Larry M. Phelps
Copyright 2012, 2013 by Larry M. Phelps
All rights reserved
Table of Contents
Introduction ……………………………………………………………………… 5
Are You Using Old Technology or New Technology? ………….. 7
A Paper Book about Going Paperless ……………………………….. 9
What Is EDMS? ……………………………………………………………. 11
A Few Terms to Know …………………………………………………… 12
Chapter 2: Benefits of an EDMS ………………………………………… 14
Saving Money ……………………………………………………………… 15
Reducing Clutter and Saving Space ………………………………… 22
Saving Time …………………………………………………………………. 24
Creating Meaningful Workflows …………………………………….. 27
Keeping Your Information Secure ………………………………….. 31
Bridging the System Gaps ……………………………………………… 33
Chapter 3: Choosing the Right EDMS System for You …………… 36
Functions of a Good EDMS ……………………………………………. 39
Storage ……………………………………………………………………. 39
Organization ……………………………………………………………. 39
Security and Revision Control …………………………………….. 40
Ease of Use ……………………………………………………………… 40
A Few Other Features You Might Find Helpful ……………… 41
Putting EDMS Vendors under a Microscope ……………………. 44
Determining Legalities ………………………………………………….. 46
7 Ingredients for a Successful EDMS Project ……………………. 48
Chapter 4: Getting Started with Your New EDMS ………………… 54
Determining Hard Drive Capacity …………………………………… 54
Determining File Formats ……………………………………………… 56
Recommendations for Setting Up Your EDMS …………………. 59
Getting Started with Scanning ……………………………………….. 59
The Scan‐Forward Approach ……………………………………… 60
Getting Started with the Scan‐Forward Approach ………… 60
Back‐File Scanning ……………………………………………………. 62
Choosing a Scanner ………………………………………………….. 62
Chapter 5: How We Did It: Stories from the Other Side ……….. 65
How One Organization Used Batch Scanning to Empty Filing
Cabinets ……………………………………………………………………… 66
How Laserfiche Workflow Increased One Agency’s Ability to
Help Others …………………………………………………………………. 69
How an EDMS Helped Oral Surgeon Prevent Devastating
Water Damage …………………………………………………………….. 73
Chapter 6: Moving Forward ……………………………………………… 75
Appendix A: Glossary of Terms ………………………………………….. 79
Appendix B: Worksheet for Choosing an EDMS Consultant or
Vendor …………………………………………………………………………… 83
Since 1973, I’ve had the privilege of helping a variety of
businesses utilize technology to become more efficient and
During this time there have been four technologies that have
truly changed the way businesses operate.
The first was the local area network (LAN). This allowed users to
connect PCs and share files, resulting in a huge boost in
productivity. The PC suddenly became an essential business tool
across all industries.
The second technology was email. This essential communication
tool helped organizations communicate with their clients,
suppliers, and internal staff much more efficiently than before.
The third technology, the internet, opened up a world of
possibilities. Essential business processes like marketing,
research, customer support, hiring, training, and sales could all
be done using the internet.
Now, of course, these technologies are integral to the way we
do business. But when I initially introduced each one, many of
my customers thought they would never need them.
They were fancy and new, an extra expense that some thought
they would never use. But, when people finally took the leap
and implemented them, their businesses were changed forever.
Eventually, these technologies became widely accepted, and
they changed the way we do business. Now, most organizations
rely on these technologies on a daily basis and are greatly
impacted if they’re unavailable for even a short time.
I believe that we are, once again, on the cusp of a sweeping
technological change. The fourth technology that I believe is
going to change the business landscape is called Electronic
You’ve probably heard about this technology. Maybe you’ve
even said that you would never use or need it. But I believe that
this technology is even more exciting than the first three. I
believe it has the potential to make your organization more
efficient and effective than the first three technologies
If your company is anything like ours, you are experiencing a
much more competitive market than ever before.
This pressure could be coming from any number of sources:
large corporations that invest millions in marketing, small
businesses that are utilizing technology well, small independent
contractors who work from home to keep overhead low or
foreign companies that have extremely inexpensive labor.
If that’s not bad enough, you’re facing a weak economy, smaller
budgets, reduced staffing, increased individual workloads,
stricter compliance requirements, and impossible customer
expectations. It’s a lot to handle.
Are You Using Old Technology or New
- You’d probably agree that you couldn’t compete in today’s
market if you were using any of the following business
1. Typing letters only on an IBM
2. Using a paper‐based ledger
system to do all of your
3. Using only a pink message pad
to take telephone messages.
4. Using the postal service to send quick follow‐up notes to
5. Keeping customer and prospect lists only on index cards.
6. Having only a pager to field calls from the office.
7. Being able to contact your office only via payphone.
8. Designing your products using only pencil and paper on a
9. Having marketing literature that is only available as a packet
sent in the mail.
10. Needing several days to track down information for a
customer before calling them back.
Let’s face it: you wouldn’t be in business today if you were using
processes and technologies that were ten to twenty years old.
Here’s the truth: You’re currently using outdated technology in
at least one area of your business.
Here’s a hint: It’s usually metal, and it has drawers.
Organizations like yours are finding filing
cabinets to be obsolete. Even in this economy,
purchasing a system to reduce your paper
documents is a wise move for your company.
The effectiveness of a system like this is proven
by the latest Gartner report on the subject:
A funny thing happened in the depths of the recent recession.
While budgets in many areas of information technology were
under extreme pressure, enterprise content management
(EDMS) spending actually grew, by 5.1% in 2009 and by 7.6% in
Why is all this money being spent on EDMS in a down economy?
The answer is “productivity.”
EDMS can drive process efficiency, improve data and process
quality, and build better channels to your customers and
A Paper Book about Going Paperless
I should begin by addressing the
elephant in the room: Why am I
writing a book (printed on paper)
about paper‐less technology? Am
I some kind of hypocrite?
I want to be clear; this book is
not about no paper it is about
Paper documents are, admittedly,
still important to a business. We
are familiar with paper documents. We’re comfortable with
them. To eliminate paper documents and do everything
electronically would force us to give up what we know. We’d
have to change. And for most of us, change is not easy.
If we try to make drastic changes all at once, people will resist
and return to what they know.
If you had to guess the hardest thing for records managers to do
when implementing an electronic document management
system, what would you say?
Perhaps you’d think it’s getting used to the technology,
justifying the cost of the system, changing people’s habits, or
knowing how to best implement the system.
While these things can sometimes be difficult, I’ve found that
the hardest thing for customers is actually getting rid of the
the paper once the information is in the system.
It’s natural to stick with what we know, so it’s important to ease
into it. When I help a company move to electronic document
management, I take it slowly. First, I make sure customers are
comfortable with the backup and disaster recovery plan we’ve
created. Then, I get rid of the first box of paper files for them. It
Remember, paper is tangible. You can see it and touch it. It’s
important to assure that people know their documents are safe
and that it’s okay to dispose of them.
So when I talk about paperless, I mean less paper. Not no
In this book, I want to take you on a journey toward less paper,
less clutter, and less expense. Let’s begin!
Chapter 1: Electronic Document
Management Systems (EDMS)
What Is EDMS?
An Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) is
a computer software that essentially replaces filing cabinets and
paper documents with electronic image files that are stored on
a hard disk.
EDMS technology allows you to create, capture, distribute,
review, maintain, store, retrieve and dispose of information. It
also allows you to streamline your workflows and can become
a crucial part of your company’s overall records management
The goal of EDMS is to make storing and finding documents
easy and efficient. It’s as simple as that.
While EDMS may sound like a new technology, it’s actually been
around for a long time. In fact, a Business Weekly article from
June 20, 1975, that was titled “The Office of the Future”
suggested that a paperless office was not far off.
At the time, several manufacturers had specialized systems that
could image paper documents. However, this technology didn’t
gain acceptance as quickly as the article predicted.
I think the main reasons for the delay were that disk storage
costs were high and that these systems were proprietary
(meaning that the hardware, software, and file formats were
unique to each different manufacturer).
But in 1987, Laserfiche released the first PC‐based document
imaging system. This system was based on industry‐standard
hardware and image file formats, and it started the document
A Few Terms to Know
When you’re learning anything new, you have to overcome the
language barrier. When I began learning about paperless
technology, I felt like everyone was speaking French for all I
could understand. Perhaps you feel that way too.
While I like to refer to electronic document management as
EDMS, people use different language to talk about this
technology. Depending on who you’re working with, you might
hear EDMS called any of the following names:
Content Management System (CMS)
Document Manager (DM)
Document Management Software (DMS)
Document Management System (DMS)
Electronic Document Manager (EDM)
Enterprise Content Management System (ECMS)
Business Process Management System (BPMS)
There are a lot of additional terms associated with EDMS
technology. For a full glossary of these terms, see Appendix A.
