Digital. Paperless. Mobile office. What were once buzzwords 5-10 years ago have now become standards across the globe as independent manufacturers’ representative firms—among others—move toward a cloud-based file system, granting employees access to files from anywhere, creating efficient document management system workflows and safeguarding important documents forever.
An initial question that comes to mind for agencies is, “Why should we invest in going paperless?” Great question, and when you consider some of the statistics, it’s clear that the question instead should be “Why aren’t we a paperless agency?”
Keep in mind that a typical independent manufacturers’ representative can spend 30-40 percent of his or her time looking for information locked in e-mails and filing cabinets. Efficiency is a key metric for going paperless and pushing paper couldn’t be a more inefficient way for an agent to store documents, especially given the high instance of misfiled documents that often occurs in a paper-documentation file system.
It’s the eleventh hour, a customer calls for information and for some reason you can’t find it. According got PriceWaterhouseCoopers, misfiled documents cost $125 each, which makes sense when you are accounting for the time it takes an employee to find that document and then refile it where it belongs. Lost documents are another problem facing most traditional offices, which have an estimated cost of $300 – $750 per document. It’s clear that using a document management system is a must.
Large organizations lose one document every 12 seconds, adding up to thousands of dollars of lost productivity in addition to loss of time, money, and resources. Let’s now imagine you are a paperless agency. That same customer calls and requests information on invoice #6323 and you are able to quickly search for that document by using search fields for 6323 and within seconds the document is on your screen. Lost documents? Not in the rep’s paperless office. If you can’t find something or if it actually was misfiled, it’s easily found and stored in the correct place quickly and efficiently.
These are all factors PSE Associates, a Guilford, Connecticut-based MANA member rep agency that has been in business since 1991, weighed as we considered a change in our office process. We historically employed a traditional paper-based filing system using multiple filing cabinets, file folders and copy machines to organize and manage the firm’s paper workflow.
In 2016 we set out to take our rep firm paperless, and while being a paperless office can mean different things to different people, one of our goals was to have the ability to access our entire file system remotely. It was paramount that we had full access to our documents give that we – as most independent manufacturers’ representatives – spend a lot of time on the road at meetings with prospects, customers and principals. The ability to answer questions in real time, responding to invoice inquiries and quickly searching for and finding documents on the fly would elevate our ability to serve both our customers and principals.
Thus began our quest to find the right cloud-based document management system.
The scanner you choose for the task of taking your office paperless is a key decision, perhaps one of the most important.
Generally speaking, we found there are two ways a company could go paperless: cloud-based storage and onsite storage. Cloud-based storage would store files digitally offsite with a provider that houses data and is responsible for disaster recovery (aka, backing up to a second location) while an onsite-storage system would store the documents on an office computer hard drive or server which you would then backup yourself. Do remember however, that cloud and on-site storage do not encapsulate all of what a document management system is.
We strongly believed having a cloud-based storage system was the best way to go, ensuring the safety and accessibility of the data at all times. We didn’t want to have to concern ourselves with computer glitches that could potentially limit our access to our information.
One might ask, how do we get our documents into a cloud-based file system? Enter the modern day scanner. Long gone are the stodgy, blurry and often slow flatbed scanners—today’s scanners are fast, efficient, offer crisp results and even offer a technology called OCR (optical character recognition) which allows the scanner to read the document, making it searchable in .pdf form.
The scanner you choose for the task of taking your office paperless is a key decision, perhaps one of the most important. You can expect to spend anywhere from $250 – $2,000 depending upon the number of documents you wish to scan at once, along with a long list of features you may or may not need. For our purposes, we settled on the Xerox DocuMatel52i scanner, and at $300, it was a great option for us, offering all the features we needed.
The next decision you would need to make is what document management system you will use to manage your documents – and whether this will be an On-Premise solution or an Online, Cloud-based solution. After much research, we decided to go with eFileCabinet. This outstanding cloud-based system was designed for the exact task we were looking for, offering n app that synced with our iPhones/iPads with real time updates to our files, outstanding search and find features, an organization system that was both sensible and repeatable, and customer service that was top-notch.
While we researched many other providers we found eFileCabinet to be the best solution for our business needs. They also offer an extensive training program for new and existing users, making the transition to a paperless office rather seamless. Best practices are something that your firm should set up before you begin the process and eFileCabinet again makes that process very straightforward. The storage system is set up like a traditional file cabinet system, using cabinets, drawers, and folders, making storing and finding documents very easy and effective. Demonstrating their expertise in document management, eFileCabinet has more than 11,000 customers, more than 155,000 users, and more than 15 years in the business, and based on our research was the best solution for our needs.
Taking our firm paperless has been one of the best decisions we’ve made. It’s increased our productivity, cut costs, and allowed us to fully bring PSE into the digital age while simultaneously creating a disaster recovery plan while protecting our firm’s critical documents. We strongly believe that while the task of setting up and implementing a paperless office can seem daunting, the benefits greatly outweigh the time to put in to organize and execute a document management system plan.
Marilyn Rowland began her career as an investment analyst and has worked for many of the world’s top consulting firms. She worked in this capacity for eight years analyzing, interviewing, and performing due diligence on portfolio mangers for institutional clients. She has extensive client relationship management experience and brings her investment savvy background to PSE Associates. AS an account manager, she is responsible for providing oversight on PSE’s accounts and customer service to both principals and customers. Rowland also serves as the firm’s marketing strategist and is responsible for all web media as well as print campaigns for PSE. Rowland holds a BS in Finance/Economics from Quinnipiac University.