Monday, May 30, 2011

Too Small to Succeed at Electronic Document Management

One Size Fits All?
Randy Davis, Vice President Sales and Marketing Operations

We've heard it ourselves in talking to prospects: "We're too small to benefit from an electronic document management (EDM) solution." Sometimes the prospect means "we don't process enough paper in a month," or "we don't have the technical staff to implement and support an EDM solution."

Whatever the reason, experience shows that "too small" may not be a good excuse to keep from making the move. The document management "suit" is not "one size fits all."

Consider this:

According to Ken Neal, a Certified Enterprise Content Management Practitioner and Director of Corporate Communications, for Océ Business Services, "In a recent industry survey, senior executives involved in document management indicated that document scanning has a high impact across the greatest range of business goals that include reducing costs, increasing competitive advantage, enhancing regulatory compliance, and improving customer service."

In fact, scanning paper into a document management solution can provide even small companies with hard benefits (reduced paper storage and management costs, improved service, compliance and audit support, disaster recovery) and soft benefits (competitive advantage).

A compilation of studies* (including Gartner) put together by lists the following as making Cloud services, including document management, appealing to small business. Cloud services are mainly:
  1. Affordable
  2. Accessible
  3. Usable
* (Thanks to Rachel Delacour of Bime Analytics for pointing out this "Infographic")

Here are some things to consider if you think your office is too small:
  1. Are you storing paper records on premise? If so, can you find needed records in seconds? Are documents safe from prying eyes or unauthorized removal? How will those records be quickly replaced if they are lost or destroyed?
  2. Are you paying to store documents? This includes preparation, the cost of storage, file folders/boxes, transportation, retrieval and duplication.
  3. Does your office look like it could qualify for "America's most cluttered office"? Running a business is hard enough. It's just easier to run a profitable business and service your customers if you can find important documents quickly. Besides that, staff and customers alike associate a messy office with sloth and inefficiency. There's just something about decent organization that makes people feel better about where they work or do business.
  4. Are you under legal or moral obligation to protect or retain records for years and prove that you are doing so?
Counting the Cost
I will be frank here. Scanning documents and storing them in an electronic document management solution is not without up-front and on-going effort and cost. It's not a magic bullet. You may have to buy one or more scanners. You may need to create a barcode-based document identification system to help automate filing (this is easier than you may think). You may need to create a different (and better) process to capture, route, authorize and store documents. You may need to train someone how to use a PC.

The question that only you can answer is, "Will my business and staff benefit from changing the way we do things now?"

Eyes Wide Open
If you think that is possible, taking advantage of an electronic document management solution can go easier if you go in with your eyes wide open and after doing some homework.

Dan Antion, vice president of information services for American Nuclear Insurers, shares "8 Secrets of an Effective Content or Records Management Implementation":
  1. You are not too small for Document Management.
  2. Document Management offers value beyond the obvious.
  3. Document Management is not a technology project.
  4. Management support is required.
  5. Document Management includes costs that are not obvious. [Scanners? Training?]
  6. Document Management technology doesn’t have to be expensive.
  7. Education is important and available.
  8. All vendors are not created equal.
(Dan's full discussion can be found at's Digital Landfill, dated June 23, 2009.)

Call to Action
If you are a small business, hopefully this has given you a few things to consider on your way to a more efficient office. Start today the first step of evaluating your document management processes. At worst, you may discover some ways to make your existing processes better. At best, you may find that electronic document management can help you run a better business and prepare for the growing demands of instantly accessible digital information.

Do you think a company can be too small to use EDM? Share your comments.

(If you find these discussions interesting, please take time to Follow this blog. Also, consider following us on Twitter: or tweet us @egistics. Thanks!)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fog Reigns in The Cloud

Randy Davis, VP Sales and Marketing Operations

Look at these search results headlines from a simple Google search: "What is The Cloud?"

August 19, 2008: "Can We Please Define Cloud Computing?"
February 27, 2009: "So what is the Cloud, exactly? Experts want to know"
July 24, 2009: "Twenty-One Experts Define Cloud Computing"
July 15, 2010: "Clarifying the SaaS vs. Cloud Integration Confusion"
July 27, 2010: "CompTIA Launches Effort to Define the Cloud"
August 4, 2010: "Cloud Customer Confusion Continues"
December 6, 2010: "Confusion in the Cloud"
March 28, 2011: "Confusion in the Cloud"
April 14, 2011: "Experts cut through the cloud computing confusion"
May 5, 2011: "Cloud Computing Confusion: Is It the Name?"

Should it really take over four years to define something that virtually everybody uses by now?