You might be thinking why should I care? What benefit does this
technology have for me and my business?
I’m glad you asked.
Chapter 2: Benefits of an EDMS
- Perhaps you’re interested in the idea of an EDMS system but
aren’t sure how to justify it in a down economy.
There are countless benefits to implementing an EDMS system,
but here are a few major areas where going paper‐less will give
Creating a Meaningful Workflow
Keeping Your Information Secure
Bridging the System Gaps
Let’s take some time to explore these benefits in detail and
think about what an EDMS might mean for your company’s
When I first started in this line of
work, I thought that people would
choose EDMS because it was
efficient and effective. And they did.
But the biggest reason that my
customers took the plunge and purchased an EDMS was not
future benefits, but rather the immediate return on investment
Even if you’re not sure whether you’re ready to move toward an
EDMS, it’s good to get a realistic idea of what your current
document storage is really costing you.
To help give you an idea, I’ve completed
a sample ROI for a Laserfiche Document
Imaging implementation. Though every
implementation is different, I hope this
will help you to see exactly how moving
toward EDMS can translate into dollars:
“A 4‐drawer filing
cabinet costs $25,000
to fill and $2000 per
year to maintain.”
~ Cooper and Lybrand
cost on the order
of $380 to create.”
~ M.K. Bergman,
A Cure to the IT
Step 1: Estimate how many pages of paper documents you
Storage Container Type Number Pages
Standard 4-drawer filing cabinets
(12,000 pages each)
Standard 10 120,000
Lateral filing cabinets (18,000 pages
Lateral 10 180,000
Standard banker boxes (2500 pages
Boxes 20 50,000
Large banker boxes (5000 pages
Boxes 0 0
Feet of open shelving (1500
Feet 0 0
1” binders (265 pages each) Binders 0 0
2” binders (474 pages each) Binders 0 0
3” binders (660 pages each) Binders 0 0
Old customer files already scanned Docs 0 0
Old customer files total to be
Docs 0 0
New customer files per week Docs 0 0
New customer files per month Docs 40 –
Average number of pages in a
Pages 20 –
Pages added to existing customer
Pages 5 0
Number of years to size system Years 3 29,760
Percentage of documents that are
% 0% 0
Total Pages 379,760
Step 2: Estimate the labor costs in maintaining those paper
Enter the numbers of employees directly involved in filing,
retrieving, copying, and maintaining your paper documents
Type # Avg.
Accounting 2 $50,000 20% 20% $20,000
Admin 4 $30,000 20% 20% $24,000
Mgmt 1 $70,000 5% 20% $3,500
Professional 5 $50,000 15% 20% $37,500
Case Mgrs 0 $40,000 10% 20% 0
* Estimate the percentage of time each employee spends on document
** Estimate burden rate including FICA, benefits, etc.
Step 3: Calculate your document storage costs
Storage Type Cost
Standard file cabinet – Approx 6 sq. ft. floor space $60
Lateral file cabinet – 16 sq. ft. floor space $160
Annual cost for storage equipment and supplies
(e.g. file folders)
Monthly rental cost per sq. ft. for office space $20
Monthly rental cost for off-site document storage $100
Total Storage Costs $4,500
Step 4: Calculate the cost of lost and misfiled documents
According to a report from the Gartner Group, companies spend
an average of $20 in labor to file a document, $120 in labor to
find a misfiled document, and $220 in labor to reproduce a lost
Their research also showed that 7.5% of all documents get lost,
and 3% of the remaining documents are misfiled. We’ve used
those costs and percentages here.
Note: The following calculations use the 379,760 page total
from Step 1, each document averaging 20 pages.
Percent misfiled 3.0% $120 57 $6,836
Percent lost 7.5% $229 142 $31,330
Annual Cost of Missing Docs $38,166
Step 5: Calculate the cost of copying documents
According to Coopers & Lybrand, the average document gets
copied 19 times. Even if we lower that number to 2, the costs
add up quickly.
Estimated cost per page to copy a document $0.10
Estimated number of times the average document
Annual Copying Costs $1,920
Step 6: Determine the size of your EDMS
In order to determine what size of document imaging system
you need, you have to think about how many pages you have to
scan and how quickly you need to be able to scan those pages.
You also have to calculate storage to determine how much disk
space you’ll need.
Scanning Requirements Value
Number of pages to be scanned 379,760
Number of scanners 1
Speed of scanner (pages per min) 40
Total Hours of Scanning 158
Storage Requirements Value
Percentage of documents that are legal size 0%
Calculate 50 KB of storage for each 8.5×11 page 18.99
Calculate 75 KB of storage for each legal-size page 0.00
Total Disk Space Required 18.99
Step 7: Determine the cost of your EDMS
Based on the cost of the Laserfiche Document Imaging System
in early 2012, here is a breakdown of the components of one
Obviously, prices are subject to change and are not
representative of all EDMS systems. However, I hope this will
give you a ballpark idea of how much you can expect to pay in
relationship to the estimated document storage costs outlined
One scanner $1,200
Laserfiche server $8,000
Laserfiche software $13,000
Installation and training $2,000
Number of users accessing the system (not concurrently) 12
Annual Laserfiche support (LSAP) $1,200
Total System Cost $24,200
Step 8: Determine the cost to scan documents
The table below shows the cost of scanning when you multiply
the hourly cost of a scan operator by the total hours of scanning
we estimated in Step 6. This calculation does not include prep
Costs Associated with Scanning Amount
Hourly cost of scan operator $20
Total System Cost $3,160
Step 9: Estimate labor to maintain your documents in the
We estimate that with Laserfiche, electronic documents can be
retrieved in about 1/5 the time as paper documents, especially
since there is no longer a need to re‐file. This calculation utilizes
the labor estimate that we came up with for copying documents
in Step 2.
Costs of Labor %
Estimated percentage of labor 20%
Labor Cost to Maintain Docs in Laserfiche $17,000
Step 10: Calculate the cost of lost and misfiled documents
when using the EDMS
Lost or misfiled documents are no longer a problem in
Laserfiche. If a document is filed in the wrong folder, it can still
be found using the values in the template fields. Even if these
values were entered incorrectly, the full‐text search can be used
to find the document.
We’ve estimated 1% labor associated with finding lost and
misfiled documents, but the number should be virtually zero.
Costs Associated with Lost Documents Amount
Estimated percentage of labor 1%
Total System Cost $382
Step 11: Determine strategic and miscellaneous
It is important to note that this number is not totally
representative since you can’t quantify better security, instant
information, better customer service, and the protection of
information if a disgruntled employee leaves the company.
Those things are, of course, priceless.
However, even without the additional benefits quantified, you
can see that the initial ROI associated with implementing an
EDMS is astounding:
Annual cost of paper documents $129,586.00
Annual cost of Laserfiche Imaging System
(Hardware and software over 3 years)
Total Annual Savings $100,973.00
The numbers speak for themselves. In this scenario, the
organization that implemented the Laserfiche Imaging System
saved over triple the amount that they spent. No wonder ROI
was the deciding factor for so many of my customers!
Reducing Clutter and Saving Space
For many growing companies, space is at
a premium. There’s never enough of it,
and the bigger you get, the more you
need. At the time of this writing, real
estate costs range from $15 to $40 per
square foot in many major cities.
But our need to retain important
information requires things like storage
rooms and big, four‐ and five‐drawer
filing cabinets, taking up space that could be used for other
Imagine if you could convert your records’ rooms into usable
office space or eliminate warehouse costs for your old records!
A good EDMS system allows you to do that. It reduces clutter in
the office and on peoples’ desks (which, in turn, reduces stress).
It also renders filing cabinets totally obsolete. Space and
organizational complications no longer have to be a barrier,
preventing you from taking on new clients or growing as a
A great example of the value of
saved space is the story of Lakes
and Pines Community Action
Council. Lakes and Pines is a nonprofit
corporation that offers
programs to assist low‐income
families and individuals north of the Twin Cities.
“7.5% of all documents
~ Cooper and Lybrand
But when their funders informed them that they needed to
increase document retention from three years to six, they
realized they would have to double their storage space.
Lakes and Pines considered their options. They could add an
additional 40’ x 40’ of storage space to their current office, lease
storage space in a warehouse, or purchase $50,000 of sliding
file equipment. As they considered their options, they began to
realize that these solutions were not only expensive, but also
The organization began looking into EDMS and eventually chose
Laserfiche. They appreciated its modular licensing, which let
Lakes & Pines purchase only what they needed, with the option
to add additional modules later.
They found the program simple to use and were surprised to
learn how little it cost. “We not only solved our space issues for
a fraction of the cost of other alternatives,” recalled Steve Long,
Director of Data Processing for Lakes and Pines. “But we also
gained staff efficiencies.”
A similar story unfolded for another Laserfiche customer, a First
National Bank. When they implemented an EDMS, they were
able to scan and then eliminate over ten years’ worth of
commercial and personal loans.
