Practical Records Management Blog

Shoreline Records Management's blog highlights the latest in Document Management and Records Management - Document Scanning, Document Storage, Enterprise Content Management, and General Filing Tips and Advice.

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What Should Businesses Do With Their Existing Paper Records?

  
  
  

Now that the panic has subsided from the Brooklyn CitiStorage document warehouse fire (even though it shouldn’t) everyone is back in the out of sight, out of mind thinking as it relates to records management. Businesses need to consider what steps to take to create efficiency with their unique records process, and prevent a crisis like this from happening again. Documents in storage should be there only for retention purposes. Certain documents that will have an adverse effect on your business if destroyed should be in an electronic format and backed up.

There will always be documents that should be stored rather than scanned. It could be ten year old accounting documents, inactive medical records, closed legal files, terminated employee files… the list goes on and on. If these documents should ever become inaccessible or destroyed unintentionally, the business should be able to function properly without them. No business, other than one with thousands of dollars to spend, would even consider taking boxes of records that no one looks at out of a storage facility and convert them into electronic records that no one will look at.

But what does make sense is to convert records that are frequently retrieved and actively used in the office, such as active medical records, employee files, pending legal files, current accounting documents, active customer files, all documents that the business relies on to function. Electronic files are more secure, have audit trails, can limit accessibility, have easy to manage destruction dates, can be viewed by multiple people at different locations, have multiple backups, and are easier to manage than paper files.

Below are abstracts from a more detailed, day forward, application specific scanning service, with detailed posts to follow:

 

  • Proof of Delivery:

Everyone has had customers that do not want to pay for products or services that have been delivered to them, but with dozens or hundreds of deliveries per day, it can be a daunting task to track down signed delivery tickets to prove the delivery or service was completed. Instead of looking through thousands of delivery tickets, you can simply search for a specific delivery ticket by customer name, date, or other specific search criteria. Your company can even have the images integrated into your accounting software. Once the documents are electronic, you can instantly see who signed for the delivery or service and email it to their AP department, decreasing your receivables significantly.

 

  • Accounting Documents:

Unless your company has a fully automated accounts payable processing system (which it most certainly could), the accounting department most likely has the vendor payables and customer receivables in file cabinets organized alphabetically by month or year, depending on volume. Excluding very small accounting departments and businesses, most of these files are going to be accessed by multiple people and possibly from multiple locations. Being able to retrieve frequently accessed documents saves time searching for documents, increases efficiency, and eliminates issues related to lost or mis-filed invoices. Images can be hosted on a cloud based document management system, stored on internal servers, or integrated into the existing accounting software.

 

  • Human Resource Documents and Employee Files:

Human Resource departments are far more complicated than many people in business understand. They can be responsible for payroll, recruitment, benefits, employee relations, employee development, risk management, and many other specialized departments. With all this information being managed by HR, there is a lot of paper that can pile up quickly. Limiting the access to these documents by keeping them in file cabinets can cause inefficiencies that often go overlooked. Converting paper HR documents to easily accessible electronic images, allows remote and concurrent access, all within seconds, and with increased security and audit trails.

 

  • Medical Records:

With the transition to Electronic Medical Records in full swing, many practices are put in the situation where they have to make a decision on what to do with their paper medical records. They have a few options: they could do nothing, and use the EMR for billing and scheduling only, and continue to use the paper chart for patient notes, they could use both the EMR for day forward progress notes and the paper chart for the historical data, or they can scan the paper chart information into the EMR and centralize their patient care in one location.

Doing nothing does not make the most sense; you implemented the EMR for a reason. Using both can be a viable option for a while, but mistakes can be easily made when working from two forms of media. Medications, allergies, or immunizations can be in the EMR and not the paper record or vice versa, and if another practice or the patient calls looking for that information, someone at the practice might not think to check both the EMR and paper chart.

Scanning paper records into an EMR allows a smooth transition to comprehensive patient chart management. The images from the paper chart are easily viewed in the EMR, and everything day forward is input directly through the EMR interface. New patients are completely paperless. This solution is most appropriate for active patients with paper records that are frequently accessed.


The Recent Brooklyn Document Storage Warehouse Fire, and Many Other Tragedies, Point Out Why Digitizing Paper Documents Should Be Considered.

