Even in this digital age were we can issue voice commands to our computers and businesses have started using software bots to automate routine tasks, there are still companies struggling to find the information they need in outdated paper file systems and poorly organized electronic files. It's to those organizations that we pose this question...
What’s Your Information Strategy?
When we meet with technical and business executives of various organizations, one of the questions we’re frequently asked is, “Do we really need to put together an information strategy for our business?”
We usually counter with a question of our own, “Do you want to be able to find specific pieces of important of information later?”
Of course, the answer to both questions is a resounding, “Yes!”
Let’s face it, the information that organizations accrue in the process of performing their day-to-day business is one of their greatest assets. So, a plan of action for preserving, protecting and managing that vital information is absolutely necessary if they want to ensure future continuity and success.
Types of Information
The type of informational assets companies and organizations maintain varies with their overall mission, but may include customer or client records, business contracts, personnel files, tax records, accounting documents, inventories, property records and other similar files.
Most businesses have made some headway in the management of records in an accessible electronic format, if for no other reason than because most businesses make use of computer technology and therefore create new documents and files in electronic format.
But, creating electronic files is a far cry from having an information strategy…
How are the electronic files maintained? Are they backed up? What about revision control? Who has access to them? Where do older paper files fit in your system? And, finally, how easy is it for you to find the exact information you need, when you need it?
For most businesses, attempting to answer these questions points to the need for a better way to manage their data.
Information and Technology
Unfortunately, finding a better way to manage data is not that easy! Today’s rapid pace of data growth, coupled with advancing technology, presents unique problems that IT staff and business executives have not had to grapple with previously. Organizational abilities are outpaced. Budgets are strained. Resources are not wisely used. Securing information becomes more important than ever, adding to technology challenges and creating legal liabilities.
Experts speculate that establishing a good “information governance” plan is the only way to address these challenges, yet the term “information governance” is ill-defined and means different things to different people.
Formulating a Strategy
Every organization is unique. That means that their information governance strategy needs to be unique as well. It’s hard to formulate a unique strategy without guidance from experts. While there are many solutions that can help manage your data, we’ve found that matching the right solution to your unique problems takes expert guidance.
But, most organizations hesitate when it comes time to commit the dollars and cents to an information management solution they don’t fully understand. We realize that it’s hard to see the benefit when the solution is unfamiliar and the way you’re managing now works…kind of.
That’s why we recommend a relatively low cost, simple starting point.
Start by converting one department’s existing paper files to digital documents. As part of this conversion process, an indexing system can be established that will lay the foundation for your information management strategy.
Much can be accomplished once paper records are scanned into digital files. For instance, they become instantly searchable, so you can determine exactly what information you have and how you can use it. Workflows can be automated, reducing the time it takes to perform repetitive tasks. Electronic forms can be added to eliminate the need for data entry.
But, before anything can happen to move your organization ahead, you need to implement the first step in modern information strategy -- eliminate paper and start using an Electronic Document Management (EDM) system.
Getting Started with Scanning
Finding the right company to perform your document scanning is easy when you keep in mind the final goal. You want a document imaging service that can help you implement an organizational information strategy. Look for a company that recognizes that information is an organizational asset and should be maintained as such. Let them guide you toward a central strategy that can work across all departments in your organization, even if your first steps will be confined to one department. It’s imperative to have both an Electronic Document Management solution and a plan that can be scaled going forward.
A scale-able plan is more important than ever as new technologies continue to be introduced. While you may not be ready yet to introduce software bots and Artificial Intelligence into your office, you don't want your EDM to be outdated before you even consider such options.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July, 2016] and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.