Then, they turned their storage area
into a new conference room.
For these two organizations, and
many others, saving space has
translated to increased productivity.
document gets copied
19 times, and many of
those copies get filed.”
~ Cooper and Lybrand
Did you know that one of the biggest
hidden costs for businesses is the time it
takes to handle paper files? Industry
studies have shown that the typical
worker spends over 20% of their day
searching for documents.
It’s not so hard to believe if you think
about it. Let’s say an office worker has to
find 10 documents throughout the day. She gets the request,
leaves her office, walks to a records room, and finds the right
filing cabinet. Then, she has to flip through folders to find the
necessary file, copy the paper, and re‐file the folder. And, of
course, walk back to her desk.
How long do you think this whole process might take? 5
minutes? 10? 20? If we estimate it takes 10 minutes for each
file, 10 files a day quickly adds up to 100 minutes – 30% of her
The beauty of EDMS is that it cuts out all the legwork. Instead of
spending time searching through file cabinets, you can retrieve
the right one in seconds. All that time
that she previously spent making the
trek to the storage room can be used in
more productive and lucrative ways.
I recently met with a prospective
customer to talk about Laserfiche
Document Management technology. I
told Dick that EDMS could save him and
25% of work
for critical job
~ Delphi Group
average per hour
cost of paperwork
for a small
business is $48.72.
That’s per hour!”
~ NFBI Small‐
his staff hours each week. I also shared the sobering statistics
that I’ve found from reliable sources.
Garter Research has found, for example, that on average,
“professionals spend 50% of their time searching for
information and take 18 minutes to locate each document.”
And the Delphi Group notes that “companies on average spend
$25,000 to fill a typical four‐drawer filing cabinet and $2000 to
maintain it each year.” This means that “over its life‐span, a
single sheet of paper
ends up costing an
average of $30.”
He listened to the
statistics and then said
something that has
haunted me ever since:
“Who gets fired?” Dick
asked. “Because if no
one gets fired, we don’t save anything.”
I’ve thought a lot about this question over the years, and I keep
coming to the same conclusion. “Nobody!”
A recent study examining work habits compared the amount of
work that people were being asked to do today to that of ten
years ago. 35% of those questioned said that they’re doing the
work of two people, and 33% are doing the work of three
The study also found that that work is much more complex: 40%
of people have between 2 and 5 windows open on their
computer at any given time, and 25% have between 6 and 10!
Our American more‐is‐more business ethic may seem best, but
in the end, it only serves to push employees past their limits and
create high levels of burnout.
When you implement a good EDMS system, you’ll find that you
have much more time to work with. The secret is in how you
choose to use that time.
Over the years, I’ve seen companies take three different
approaches with this influx of time:
1. They do nothing and let their employees find ways to fill
the time. If their employees are self‐motivated and
resourceful, they may choose to use that time wisely
and do something that increases productivity or quality.
But this can also backfire if the time saved is wasted on
other unimportant things.
2. They work with their employees to find other areas in
the office where they could become more efficient and
thus, more profitable.
3. They change how tasks are delegated, making sure
things are better dispersed and everyone has a greater
margin. When things are appropriately delegated,
everyone is able to achieve that elusive work‐life
balance. Additionally, time is freed up for new ideas to
grow. Creativity requires space, and those companies
that want to be on the cutting‐edge of their industries
are making time to develop the ideas that will
eventually make them more profitable.
In a way, my customer was right: simply purchasing an EDMS
definitely saves time, but it’s up to you to translate that time
into money. Like all other resources, you have to use time
wisely to improve other processes within your organization.
Just think of the long‐term effect it could have on your
organization if an EDMS saved each employee one hour a week,
and each employee used that time to find ways to save another
hour each week. If this refinement process continued, it could
transform your organization!
So, Dick, if you’re out there and this makes sense to you, give
me a call. I’d love to talk to you again!
Creating Meaningful Workflows
With so many paper files coming and going, it’s no wonder
things get lost in the shuffle. It’s a major problem; in fact, some
industry experts estimate the cost of recreating and replacing a
lost document to be around $250!
Using the workflow feature of an EDMS reduces information
loss by simplifying and streamlining processes. It becomes
simple for multiple people to view and update files
simultaneously. For example, in a process such as hiring a new
employee, the file is routed automatically to each person in the
process, making it simple for each person to do their part.
Simplifying these processes not only expedites action, it also
improves consistency, because the workflow does the naming
and filing automatically. Simple improvements in daily tasks like
these are what give your company an edge over the
Michael E. Gerber, author of The E‐Myth, has outlined some
basic principles in his work that apply to all organizations. His
principles have impacted my own business practices, as they
focus on using a well‐run, repeatable system.
In the introduction to his book E‐Myth Revisited, Gerber writes,
“The problem is not that businesses in this country don’t work;
the problem is that they’re working on the wrong work.”
If you take a hard look at the paperwork in your business, you’ll
see that there’s a system to it. Some companies have a welldefined
business process that can be automated by the
workflow in an EDMS system. Other companies don’t.
Think about it for a moment: how much work is being spent on
your paper systems? Are your employees spending an
inordinate amount of time trying to fix or manage inadequate
workflows or processes? Is this the “right” work for your
creative, capable staff to be doing, or is it, as Gerber states, “the
Recently, I met with a business manager who told me proudly
how efficient his employees were. He was right. They had an
immaculate paper system, and his employees spent a lot of time
making sure their paperwork was neatly filed and organized.
Everything had its place, and everything was in its place.
But one thing that occurred to me was that in the process of
being efficient, they lost the reason for the paperwork in the
first place. The paper had become more important than what it
represented: customers and their needs.
How much better off would the company be if they used
technology to minimize the time needed to handle the
paperwork and spent that time contacting and serving their
clients? There is a difference between efficient and effective:
efficiency is doing things well; effectiveness is doing the right
things. The magic happens when the two concepts merge into
With a good EDMS like Laserfiche, this is what happens. The
workflow is automated and intuitive. It takes care of the menial
processes so that you can focus on those things that are most
The benefits of an automatic workflow like Laserfiche are
innumerable. Here are a few:
Management knows exactly what the workflow is and
can be confident that the correct business process was
followed each and every time.
Training of new employees is easier because they don’t
have to learn business process rules; instead, they can
focus on their part of the process. The Laserfiche
workflow takes care of the rest.
Management is alerted when certain processes are not
completed in a timely manner.
It’s easy to see where a file is in the workflow: no more
searching the office to figure out who has it!
Your organization is less dependent on key employees
who know the business processes.
The workflow does not stop if an employee is on
vacation or leaves the organization.
Processes and workflows are essential for every business, but
often the process becomes cumbersome and ends up taking up
more time and energy than it saves.
Regardless of whether or not you invest in EDMS, put your
paper workflow under a microscope. Make sure that you’re
doing all you can to have your documents flow as efficiently as
Keeping Your Information Secure
One of the biggest liabilities with paper documents is how
difficult they are to keep secure. There’s no way to know who
has accessed a paper document, and it’s almost impossible to
make sure only authorized staff have access. The security of
documents can easily be violated by disgruntled employees or
by sheer carelessness.
An EDMS simplifies and tightens security by adding layers to it.
Most systems include multiple levels of password‐protected
access for groups and individuals, encryption for document
contents, and audit trails, showing who has accessed or
For example, if an employee using an EDMS system is not
authorized to see Human Resource documents, they will not
even see that the Human Resource folder exists – security is
that granular. Administrators can define user privileges in a way
that makes sense with the company workflow and ensures total
As offices become more virtual, and employees begin to work
more and more remotely, EDMS gives employees the freedom
to access vital records while simultaneously ensuring that
security is maintained.
Another aspect of keeping your
information safe is making sure that it’s
backed up in case of a disaster. Have
you considered what would happen if
you had a fire, flood, tornado or break‐
“Two out of five
disaster go out of
~ Gartner Research
in that seriously damaged your office?
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that over 40% of
businesses never reopen following a disaster. Of the remaining
companies, at least 25% will close within two years. It’s not the
damage to facilities that makes recovery so difficult. It’s the loss
of crucial data.
A good EDMS protects your paper records by creating electronic
copies that can be backed up in multiple ways. It can also
include off‐site data backups, as well as additional steps that
ensure that a fire, flood, tornado or break‐in won’t cripple your
Bridging the System Gaps
Businesses today use a variety of systems, from CRM to
accounting, to email and fax. Each of these systems has some
information that overlaps. For example, each one might have
important contact information for customers, such as phone
numbers, fax numbers and email addresses.
The problem is that these systems cannot communicate with
each other, so they become, essentially, silos of information.
While this is not inherently bad, it can be a big problem if your
customer changes her fax number. Instead of making the
change once, you have to go into multiple systems and update
This is where EDMS comes in. A good EDMS has the capability
to become the bridge between these silos of information.
