The shocking cost of storing documents

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Man drowning in documents

Walk into most business offices and you’ll soon find filing cabinets and archive boxes tucked away. And when these are stored across offices, it’s difficult to gauge just how much you are storing and what this is costing you. 

What is the actual cost of storing documents?

If you’re storing documents within the business, then there will be a cost in valuable office space. Take the office space in London, for example, which can cost up to £140 per square feet.  How many businesses increase their space and costs to accommodate an increasing workforce rather than evaluate how their space is being used?

 You can always move your documents offsite to a secure facility. This does come at a price and will vary according to where you are in the country – and the volume of documents needing storage. As part of this you need to consider how easy it will be to access that one vital document when you need to.The location, security, convenience, and facility size needs to be part of the decision. Certainly cheaper than office space – on average you’ll pay around £2.80 per square foot. But this will add up over time coupled with staff needing to travel to access documents.

8 critical issues around storing documents

It’s not just the physical cost you need to consider around using documents. There are issues around security and reduced efficiency. And poor document storage can have a real impact on the level of customer service you deliver and the perception of you as an organisation.

  1.  Reduced efficiency: Misfiling happens so easily that it’s estimated that an employee spends an hour of their time looking for it – and large organisations lose one document every 12 seconds.And how much time do your employees spend looking for information? Searching through archive boxes and lever arch files for important information. Further, the document may be held offsite in another office or within specialist secure storage requiring time to retrieve it (assuming you know where it is) or worse staff to traveling to retrieve it.
  2.  Paper wastage: The average UK office worker uses around 10,000 sheets of paper each year – with 68% being wasted predominantly due to printer issues.
  3. Paper security Issues: As many as 20% of print jobs are never retrieved from printers has been identified in a recent report. This leaves sensitive data at risk – available to anyone who passes by. In addition, information may be vulnerable if you don’t have paper shredders or secure a document disposal process in place. 
  4. Data Security compliance: Businesses are legally responsible for protecting customer and employee data as part of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).  Recent headlines have already picked up on organisations failing the guidelines and are facing large fines. GDPR replaces the Data Protection Act 1998 and places greater responsibility on how organisations handle personal data. You need to ensure that data is being processed securely and that measures are in place to avoid unauthorised access or accidental loss.  
  5. Disaster vulnerability: Disasters such as Fire or Flood can easily devastate your paper records – costly if records are not backed up, Businesses often consider backing up electronic records and computer equipment as part of their business continuity plans, but paperwork is often overlooked until it’s too late. Paperwork backup should be considered as part of your disaster recovery planning.  
  6. Slow Customer Service: Want to gain a march on your competitor? Build on your customer base and accounts? You really need to think about your overall customer experience. Manual paper led processes can slow your response, from order to deliver. The manual process of data entry, verification and checking can be both slow and labour intensive.
  7. Keeping on top of the audit trail: The volume of paperwork required for an audit can be overwhelming and time consuming if not managed properly. And audits are required across the functions of an organisation including financial audits, health & Safety & quality management processes, asset management and environmental reporting. Many of these documents need to be stored for long periods of time and create issues with office space.
  8. Restricted Access: Large businesses with multiple office locations, along with SME’s requiring flexible access to their records due to remote working, face real issues with paper records. It can require multiple photocopies being made and stored in various office locations – not ideal in cost, time and access.

Reducing or eliminating paper

There’s a range of options that you can take to reduce the amount of paper you use and store. Some organisations simply start out reducing the amount of paper they store whilst others start on the full journey towards a paperless office.

Document scanning

Whilst some legal documents need to be kept in paper form, the majority simply gather dust in lever arch files and archive boxes. Many companies offer documents scanning services which convert your paper documents into high quality digital files. You can then locate and retrieve your files in seconds, without even leaving your desk.

Your requirements can be tailored to you – whether you want the documents scanned on site or not. And what type of digital storage you require from a password protected disk or hard drive – through to the digital documents being hosted securely online. Certificates are issued when the documents are destroyed.

What does document scanning cost?

Every document scanning project is different and therefore you need to provide a fair amount of detail to get the true cost. Don’t simply google a cost online as you’re likely to get a surprise! The elements you need to consider are:

•   Is it just paper documents or other forms like microfilm?

•   The size of the documents

•   The quantity of documents

•   Are they double sided?

•   Are they unified in type?

•   Will they require prep work, like staples, post-its etc. removing?

•   Is there any specialist or valuable material that requires specialist handling?

•   What format do you want the digital documents to be delivered back on?

If you’ve more than a few boxes, it’s always worth getting companies in to look at your requirements – although not always easy if you have multiple locations. Do make sure that whichever company you use that they fully understand your requirements.

Moving to a paperless office

What is a paperless office? A work environment free of paper is the goal but the term ’paperless office’ describes the methods used to reduce or eliminate paper. This involves converting from traditional paper-based processes to digital-based processes. 

 Over the last few years there has been increasing focus on the paperless office with advancements in technology and constant business drivers to reduce cost and improve efficiency.

 The benefits include:

·      Easier access to your documents – wherever you work

·      Reduced costs 

·      Greater efficiency

·      Focus where it matters 

·      Improved customer experience 

·      Better security and control around documents

Considerations around a paperless office

People do need to be considered and a recent survey shows that over 80% of office workers still like to see paper within an office. In addition to being used to working with paper, there are some valid reasons why some paper might need to remain in the office. This includes:

·       Larger documents are more difficult to read and edit onscreen

·       How to put in access controls around documents and monitor them.

·      Some legal documents need storing in paper format and require ‘inked’ signatures

·      Theupfront investmentcovering cost and resources

·      Essential continual upgrading of hardware and software 

·      threats through computer viruses, power outages, and network crashes.

Are you ready for a paperless office?

Going paperless doesn’t just save money but can offer real benefits to improving the customer experience. Change comes from within so It’s important to lead from top down with a clearly defined plan and implementation. Going paperless means you need to digitise and semi-automate multiple company processes so don’t underestimate the task. 

People considerations: Put a team in place to manage the process and engage with employees. So many business transformations fail on the people piece. 

  • Do get in a specialist if you don’t have internal expertise 
  • Make sure you assess any internal training requirements and deliver the training required.

 Document management system or Enterprise content management: There’s different options out there and you need to fully assess what will suit your business best. The lighter solution is the document management system which handles file creation, sharing, manipulation and storage.  The Enterprise Content Management provides a heavier solution – covering all company content, including files, images, web pages, records etc. A further decision is then required whether you want to go the cloud or server option. 

 Paperless tasks: There’s a number of options about moving your processes around billing, payments and invoices to a paperless system. This saves time, reduces costs and can improve the perception of the business by customers and suppliers.

 Compliance considerations: Make sure you carry out checks on whether compliance regulations require you to retain actual copies of documents with an “inked signature” for a certain period of time. Depending on the country, electronic signatures have become as compliant as original ones in recent times – but it is always important to double check this.

Paperless meetings and tasks: 49% of wood pulp goes to paper production so develop a culture that minimises the printing of presentations and lengthy reports. In addition, switching to paperless task lists, memos and notes can better support collaboration with a team’s tasks and notes synchronised across all devices.

 Paperless signatures: Try to move away from ‘inked signatures’ where not necessary. There are various solutions to choose from: enterprise level to much lighter solutions.

Connect with BPMS if you want further information