  
  
  

The massive fire last week in Brooklyn’s CitiStorage Document Storage warehouse was not the first time a document storage facility has been destroyed. To name a few, 1997 South Brunswick, NJ, USA, 2006 London, England, 2006 Ottawa, Canada, 2011 Aprilia, Italy, and 2014 Buenos Aires, Argentina.

With 1.1 Million Cubic Feet of records potentially destroyed at CitiStorage, including that of legal firms, financial intuitions, medical practices and hospitals (Mount Sinai Health System, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, North Shore-LIJ Health System and NYU Langone Medical Center), accounting firms, and both small and large businesses, the main question is and has been, why have these documents not been converted to electronic images?

Aside from the why haven’t records been converted, businesses also have to contemplate what would the cost be to recreate destroyed documents? What would be involved? And what if those records cannot be recreated? What would happen if original blueprints, medical records, legal cases, or financial documents are destroyed with no way of reproducing them? “It’s 2015, why isn’t this information electronic?” many people have asked.

Once records are digitized, companies will no longer have to pay for records management services related to document storage. After the documents are scanned, no more costs will be incurred. The electronic images can be on a hard drive, an internal network, or cloud based storage all allowing constant and instant access.Brooklyn Storage fire

On Sunday, 2/1, many New Yorkers woke up to thousands of pages of private and protected information floating along the Williamsburg waterfront and spewing through the air. Not only are the records that hundreds of businesses and government agencies depend on destroyed, the private and protected information of their customers and employee’s was put on full display. Many of these have names, addresses, account numbers, social security numbers, which can be used to easily steal someone’s identity.

 “About the possibility that confidential patient information might have been disclosed on a large scale as the wind scattered unburned records, Brian Conway, of the Greater New York Hospital Association, said, “There’s no reason to believe that’s a possibility.” Yet in one indication of the city’s concern, the disaster recovery contractors, in their neon yellow jackets, sealed off the entrance to the rocky jetty with yellow caution tape early Sunday and began to scoop documents out of the water with nets and shovels.” – NY Times.

The electronic images of scanned documents are more often of a higher quality than the original and much more secure. The entire CitiStorage warehouse could be scanned and stored on a few hard drives, which are much easier to protect, keep organized, and secured than thousands of boxes.


Google Expands OCR Capabilities for Document Scanning

  
  
  

google docs OCRGoogle is Now Offering Free OCR Services for Scanned Documents. Google announced yesterday that there is a new feature available in Google Docs to allow users to import Scanned Documents. The feature, describes as "Convert Text from PDF or image files to Google Docs Documents," allows users to import a Scanned PDF or Image File (JPEG, GIF, or PNG).

There are still some questions that come up as to whether or not this new functionality indicates an intention by Google to broaden the scope of their Google Docs platform, as well as questions about how Google Docs' new OCR functionality works and the functionality that it provides. These questions include:

What OCR Engine is Google using in the Google Docs Platform?

The OCR Engine used by Google in this process is not immediately clear. Google does Sponsor an Open Source OCR Engine and Document Analysis Platform called OCRopus, but Google hasn't publicly acknowledged that this is the technology being used by any of their services, including Google Books or the new Google Docs OCR Functionality.

Does Google Docs OCR Work with TIF Files?

During our testing, we noticed that the OCR functionality didn't work for one of the most standard image formats that we find clients using, TIF Images. TIF, or TIFF (Tagged Image File Format), Images are widely considered an Industry Standard for Scanning Paper Documents, so I found the absence of this functionality to be a surprising.

For those looking to convert TIF images, you may want to use Adobe Acrobat or another utility to convert TIF files to PDF, or check out ABBYY FineReader Online. For organizations looking to convert large volumes of information, I would recommend using an alternate document capture software for converting your images to OCR.

How Well does Google Docs OCR work?

The technology is still a bit new, as it was only released yesterday, but ars technica did some testing and was nice enough to summarize their experiences. Their results were about the same as the results we experienced during our testing, and they summarized their findings: "There are still cases where this OCR would be better than nothing." Not quite the ringing endorsement that you'd hope to see attached to a Google Service, but the offering is still new.

