What scares you? Spiders? Horror films? To us, walking into a paper-dependent office is worse than being pushed into a haunted house. In this episode, we’re talking nightmares-come-to-life when natural disasters, fires, floods and more destroy years’ worth of paper records and office know-how, and the scary costs and consequences of recovery and rebuilding.

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Kate Storey: Welcome to the Paperless Productivity Podcast where we give you the tips, tricks and know how to solve your biggest workflow challenges and bring greater productivity into your workplace every day.

They’re old they’re dusty and they have the power to take down your organization in a single event. That’s right. Today we’re talking about the horror of paper based offices. Welcome to our episode for this week. I’m Kate Storey for ImageSoft which is a sponsor of this fine podcast. And today I’m joined by ImageSoft’s Marketing Manager Kevin Legister. Kevin has 17 years of experience with enterprise content management with 15 of those years spent in technical sales and development. He’s worked with everyone from Fortune 100 companies to very small organizations to help them on their journey of going paperless. So he’s gonna be a great resource for you today especially if your organization is just starting to think about digitizing your paper based processes. He’s got a lot of great examples of why paper based systems are not just inefficient, they’re downright scary. Kevin thanks for being here today.

Kevin Ledgister: Thanks for having me Kate.
Kate: All right well let’s dive right in because I want to know what’s really so terrible about paper?
Kevin: Well I’m not a horror movie fan which might leave you with a single sleepless night but what keeps me up at night is when I walk into organizations and I see that their office is just paper driven and the reason why for that is that there’s just so many risks associated with having a paper driven office where you’re critical records are only existing in paper based form.
Kate: Well like what? Give me a couple of examples.
Kevin: Well if you have a paper based office you really don’t have any really good backup plan except to make more paper generally speaking which is kind of crazy. So if you think about it if your only copy of your file this is the one that you have in your file cabinet imagine that during this season that this Halloween season that somebody brings in some cheap Halloween funny thing that they plug in that bahaha as you walk by or something that scares the office staff and it’s got some cheap wiring in there and that wiring starts sparking when you’re not there at night and it causes a fire and the sprinklers go on and then your cabinets get flooded and your ink runs and your papers they get melded together. It just destroys all your critical records that you would have and it just becomes a terrible thing to do. Kevin: So that’s sometimes what we see in terms of from a fire perspective or from a electrical hazard perspective or even a flood. This was something that was recently in the news about one government office where they experienced a flood and because that flood came it destroyed so many of their records that they have to go through this whole process to try and reconstitute or reconstruct a lot of those files. And it was quite costly for them. We talked about fires already. There’s other things I’ve seen too is people who will use offsite storage or will store their documents in really weird places. So I’ve seen documents being stored in a abandoned jail cell.
Kate: That’s pretty scary.
Kevin: Yeah it is scary. Or something that happens people will have some spot in the warehouse where they’ll store their paper based files and it may not be air conditioned, it may be susceptible to weather, it may be susceptible to believe or not rodents. Rodents will get in there and they will chew up your files and use us as nesting and you don’t know that until you actually go to ax the file one day or-
Kate: It’s too late.
Kevin: It’s too late. Or something that we just see from some basic rotting of paper where they’ll get damage. So those are all things that impact your files especially as they get older and older and older or is it in crease where you are competing for office space and people that’s one of the things that we’ll see where it starts becoming critical. The other area that also too sometimes still amazes me and boggles my mind as much as it’s almost like if you see somebody walking down tree with a flip phone you’re like what century is that person from. It’s when people start … they still have microfilm or microfiche in their offices and we understand that some places it’s required by law that they have to have that and the law hasn’t been updated yet to reflect more modern standards but still when we think about it those rolls of microfilm that you have or the microfiche you have in your library those are all susceptible to fire as well, those are susceptible to destruction. So they’re very stable if they’re kept in the air conditioned environment but they still are subject to various catastrophes and it really is not a very effective way as well on a day to day business perspective where you need to go back and access those things. So those are some challenges that we see and some of the risk that we see with a paper based office.
Kate: Yeah. That’s really scary to think that in just one event, it could even be a minor one like you mentioned the sprinkler, it doesn’t have to be some major catastrophic weather event. Just having something happened where the sprinklers have to go off. In one event like that all those files could just be completely lost.
Kevin: Exactly. And that is so true and we think of those people with respect to a hurricane where water came in and did a whole lot of water damage and that’s the last thing you think about moving when the call to evacuate a particular area occurs is “oh I got to grab all my files and let me haul up my-“
Kate: It makes it pretty hard too.
Kevin: Yes. Yes.
Kate: No one’s going to load up their files.
Kevin: No. “Let’s rent a U-Haul and grab a dolly and just grab the files.” That’s just not going to happen. But the other thing that we see too is that in this one particular case and we’ve seen this happen over my years multiple times where when you see these files get damaged and it doesn’t have to be all your files, even just a small section of your files where they’re critical and you have to reconstruct those and try to get the paper apart and try to somehow piece it back together that the cost of actually reconstituting those files can actually exceed what it would have cost to digitize all those documents in a good document management system in the first place.
Kate: That’s ridiculous.
Kevin: It is kind of crazy. And nobody wants to pay twice for anything because you can pay to have those files reconstituted and you’re back to where you were before all this happened. You still don’t have the system in place to take care of all those things.
Kate: Exactly. Yeah. And so many organizations are already working with such limited budgets to think about paying twice for something. And like you mentioned the efficiency still isn’t there. The additional benefits of having a digital system still don’t exist yet by having to do both of those systems. Yeah. So there’s another cost that I know is involved with that. We talked about a little bit lost productivity. When you had a staff that are working with not only limited budgets but limited time.
Kevin: That’s exactly right. And that’s another hidden cost of dealing with paper is when something does happen to them what is the cost to your business. I mean think about this. What would it cost your business if 20 percent or 30 percent of your staff was sitting there doing nothing because the files and paper and the things they need to get to are not accessible to them. What’s the impact of that, what’s the financial impact and businesses are usually really good at figuring that out and thinking about that. A lot of times the government offices that’s not the way how they think. They don’t think necessarily in terms of revenue.