If an EDMS is designed correctly and has agile functionality, it
can be used as the middle man (middle‐ware) to pass data from
one system to another, making the two systems function as
For example, I recently worked with a finance company that had
two systems: one that dealt with loan applications and the
other that handled loan payments. Since the two systems could
not communicate with each other, much of the application
process was handled by passing documents from person‐toperson
and office‐to‐office. You can imagine the capacity for
error here and the amount of documents that were somehow
When we implemented the Laserfiche EDMS, however, it
automated the process. Suddenly, drivers’ licenses and
signatures could be captured in the field using an iPad and
fillable PDFs to begin the application process. The Laserfiche
workflow updated the loan application program directly by
database connection and monitored the progress of the
When one application began taking too long, a manager was
notified immediately so that the problem could be addressed.
When the application was complete, Laserfiche automatically
connected to the finance application and updated the database
with the applicable information.
Laserfiche is constantly working in the background to keep the
two systems in sync, eliminating the need to pass all that paper
If you’ve ever dealt with that end‐of‐the‐month scramble to fill
out expense reports, secure approval, and get them to
accounting in time to get paid, this next example will make
sense for you.
At my company, the end of the month is always a high‐pressure
time anyway, and the expense reports just made things worse.
But once we integrated Laserfiche, we were able to automate
Now, as soon as an employee has an expense item, they can
take a picture of the receipt with their cell phone or tablet. They
can then email that picture to a special email address at our
company. We created a program that takes those emails and
sends them to Laserfiche, which then checks that a receipt was
included, assures that it has been designated to one of the
allowed expense categories, and updates the expense report for
At the end of the month, each expense report is sent to the
employee’s manager for approval, and once approved, it is
automatically forwarded to accounting for payment.
This workflow not only saves time, but it also eliminates a task
that no one liked doing and eases the stress for everyone at a
busy time of the month!
There’s no reason that our various business systems should
remain silos of information. Technology should improve
business processes, rather than complicate them! Think about
the ways your bottom‐line would improve if your systems
worked together in an effective, streamlined manner!
Chapter 3: Choosing the Right EDMS
System for You
When I was in college, I worked at a truck stop. One night in the
middle of a winter storm, we got the strangest phone call. We
were asked to tow three semi‐trucks that were in a ditch in the
When we arrived on
the scene, the drivers
were arguing. Two of
the drivers were really
angry at the third and
were claiming that it
was his fault that they
were in the ditch.
As the story began to unfold, we learned that the terrible winter
driving conditions had made it difficult to see the road. Two of
the drivers decided to simply follow the tail lights of the driver
in front of them instead of looking for themselves where the
road was leading.
Everything was going just fine until the first driver, blinded by
blowing snow, missed a turn on the freeway and drove over a
hundred feet into a field. The drivers that were following his tail
lights inevitably followed him straight into the ditch.
The worst part about this story is that this is the method that
many organizations are using when picking an EDMS system.
For example, many years ago, one of the cities in our area
purchased an EDMS system that was developed by an office
products manufacturer. The system was filled with proprietary
technology (which crippled its usability) and had a user interface
that was very difficult to learn.
But, one by one, other cities purchased the same system. Why?
Not because of the EDMS system itself, but because of the
reputation of the first city that had purchased it.
These cities assumed that the first city had done their research
and had chosen a good product. It wasn’t long before they all
began to realize that they were in the “ditch,” and needed help
Perhaps you’re thinking, “That was a long time ago. Buyers are
more sophisticated now.” However, in spite of the increased
availability of good information, companies continue to make
this very same mistake.
Recently, I talked to an employee at one organization about a
product they’d purchased. I asked what features he thought
made that product a good choice for them. He could not tell me
a single feature. Instead, he named three organizations that had
purchased the product.
“Okay,” I said. “When you talked to these other organizations,
what did they say when you asked them why they chose the
The man shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said. “I didn’t really talk
to them. I just know they purchased the product.”
The truth is, the two truck drivers that blindly followed the truck
in front of them are not all that out of the ordinary…at least not
in the world of business.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the products and
information out there. Maybe you feel like you’re in the middle
of a blizzard, and you’re not sure which way to go.
But don’t make the same mistake the truck drivers did. Do your
research. Figure out what’s right for your company. I’ve
compiled some guidelines to help you find the EDMS that’s best
suited to your needs. We’ll talk about the basic functions of a
good EDMS, how to find the best vendor, and the legal
ramifications of moving to an EDMS.
Hopefully these things will guide you through the winter storm
of information and toward a better future for your company.
Functions of a Good EDMS
When looking at an EDMS, the list of features and
functionalities can be dizzying. But really, there are just a few
basic things that you need. Make sure that whatever EDMS you
choose has the following capabilities:
First of all, make sure that you choose a system that can store
the following types of files:
Image files, such as jpeg, gif, tiff, and pdf
Video files, such as mp3, mp4, and avi
All Microsoft Office file types
Any other file that you can store on your network
You’ll also want to make sure that you can scan and save files
directly into the system.
The EDMS you choose should allow you to store documents in
their native format, but it should also use compressed TIFF files
as its native format (rather than PDFs). (For more information
on the problem with PDFs, see the Determining File Formats
section of the Getting Started with Your New EDMS chapter.)
A good EDMS will allow you to organize your data in a way that
is intuitive and that closely aligns with your current
Make sure you choose a system with a multi‐tiered folder
structure with at least ten levels. It should also have the ability
to apply indexing/metadata information to any record or
document and to make those fields mandatory. It’s also
important to be able to define the format of index fields.
Finally, ensure that it has full text search capability.
Security and Revision Control
Revision and access controls are an essential part of a good
EDMS. Make sure areas like workflow, audit trail, check
in/check out capability and revision control are accounted for
within the EDMS. There should be retention control for both
paper and electronic documents.
In a good EDMS, multiple users will be able to access a
document at any given time, and you should be able to assign
rights and restrictions to both individuals and groups. You
should also be able to assign users “Read Only” access.
Make sure that the EDMS uses Active Directory Synchronization
to provide security, as it is well‐known and trusted across the
Ease of Use
You’ll want to be able to access your information wherever you
are, so take this into consideration and choose an EDMS that is
able to integrate with multifunctional devices, and that you can
To ensure that it’s easy to work with your information once you
get it into the system, choose an EDMS that allows you to view
multiple file types, email files, and “print” an archived copy of
an electronic document directly into the system.
A Few Other Features You Might Find Helpful
While I’ve listed the absolutely essential features of a good
EDMS above, the following features will also make your life
In an EDMS provider, it’s very helpful to choose someone who
provides local support and training. You can also minimize risk
by choosing a company that has been in the business for at least
ten years (more about this in the next section).
In addition to the requirements listed above, you might want to
consider a system that has the ability to:
Batch upload files with associated metadata indexing
Easily integrate with external databases
“Drag and drop” files directly into the system
Search multiple index fields at once
Rearrange search results by index/attribute/metadata
Support SAN/NAS and RAID storage
Archive WORM media (i.e. DVD)
Print EDMS directly from other programs
Link documents within the system
Create folders of similar documents inside the system in
a manner that’s congruent with how your documents
are stored on paper
Access a web brower
You might also consider choosing an EDMS system that uses
cloud computing. A cloud computing EDMS solution is delivered
to you as a service rather than a product. It’s sometimes called
software as a service (SAAS).
When you use EDMS as a service you pay a monthly fee, just
like your electric bill. You don’t have to worry about many of the
details of owning an EDMS, such as maintenance, backup or
capacity planning. You also don’t have to add a server to your
network, which makes it easier to deploy and maintain.
Here are some other benefits of using a cloud computing EDMS:
Cost of ownership is lower
Capital outlay is reduced
There are minimal up‐front costs
IT expenses are reduced
Security is better
Implementation is fast and simple
Disaster recovery functionality is built‐in
It’s easy to share information
It’s ideal for multi‐location organizations
It meets compliancy requirements
The monthly fee is predictable
It is maintained by highly qualified IT staff
It’s hosted in very secure, highly redundant datacenters
There are many choices when it comes to cloud computing
EDMS solutions. Some take a standard EDMS product and set it
up on their servers in a data center. Others use software
specifically written to be sold as a service (and cannot,
therefore, be sold as a product and installed on your own server
down the road.)
If you decide to go the cloud computing route, I’d recommend
finding a standard EDMS product that is sold as a service. That
way, if you ever decide you want to have your own EDMS, you
won’t have to convert. It also gives you more choices: you can
look for a product that has a complete set of features.
Take some time before you buy to think about what’s important
to you in an EDMS system. Looking for a system that
incorporates these features will make the integration of your
system and the rollout to your employees intuitive and easy.