Because of the way the import mechanism is configured, Google Docs OCR may not be the best document scanning solution for every business case, especially if you're looking to convert a large volume of paper documents to digital images. For ad-hoc, low volume OCR requirements however, the Google Docs OCR functionality serves as a solid utility for converting paper into useable text.

Have you tried the Google Docs OCR tool yet? What have your experiences been? Have you had better success with other services or software? Share your experiences in the Comments!


Proof of Delivery Scanning Delivers Outstanding Value

  
  
  

Proof Of Delivery ScanningThere are so many specific business applications for Document Scanning and Document Management that it's a challenge to share all of them, but one application - Proof Of Delivery - continually stands out as an outstanding value for clients. Not all Scanning Applications make fiscal sense or improve Customer Service, but Proof of Delivery is different.

Proof of Delivery Scanning solutions enable companies to provide their clients with access to signed delivery receipts via a web browser, resulting in improved customer service and reduced daily sales outstanding (DSO). The technology hasn't changed much since the late 1990's, but a best practices implementation typically looks something like this:

  • Creation of Delivery Ticket/Bill of Lading - When coordinating a Delivery, a vendor will create a Delivery Ticket or Bill of Lading to accompany the shipment. In an ideal scenario, these tickets will be printed with a Barcoded Ticket Number to help eliminate any manual data entry later on in the process.
  • Delivery of Goods and/or Services - Vendor will deliver goods and/or provide services to a client and obtain a signature on a Bill of Lading or Proof of Delivery document as evidence that the transaction was completed.
  • Vendor Scans Proof of Delivery Documents - With modern document capture software and today's affordable Scanners, Vendors can easily scan tickets and read the Barcode information to provide a quick lookup to that specific ticket number when a request is made. Additional information, such as Customer Name, Transaction Date, Branch Code, or Plant Code, can be obtained via ODBC Lookup, eliminating the need for any additional keystrokes.

Once the process is complete, the Documents are then placed into a Document Management Software application, such as OnBase or PaperVision Enterprise. From there, clients can be provided with direct access to review their completed POD's and search for transaction history and Internal Customer Service Representatives can quickly and easily field any questions or requests relating to Transactions. This is particularly useful for Collections staff looking to accelerate the payment cycle, as they're now able to quickly and effortlessly provide a record of the transaction and request prompt remittance of any required payment.

For clients that are processing higher volumes, there is also the option to leverage outsourced Proof of Delivery Scanning to even further reduce the costs associated with the process. In the outsourced scenario, completed delivery tickets can be sent to a third party vendor for scanning and posted to a hosted Document Management repository (ImageSilo or OnBase Online, for example) for web-based access by either external clients or internal staff.

In addition, advancements in integration technology from Providers such as Hyland Software and their Application Enabler utility have made it easy to integrate scanned tickets directly with ERP or Accounting Systems. This provides real-time access to Delivery Tickets directly from screens in systems like SAP, Oracle, or any other Line of Business application, even further increasing the ROI of Proof of Delivery Scanning.

If you're currently delivering goods and services and you're not scanning your Proof of Delivery Documents or Bill of Lading files, you need to take the time to at least explore these solutions. The investment required is far less than the cost of not getting paid for a delivery or service because of poor documentation, and the reduced operating costs provided by immediate action can save thousands of dollars in labor each month.


You Can Be Like Apple

  
  
  

Basso On BusinessThe following Guest Post is written by Rob Basso, President of Advantage Payroll Services, Long Island's Payroll Leader. In addition, Rob is also the Host and CEO of Basso on Business, a leading monthly business video program. The program highlights innovative local businesses and helps visionary entrepreneurs overcome real-world challenges to grow their busines. Shoreline is proud to be both a client of Advantage Payroll and a Sponsor of Basso on Business, and thankful to Rob for sharing his time with our readers.

The press Steve Jobs and Apple have been receiving lately is not accidental and they are not lucky. They have just trumped Microsoft, their arch rival, as the largest software and technology firm in the world. I am not a Mac user, in fact, I have exclusively been a PC user for years and even divested myself of my iPhone because I was so used to my Blackberry. However, it is hard not to pay attention to them and maybe give them a second chance. But why is that the case?

