New to Copier Sales: What is Document Management?

By now you know a copier is more than a copier — and a connected copier is capable of doing so much more.

In the early days, copiers simply copied. Output was the name of the game — that was it! Today our machines capture, ingest and scan almost as much — and in some cases more — than they produce. For you, the new copier rep, this may seem obvious. Document management has represented the future of the industry for over two decades.

Document management is a big subject, and I’ll try to explain it in general terms to help you understand the overall landscape. If your dealer has an application for document management, you will be trained in some manner on how to use and sell that specific solution.

The business world runs on paper. That is to say, organizations communicate within and outside the company via many channels, but paper is the most common. When paper was the primary mode of communication, files were duplicated, memos printed and distributed, and everyone had a physical mailbox or letter tray. Letters were dropped in real mailboxes with important documents sent “next-day.” For bigger companies, the mail pouch was used for interoffice communications.

But as the digital age dawned, communication via email and other connected services flourished. Paper is slow, and email is instant … but paper remained. Many saw that a better way to move and store information was by digital representation of the paper world.

Simply put, today paper is converted to digital files and stored on a computer. Whenever information is needed from these stored files, a quick search retrieves and presents the documents on a screen. Simple. I’ve boiled the process down into four basic areas:

Scan/capture
Index
Store
Retrieve

Your document management expert or SME may not agree with my interpretation, but this isn’t for them; it is for you, the new copier rep.

Scan/capture

Paper documents are scanned, and faxed documents are captured. For example, an employee may open USPS mail, separate the bills and then scan the incoming invoices into the system. Incoming faxed invoices can be routed to a common email inbox to a location on a hard drive. The tricky issue you may run into is the definition of a “document.” Remember, a document is simply a vehicle used to transport or store information. A photo is a form of information, as is a voice mail, so both could be considered a document. Once the photo or voicemail is digital, it can be attached to any other file.

Being aware of the different types of documents will help you and your prospects keep up pace in the digital realm.

Indexing

Once a document is captured, it must be indexed. Indexing is a manner of individually coding each file, then those codes can be used to quickly access the document. There are different ways indexing is accomplished, and the process has evolved as technology has advanced. For back file scanning, for example, barcodes can be applied to the first sheet of a scanned file, acting as an address for that particular file.

Indexing can also be achieved at the time of scanning by assigning fields as indexes. Some software is smart enough to remember the location of index fields, allowing indexes to be captured as the software is “trained.”

Storage

Once indexed, the documents need to be kept somewhere. In the old days, digital documents were stored on local hard drives, but today digital documents are stored almost anywhere in any combination of local, on-site and  cloud storage. Imagine a filing cabinet in the sky, and you’ve got the general idea.

For the small business, disaster recovery is important and very often overlooked. Accidents, fire, tornados and other acts of nature are not uncommon threats to document safety. Digital document storage is not total disaster insurance, but drying out thousands of documents — or worse, losing customer files — is crippling.

Retrieve

This is where the magic happens. Retrieving documents quickly can be the most apparent benefit of a simple scan, store and retrieve proposal.

Consider a small business with a few hundred customers. Whenever a customer calls with a question such as, “Why did you guys charge me tax?” the customer files need to be accessed. But not only customer information is required; the latest invoice has to be accessed, inspected and verified as well. Even in the humble world of paper documents, manila folders need to be located and flipped through. But what if the customer folder is not filed correctly? What if a copy of the invoice is not filed yet or was misfiled? When the information is found and the status is verified as non-taxable, what are the necessary corrective measures required? In the paper world, situations like this are commonplace and eat up hundreds of work hours each year.

Again, your dealer will have some type of scanning solution and possibly a document management software offering. It is up to you to find the correct tack when talking about digital documents and the benefits of moving off paper to increase efficiencies.

Sell on.

Greg Walters

Greg Walters

is an entrepreneur and founder of the notorious destination site TheDeathOfTheCopier, where he comments on all things imaging, the rise of managed services and the advance of business technology. A prolific writer and frequent speaker, Greg shares his passionate, unique – and often provocative – view of technology and people, addressing the impact of digital on 21st century business. His 2014 book, Death Of The Copier, offers a controversial summary of the early days of Managed Print Services and the not-so-distant future of the hard copy industry. Reach out to Greg at greg@grwalters.com.