Leveraging Document Management Software as a Utilities Company

From power to water to gas, utility companies have accumulated large numbers of customers over decades of time. This creates large difficulty in managing paperwork and documents, therein increasing the need for document management software. Decades ago, when many utility companies were created, workers and document management personnel didn’t anticipate many of the issues now facing the organizations as they have grown significantly in size. Professionals in the utilities industry can meet these challenges head-on with the right document management software.


Using Document Management Software to Locate Documents Necessary for Utility Businesses

One major issue revolves around the management of permanent documents: Utility companies must keep copies of easements, right of ways, utility service contracts and other permanent legal permissions. These contracts are required to provide permission for the utility company to perform service, maintenance, and other normal business actions. Document management software keeps these documents secure.

Yet, 60 years ago and through the years of physically filing documents, no precise filing, naming, or folder organizational structure was defined. If an employee needs to find an easement document in 2015 from 1954, then where should they look? Under the current customer’s name? The address? Under Easements? What about the township or city? Maybe they should look at the previous home owner’s name? Or the previous one before that? In the last 60 years, that property could have changed hands as many as 100 times. Which name, and what file can that easement be found under?

Historically, utility companies will have employed dozens of filing methods over the many decades of filing. There is not just one place to look, and employees can spend hours looking for and locating a single document. This uses up valuable employee time, eliminates all effectiveness for the employee, creates frustration, and in the end, still might not produce a document.


The Cost of Lost Documents for Utility Companies

If a document can’t be located, then typically the utility company turns to a third party for assistance, like an attorney or an outside engineer or surveyor who may have drafted the document. These third-party consultants typically issue a bill for their time spent in reproducing a copy of the document. The county recorder’s office or local title company is another commonly used third party.  The county books and dockets are searched for the missing easement. Finally after massive amounts of energy, time, and expense have been exhausted, the document is found. Document management software prevents the major expenses associated with these scenarios.

Unless it isn’t. 20% of all lost physical documents are never located. That means that the utility company must then redo the work on the lost document. They must approach the current homeowner and get the documents resigned. If the homeowner is unwilling to accommodate the utility company, then further legal means must be taken to assure permissions are available for the utility company.

All of this caused by 50, 100, and 150 years of paper documents, which build up into dozens and hundreds of filing cabinets and banker boxes of documents. This uses valuable space, which could be better used for other business operations. Did you know that the average filing cabinet costs $25,000 to fill and $2,000 per year to maintain? As utility companies strive to become more effective and to deliver resources more cost effectively, this is a powerful way to reduce overhead costs. Factor in employee time and wages spent on locating documents and the results of going paperless are immense.


Emergency Contingency Plans

A third compelling reason for utility companies to go paperless or reduce paper use via document management software is for emergency contingent plans. Flood, broken pipes, fire, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other disasters create uncontrollable situations. The majority of businesses that lose their documents from a natural disaster close their doors within 2 years. It is difficult if not impossible to fully recover physical documents after a natural disaster. The time and money it would take to replace important permanent documents alone is enough to bankrupt most organizations and without some of the most vital documents, utility companies cannot continue to operate business as usual. Retaining copies of permanent documents is vital for utility companies for many reasons.


Preserve Older Documents

Finally, older documents tend to get more brittle. Even if the utility company prefers to keep certain original documents, the conversion of these documents to electronic format can preserve the documents. Electronic document management provides a means for employees to access and use the documents without physically handling or damaging the document through normal wear and tear.


There are Additional Document Management Software Benefits

First, electronic document management software provides easy backup and retention of documents in multiple physical locations ensuring a disaster recovery plan. Second, electronically organized documents can be pulled in seconds eliminating time, effort, and expense and employee frustration. Documents can be pulled by street name, township, or neighborhood association, owner names, type of document, and any other information contained within the document. This make it easy for any employee to pull a document using any related piece of information to the document.

This is one reason why utility companies are flocking to eFileCabinet for electronic document management. eFileCabinet provides a simple, easy to use interface that makes storing, finding and using documents easy for even the computer illiterate user. eFileCabinet’s award-winning software is sophisticated enough to provide automatic retention, user permissions, and workflows while maintaining simple intuitive commands.


Recommended Filing Structure

It is recommended that utility companies file documents by township or neighborhood locations and then as property address. Further folders and subfolders can define the types of documents associated with the property.


Sample of documents stored in eFileCabinet

Utility Service Contracts, Right of Ways, engineering documents, maintenance and service records, and client records.

Please contact us to see a demo of eFileCabinet!