Going Paperless

We talk to people every day who have realized the time has come to “Go Paperless.” Maybe a document has been lost resulting in a financial loss, or file cabinets are taking over office space, or customers wait for call backs while customer service searches for documents, or people in branch offices have to send documents to the head office every day. Whatever the reason, and there are many more, business owners and managers are looking to reduce operational bottlenecks caused by outdated methods of storing and retrieving documents. What seems on the surface to be a pretty simple concept – convert paper to images and keep them on a computer – can become a challenge without taking time to put together a plan.

Think beyond the scanning issue. While scanning is important, the real issue is where to put the documents and how do people access them. Most companies today have file cabinets containing paper files, shared hard drives with documents and other company information, and PC’s containing documents stored by individuals. By consolidating these documents into a centralized Document Management Software (DMS) system, you have the ability to put documents at the fingertips of the right people at the right time.

The key to implementing a successful document management system is to have a well thought out plan. Cabinet NG recently published a “Guide to Going Paperless” which will help you develop such a plan. It is located on Cabinet NG’s website at: http://www.cabinetng.com/alt/Guide_to_Paperless_homepage.php .

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Personal Injury Law Firms

Personal injury law firms face a document management problem unlike other types of law firms. The requirement to be very efficient is paramount as the more cases taken to closure directly affect the bottom line. To be efficient at closing the cases requires a strict and repeatable document management process. From initial intake of the client forms and documentation to processing all requested medical and accident records requires an efficiency not found in other types of law firms. Volume of cases matters in the personal injury law business. A good document management system is a necessity in today’s firms as the amount of paperwork per case is only growing and there is not an end in sight to the volume of paperwork processed for a single case. A good document management system will allow the firm to intake initial documents, workflow them electronically and get updates on the status of needed documents at the touch of a button from any workstation in the firm.

There are a number of benefits that result from an EDMS in a personal injury firm. While these benefits correlate directly with their physical paper counterparts they also overcome the inherent deficiencies of a paper based system.

  • Instant access to documents and records by any authorized personnel in an organized manner
  • Ability to put documents/cases through an electronic workflow process
  • Search old case records for documents using a variety of searching techniques
  • Document sharing and collaboration

These three benefits allow a firm to achieve efficiencies that are physically impossible for a paper based system.

  • Integration with other software used across the firm
  • Quick and complete disaster recovery
  • Go Green

A complete whitepaper on using an EDMS in a personal injury firm is located here.

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iPad & CNG Software

Unless you’ve had your head in the sand over the last several months, you’ve surely heard of the Apple iPad™. This smart device has really taken off – at last count over 275 million of them have been sold. This is the tip of the large iceberg in the smart device market. Over the next several years we will see more and more activity in this space. It’s critical if you are looking at these for your business applications that you make sure they work with these devices before outfitting your company with them. We’ve done some testing with the iPad, iPhone and Android phones over the last several months. Our CNG-Web product works fairly well on the smartphones although scaling a document to a readable size means you can only see a portion of the document at a time, but it’s still quite usable and I find myself checking on documents when I’m out of the office more and more on my phone. I see a day coming when I’ll no longer lug a laptop around the airport.

We checked out CNG-Web on an iPad and it performs well, but the bigger surprise was we discovered one of our clients was already using the iPad in place of his laptop. His server was configured to run Terminal Services, so he downloaded a Remote Desktop App for his iPad, connected it to his server and he’s up and running with the full CNG Client on his iPad. Again it’s very usable and the screen is big enough to view an entire document.

More and more of these lightweight browsing appliances are coming. If you have any stories about using CNG-SAFE in a mobile environment on a non-standard platform, we’d love to hear about it.

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Collaborate Conference 2010 Wrap-Up

We wrapped up Collaborate 2010 last Friday, October 22. The main focus of the Conference was how technology is evolving and how the web is being used more and more in businesses. Mobility is key and new devices are arriving on the market for people to get instant access to the information they need. We also discussed CNG’s future developments, introduced new ways of managing documents locally and remotely by using this new technology such as the iPad. We will have more on that soon.

Breakout sessions were geared toward end users and administrators with additional sessions focused on CNG-Advanced Capture, CNG-Forms and Forms Monitor, and the new CNG-WEB and workflow interface. Friday’s sessions opened with CNG-Books (CNG-SAFE’s interface to QuickBooks) and Templates training. One of the sessions included a fun presentation called “Tips, Tricks, and Tantalizing Tidbits” which covered over 30 lesser known ways of using CNG-SAFE.

Followed by a trip to the scenic Monte Sano Lodge, former weatherman Bob Baron gave a keynote presentation during dinner that addressed how technology has changed the way we understand and respond to the threat of severe weather. Bob spoke humbly about how he began his business developing weather forecasting capabilities after witnessing a tornado in 1989 in Huntsville which killed 21 people and caused more than $100 million in damage. Bob said, “It was a seminal moment where I thought we were prepared, but what we had were pretty pictures, not actual tools.”

Partnering for the Future
Event sponsors Kodak and Canon presented their family of document scanners, and PSIGEN software discussed the latest advanced capabilities for scanning documents and filing into CNG-SAFE. PSIGEN technology is used in CNG’s Advanced Capture.

Customer Wins
CNG turned the conference over to attendees to provide feedback on the products and services they had purchased. CNG takes this session very seriously and bases many future developments and improvements on customer feedback.

