There is an apparent misconception about the costs associated with converting to a digital office. Depending on the firm’s current operating system, the switch may cost nothing. That was the case for my transition–our firm had the resources already in place so the only change that was required was in the way I managed my documents. The most common costs, when they do exist, are the costs associated with a purchase of additional or better quality scanners and the cost of additional software licenses.
Of course, if the firm is starting from the very beginning, having made little or no previous investment in its technology infrastructure, substantially higher costs can be expected. Even then, the maximum investment involves expenditures in the form of an upgrade to the firm’s DMS, purchase of increased bandwith, or the acquisition of additional memory and electronic storage. Major investments, though, are the exception, not the rule.
Does converting to digital require the conversion of archived files?
The expected cost and required processes involved in converting to a digital office will depend on whether the conversion is prospective only or whether there will be an effort to convert the firm’s archived files, as well. Obviously, the latter requires a great deal more organization, planning, and significantly more money. Firms that are considering a total conversion should be aware of the expansive nature of this endeavor before making the commitment. Realize, though, that there is no requirement to make the switch for all files all at once.
It may be more realistic to consider a prospective-only conversion. Not only will it be far easier to execute but also significantly easier to secure support for a more limited project. Wait until the firm has enjoyed the benefits of its new digital practice. After everyone has become comfortable with the process and has had the opportunity to develop trust in the system, then consider moving to the larger project of converting archived files.
What resources are needed to go digital?
Converting to a digital office does require certain resources. As a base-line standard, a firm will need good quality, high-speed scanners in place before a conversion of any size can begin. The exact specifications will vary greatly by the expected use. Obviously, the more employees and the more documents that will be converted, the bigger and faster your scanner should be. Other than that, you’ll need to consult with your vendor about the specific needs of your office.
Another wise investment early on, if not already incorporated into the firm’s systems, is electronic fax software. Gone are the days of the traditional dial-out fax machine. Using desktop- or web-client fax software, faxes can be routed directly to the recipient’s e-mail inbox.** The cost varies but is usually charged as a monthly subscription fee.
Absolutely essential to a successful move to digital is the availability of sufficient licenses of Portable Document Format (PDF) software. Adobe Acrobat, now in version 9, is the universal standard. I won’t pretend to be neutral on this one–I am absolutely crazy about Acrobat, especially in its latest version. Some might say that I’m fanatical in my enthusiasm for this product. As I’ll discuss in future posts in more detail, Acrobat can convert paper pushers into lean, mean, nearly paperless machines. As any proficient Acrobat user will attest, the software, when put to full use, will enable significantly improved efficiency, lead to reduced costs and improved security, and open doors to internal and external collaboration like never before. If I had to make a single recommendation for those who may be getting resistance about the idea of “going digital,” it would be this: Purchase Acrobat for all office employees and invest the time and money to get everyone trained to proficiency. With regular use of the tools offered by Acrobat, the switch to digital happens almost naturally, without much effort at all.
**On a side note, consider the potential savings of incorporating just this single element of a digital office. I receive at least three unsolicited faxes per week, (probably a gross underestimate), you know the ones, offering “corporate travel savings” and other, similar gimmicks that are too good to be true. On the traditional paper fax machine, there’s not much you can do about the paper waste resulting from these “spam” faxes. But, when the fax is delivered directly to the user’s email inbox, the user can open and preview the fax and simply delete it if it’s junk mail. No printing required. I’ve avoided the need to print three sheets of paper each week. Multiply that by the number of employees who receive similar faxes across the firm. And multiply that by 52 weeks. Yikes!