Putting EDMS Vendors under a
Choosing a long‐term EDMS vendor is one of the major
ingredients in a successful EDMS project. So how do you do
I wish that picking the best EDMS package was as simple as
finding out which developer had been in business the longest.
Unfortunately, it’s just not that easy.
It is definitely important to find a vendor that has supported the
product they developed for a long time (this shows that the
vendor is committed to their product, their customer base, and
EDMS technology in general). However, it’s not the only factor.
You have to dive in deeper to get a better understanding before
you can make a good evaluation.
I recently talked to my friend, Jim, another value‐added reseller,
about this topic. Jim and I had been competitors for over ten
years. We went to a lot of the same trade shows and sold
paperless technology to some of the same target markets.
One day, Jim got a letter saying that the main product that he’d
sold for nearly ten years was being discontinued in one year. He
was shocked. The vendor that he worked for was one of the
early pioneers in the paperless technology field! They were well
known! He couldn’t understand how this could have happened.
Jim wasn’t looking forward to telling his customers that their
system was being phased out. Because of this, they would have
to go through the process of purchasing a new product again
and endure the expensive process of migrating data to a new
As Jim and I talked about what had happened, we learned a few
things. First of all, the software vendor that Jim worked for had
been in business for about 15 years. They had grown to about
75 employees and idled at that size for about five years. The
same people who started the company still formed its
management team; they’d neglected to bring on anyone new or
to invest in younger employees.
For many years, this company produced a new version of their
EDMS each year, while also rolling out several patch‐level
updates. But then, something changed.
The number of patches and new versions of the product
decreased. And when a new version did come out, it lacked any
new and exciting features or functionality. Management
stopped reporting the number of installations, which we
suspected was due to less new clients and the attrition of older
customers who had converted to other products.
The product itself was suited to an organization with 50 users or
less and could not grow with clients. As the volume of data and
number of users increased, customers’ desire for more
sophisticated features grew…but there was nothing new or
interesting being offered by Jim’s company.
The nail in the coffin, Jim concluded, was that the company was
acquired by a software giant. The strategy of the new company
was to simply migrate the user‐base from Jim’s company to
their core EDMS product. It was a great strategy for them, but
not so great for Jim’s customers.
The good news is that we can learn from scenarios like this one.
The moral? The experience of a company is not necessarily the
best indicator of whether or not they’re the best choice. It’s
important to ask the right questions to get a thorough
understanding of the company, it’s position in the market, and
the state of its product.
Not sure where to start? No problem! I’ve compiled a
Worksheet for Choosing an EDMS Consultant or Vendor. You
can find it at the end of this book, in Appendix B.
You can use this worksheet to guide your own search so that
the vendor you choose really is the best one for you.
As document imaging becomes more commonplace, laws have
emerged regarding the legality of imaged paper and electronic
Many government agencies now accept imaged documents as
legal records, meaning that the paper originals can be stored
off‐site, or, in some cases, destroyed.
Here are some general guidelines shared by many jurisdictions
for document imaging systems:
Digitized records must be stored on unalterable media,
such as CD, DVD, or WORM.
The system must have reasonable controls to ensure
integrity, accuracy and reliability, and to prevent and
detect the deterioration of records.
The system must provide some type of audit trail to
prevent and detect unauthorized creation of, addition
to, alteration of or deletion of records.
It must be possible to make a complete and accurate
transfer of records.
The system must include an indexing system that assists
in finding records.
The system must have the ability to print copies of
The system must be able to cross‐reference with other
record‐keeping systems and software.
The system must have sufficient end user and
The legality of imaged documents varies depending upon the
federal agency, state, county, municipality and department
involved. Therefore, before you get started, you should consult
with an attorney on the specific statutes governing your
industry and geographical area.
The guidelines for the State of Minnesota can be found at:
7 Ingredients for a Successful EDMS
My journey with electronic document management began over
ten years ago, when I volunteered for an assignment that I had
no idea how to start.
It was like in high school
algebra, when the teacher
scribbled a long,
complicated equation on
the blackboard. As she
turned to face the class,
you knew she was looking
for a victim, and you knew
it was probably going to be
In this case, I volunteered to help a client select an EDMS, which
felt like a complicated algebraic equation all its own.
I began this task by talking to vendors of these products and to
their references. I learned very little. It felt like I kept hitting a
One day I had an insight. I remembered that, in life, we learn
the most from our failures. I began searching for “failed” EDMS
projects, and that’s when I really started to learn some things.
What I’ve learned from the failures of other peoples’ EDMS
projects is that an implementation needs seven basic
ingredients in order to succeed.
Some of the ingredients are actually features that must be
present in whatever EDMS you choose. Others relate to how
you implement it. Combined, they’ll become a set of guiding
lights that will make the process clear and simple.
Ingredient 1: The EDMS is Easy to Learn and Use
If the EDMS that you choose is not easy to learn and use, your
project will fail.
The reality is that people tend to take the path of least
resistance, especially when they’re busy. If a new program or
product is complicated, most people either revert to what they
know or they rely on the one person who took the time to learn
If the EDMS proves to be simple and effective, however, people
will find it much easier to get behind it. A great barometer for
ease‐of‐use is the search capability. Your EDMS should have a
good search engine that allows index searches, as well as fulltext
searches. If users can quickly find the documents they
need, no matter what information they know (or don’t know)
about them, they’ll be hooked.
In the past several years, I’ve actually been asked to replace
existing document management systems because they weren’t
working for the company. An EDMS can be full of robust
functionality, but if users aren’t actually using it, it’s completely
Ingredient 2: The EDMS is Non‐Proprietary
Proprietary technology is technology that is owned exclusively
by a single company. An example of this is the popular PDF
format, which is owned by Adobe and requires their Reader.
Many of the early EDMS products were loaded with proprietary
technology – they had unique hard drives, hardware, databases,
and image files. Today, it’s a little harder to spot, but it’s still
happening. Some EDMS products only use a modified TIFF file
format or rely on the PDF format, which requires the Adobe
Additionally, many vendors offer an add‐on imaging module to
their product, such as a CRM or ERP system. These imaging
modules, for the most part, have very limited capability and are
only useful for documents related to the vendor’s product.
Often, companies use proprietary formats or methods of
attaching documents to their systems. Having these proprietary
items may make it difficult to upgrade the system, integrate it
to another system, use it for other documents in the
organization, or migrate to a new EDMS system.
Ingredient 3: The EDMS is Scalable
Any product you select should be able to grow as your needs
grow. Many of the early systems came in certain user sizes, such
as 10, 25, 50 or 100. This meant that if you were at 24 users and
wanted to add just one more, you would have a huge expense.
Equally problematic are systems that can only handle a certain
number of users and pages.
The system that you select should be able to expand from one
user to any number of users. You should also be able to add
features such as batch processing or workflow, if and when you
Ingredient 4: The EDMS is Adaptable to Your Current Working
The product you select and the way you implement it must be
able to adapt to the way people are accustomed to working.
This means that the way you store things on paper should be
similar to the way you will now store them electronically.
For example, if you filed accounts payable documents by
company name, then the imaging system you choose should be
able to list electronic accounts payable documents in folders
filed alphabetically by company name.
Bottom line: you should not have to change the way you do
business to fit the software.
Ingredient 5: The EDMS Has Open Architecture
Electronic document imaging systems are very powerful and
useful to an organization as a standalone unit. But value grows
exponentially when you are able to integrate it with other
existing systems, such as accounting or contact management.
For example, one city I worked with integrated their EDMS with
their graphical information system (GIS), their permit program,
and their online credit card processing system. The result is that
they can now go to a map of the city, click on a parcel (lot), and
see all the documents associated with that parcel of land,
including permits, correspondence, payments and building
To make sure you can take advantage of integration, pick a
system that runs on an open platform, such as Microsoft SQL. It
should include a programmer’s tool kit and other utilities that
allow it to link to other databases.
Ingredient 6: The Vendor Has a Long‐Term Commitment to
their EDMS Product
One of the leading causes in EDMS project failure is when
organizations choose a product that is eventually phased out by
This is not a problem that is specific to small, entrepreneurial
companies. In fact, it occurs just as often in large, solid
companies if those companies are focused on some other major
product area (such as copier equipment or computer
Problems occur when large vendors like these view EDMS as a
small addition to their large corporate portfolio. Meanwhile,
their users are viewing the EDMS product as a key part of their
strategy and using it to house vital company documents. When
this happens, users end up feeling betrayed. They’re left
hanging with no recourse but to find a way to migrate their data
and documents to a new system.
Avoid this problem by choosing an EDMS vendor whose main
focus is document imaging and who has been in the business for
more than ten years. Use the list of questions in Appendix B to
help you choose a reliable, committed vendor.
Ingredient 7: The EDMS is Implemented in Phases
In my experience, I’ve found that organizations that try to
implement everything at once are more likely to fail than those
who break the project into several phases and systematically
move through the organization.
