The more I immerse myself in the world of printers, copiers and multifunction peripherals and devices, the more I hear talk coming from dealers and distributors who seem unsure of what’s happening in the industry. The use of a document management solution or system (DMS) is becoming more and more prevalent, and flat sales numbers on office imaging machines have them concerned as to whether this increase in digitization is affecting their bottom line. In general, there seems to be a sense that document management should play “second fiddle” to their core sales of business machines.
In fact, I believe the truth to be the complete opposite. Document management isn’t cutting into the sales of hardware. It’s what’s going to save it and make that hardware much more attractive.
Let me explain.
When music made the move to digital, and CD sales plummeted, record companies doubled down in their resistance to get onboard. The result was two-fold: 1) We saw a dramatic shift from physical media to digital online forms of music that virtually decimated the CD market in just 10 short years, and 2) The world’s largest “music company” is a computer company (Apple)—not a record company or label as you might expect. Movies are moving in the same direction, albeit at a much slower pace.
You might say “resistance is futile”, but there’s actually more to it than that—and a veritable pot of “gold” (so-to-speak) at the end of the document management “rainbow”.
The Pot of Gold is ACCESS
If this hasn’t sounded too comforting up to this point, just hang on—we’re just getting started. When we talk about document management, we’re talking about a lot of things—but let’s constrain our definition to this:
The digital/electronic storage of paper documents into a searchable system whereby those documents—and that data—can be searched and accessed from virtually any computer using particular, secure software.
Phew, that’s a mouthful! I also like to think of it as:
Scan it. Catalogue it. Store it. Search & retrieve it.
Now, consider some of the key points or aspects of document management and what that means:
- Documents can be easily filed and just as easily retrieved
- You can catalogue a massive amount of data (for that easy filing and retrieval mentioned above)
- There is faster retrievability and access of that data across multiple platforms (better productivity)
- Information is available to be more quickly distributed when needed
- For the first time, document scanning, storage and retrieval can be streamlined for the purpose of increasing the efficiency and workflow of an organization
Some Scenarios to Consider
A friend of mine relayed a story about needing some documents for a conference room meeting he was heading into. Well, to be honest, he didn’t need them. If he needed them, he would have been late to the meeting and/or the meeting would have failed to occur. He wanted those files. The problem was, he just couldn’t find them. In the cabinet-based manilla folder “filing system” they used, the document was nearly impossible to locate. And even if he had found it, he would have needed to have made a copy and then returned the original to its folder.
That’s a lot of work to get a piece of paper in your hand. And my friend WANTED that piece of paper in his hand.
Had a document management system been in place, here’s what that scenario would have looked like:
From his web browser he would access his company’s document management system, entering a search query into the appropriate field—as specific or vague as he wanted, depending upon what he knew of the document type or what it contained.
He would have briefly perused the results, filtering the list as needed by document type, author, client or project.
He then would have…wait for it…PRINTED the document to one of the available office machines and picked it up in time for the meeting. This happens again and again in offices all over the world.
Because he couldn’t find the document he needed, he didn’t print it. The inconvenience of not having a DMS meant that less use of the company’s imaging devices took place.
In a recent survey of Fortune 500 companies, it was found that greater efficiency in document retrieval actually results in a higher number of clicks due to printing out those retrieved documents. People want to hold paper in their hands. They love the convenience of having access to the reports, files and forms they need.
They simply don’t want to be bothered by having to search for it manually and a lot of documents go unprinted because, frankly, it’s just too much trouble.
To Dealers: Don’t Be a Record Label
When music went digital, it was responding and adapting to the way consumers already wanted to consume music. The problem is, the movement was led by software companies and equipment manufacturers. The last ones into the game (and indeed, they are still kicking and screaming) were the record labels. These are the dealers and distributors of music. They should have led the digital revolution. Had they done so, they would have been the leaders and reaped the largest rewards.
You don’t want to be late to the game. Document management solutions are reviving the digital imaging market. Grasp on with both hands and start selling those solutions to your clients. Give them a reason to print more documents on their existing machines, and on new ones they lease through your network.
To Consumers: Work Smarter, and Embrace a Better Workflow
If you’re the one using these new machines, don’t stay back in the analogue realm. You’ve got a new digital machine—use it. Ask your copier dealer about what document management solutions they offer, and start developing a plan to implement those solutions in your office or workplace. You will experience gains in efficiency that you never dreamt were possible. Staying with paper-only solutions is akin to fast-forwarding to the end of the cassette and flipping it over. You now have the ability to directly access your files and place them into your hands when you want them.
And if you’re concerned about paper—don’t be. Trees are a renewable resource, and most paper today is made from a combination of recycled material and fast-growth trees. If we stop using paper, we won’t need any more trees.
And I like trees, so let’s keep using paper, so we have a reason to keep planting them.
Document management is an amazing way to improve your workflow and jumpstart your business in ways that will give you more time to sell, produce or otherwise increase the bottom line of your company. Whether you’re a dealer, distributor or even an end-user—make sure you get in the game.