By Kim Crowley
Documents, their compliance, safe storage, and retrieval are essential to business processes. Documents include everything from invoices to blueprints, medical records, police reports, and building permits.
Document management (DM) is a tool for many organizations including law firms, insurance companies, and healthcare providers. DM solutions manage paper and digital documents, scan to create electronic files, categorize or index, and store them to save time and money. Organizations quickly find important documents to provide information to customers faster, while building better customer relationships.
A variety of DM solutions are available—from desktop options, software as a service (SaaS) models, to enterprise-grade systems. Some vendors and providers include ACS Software, Inc.; Cabinet NG; ColumbiaSoft; DocuWare AG; EMC Corporation; FileVision; Laserfiche; Optical Image Technology, Inc. (OIT); and Questys Solutions. Significant research is required to find the proper DM solution.
Implementation and employee training requires diligence, but rewards are great. Here, we share the stories of three businesses successfully implementing DM solutions in diverse markets. They share similar business challenges—government regulations, lack of storage space, lost files, wasted time retrieving documents, and more. Follow their lead and discover a similar return on investment (ROI).
Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Company
Founded in 1881, Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Marble, PA, provides over three billion dollars in property coverage in PA, with over 21,000 policies in effect. Located in a rural area in Western PA, Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Company handles an instream of requests from agents everyday via email, postal mail, and electronically through their Web site.
“We insure several types of properties and write homeowners policies, policies for seasonal camps and tenant occupied dwellings, farm owners, and commercial policies,” says Eric Schmader, CFO and treasurer, Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Marble, PA.
Agents complete an application or a quote request, which is sent with a photograph of the property so the company can decide if they want to underwrite that risk. “With digital cameras and the ability to email photos, it’s easy to determine quickly what the policy should be,” adds Schmader. “In the past the agents would mail those documents to us. Now we index them into our imaging system.”
Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Company is regulated by the Commonwealth of PA Insurance Department. “To be safe, we’ve always kept any type of documentation for a particular policy on file so we can go back to the records. Some of our files are very large; we actually physically ran out of space in our file room,” says Schmader.
Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Company uses Town and Country Computer Services, LLC’s INS Pro insurance processing system to handle everyday insurance functions, including quoting, accounting, and collection. They selected Optical Image Technology’s DocFinity DM suite to electronically store and manage paper documents, emails, pictures, and reports. A previously established integration between DocFinity and INS Pro makes it easy for Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Company to implement the DM system. “We call up information on the policy in our management system and then view anything pertaining to that policy in the DocFinity imaging system,” states Schmader.
Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Company receives and processes documents from a number of sources. “We still collect a lot of information in postal mail, but now we receive a lot of information by email,” says Schmader. “With the DM system, we don’t need to print the documents received via email and we can automatically index those into the imaging system.”
Prior to DM, Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Company was inundated with paper. “I came to the company about five years ago and noticed that we were really paper intensive,” notes Schmader. A lot of time was wasted filing and finding papers. “If an agent or an insured called about a policy, we had people running to the file room to look for files, and manually pull the files.”
Schmader says the insurance industry was a little slow to adopt technology and changes. “Our company is small and we can’t afford a professional IT department,” he says. “That’s why we utilize vendors such as DocFinity and our policy management system. Our DM system allows for more efficiency. We can now access and provide information on a policy right away.”
Schmader says the company originally investigated several DM vendors. “One was a mainstay in the industry; they were fairly pricey. If you bought their product you had to adopt to their processes, rather than them working with you. DocFinity already had the interface created with our policy management system, and they were also willing to learn our business and how we operate. It’s been good for us and for our clients,” he says.
Schmader says that Farmers Mutual implemented DM to make better use of its policy management system and to operate more efficiently. “We needed to make a change to stay competitive—not only with our peer companies, but also with larger companies.”
The company implemented DocFinity over a year ago. Schmader says that after a short period of transition, Farmers Mutual’s DM strategy works very well. “We have long-term employees here that weren’t comfortable with new technology at first, so we had to overcome that barrier. They were all accustom to having a physical piece of paper in their hand. The DM system allows us to continue growing without worrying about file space.”
The City of Sherwood, OR
Sherwood, OR, with a small-town atmosphere, history, and beauty, is home to about 16,000. “Sherwood has undergone huge growth,” notes Laurie Peterson, IT business analyst, Sherwood, OR.
Sherwood’s offices and departments include human resources, finance, a municipal court, police, public works, community development, IT, and a library. The city creates, processes, and managers a broad range of documents, including permits, court reports, engineering and CAD drawings, and inspections for these offices. Every jurisdiction in the U.S. is required to keep specific records. “We house a wide variety of normal business items,” notes Peterson.
The municipal government offices serve the city’s residents while maintaining a limited budget. “The type of environment that OR operates in is difficult due to the tax structure. We’re on a tight budget,” says Peterson.
Previously, city management outsourced many functions, but, about ten years ago, those functions were brought back in. As a consequence of budgets and insourcing, the city of Sherwood has a very limited staff. “Our most recent city manager was a visionary in terms of using technology to reduce the amount of potential staff,” notes Peterson. “We’re not trying to cut people, but we want to slow down on adding new staff. While we continue adopting previously outsourced functions, we use technology to harness it.”