I've been following the Cloud discussion on LinkedIn, and have been shocked at the disparity between opinions in answer to the question: what is Cloud Computing? In fact, I would say the discussion is an old fashioned argument amongst denominational practitioners! Fundamentalists, liberals and middle-of-the-roaders are all having their say.

I'm not technically challenged, and can participate in complex discussions about technology without (usually) embarrassing myself. But I can't find one, decent definition of The Cloud that I can sink my teeth into. Defining The Cloud seems frustratingly elusive. When you have to resort to PC Magazine or Wikipedia to define an industry or technical term, because the industry or technocrats cannot articulate an agreed definition themselves, you know things are in a mess.

I've come to the conclusion that the definition of Cloud Computing is about to be yanked away from the experts and placed firmly in the hands of the users, who don't care a hoot about layers of protocols, servers, virtualization, infrastructures, nodes, networks or nothin'. They just use it and think of it as "the Internet."

In fact, PC Magazine, speaking to everyday users, says flatly, "The Cloud is the Internet."

Wikipedia, speaking to everyday users, says the Cloud "refers to the on-demand provision, software... via a computer network rather than from a local computer." Ok, that works, sort of, but it still doesn't satisfy.

So my question is, "Is a definition of The Cloud necessary?" If it is, necessary to whom?

I contend that, for all intents and purposes, The Cloud is the old "computer network" (represented in diagrams as a cloud), that became the old "Web" (represented in diagrams as a cloud) that became the new "Cloud" (represented in diagrams as a cloud). We've seen this all before when it was more controlled, and thus defined, by big hardware, software and network providers. But now, when almost anybody can play, and "the definition" of The Cloud is re-defined almost daily, it's become a bit like herding cats back into the corral.

If you object that one has to understand the Cloud's technological and organizational complexity in order to safely participate in it, I say "bunk." Eventually one has to trust the chosen provider of services. You have to do what you've always had to do with any provider that provides important services to you, and to whom you entrust sensitive information (banks, brokers, doctors): you have to satisfy yourself that they will protect what you entrust to them, and then you have to trust them, and then you have to watch them very carefully.

If you think something that goes into The Cloud goes into the great unknown, I think you are wrong. I think you can know where stuff is, and what is being done and used to protect it, because I think you can get to know a provider of cloud services. I think you can know whether something is being stored at Rackspace or at AT&T. I think you can know whether a data center is Tier 4 or Tier 1. I think you can know whether data is being encrypted or not. I think you can know whether your data is safely being replicated and geographically separated or not. I think you can know whether a provider is PCI certified or SAS70 compliant or not. For corporations dealing with cloud service providers, these are important and critical things to know. It is important to realize that these things can be known -- even if you are dealing with a cloud service provider.

It is my conviction that, for most people, The Cloud is an experience rather than a thing. It is an adjective rather than a noun. It doesn't have to be defined because it has become undefinable. It's like trying to capture fog in a net.

If The Cloud is an experience, an adjective, then it should be known by its attributes, by what it does or provides. For most people, it reduces or eliminates the need for hardware and software and additional IT resources. Or it provides a way to get access to some really powerful, really cool features by renting instead of buying. (Given this, I find it surprising that SMBs are some of the most reluctant users of cloud services.) Or it provides a way to almost instantly grow or shrink one's use (and cost) of computer systems and everything it takes to support them. Or it provides a way to take advantage of a security infrastructure that they could never afford in a million years.

So where does this leave me in my search for a definition of The Cloud. I still don't have one. But it feels a lot like the Internet, or something close to it.

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Losing Electronic Documents? You’ve Got to Be Kidding!

By Nathan Khani, CloudDocs Solution Specialist

A report in USA Today (May 18, 2011) included this shocking finding: “The average worker wastes 2.5 hours per week looking for documents missing in poorly organized electronic files.” Wait a minute. I thought that electronic filing systems were supposed to solve the problem of losing files. Now we learn that even a small office of, say, five people wastes more than a day and a half of productivity each week looking for electronically filed documents. What gives?

Here’s my thought. Electronic filing systems do not inherently solve the problem of finding files if they allow for disorganized filing methods. Worse, some document management systems actually encourage poor document filing practices. Wasted time is either a direct result of the disorganized use of electronic filing, or of electronic filing systems that are prone to disorganization.

What do I mean by disorganized electronic filing? This. If you use an electronic filing system much the same way you use a paper filing system, you will experience the same challenges in finding documents. Filing systems based on Folders, file names, keywords, and text searches are simply not optimized for finding documents quickly. Such systems rely too much on ad hoc naming conventions, free-form keywords, and knowledge of filing method best practices.