One reason that these all‐or‐nothing projects fail is that nothing
actually gets completed. Time is divided among all the
departments, resulting in lots of starting, but not a lot of followthrough.
Another reason for failure is that people really don’t like
change. The default position for most people is resistance, and
when a change is fast and sweeping, they tend to push back.
You’ll have much better results if you implement document
management slowly over time. Give your employees a chance
to see how easy it is. Create realistic goals, and stagger them.
EDMS projects do best when they are implemented by
evolution rather than by revolution.
Chapter 4: Getting Started with Your
Once you’ve chosen your EDMS system, how do you get
started? Here are a few things to consider as you move forward.
Determining Hard Drive Capacity
One question I often get is, “How do I know how much drive
space I need?”
The process looks similar to step one in our sample ROI back in
chapter 2. You can use the following procedure to get a good
idea of how much information you have and, consequently, how
much space you need.
1. Estimate how many pages of paper documents you
want to scan and store.
2. If you’re going to store electronic files, such as Word
Documents, AutoCAD or media files, determine the file
space that these files are currently taking.
3. Determine how many pages you will be storing each
4. Determine how many years you want your storage
capacity to last.
For example, say you have all 8.5 x 11” single‐sided documents
kept in 10 four‐drawer filing cabinets, 5 four‐drawer lateral
filing cabinets, and 20 standard storage boxes. This adds up to
about 260,000 pages.
You can use a spreadsheet like this one to calculate the number
of pages you have:
Existing Files Type Number Pages
Standard 4-drawer filing
cabinets (12,000 page each)
Lateral filing cabinets
(18,000 page each)
Standard banker boxes
(2500 page each)
Boxes 20 50,000
Large banker boxes (5000
Boxes 0 0
Feet of open shelving (1500
page per foot)
Feet 0 0
1” binders (265 page each) Binders 0 0
2” binders (474 page each) Binders 0 0
3” binders (660 page each) Binders 0 0
Stacks of paper in inches
(175 pages per inch)
Inches 0 0
Total Pages 350,000
Next, we can calculate how much hard drive storage space
these documents will take. If you’re scanning at 300 dpt and
using Group IV TIFF files, these documents will only take 11 GB
If you want to simplify the process even further, you can use my
easy estimate method. Simply assume that each of the
following will use about 1 GB of hard drive space:
1 four‐drawer standard filing cabinet
1 four‐drawer lateral filing cabinet
7 standard‐sized storage boxes
Determining File Formats
Before documents are scanned, you should decide in which
format you will store them. There are two primary choices: PDF
or TIFF. While there are technical differences between the two,
both require roughly the same amount of hard drive space.
PDF files are created using Adobe Acrobat software and require
a proprietary reader to view the file.
Does that raise red flags for you? Perhaps you remember from
my 7 Ingredients that one of the major components of a
successful EDMS project is a product that is not proprietary.
PDF document image files are technically just a file wrapper
around a TIFF image, but unlike TIFF (which is pure raster image
file), PDF files can be a combination of raster and vector, which
can create issues in authenticity.
My opinion is that scanning your paperwork and storing it as
PDFs on your server isn’t much better than keeping the paper!
Here are a few reasons why:
PDFs have very limited search capabilities. You have to
know the name of the document in order to find it. This
is not evident at first when you begin scanning, but as
time goes on, and you accumulate more and more
documents, you’ll find yourself opening each one to find
the correct file. It’s not that much different than
rummaging through a filing cabinet – and it’s just as
For example, I recently met with an organization that
had scanned all their important documents as PDFs.
However, they’d failed to use a naming convention or
index. There was no way to figure out where files were
and which were in the wrong directories. It was a mess!
PDFs can pose a security threat. It’s possible for PDFs to
contain dangerous code execution vulnerability or
malware. For example, a flaw in Adobe 8.1 could allow
hackers to include dangerous code in PDF files to take
control of Windows XP computers.
PDFs can be corrupted. Not long ago, I tried to open a
PDF of an important contract. I got the following error
message: There was an error opening this document.
The file is damaged and could not be repaired.
I did a Google search on “corrupt PDF” and found nearly
1,000,000 hits. I found that there are programs to repair
corrupt files and even companies that specialize in
attempting to recover severely corrupted files. It’s a
I was lucky: the client was able to find a copy of the PDF
that was not corrupt. But if he hadn’t, the details of the
contract could have been permanently lost.
You can’t secure PDF files. While storing PDFs on your
network seems easy, you’ll find that securing them is
much more difficult. How do you keep someone from
renaming, moving, viewing and editing archived PDF
documents? You can’t.
Conversely, the uncompressed TIFF file is an industry standard.
The National Archives recommends it because it accommodates
large file sizes, is widely used and supported, has a long track
record, and has no native support in current web browsers,
among other reasons.
I recommend the TIFF file to all of my clients, and I’d suggest
that you use it as well.
Recommendations for Setting Up Your
In my years in the field, I’ve set up my fair share of EDMS
projects. Here are four simple things that I recommend doing
for every EDMS set‐up.
1. Load the document imaging software on a server
dedicated to commercial‐grade servers, such as HP
2. Store the documents and metadata on the hard drives
of the server using hardware RAID technology or on a
3. Back up the imaging data on a tape backup unit or
portable external drives using a proven rotation
scheme, such as a 12‐tape rotation. I highly recommend
using the SQL backup agent of your backup software.
The backup tapes or drives should be stored off‐site in a
secure location (such as a bank vault) at least 30 miles
from your office. This can also be an effective disaster
recovery backup plan.
4. Burn the data to CDs or DVDs, and keep those off‐site
too. They should be kept in their protective cases and
stored in a cool, dry location at least 30 miles from your
Getting Started with Scanning
Scanning can be an overwhelming task that sometimes prevents
organizations from purchasing and implementing an EDMS. If
the idea of a total conversion of all your old paper files sounds
intimidating, you’re not alone!
However, there are a couple different ways to approach
The scan‐forward approach
The Scan-Forward Approach
In a scan‐forward implementation (also known as “day forward”
or “forward scanning”), you begin by choosing a cut‐off date.
After that day, all new documents will be scanned. Existing
paper records are only scanned if they’re used. In many cases,
documents that aren’t scanned after a year can be archived or
even thrown away.
This approach means that you can get started much more
quickly, since there’s no delay while a backlog of paper is
scanned. Once the value of the system is proven, you can
decide whether or not to start scanning older files.
Getting Started with the Scan-Forward
Starting a scan‐forward process can be intimidating, but it’s an
easier transition than you’d imagine.
Here are 14 simple ideas for getting started:
1. Pick a department that will run with the product. This
should not be the department that most needs the
2. Keep things simple at the beginning. Don’t attempt a
company‐wide implementation, unless it’s absolutely
3. Start scanning from this day forward to avoid adding
daily to your problem.
4. If you have lots of files you’d like scanned into your
system, consider hiring a vendor. There’s more
information about this in the following section on backfile
scanning, and I’d be happy to recommend some
5. Hire temporary workers or interns to do the scanning.
6. Have each department scan their own files and set a
7. Ask anyone who retrieves a paper file to scan it instead
of re‐filing it.
8. Set goals and make scanning a priority.
9. Make a game of it! Have a contest to see which
department can scan the most documents in a month.
10. Start as soon as possible and don’t stop. It’s important
to keep up the momentum.
11. Check your digital copier to see if you can add scanning
capability to do large batches.
12. Look into bar‐coding or cover sheets to capture the
necessary information to file large batches
13. Check to make sure that your backups are working and
are storing both images and databases.
14. Once you have a good amount of documents scanned,
archive your data to WORM media store it off site.
For some businesses, access to old paper files is essential. In
those cases, you’ll need to invest in back‐file scanning services.
Document management vendors generally don’t perform back
scanning for you, but they’ll be able to recommend file scanning
These niche vendors have expensive high‐volume scanners and
plenty of staff to operate them. It’s not uncommon for them to
scan millions of documents for a single customer.
Typically, you ship your documents to these scanning services,
but some also come to you. This can cost more than twice as
much, but if your files contain highly sensitive material, it can be
reassuring to keep them on‐site.
Once the documents are scanned, the services provide CDs or
DVDs of the images, or they import them directly into your
EDMS. Depending on your preference, they’ll either destroy or
return your paper documents.
Choosing a Scanner
Depending on which approach you decide to take with your
scanning effort, you might already have the scanning
capabilities you need in‐house: your copier.
A modern digital copier with an automatic document feed and
network connectivity can be exactly what you need to keep up
with your day‐to‐day scanning needs. Almost any network
copier can be used with an EDMS.