Several CNG customers, including Habilitative Services and SFX Baseball, baseball marketing and management agents for many Major League Baseball players, shared their customer experiences. The San Francisco Giants win helped set the mood. SFX presented  how all areas of their company are using CNG-SAFE to better support their baseball clients — accounting, legal and personal contacts are all managed more efficiently.

Habilitative Services provides services that enhance an individual’s quality of life by developing, maintaining or restoring skills, modifying the environment, and by using adaptive technology. The company’s IT director, Chad Wilkinson, shared his story of how Habilitative is using CNG-SAFE with its 1200 employees. Chad said “Finding documents was like looking through a junk drawer, but CNG-SAFE changed that for the users.”

2010 iNGie Award Winners Announced
We announced the award winners for the first annual customer green award, the iNGies. We awarded four businesses who demonstrated the best use of document management to improve their bottom line and operate their businesses in a more environmentally friendly means. We will issue a press release in early November announcing the award recipients. Award winners received a $1,000 credit that can be applied towards annual maintenance of CNG products, an Apple iPad and recognition at the Conference dinner.

A Successful Event
Collaborate 2010 was a great success and delivered a solid return to businesses looking for real value and products that improve efficiency and their bottom line.

The Collaborate Conference provided CNG customers, VARs, partners and potential customers the opportunity to explore best practices, share their ideas and discuss their thoughts about document management and how to achieve a paperless office. We wrapped up the Conference with drawings, CNG Jeopardy and a round of golf at the Highlands Course at Robert Trent Jones, Hampton Cove.

If you didn’t attend, I encourage you to attend next year.

Here are some photos:

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Using Microsoft Office Applications with CNG

Recently I helped one of our manufacturing clients improve their new product setup process. Prior to using CNG they created a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and emailed it around the office for input from the various departments. After doing that and getting it back to the originator, data was rekeyed into their MRP (Materials Resource Planning) system. Obviously, this could be quite error-prone as data was rekeyed and had the possibility of being overwritten. They contacted us about helping streamline the process by possibly using CNG-Forms to capture the data and having it be transferred from the resulting SQL database to their MRP database. After evaluating the data in the spreadsheet and trying out a CNG-Form, it was determined this was not a satisfactory solution due to the nature of the data (the quantity of data was variable per product setup). Instead, we helped the client re-do the Excel spreadsheet and then added a small amount of software as a macro which exported the data from the spreadsheet to the MRP system. This spreadsheet was set-up as a document template, and a workflow rule was created to route it around the office as required. The last step was to send the spreadsheet to the MRP person who uses the macro to export the data to the MRP system.

This is a great example of using standard office tools to create a customized workflow and have the data exported to another software system. The process to do this was not overly technical, but it did require sitting down with the client and working through how their system worked.

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CNG released a new search component for our document repository at our user’s conference last September. This component has been a big hit with our users.  It’s called CNG-SuperSearch and it can be either a gadget (Windows 7 or Vista) or it can be a small desktop application (Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7). The goal of this component was to allow users of CNG-SAFE the ability to find documents quickly and efficiently without having to fire up the CNG-SAFE client. From one small screen it gives you the ability to do full text, keyword, and metadata searching across all of the repositories and cabinets available to you.

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Document Management – Saas vs Internal Deployment

If your company is considering investing in electronic document management software (EDMS), you may feel a little overwhelmed by all the options available. Not only do you need to find the best product to meet your functional and budgetary requirements, but you also probably need to find the product that best fits with your IT infrastructure. Traditionally, document management software is purchased and then installed and implemented on a company’s servers and workstations. In recent years, a few document management companies have begun to offer hosted (Software as a Service – SaaS) document management software where your documents reside on a server external to your facility and you access the system via the internet

There are 5 key areas you should consider before selecting what type of solution to deploy in your organization.

Financial – what are the short-term and long term costs associated with the two approaches?  In simplest terms, internal solutions require a bigger upfront investment while SaaS costs are typically spread out over time with monthly payments. Of course the SaaS costs may seem like they would be much higher than internal costs over time, but considerations must be made for IT time spent maintaining the server and providing backups. These costs can be incremental if your IT department is already maintaining a group of servers, or they may be major if you aren’t setup to handle the ongoing maintenance.

Deployment – what are the steps taken to get the systems up and running for your business? One of the bigger advantages for SaaS is the ability to get the software up and running very quickly, as opposed to a longer path for internal deployments, particularly if new hardware is needed.

Integration – what are the capabilities (or maybe limitations) of SaaS vs. Internal? It is important that you think about how you want your document management system to integrate with other applications that you use in your business today. In general, it is easier to integrate software programs that are deployed on the same network, so the internal approach gives you some advantages if you are looking for strong integration with software that you already have running internally.

Security – are there security differences between the two approaches? There are security differences between the two approaches. If your documents are stored on a local server, then it’s a relatively simple matter to secure access to the server and limit the ability of people to do things to the server. However if you don’t have a good IT person in charge of your security there is the potential for security breaches. If you adopt a SaaS solution you are basically entrusting your provider to ensure the security of their solution is adequate to protect your data. This should be an important consideration in your selection criteria. On the vendor’s side, it’s in their best interests to provide a secure solution as they would be out of business rather quickly if they do not approach this in a professional manner.

IT Philosophy – does your company embrace internal solutions or are you going “virtual”? For some companies this is an easy decision. Either they have all internal software or everything is in the cloud. For these companies the decision is simple and they just have to find the vendor who best meets their needs. For other companies that use a mix of SaaS and internal systems, the decision is more complicated and may depend entirely on the feature set of the available products and how they match the needs of the organization

Jon Clark has written a whitepaper providing more detail on this subject:

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