costs for storing the same data physically.

These are just some of the primary reasons that you should consider a document management system, please let us know if you want more advice on a document management system and the type of solutions we could provide.