So it’s a little bit of a challenge to wrap their minds around that but that is huge. But from a government perspective what you have to think about is what would happen if the constituents that are depending on a rebate check or access to public housing or access to something or some project, for instance even a building project that’s going on what’s the impact if you can’t fulfill your services or fulfill your promises that you’ve made to your constituents. And that can have a huge impact economically within the area where you live and people that you serve but it can also have an impact for people that really who are in great need. And that’s the last thing you want. And if you’re an election cycle that’s the last thing the elected officials also want to think about too is we have a whole bunch of people here who are screaming who just need help and you can’t help them because you suffered some kind of catastrophe.

We see this in court cases too where public safety is an issue where maybe you need a bench warrant, maybe you need a protective order because something is going on or the wheels of justice kind of grind to a halt because the files that they need to make things go forward or for a case to proceed or for someone to get protected against, maybe a spouse that is endangering to the public it can’t be served. Or maybe there’s somebody else out there that’s committed a criminal act and because the wheels of justice stop a warrant can’t be issued for that person to get arrested. So just all kinds of things.

Kate: Simply because it’s sitting on somebody else’s desk and a piece of paper can’t be in two places at once.
Kevin: That’s exactly right. And a lot of times too and in particularly in those types of cases you don’t want multiple cases … I remember one scenario working with it was actually a bank and there was a very expensive car that had been … Or a bank’s customer had borrowed money for this expensive car. It was a nice luxury car, it was quite expensive. And the person stopped making payments on it so the bank of course took the person to court to … they repossessed the car and tried to sue for the remaining amount that the person owed.

And so it came to the court case and because the bank had incomplete files the judgment was awarded in the customer’s favor. So the customer got the car back and did not have to make any further payments because the bank could not prove with enough paperwork that this person had a lean. So there’s all kinds of risks associated with not having adequate records, proper records or incomplete records for a transaction. So from a business perspective that can be a huge risk as well. Not to mention the fact that if you have poor customer service because it takes so long to process things because you’re just dealing with paper or paper has been damaged or missing or lost or whatever it is you just run the risk of losing customers. And they will go to someone else who’s willing to take care of them in a timely manner.

Kate: Yeah. It just keeps adding up. I mean all those different factors can really create a kind of a perfect storm when you’re dealing with just paper. Well let’s talk about the technology aspect for a minute because I think a lot of organizations are worried about the way the technology changes over time and that they feel like maybe they’re safer with some of the older methods. That paper gives them something physical in their hand, it might feel like it’s a more stable option. So how do we address something like that?
Kevin: Sure. And if you think about it, a good way to think about it is this, is that a lot of offices we walk into where they feel that way about paper is the way that most people felt about cash 20 years ago. Where we always wanted cash in our hands. We preferred that to credit. And now when you’re in line at Starbucks or you’re in line to buy your groceries and somebody pulls out cash and [inaudible 00:11:30] counting pennies and digging through their purse or their pockets to scrub the lint off of their quarters and their pennies to pay and everybody just gets frustrated like this is just slowing everybody down. We have other things that we need to do. So just in terms of thinking about how you approach paper and thinking about it is scary and it’s scary in two ways.

