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Scan-and-Store Gets No Respect

It’s a conversation I get to have on a regular basis.  Lots of ECM practitioners see “scan-and-store” solutions as the low end of the ECM solution stack.    All you have to do is to look at how much paper is floating around an organization to see the opposite is true.  According to IDC, page volume from printers in 2012 was down 1.5% to 2.98 trillion pages.  Each year, over 100 million printers are sold.  That’s far from paperless.  But let’s ignore all the green aspects of paper, scan-and-store shows real ROI.

The biggest benefit of scan-and-store solutions is that it’s easily the largest immediate return on investment that an organization can make from ECM.   It’s often “hard” to show ROI on process improvements involving electronic documents, especially before it has been implemented.  But when the process starts with paper, scan-and-store can show real ROI numbers that hit the operational costs of an organization.  Scan-and-store cuts costs with both paper processes and paper at rest in addition to the costs of physical paper.

Paper Processes

According to industry analyst, Supply Chain Insights, 14-19% of transactions are still received in paper form.  To some organizations paper is still the only option.  Paper processes exists.

A review of paper processes, or even partially electronic ones, can easily calculate costs.  It’s all about using the “time tested” (pun intended) method of time studies.  You can easily follow a piece of paper as it enters the organization and moves through its steps until ultimately ending up in a box in a warehouse.  Those measures total into in minutes and sometimes hours.  Multiplying them by the number of times a process occurs the result is often days or weeks.  Those days and weeks easily translate into real dollars.

The similar exercise with electronic documents is often futile.  There the numbers are usually reversed.  The metric is the number of transactions that can be performed by an individual.  For example, an accounting clerk can usually process 3,000 transactions per month.  But how much time does a specific person spend on an electronic process is often anecdotal.

Even when the “big” processes have been reviewed, there are still the forgotten processes.  I’ve had several conversations where “there’s this one area” that wonders if ECM could be used for them.

Paper at Rest

Iron Mountain made $1.7 billion in storage rental in 2013, that’s up 4.9%.  That shows paper is not going away.  Records management practices require the retention of documents in whatever form they take.  That means for tax purposes your accounting documents need to be available for seven years.  In paper from, that document costs an organization storage costs either locally or remotely.  If stored remotely, there’re costs for shipping the box of documents each way.  These costs can be tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

When requesting documents from storage, often companies don’t keep exact track of what stored where specifically off-site so there may be multiple boxes requested.  Often this information is needed immediately, so there are expedited shipping costs.  Retrieval costs could be over $100.

When the document is past its retention requirements, an organization could simply pay a destruction fee.  But remember they may not know exactly what is where, so many request the boxes to review them paying a shipping fee, before destroying the box.  Another $100.

In an electronic world, 64k pages of Word documents fit on a gig of storage.  There was a day when ECM required complicated formulas to calculate disk consumption but not today.  When you can buy 16GB flash drives for $8 or a 1TB drive for $60, no one really cares about storage costs.  This is why electronic documents have gotten out of control on the network.  This means that eDiscovery and Records Management become problems, but no more so that the equivalent paper challenges.

When an organization retains an electronic document the costs associated are minimal.  When that document is in paper form, the costs can be astronomical.

In the End

I don’t care how large the organization, every organization has paper.  Even electronic processes often have paper options.  Ignoring scan-and-store as part of ECM misses no only the big picture but can cost big dollars.  Even if a file room clerk was paid minimum wage ($7.25 @ hour), their salary would cover a simple “scan-and-store” solution.   It’s scary to think, but even “bad” electronic document process, which I don’t endorse, can save a company real dollars over paper.

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