The City of Sherwood has several, simultaneous, large software implementation projects. DM is one technology Sherwood decided to invest in. “We chose ColumbiaSoft’s Document Locator. “We needed a product that was flexible and didn’t require a lot to get started,” says Peterson.
The city’s goal for DM is to reduce the amount of paper used internally. “I would say that we are moving towards achieving our goal, but it is taking longer than initially targeted. It is not due to a problem with the product; but the environment that we’re working in with a limited staff,” notes Peterson.
Peterson says ColumbiaSoft’s support is extremely helpful. “They have implementers available and we have used their services,” she says. “We provide training for users as they come on to the system, as well as ongoing training.” Peterson says they haven’t yet taken advantage of the full training. “We face the same challenges as all organizations. You implement a new product and then you need to press to make it more thorough.” Peterson predicts that as employees become accustomed to the software, they will take better advantage of its features.
Since an initial installation of Document Locator in the spring of 2006, Sherwood has upwards of 60,000 documents in their system. Initial implementation included back file scanning of one department and then a go-forward with all of the other departments. “It’s a go-forward as well as a go-back,” says Peterson. “The system handles back file scanning where you take existing hardcopy files, scan them, and put them into the system. It also works within the Microsoft Office environment. I can be in Word and save directly to Document Locator.” A client server product is on-site to store all of Sherwood’s data.
Finding documents after they are created and stored is often a challenge. The City of Sherwood benefits tremendously from the DM system in this area. “What it has specifically allowed us to do is find documents that are located within Document Locator without having to know how the person who put it in there put attributes on it, how they handled it, or where it came from. To find a letter of agreement, I don’t need to know that somebody thought it was a contract. I don’t need to know the last name from a document was accidentally misspelled. The ability to manage that is wonderful,” states Peterson.
She adds, “A lot of DM products require adding attributes associated with the document into the system, and you can only find the document if you figure that out. Some make it very difficult to combine methods of searching for documents. Document Locator makes it easy.”
Sacramento County DA’s Office
The District Attorney’s (DA) Office in Sacramento, CA employs approximately 500. These employees receive, process, and generate documents daily. “We receive arrest reports, jail booking sheets, criminal records, incident reports, crime scene photos, crime laboratory reports, and audio and video files,” notes Bassam Amrou, CIO, DA Office, Sacramento, CA. “In addition, the office generates many documents—criminal complaints filed in court, subpoenas, warrants, investigation reports, legal briefs, and more.”
Over 50,000 new cases are submitted to the DA’s Office each year. “Each case includes roughly 30 pages, meaning there are over 1.5 million pages from these initial referrals,” says Amrou.
The DA’s Office re-generates the police agency reports to a format that is turned over to the defense for discovery, then generates more documents pertaining to the cases. Amrou says, “A case goes through a lifecycle from its submission to the DA, through filing with the courts. The process is very paper driven. Many copies are made, and boxes of paper are stored and preserved. We estimate that we generate in excess of another 500,000 additional pages after the cases are submitted to us. This means we process in excess of two million pages annually on case prosecution alone.” Amrou notes that these figures do not include documents created outside the case management process, nor documents dealt with in the civil litigation the DA may handle.
To manage the inbound and outbound documents, the office contacted DocuWare about two years ago. “The sheer volume, management of information, ability to create discovery electronically, staff time spent to give new page numbers by hand to discovery documents, cost of storage, space utilization, information management, and retention management were all reasons I felt we needed to implement a DM system,” states Amrou.
After evaluation and comparison with other vendors, the DA’s office selected DocuWare as a DM provider. “There were many reasons for selecting DocuWare. It started with price, but when I tested the product and verified its flexibility, ease of use, and ability to customize, I felt it was the right fit for our needs,” explains Amrou.
The DA’s experience with DocuWare is positive. “We used DocuWare in a new vertical market of the government legal sector. Previously, we had another leading product installed and operational, but after working with DocuWare, I removed the competing product completely. Now we only use DocuWare for all of our DM needs,” says Amrou.
DM significantly changed the way the DA’s Office does business. “Because of the flexibility it offers with Web service architecture, we have DocuWare embedded in our case management system as part of our document acquisition strategy, so it can be used whether we receive documents electronically, scan them here, or generate them,” says Amrou.
Amrou notes that one of its best features is ease of integration. “Our initial use of the program was in integration with our case management system. Users are able to find, search, and work with documents. The power users are happy with it and so is the document scanning staff. We now have an electronic filing component that allows direct storage with coding into DocuWare as we try to minimize scanning,” he says.
Is DM for You?
In the right setting, DM saves time and cost. Properly implemented DM systems offer businesses a way to stay organized and compliant. In addition, DM solutions allow for a quick transfer of information to customers, a practice that improves customer relationships.
Schmader notes that the cost of implementing DM is inexpensive and the rewards are great. “A company our size requires solutions that may have been cost prohibitive in years past because of the investment put into technology,” he says. “A small company now competes just as well as a large company.”
Finding the right fit for your unique business takes some investigation. Implementation and training employees also takes effort. “It’s like anything else—as soon as people start using it they relax and don’t realize how much time they once spent looking for things,” says the Sherwood’s Peterson. The ROI generated from DM is evident—in both time and money saved.
We encourage you to use the examples set by Farmers Mutual Insurance, the City of Sherwood, and Sacramento’s DA Office when thinking of your own organization’s DM requirements. dps