They have done a superior job making users part of a community. Yes, they spend a ton on research/development as well as advertising, but their ingenuity and ability to make people feel part of something is really their strong suit. Think about it; do you really need an application that simulates nose hair trimming (that may exist I did not check, but you get my point)? Apple was popular with the underdogs and underground users for years; now they are the darling of the populous. You too can be like Apple.

As a small business owner you can use the same techniques that the multi-billion dollar giant used to become the premier brand on the planet. Maybe you will not be known in every nook and cranny of the world, but you can be relevant in the community or market you serve by making people feel like a part of something bigger than themselves. Creating this type of a connection with your audience/buyer/client can be done on a budget and successfully by any type of business.

It is not what you do, but why you do it that inspires people to buy whatever it is that you are offering. If you talk about what you believe in and focus on the WHY you will create momentum that will make it impossible for people to buy from another vendor. The proof is clear when I use the Basso On Business concept as an example.

"Basso On Businesses, Inc. and its products and services will serve to inspire growth and positive change in the national business community. It will focus on forging a strong community of like minded businesses leaders to assist all entrepreneurs in navigating their way to success. Using unique web video, television, interactive live events, social media, speaking engagements and books we will be the leading force in building better businesses."

Putting the why first and BELIEVING in your message makes all the difference. Take a critical look at your WHY and re-craft your personal and business mantra....sales will soar.


Records Management Vendor Selection Guidelines

  
  
  

 

The amount of Paper in the average office continues to grow by 20% to 30% each year, and Offsite Document Storage is often required for companies that have either outgrown their existing space, or have too many files to efficiently manage in their current configuration.  No matter what type of company you have it is increasingly important to adequately plan for the proper storage, retrieval and purging of documents.  Now is the best time to consider putting a good records management policy into effect, and for most small and mid-sized firms, a good records management policy should include the use of a qualified records management partner. But how do you know who to work with?

Choosing a partner for Offsite Document Storage should be based on several important factors including:

  • Experience with records management - Experience can make a world of difference when choosing a Partner. Working with the right company can help you avoid many of the common challenges and pitfalls experienced during a Record Storage Project.
  • Knowledge of business practices - The most effective Records Management companies will be able to understand not only the business of storing and retrieving information, but will also understand how you will use this information on an ongoing basis. This helps to make the relationship work more seamlessly. Keep in mind that the Partner you choose will be an extension of your resources - they're going to have all of your information!
  • Ability to provide prompt service - There seems to be a predisposition to slow, plodding service for many Record Storage Companies, and there really is no need for this. Next-Business Day Services should be the standard, and it's important to inquire about Scan-On-Demand services to ensure that you can access your files within hours if and when such a requirement arises.
  • Affordable pricing - One of the most common complaints about Record and Document Storage Partners from Clients is the feeling of being Nickel-and-Dimed for every little service. Take caution to look not only at the price but the measure of quantity. For example, some firms actually charge based on the Cubic Foot, not just on the price per Box. Also, be aware of any ancillary charges such as Fuel Surcharges or Account Administration Fees. Both of these are a sure sign of a company that doesn't really have your best interest in mind and is simply looking to pass along any cost that they can to you, the client.
  • Contract Flexibility - Long-Term Contracts can mean big trouble, so be careful when considering them. Record Storage Contracts often have Permanent Removal Charges or Hostage Fees built into them and can be very difficult to break. To make matters worse these contracts many times will also have Automatic-Renewal Clauses which make them difficult to ever escape. Be careful if you see these clauses - after all, shouldn't your Records Management Partner have to earn your business with quality service like everyone else?

What to Expect from your Records Management Partner

A records management partner should work with you to determine your records management needs and not be able to make a recommendation immediately. Beware of anyone who tells you that they understand what you need before you even explain your situation.  Every company is different and their needs vary.  There is no one plan that is right for every business.  A good records management partner will help find the solutions that will make sense for your company.  They will help find not only short-term solution for document storage but also a future plan to keep your company running smoothly for years to come.


Records Management Failures Create Business Failures

  
  
  

Imagine, if you will, a company with a perfect business model. For the sake of being specific, let's imagine a company that makes those little paper umbrellas that are served in tropically-themed drinks. In addition to making the best possible companion for a poolside cocktail, this company has found the best leadership, has the most sound and profitable business plan, and has its coffers full of capital from willing and wealthy paper-umbrella-enthusiast investors. It has a large clientele already in place in the form of bars and resorts.

