While the concept of a digital office is not new, it is something information governance (IG) professionals strive to obtain. We may be able to move file cabinets and scan new records to present the illusion of the fully digital office. However, we often forget about the paper we cannot see (the out-of-sight-out-of-mind syndrome).
This article discusses how to manage paper records stored offsite, printers (MFDs) and physical records and information received from outside entities to help you with your digital initiatives.
Does your company store records onsite or does the company use an offsite records storage vendor? It is imperative that IG professionals know the who, what, where, when, why, and the how of the paper records stored both onsite and offsite. Before you make the decision to image your records, you have to determine what records are good candidates for imaging – not all records should be imaged as a part of your digital office.
The IG professional should take into account the following factors:
- Records retention: If the record type has a minimal retention period, e.g. 2 years or less, it may be more economical to maintain the record in paper format
- Frequency of access: If the record is seldom access, even if it has a longer retention period, it may be more economical to maintain the record in paper format
- Protection: If the record is considered “Vital/Historical” to the organization, even if it is seldom accessed, it is recommended that a digital version of the record be captured and retained
- Do not image records that are eligible for destruction, e.g. not on-hold and whose retention period has expired
While paper that is out of sight and out of mind is easy to forget, what about new information on paper? While unplugging the network printer seems scary, it may be necessary to stop the creation of information on paper. Employees may need to be trained on how to save the files and keep them electronic. IG professionals have a duty to train and bring awareness of this issue to employee such as does that email need to be printed, or, instead of printing that email, save it to a PDF and put it in its proper place. Work with your print vendor to evaluate how much you really print, and put a plan in place to reduce your printers.
Further, talk to accounting to see how much paper you are buying every month to validate what the print vendor is telling you about page counts on printers. Unplugging printers with no training may result in employees coming up with workarounds that create more paper, expense, and risk.
Paper from the Outside
While it may be easy to unplug printers, what do you do about the mail and the paper that comes into your organization? First, working with a Certified Records Manager (CRM) or analyst (CRA) on a digital initiative is a smart approach because they understand what is involved in the digitization of organizational information, the efficiencies, the improved workflow and the reduction of paper. The CRM/CRA is equipped to provide their organization with the appropriate document imaging environment. Depending on the company, and their needs this may include production, remote, departmental or desktop scanning..
Before looking to transition to a digital office, starting the process of going paperless and scanning documents, the IG professional should do their homework – why is the company wanting to scan document? what is the objective – what are the document imaging candidates that allow us to meet the objectives? Document imaging, planned and executed correctly can provide many benefits to an organization.
Planning is key; document imaging involves more than just digitizing documents. The IG professional needs to work with departments to determine the indexing (metadata) fields that will allow for the efficient searching/retrieval of records. New hires and younger employees are already learning what it is like to work in a paperless environment. It is important to prepare your organization to be nimble in the future, and having a paperless environment can do just that. Having electronic information at one’s fingertips is a powerful tool that comes with great responsibility. Make sure to include your IT, HR, and compliance staff in paperless discussions.
Last, make sure that any paper that is not needed is discarded or destroyed using a NAID certified shredding company.
BJ Johnson is a Senior Solutions Specialist with Access Information Management® where he works in Sales and Marketing. He is an ARMA NJ board member and has worked in the information management industry for over 17 years. He works with organizations to implement solutions that improve business processes, compliance and security.