I thought I would take a few moments to channel Marie Kondo as I delve into the life-changing decisions business are making these days. As the pandemic has forced them to progress through remote work strategies, challenges with accessing and managing physical records have surfaced. Ms. Kondo advocates decluttering and organizing – nothing on the floor, and everything in its place. What you keep should bring you joy. No joy? Discard. Sounds easy, right?
While your business may not have important records strewn about the floor in your office, you still may have overloaded file cabinets, rooms with banker’s boxes and a reliance on paper documents for recordkeeping. Even if you have a records retention policy, today’s challenges are not just what to keep for how long, but knowing what you have, where it is and determining if you really need all of it.
If you were to apply the KonMari Method to business, you could get through part of the problem – looking at everything that you have by category, deciding what you can live without, then finding the proper place for what remains. It is the “proper place” rule that creates the challenge with records, as physical space is limited and somewhat restrictive in providing an easy way to find your stuff.
Simplicity means digital
Ms. Kondo advocates simplicity, and to me, workplace simplicity means digital.
At home, we cannot use digital clothing, but we sure can use digital books, music, photos and documents. If you have to keep a physical copy of a document, you are probably looking at the exception to the rule. And Ms. Kondo is hoping that you can simplify your stuff so when you open your drawers or closets, everything is in plain view. At a glance, you can find and access what you need.
(In fact, here’s a flash of brilliance — let’s make a digital clothes closet that you can search by color of item – the Closet of the Future (CotF). By 2040, every closet will be equipped with a keypad with mobile capabilities. Type in “blue” and all the blue items in your closet come forward. All clothing will have a “color chip” embedded in the garments, boosting a new chip industry. A digitally searchable closet – by key-color!)
In business, when you or I want to find a record or a document, we want to open up a file and, at a glance, find what we need. No digging through boxes or file cabinets, and no chance that something was taken and re-filed incorrectly. But what is better than opening a file and glancing down a list? A keyword search that first narrows the possibilities, so you only need to glance at a short list.
Enabling the search function
We are all familiar with search from using the internet. Using keywords, we search the internet for information on everything from how to use an orbital sander to who Mary Luana Williams is. Why not create the same organized, easy-to-access setup for your records?
This will mean two important things:
- You will be able to eliminate the cost and risk of physical storage.
- You will simplify the access to documents.
It is the second point that has become more apparent during this pandemic. With many offices closed, the physical records were closed up, too. Anyone working remotely could not access the information they needed to fulfill requests or provide information that required a review of a filed document; e.g., insurance certificates, business licenses, etc.
Businesses realized this “natural disaster” impacted their business operations in ways that they did not consider. Additionally, with sudden remote workers, businesses could not do much to rectify their situations at the time.
However, with more states opening up, we have seen the push to get records digitized and enable the content to be searchable. In some cases this is driven by a long-term remote worker arrangement and a push to move to a smaller location – with no room for physical records.
The two challenges that the pandemic has produced are businesses reconsidering their operating models and looking to gain in physical efficiency. While they cringe when they look at all the records they need to sort and move, they realize it’s time to go digital and do it right – with keyword search capabilities – for future worker efficiency.
Do you have to go to the searchable level? You do not. Transforming the paper into a digital format has a host of benefits. You save on space in your office or the cost of storing your records offsite. Be sure to consider the value using optical character recognition (OCR) to store documents in a searchable versus static format.
Ready, set, go
Life-changing magic for records is called Business Process Outsourcing. BPO consultants have long been the masters of giving businesses back office space where physical records used to live. They are the experts, with a solitary focus, and can make the scanning and categorizing process fast, efficient and correctly aligned to your needs.
Now BPO consultants are facilitating scanning strategies to support the new operational models businesses are adopting. They allow businesses to:
- Reduce office space and the associated cost of a half-empty office, plus eliminate the need to house physical records and really see what they truly need to run their business
- Enable workers to access and search records from anywhere they may be working
- Take the plunge before moving so they are not spending the time, effort and money to lift and shift boxes.
When you are ready to take your physical records and transform them to digital records, you have to make a few decisions, and it is these critical decisions that affect your Workplace of the Future (WoTF).
Think about your closet. How much time do you want to spend looking for something? Don’t you want to have fingertip access? Isn’t it frustrating to find a specific item if there are a lot of other items you have to first dig through? Are you craving the CotF?
Think about your office. Does your staff have to dig through boxes to find documents when they receive a request? Is their information buried within a document that you can use in a current report or presentation, but you cannot remember which document? In business, we are fortunate if our senior management team has had the forethought to plan their BPO project and has advocated for OCR.
On tap this year: More wildfires, Greek alphabet hurricanes, and who knows what else. Be prepared.
Life-changing magic takes a plan, a proactive plan. Running from a house on fire or looking at the rubble from a hurricane means you were too late. If there is one thing our experience with the pandemic has shown, it is who was ready to go remote; who had their systems available to remote workers and who had their information available digitally for business continuity; and who was caught short.
Plan now. Go digital. Get your scanning done. Embrace remote workers and give your business the ability to operate to its fullest – no matter what.