It owns two warehouses on both coasts, and has worked out wildly lucrative deals with their suppliers. They have a successful e-commerce platform, are scoring number one in web searches related to paper drink umbrellas, receiving well over a million hits per year. Their employees are satisfied and happy with their pay and their pension, and the company is about to go public and expand to the competitive and profitable world of the international paper-umbrella business. Investors could not be happier. Jim Cramer (the Mad Money guy) is yelling at you at the top of his lungs through the TV set, telling you to Buy, Buy, Buy! Nothing could possibly be going any better for this company.

Overflowing File CabinetsExcept for one little thing: the founder of the company was strangely averse to filing and hanging on to documents. As a quick fix, he found an empty room on the third floor of the office, painted the walls black, and simply dumped all of the company's records in the room. Whenever a record was created, it was unceremoniously dumped into this room, never to be seen again. When it became impossible to access the room from normal means, the founder had a system of tubes installed so that employees could dump their records into the room without needing to open the door.
So, as the company expanded, the room kept filling up. Every time an invoice was created to order products from a supplier, it was dumped in the room. Every time a contract was signed or drawn up, the copies were thrown down the tubes. Every time the customer made a purchase from the company's website, the receipt was sent down to the room, never again to see the light of day.

Still, this minor bit of oversight couldn't hurt the company, right? The fundamentals and the statistics were simply too sound. It could afford to look the other way on such a petty issue as records management and still maintain its expansive success.
Unfortunately, in spite of all of the fantastic potential, there are at least five ways that this business can encounter problems because of their laissez faire approach to records management. Let's take a look:

1. The business can be the subject of a government audit: There are many laws and statutes that regulate what types of records an organization or business must keep. If a business fails to meet these standards, the resulting fees and penalties can undermine the value of favorable earnings statements.

2. The company's headquarters can become inaccessible: Due to a malfunction in the paper-umbrella manufacturing process, the offices may become inaccessible for weeks or months at a time. Because all of the records of the company were stashed on the floor of this room, and there were no tracking systems in place, the company isn't able to reconcile its debts or track its customers or shipments, resulting in decreased efficiency and poor customer service.

3. The business can be sued: If an angry customer who has nearly choked to death on a paper umbrella sues this company, and this company cannot produce proper evidence of waivers, disclaimers, company policy notices and proof of insurance, the company may lose a major lawsuit and be forced to pay settlements that they otherwise may have avoided.

4. The business can waste money buying new space for the files: If the first file room fills up, the business will need to rent a second, and a third, and a fourth, and so on, all the while spending more and more money per month on costly rent for the office space. The business does not have an individual assigned to decide an expiry date for the documents, so they continue to pile up, with no end in sight.

5. Inefficient Access can Create Customer Service Issues: Without any proper Records Management, the company's employees spend enormous chunks of their time searching for the proper points of reference and critical files. Thousands of potentially valuable man hours are thrown down the drain.

So, as demonstrated in the points above, even though this company had the perfect business model, the best employees, and the largest customer base, it can easily experience growing pains on those five (and many more) counts. The seemingly mundane and tedious chore of keeping the records was neglected in favor of lower short-term costs, and this company is now paying the price. This should illustrate to you the importance of establishing, maintaining, and enforcing an effective Records Management strategy.


Document Management Grants are Now Available

  
  
  

One of the biggest challenges for Non-Profits, Social Services organizations, and Government Agencies looking for Document Management Solutions is the challenge of obtaining funding. It seems that not a day goes by where funding isn't being cut, and the competition for precious dollars is continually growing. Recognizing this challenge, Shoreline has worked with our partners to develop a unique offering to help organizations obtain funding through Grants.

The good news is that there is a vast array of Federal, State and Foundation grants available - many of them with increased dollars from The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) - to help you invest in Document Management technologies which can allow you to serve more people and mange your applications and initiatives with increased efficiencies.  

Document Management Grants are now available, and our team can help you find the money you need to make your project a success. Shoreline Records Management, has partnered with the Grants Office experts to help you navigate the grants landscape. In cooperation with one of Our Business Partners, Hyland Software, we offer this FREE service to help determine what grants are available that could make a difference to your organization.

