Magazine Article | March 1, 2002

Beware The Hidden Costs Of Documents

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

So, you think you have your document management problems under control? Think again.

Integrated Solutions, March 2002

Once, not so long ago, there was something known as a "document." It could be long or short - a letter or a training manual. But there was really only one way to produce it - manually. And there was one way to store it - in a file cabinet. If you wanted to send the document someplace, you simply put it in the mail.

Back then, documents were easy to see. They were created on paper and, once created, sat around gathering dust until they were used or discarded.

Now, however, documents are very different. The hard copies of documents that you can see represent only about 10% of what's actually there. The other 90% is lurking beneath management's radar, impeding your organization's efficiency and adding costs to almost every process.

New Technology And Old Processes Don't Mix
Today's "documents" can take almost any (digital) form, can be stored in many ways, and can be zapped electronically at near-light speed. Unfortunately, however, many companies haven't changed the way they think about documents. We have the technology of 2002, but we're using an approach to document handling that should have been phased out decades ago.

A modern approach to document content, production, and distribution needs to address the hidden aspects of the process and the resulting hidden costs.

  • Many items that we may not think of as "documents" - from billing statements to business forms - are just that. They demand constant updating, careful handling, and efficient distribution.
  • The process of creating and distributing documents, which should be integrated and seamless, is often anything but efficient. Instead of a smooth digital transfer of information, there are bottlenecks, incompatible systems, and interruptions.
  • Real costs can be particularly well-hidden in today's document handling, which makes it especially dangerous. In meeting the volume and scheduling demands of internal customers, it's essential to understand the actual cost of the document process. This goes far beyond ink, toner, and paper to include labor, obsolescence, and facilities costs.

To put it simply, your approach to document handling is only as efficient as its weakest link. And, unless you have designed a comprehensive, well thought-out, integrated solution using modern technology and processes, you might as well be living (and working) in the past.

Formula For Document Management
It's important to have a complete document strategy assessment to examine all phases of the document life cycle to identify where improvements may be made. This includes the areas of document input/creation through output/distribution and archival/retrieval. A workable, efficient solution should be:

  • Custom-designed to reflect a company's real needs and its strategic and business objectives
  • Open, using the best available technology from best-of-breed vendors
  • Complete, addressing not just content and production, but storage, retrieval, and distribution - right through to mailing.

In the current economic environment in which almost every organization is reducing costs while increasing demands on fewer resources, integrated approaches can produce dramatic results. Chances are, even in this digital age, traditional documents are still a primary vehicle of communication with your customers and employees. To maintain a competitive edge and leverage the true value of your documents, it's well worth the effort to assess and implement a document management strategy.