January 25, 2010, 1:16 PM — Small business owners and managers have a common reaction when someone, usually a salesperson, suggests going paperless and jumping into electronic document management: they cover their ears, start screaming “la la la I can't hear you,” and run out of the room. So don't say “electronic document management” but say “use our scanner to reduce clutter and save money.” Bosses pull their hands away from their ears when they hear “save money” and you can leverage the scanner on your MFP to ease into document management, I mean, reduce clutter.
Every scanner, whether the one included in your Multi Function Printer or a stand-alone unit, comes with software that organizes the scans. When scanning to a PDF file, you can index the text on the page and use that index to find one page out of thousands. That's how you declutter: turn a filing cabinet full of papers you'll probably never need again into bits on a disk.
You know those papers I'm talking about. Packing slips, paid invoices, updates from suppliers, letters from customers, maybe even copies of letters your company sends out. Pick one of those types of paper, get a scanner or MFP, and start a pilot project to scan rather than file.
Because you'll backup your scanned papers like you backup all your data (you do backup, right?), you'll actually increase the retention of those papers you'll probably never need. After all, a file cabinet full of paper is a single point of failure, while a backed-up electronic file has redundant copies. You can find a packing slip from six months ago far faster searching an indexed PDF file than you can digging through some file cabinets.
Change the paperwork filing workflow into a paper scanning workflow. Stack up papers to be scanned, train someone to use the scanning software (that will take about five minutes), and get to work. Don't file the papers you've scanned in their normal place, but put them in a separate box. After two weeks, run a test. Pull a paper out of the box and see how long it takes you to find the scanned document by searching for some unique text on that document, like customer name or invoice number. Test how long it takes to find a comparable document from a month earlier by going through the file cabinet. I bet the scanned results will put the document in your hand, or on your screen, faster and with less trouble.