If you’re buying a scanner, your vendor can provide valuable
assistance. They’ll be able to recommend certain brands or
models that will work well with their software. Often, they can
even sell you the hardware directly, which can simplify your
When choosing scanners, you’ll have to consider the balance
between quality and speed. If you want to scan paper
documents so that the full text is searchable, you’ll need optical
character recognition (OCR). This requires more expensive,
high‐quality scanning. If your system will simply be storing your
documents as images, the level of detail isn’t quite as
Additionally, document scanners are different than image
scanners used for graphics. Image scanners have high resolution
capacity, which is not necessary when scanning documents.
Document scanners have very efficient document feeders. We
typically scan documents at 200 or 300 dots per inch (dpi). If
you use higher resolutions than these, you’ll use a lot more file
Whether or not you do back‐file scanning will also impact your
scanner purchase decision. If you plan to scan millions of pages
yourself, you’ll want a high‐end scanner – one that can scan
more than 80 pages per minute (ppm). However, this could cost
$5,000 or more.
A more reasonable scanner, rated at around 40 ppm, might cost
around $1200. A machine like this can easily handle around
1500 pages per day, but it won’t be adequate in processing
large amounts of back‐files.
To meet high scanning volumes, I suggest that you consider
getting multiple scanners instead of one ultra‐high‐capacity
model. Three 40 ppm machines will be considerably less
expensive than one 120 ppm device. Plus, they’ll allow three
people to work on scanning simultaneously, and provide two
people the ability to continue working if one of the scanners
Chapter 5: How We Did It: Stories
from the Other Side
While it’s good to be informed about the basics of the process,
it can be additionally helpful to see how others have navigated
the process. I believe that we can learn a lot from each other’s
This chapter will introduce you to several organizations like your
own, who have successfully implemented an EDMS.
You may recognize yourself in their challenges, and I hope you’ll
be encouraged to see how easy the process has been for them.
You’ll see the benefits that EDMS has provided to real‐life
customers, and the ways it has improved their business.
My hope is that these stories will give you the confidence you
need to take that step forward toward your own EDMS project.
How One Organization Used Batch
Scanning to Empty Filing Cabinets
Community Action Partnership of Suburban Hennepin (CAPSH)
is an organization that works to improve the lives of low‐income
people in the suburbs of Hennepin County, Minnesota.
CAPSH utilizes outreach, energy assistance programs, home
ownership services and financial counseling to help people
achieve self‐sufficiency and to break the cycle of poverty.
One of CAPSH’s largest departments is Energy Assistance, which
is also one the greatest producers of paper files. It processes
about 15,000 10 to 40‐page applications every year. To make
things even more complicated, CAPSH is required to keep these
applications on file for four years.
These requirements resulted in thousands of files, and a huge
storage issue. Cindy Hamilton, Electronic Document
Management Systems Coordinator at CAPSH recalled the mess.
“Files at various stages of processing were scattered among a
number of different filing cabinets. A file inadvertently placed in
the wrong cabinet could take hours to find.”
Finally, at the end of 2008, CAPSH found itself out of space to
process and store applications. They began to look at electronic
document management software.
After seeking advice from several other CAP agencies that had
made the change to EDMS, CAPSH selected and purchased
Cindy, who had never worked with a document management
system and claimed only basic computer skills was chosen to
scan and organize the documents. She worked with a Laserfiche
engineer from Solbrekk, to make the process as efficient as
As they worked, they noticed that all application files had a
page printed from E‐Heat – the department’s main software
application – which they used as a cover sheet for batch
scanning. This page included all the information they needed:
client first name, last name, social security number, household
number, and program year. However, over the years the E‐Heat
program had changed, and so had the location of this important
information on the printed page.
To remedy this problem, the Laserfiche engineer created a
Quick Fields session that could find the information, regardless
of the year it was produced. They were also able to use
Laserfiche Real‐Time Look‐Up to validate the accuracy of the
information by retrieving information from E‐Heat and
comparing the values.
Armed with this powerful Laserfiche Quick Fields session, Cindy
was able to scan large batches of application files at once. The
program separated the batch into individual applications,
named the files, created folders, stored each application in a
folder and populated its index fields.
Using this process, Cindy was able to completely empty 14 fourdrawer
filing cabinets the first year, and by the second year,
every department’s documents were scanned and recycled.
“I remember the mess we had before,” Cindy said. “But now,
with Laserfiche, any application file can be found in just
With the implementation of Laserfiche, CAPSH has been able to
spend less time on frustrating paper issues. Now, they focus
that time and energy on meeting the needs of the low‐income
families, and helping them find their way to financial
How Laserfiche Workflow Increased One
Agency’s Ability to Help Others
This article was originally published by Meghann Wooster on the Laserfiche website.
It is being used with permission and has been modified for this book.
Community Action Partnership of Ramsey and Washington
Counties is a state agency that runs the largest low income
home energy assistance program in Minnesota. This
organization helps people who are struggling to pay for heat
and basic utilities.
“In 2009, we had more than 25,000 active applications stored in
30 extra‐deep, four‐drawer filing cabinets,” explains Catherine
Fair, Director of Energy Assistance Programs at the agency.
“Due to State regulations, we need to keep past applications on
file for three years, so we had even more paper stuffed into two
on‐site storage rooms and an off‐site storage garage.”
Paper files slowed staff down, but they also complicated the
energy assistance program’s twice‐yearly audits. Fair explains,
“As a State agency, we’re regularly audited to ensure that
applications are accurately processed. Files are randomly
selected by the auditors, and it was a daunting task to find the
ones they requested among 25,000 others! Something had to
Fair began researching content management solutions and
found that Laserfiche’s name kept cropping up. “The tech sites I
visited all mentioned Laserfiche as the industry standard for
Fair notes that Laserfiche Workflow, a business process
management tool that enables organizations to automate
manual processes, was a major factor in their decision to
purchase Laserfiche. “We knew that automating our application
approval process would make us more efficient and accelerate
our ability to help households in need,” she says.
Laserfiche’s use of the TIFF file format was another big point in
its favor. “Laserfiche stores files in the TIFF file format, which all
computers can read,” says Fair. The IT department at the
agency wisely steered them away from closed‐file formats like
PDFs. “If you choose a file format that’s controlled by a single
vendor, you invite a lot of unnecessary risk from both an IT and
an information governance perspective.”
After researching its options, the agency settled on Laserfiche
Avante, an EDMS solution for organizations with fewer than 100
users, from Solbrekk, a Laserfiche reseller in Minneapolis. This
model fits their needs since multiple staff members frequently
need to access the system at the same time.
“Another important feature,” says Fair, “is that the functionality
and appearance of the Laserfiche user interface is similar to
Windows. The familiarity is comforting for our less confident
The agency threw a party to get their employees excited about
Laserfiche and created a movie illustrating the way things were
before Laserfiche, showing how easy the new process would be.
They also provided training on how to use Laserfiche workflow
to empower their staff.
Now that Laserfiche has been implemented, the agency is
finding that it’s easier to complete the work they set out to do:
“We receive thousands of calls from clients anxious to know if
we can help them,” says Fair. “Before Laserfiche, these kinds of
calls were hard to field, since staff didn’t have the relevant
information in front of them.”
“Today, the calls are much more productive. We can find a
client’s application immediately by looking in Laserfiche, and
can then let the client know exactly what he needs to do to
complete his application.”
The Laserfiche Workflow has also significantly changed things
around the office. “By digitizing applications and automating
the approval process, we have significantly improved crisis
response time,” says Fair. “When an application shows a
disconnection in progress, we route the file to an expedited
queue simply by changing a template field. We can also sort
through income documents much faster to determine grant
amounts as soon as possible.”
Fair also appreciates Laserfiche’s security features, such as
Windows authentication and named user access. This helps to
protect client information, such as social security numbers. “The
agency would face hefty fines if we had a breach of data
security. With more than 100,000 files in four locations, we
were taking a big risk.”
“Laserfiche protects sensitive information while making our
business processes more efficient,” Fair concludes. “It has
helped us tremendously and we hope that other non‐profit
agencies that deliver federal programs can learn from our
How an EDMS Helped Oral Surgeon
Prevent Devastating Water Damage
Esthesia Oral Surgery Care prides themselves on their ability to
combine excellent patient care with leading‐edge technology.
They work hard to make sure patients feel welcome and cared
for throughout their visit.
Part of that is making sure that patient records are both secure
and easy to access. For the head of Esthesia, Dr. Thomas Keane,
getting patient records digitized felt like an important step in
this process. Patient files were being stored in 4‐drawer filing
cabinets and were taking up valuable space.
With a HIPAA compliance deadline approaching, Dr. Keane
decided there was no better time than the present.
Esthesia had been utilizing Solbrekk for IT network support for
several years, so it felt like a natural progression to have them
install a Laserfiche document imaging and management
The staff was able to quickly and easily scan all patient records,
files and forms into a central repository. They are now available
instantly through a keyword or phrase search.