Number one it’s scary in terms of is the electronic or technology system reliable enough that we can trust as apposed to having that physical paper in our hands, that’s number one. And the other thing too is that some people are just scared of technology. And we see that as people age they get scared of new technology. What will this mean. Will I lose my job. That type of thing. So there’s some scary things with regards to that. And the third thing that we see it’s just wrapping your minds around how do we transition to a paperless office. What happens

But from our perspective what we see and this is kind of the hidden scary cost or the hidden scary thing about paper is it might seem like it’s almost like that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I remember watching that Bugs Bunny cartoon with that where he’d be walking with the doctor and everything was fine and then the poster would kick in and he’d turn into Mr. Hyde and the scary monster and suddenly you don’t realize that you’re walking with a scary monster. You thought it was just a friendly doctor individual that you’re walking with. And so what happens is that as your records age and as they get older and older and older the cost to transition to a digitized office, to a digital office actually goes up dramatically.

And part of the reason for that is that it just gets much harder to capture old paper. As paper gets older it thins out, the ink tends to fade, if there’s any ink that’s on it. And what ends up happening is as you capture it number one you may not be able to run fitting paper through a typical scanner. So when that happens is that you need to switch to a much more expensive flatbed scanner to capture those images because the last thing you want to do is start grabbing a file and running through a scanner then the scanner just tears the whole thing apart. It does that enough with brand new paper much less to have really old paper that’s different.

So capturing is more expensive and then not only that you have to look at your paper much more so you have to use much more expensive technologies. Can you have enough contrast between the ink and the background paper behind it so that you still have a relevant record enough so the fact that you can take that paper based copy and either destroy it, get rid of it, shred it or store it in a offsite location where you never really have to touch it except in the most extreme and dire circumstance where [inaudible 00:14:09] now work with electronic copy. So those are some things that we see just from a technology perspective with respect to what’s the transition from a paper based office.

Kate: Yeah. And I mean you mentioned those scanners and things like that I mean that’s technology that’s going to change too. I mean even if you’re concerned about advances with a digital approach you’re still going to have to use some sort of technology just to be able to read the paper documents. I mean that seems kind of crazy to me.
Kevin: It is.
Kate: So our listeners now might be starting to realize that having a paper based office has a lot of downsides but they don’t really know how to get started with going digital. So what do they do? Where do you suggest they start?
Kevin: For most organizations what we’ve seen is just a great successful formula is the first thing they need to do is have executive level support. So somebody high in the organization needs to get behind, needs to support this. If it’s in a court you might want to have a judge. If it’s in a business you might want to have the chief executive officer, chief operations officer or the CIO behind it. You need to have executive level support, somebody at a higher level that says we’re behind this thing, this is what we’re gonna do, this is our plan and make sure that you get the budget and everything for a process to go forward.

The second thing is that you need an internal champion that makes it happen. So it’s usually an executive level person is your sponsor but you need an internal champion that says hey I believe in this, I think this is a way to go. Somebody that can work with the different departments in the organization. Get them into the room and say this is what the plan is. This is what the executive’s saying that we need to do and have everybody be part of that conversation because it really is going to touch everybody in the organization whether or not they may be phase one or phase two or need to go paperless at all. At some point they’re going to have to touch the technology so you want to think and get those people in a room.

And then the third thing that you want to do is that you want to get a partner, somebody that’s out there that not only sells the actual software and the services to implement it but somebody that has a proven track record with helping you make the mental change because the biggest thing with success is not the technology, the technology’s there. Once you have the money, the money’s there. It’s just the thinking that goes around changing those processes.

So just to give you example, I’ll use an example that we see sometimes in the court space for instance where you have a document that comes in and to make this a official part of the court record you stamp the document and you have an official stamp, you might use a steal, whatever it is to say this is now an official part of a court record, it might have a date and time, those types of things. Well in a non-paper environment you don’t have that.

So you have to think about well how can I apply an electronic stamp to this so that the document stamp is fixed to it, we have a record of it and that it becomes part of our electronic records. So those are some of the things that you have to think about as you make that transition to a paperless office. It’s not just having a scanner and have it turning to electronic copy so I can see it on my phones, so I see it on my tablet, so I can see it on my computer. It’s how does our process change, who can help us ask those important questions, those questions that we don’t know that we’re blind to. That makes it a really scary proposition for us to make it something where it feels like oh this is just a walk in the park. Now we’re just going from door to door getting candy. We’re not frightened and running away through a dark cemetery, that type of thing.

Kate: Exactly. It’s a mindset change it sounds like. Yeah, that’s a big deal. All right. Well that’s great. I think we’ve covered a lot of ground here and I hope everyone listening is really starting to see how having a paper based office can take a lot of fear out of running their business and help them to better achieve their goals. So Kevin thanks so much for taking the time today.
Kevin: Yeah thanks Kate for having me.
Kate: Thanks again for joining us today for this episode of Paperless Productivity. This podcast is sponsored by ImageSoft, the paperless process people which you can learn more about at ImageSoftinc.com. That’s ImageSoft I-N-C.com. Join us next time where you’ll learn how to harness the power of technology, supercharge efficiency and accomplish your organization’s goals.

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