There are no specific qualifications, and our service will help you determine what funding may be available to make your organization more efficient with no risk or obligation. To get started, complete our Document Management Grants Analysis Form Today and we'll begin to research the available sources of funding to help you address your most challenging document management issues today.

While We can't win the grants for you, we can help you move from an interested applicant to a compelling candidate. It's time to make your old technology work better for you. With this Free Service, you'll be able to:

• Develop insight into the grant funding landscape for IT spends
• Better identify, obtain and manage grant dollars
• Improve transparency and service

Sign Up Today to take advantage of this service and find out how we can help your organization today!


3 Tips for Choosing a Network Document Scanner

  
  
  

Network Document Scanners are a popular choice for companies getting started with document scanning, and with good reason. They're reasonably priced, don't require a dedicated computer, and help companies quickly convert Paper to Digital Images. When looking for a scanner though, it's easy to be overwhelmed by all of the choices - are you sure you know what DPI is best for your application? When you go to make a purchase decision, consider these factors:


Network Scanner1) Daily Scanning Volume - This is the most important consideration when buying any scanner, networked or otherwise. Think about how many pages you'll need to capture on a daily basis, and make your buying decision accordingly. Try not to consider your entire backfile scanning project when making this determination, either - just think about how many pages you're likely to capture on a daily basis during the normal course of business. You can always outsource to a document scanning service provider to address your bulk scanning issues, saving you time and money in the process.


2) Bundled Software - Without Software, a scanner is just an expensive paperweight. You should make sure that some level of document scanning software is included with the equipment. It's particularly helpful if this is a flexible software toolkit like eCopy or NSi Autostore. These packages will let you do more than just drop images on network share devices and help you drive more value out of your investment.


3) Touchscreen or Keyboard Capabilities - Once you scan an image, you're going to want to be able to tag it with some sort of meaningful data to let you find it, or at least let the person on the other end of the receipt have an idea what it is. Be sure that the device you choose has a Touchscreen interface at the least, and ideally offers the option of attaching a keyboard. Some models, like the HP and Fujitsu Network Scanners, even come with built in keyboards, making them an attractive alternative for companies that need to add a bit more detail to what they're scanning.


There are a lot of options available when looking to buy a scanner, and it's important to not be distracted by the bright and shiny features. Most of the time, they're not going to be of much use to you. Instead, keep these practical elements in mind when making your buying decision and you'll end up much happier with the results.


Scanning Services for Microsoft Sharepoint - including Sharepoint 2010

  
  
  

With today marking the official release of Microsoft Sharepoint 2010, I thought it would be an appropriate time to discuss some of the services that we provide to support companies that are moving forward with Sharepoint at the center of their Document Management Strategy.

Sharepoint Scanning ServicesTo be sure, Microsoft has invested a lot of time and resources in improving upon previous iterations of Sharepoint, and the technology has come a long way since it's initial release. Today, I would not be alone in considering Sharepoint as one of the market leaders in the ECM (Enterprise Content Management) space, and we've been proponents of recommending it to clients when appropriate.

One of the challenges, however, is efficiently capturing paper content and delivering it to Sharepoint so that it can be searched and retrieved by users. There are many products available in the market to address this challenge, including Kofax Capture and KnowledgeLake - both of which are excellent solutions.

But what about Companies that want to leverage the benefits of Sharepoint without purchasing high-speed scanners and investing the time and resources in scanning the files themselves?

That's where our outsourced scanning services for Sharepoint come in. Our Production Document Scanning Bureau is capable of converting millions of pages on a monthly basis, and provides firms with a low price per page to convert paper to digital format. We handle the document preparation, scanning, quality control, and indexing, and return to clients a series of files that can be easily imported to Sharepoint.

Whether you're using an older version of the Sharepoint platform, or you plan to take advantage of the features that Sharepoint 2010 has to offer, consider outsourcing the scanning of your files. You'll be able to achieve a more rapid return on your document management investment, and save yourself a whole lot of hassle in the process.


Ready to take the first Step to getting your files scanned to Sharepoint?
Contact us today to discuss your Document Scanning Project and find out how our services can help lower your costs and accelerate your return on investment.



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