While many in the healthcare industry were scurrying to make
the HIPAA deadline, Esthesia was already HIPAA compliant.
They are also one step closer to Dr. Keane’s goal of a totally
Each day, paper documents are scanned immediately into
Laserfiche, and by the end of the day, they are paperless again.
Any patient file can be viewed through Laserfiche in any room
of the clinic. They have also been able to streamline their
operations without disrupting the care of their clients or
changing their daily routines.
Recently, Dr. Keane was called into work on a weekend by the
property manager. There had been a water leak in the building
and he needed to assess the damage.
Other building tenants were panicking. An employee at the
medical clinic borrowed a digital camera to take pictures of the
serious damage: hundreds of patient records were completely
saturated and irreparably damaged.
When they asked Dr. Keane how many patient records he lost,
he was able to tell them the wonderful truth: none. All his
records were stored safely in Laserfiche and were backed up. He
had nothing to worry about.
Chapter 6: Moving Forward
In my years in this business, I’ve had the privilege of helping
companies implement important new technologies like local
area network, email and internet. I watched these technologies
improve efficiencies and totally change the way we do business.
But I still believe that this technology – the move from papermess
to paper‐less using EDMS – can have a far greater impact
on an organization than any of these other technologies.
In this book, I’ve outlined all of the obvious ways that EDMS can
make your life easier, save you money and streamline your
business. But one of the great pleasures I’ve had in working
with so many clients to implement EDMS is the unexpected
benefits – the ways that EDMS has helped them solved
problems or create efficiencies in areas that they hadn’t even
I remember one of the first calls I got from a customer who had
found a “golden nugget.” Steve Long, the IT director from Lakes
and Pines Community Action called to say that for years their
accountant had spent hours trying to balance their legal ledger.
He’d finally asked them to print their trial balance into
Laserfiche using the built‐in print‐to‐TIFF converter, Snap‐Shot.
What they found eliminated all the headache of an imbalanced
ledger forever. Using Laserfiche, they were able to input the
amount of the discrepancy and search the document for that
number or for its multiples. For example, if the books were off
by $66, they could instantly search the report for any
transaction that was $66 or $33 and find the error. Problem
Another customer had spent years printing off a monthly
customer summary report that was hundreds of pages long and
was printed on continuous computer paper. It took one
employee almost an entire week to tear the report into sections
for each individual customer and then file it into the designated
With Laserfiche, all of that has changed. Now, they simply print
the report into Laserfiche and move the pages into individual
customer folders. The time spent executing this task was
reduced from one week to just a couple of hours.
Buoyed by the new efficiency, my customer was challenged to
rethink the purpose behind some of their processes. They found
that they seldom looked at those individual pages within the
customer folders and thus eliminated the step of copying pages.
Instead, they left the report where it was printed in Laserfiche
and showed users how easy it was to search for customer
information in reports when they needed it. This small change
saved them over 32 hours a week. For a small organization, this
savings alone paid for the EDMS.
A medical company that I worked with was very happy with the
way Laserfiche handled their documents. They had small profit
centers in each of their thirteen branch offices that produced a
small amount of product. This product could be ordered for
stock, for a customer or for display.
However, it was becoming increasingly difficult to manage this
product with their POS and accounting systems. We helped
them develop a workflow to manage this inventory through
Laserfiche, which resulted in huge savings, while also
streamlining an essential business process.
I’ll give you just one more example. Shoreview, a city I worked
with, spent years using 3×5” index cards to represent each
building in the city. Each card included a hand sketch with the
location of the gas and water shut‐off valves for the property.
However, as the city grew, managing these paper files became
nearly impossible. Other products proved expensive and
cumbersome, but, using Laserfiche, we were able to set up an
index template that included property IDs alongside other
important fields, such as house number and street name.
The City of Shoreview was able to scan their index cards into the
system, and Laserfiche automatically filled in the property ID.
Laserfiche Quick Fields was able to instantly look up the
property ID in their GIS database, populate other fields, and
store the document in its logical format or location. This
“golden nugget” justified their purchase of EDMS and made
their files manageable once again.
It’s easy for me to get carried away with these stories because I
have seen how EDMS can change a company’s entire business
strategy. I get excited about the way Laserfiche helps people
who feel overwhelmed and buried in busy‐work to find new
purpose in their jobs. I believe in this product and its potential
to change business across the board.
I wish you luck as you go through the process of choosing and
implementing an EDMS in your organization. If you choose a
good system and implement it well, you’ll be thrilled with the
results. Keep your eyes open. There are all kinds of “golden
nuggets” buried in these systems. Be mindful and you’ll find
opportunities to create efficiencies you never expected.
And if you need any help or have any questions, give me a call.
I’d be happy to be your guide.
Appendix A: Glossary of Terms
Access Rights: Permissions defined by system administrators
which limit the folders and document a user can access. This is
one of the key components of security in an EDMS.
ADF: Automatic Document Feeder. This is the part of a scanner
that feeds the paper to be scanned automatically.
Annotations: Notes, highlights and other digital markups made
by a user. A well‐designed EDMS stores these annotations in a
separate file so the original document is not altered. The system
overlays the annotations over the original document
automatically, as if the original document had the annotations.
Audit Trail: The process that tracks all access to an EDMS
system, document or record. This can include the date, time
and the names of the users who accessed, modified, deleted or
added documents to the system.
Bar Code: A pattern of lines that represents text characters. A
bar code can be created simply in your word processing tool by
highlighting some characters and changing to a bar code font.
An add‐on component to EDMS, bar‐code recognition is
designed to increase the speed that documents can be stored
and eliminate the need to annually enter file names and index
Batch Processing: The technique used to input a large amount
of information in a single step (as opposed to individual
A great example would be accounts payable files. If these
documents are filed by PO number, the first page being the PO,
followed by packing slips and other information, then a number
of POs could be scanned at once.The batch processing system
would recognize the first page of the PO by using zone OCR. It
would then capture the PO number from the page and validate
it by looking it up in the accounting database. The system would
continue to scan until it found the next new PO.
Then, it would take those pages, create a file, name it, and add
index information that would relegate it to the accounting
database. Finally, the system would file the document in the
proper folder and continue on to process the remaining
Document Management System: Software used to store,
manage, retrieve and distribute digital and electronic
documents as well as scanned paper documents.
Full‐Text Indexing and Search: A search capability that enables
users to find a document by searching any word or phrase in
that document. This requires that every word in every
document is indexed into a master word list, which has pointers
to the documents and pages where each occurrence of the
Image Enabling: A process that allows simple integration
between an EDMS and a third‐party software application.
For example, image enabling allows a user to find a PO in the
accounting software and, by hitting certain keys, to then launch
a search into the EDMS, displaying all documents associated
with that PO number.
Index Fields: Database fields that can be used to store
additional information about a document or folder. These fields
can be used for searches and for integration with other
OCR: Optional Character Recognition. This is a software process
that recognizes text on a scanned image. You must have a
scanner with OCR capabilities in order to enable full‐text
searching of documents.
Open Architecture: Hardware or software that uses standard
technology rather than proprietary technology. This makes
supporting and integrating with third‐party devices and
SQL: Structured Query Language. This is the most popular
standard for running database searches. It is often used to refer
to Microsoft SQL database.
Scalability: The capacity of a system to expand to include more
document capacity, users, or modules without requiring major
changes or reconfiguration.
TIFF: Tagged Image File Format. This is a non‐proprietary image
format that has been widely used since 1981. It allows for
several different types of compression. TIFFs can be either
single or multiple files; a single‐page TIFF is a single image of
one page of a document.
WORM: Write‐Once‐Read‐Many. These are discs which are an
optical storage archival media. Included in this media type are
CR‐R and DVD‐R media. Industries like financial and government
are required to keep an archive copy of EDMS data for disaster
Zone OCR: An add‐on feature of EDMS that allows information
to be extracted from a page using OCR on a specific area or
zone. This information is often called a token and can be used to
name a document, populate an index field or perform a number
of other functions.
Appendix B: Worksheet for Choosing
an EDMS Consultant or Vendor
How many years have you been in business?
How many times a year do you release new software?
How many updates or patches do you release each year?
Tell me about some interesting new features or technologies
that have been added to your most recent releases.
Is your customer base growing? By what percentage each
Is the size of your company growing? By what percentage
Describe the strengths of your management team.
Is your product scalable? What is the largest organization
you handle? What is the size of the average company who
uses this EDMS?
Do you use the premier industry database?
Are you using up‐to‐date programming tools? Which ones?
Are you supporting the latest scanner models? What about
user devices, like tablets and iPhones?
What new ideas and technologies have you brought to the
Do you consider yourself a leader in the industry?
Do you have local user groups?
You might also search the internet and news for additional
information about the company such as:
Has this company ever been acquired? Is there any sense
that there may be an impending acquisition?
What is being said about this company on internet forums
and user reviews