When it comes to storing and finding documents, too much flexibility and freedom can lead directly to disorganization. File management systems also depend too much on where a document is stored rather than on characteristics that make a document findable. Look. We’re not talking about storing your photos, videos, favorite recipes, old high school English papers, or music. We’re talking about documents you use to run your business. The fact is that good electronic document management requires good old fashioned standards, a bit of departmental discipline, and a document management solution that encourages and supports both.

That’s why it’s important for an organization to used electronic business document management solutions that are designed to relieve you of the burden of organizing documents by folder and file name. Such solutions are often called “structured” document management solutions, and they utilize index data to find stored documents in a way that is predictable and fast. In a structured document management system you can literally scan or upload a document, index it (manually or automatically), and forget about it until it’s time to find it or use it as part of a business process or workflow. Then, by using one or more configurable, standardized index fields, you can almost instantly find the document or documents you need. Such systems reduce the complexity of filing and (almost) guarantee that you can find the documents you need when you need them.

We would love to hear any tips or advice you may have regarding organizing your electronic files. Please share your thoughts below!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Security in the Cloud: Don't Let It Stop You

by Randy Davis, Vice President, eGistics

The primary reason companies cite for not taking advantage of Cloud services is concern about security. So it comes as a bit of a surprise when security analysts say, "Don't let security concerns stop you from migrating appropriate pieces of your IT operations to cloud-based services," as they did in a recent InformationWeek Analytics report of Cloud Security (5 April 2011). Of course this advice comes with fair warning about doing your homework, and hinges on the word "appropriate."

The authors of the report point out that better security is not a reason to move to the Cloud, but undue concerns about security is not a reason (in many cases) not to, either. Still, in a recent survey, 53% of 208 respondents not planning to move to the Cloud cite security as a primary reason for not doing so. The InformationWeek Analytics report suggests that their concerns may be misplaced, and based on old data.

The fact is, remote hosted services have been around for years, hosting billions of items of data for highly security-sensitive companies (like financial services companies processing check and credit card transactions) and doing so in a proven, secure environment. If financial processors trust your transactional payment data to the cloud, why wouldn't you trust, say, your business forms to the cloud?

Some Cloud providers can provide better security than you can, believe it or not. They've already addressed, through extensive cost, time and effort, the requirements of the Payment Card Industry, or SAS70, or HIPAA.

So the report concludes, it's not a matter of whether the Cloud is secure, it's a matter of (as in any business environment) whether your chosen partner has adequately addressed your specific security concerns. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that they have.

Let us know if you agree, or whether you have security concerns that cannot be addressed by Cloud service providers.

Monday, May 2, 2011

eGistics is showcasing CloudDocs at Fusion 2011 in Orlando!

by Nathan Khani, CloudDocs Solution Specialist

eGistics’ flagship product, CloudDocs, is on center stage at Fusion 2011 with a focus on Accounts Payable! We are busy putting the finishing touches on our new AP Quick Template, which, along with the Human Resources Quick Template, provides users with a running start to take the sting out of business document management. We are very excited to provide a revolutionary way to manage business documents.

Why the focus on Fusion?

Fusion-istas, as I affectionately call them, love innovative ways that bring efficiency to accounts payable and/or accounts receivable. CloudDocs is right up their alley. It saves time and money with its truly innovative way to capture, index and separate documents. It allows users to focus on what they are doing rather than how they are doing it by providing a clean, easy to use interface, and completely relieving the user of the need to know where documents are located. Instead, users can focus on quickly locating documents required to complete the task at hand, whether it be part of an approval process or related to faster, better customer service.

Furthermore, CloudDocs securely protects your sensitive files in an environment that is Payment Card Industry (PCI) certified, compliant with SAS 70, supports HIPAA privacy requirements. For the last 14 years, we have provided secured hosting for major financial institutions. You can be confident that your documents are protected with the same level of security that we provide our banking customers—without the big price tag!

CloudDocs ensures that your AR/AP documents are safe from the threat of disaster. We’ve all heard horror stories about companies devastated by natural disasters. With CloudDocs, electronic copies of your documents are kept in a geographically redundant environment so that regional disasters cannot damage or destroy them.

Currently, we are offering a free 30-day trial version of our Standard and Professional Edition plans! Please click here to find more information or to sign up for your free trial. You can also call me directly, and I will be more than happy to address any questions you may have, and help you plan a solution that best fits your company’s needs!

Nathan Khani
CloudDocs Solution Specialist