Rank and file
From Document Manager Magazine Vol 16 No 01 - January/February 2007
A return on investment in excess of three years is simply not feasible for an SME implementing ECM technologies - corporate management company Noble Management found a more effective solution
Noble Management is an established corporate management company, founded in 1993, with an enviable reputation for delivering professional fiduciary services. The majority of these services - company incorporation, international taxation, book-keeping and contract preparation - are paper intensive. Noble's success relies on its ability to store, locate, process and track every item of information quickly.
The company's filing system was largely paper-based. Once removed from filing cabinets, client files were often difficult to locate. Valuable time was wasted searching for documents, and employee absence could result in considerable delays. Reports and other documents could be filed incorrectly, making them difficult to find, and many documents were needlessly duplicated, resulting in unnecessary cost and space consumption.
Counting the cost of
Harry Radix, General Manager at Noble Management, began evaluating the cost of their paper-based system: "In a typical small to medium-sized accounting, legal or administrative business an individual can lose up to two hours each day searching for files, documents and information. That translates to 450 man hours per person annually. To put it bluntly, one person in four is employed to look for paper!"
Expensive floor space is required to house multiple filing cabinets. As Noble grew, the volume of paperwork and number of filing cabinets increased, and valuable metres were eroded from office workspace. In addition, Noble's clients regularly ask for copies of documents. Every request involved a staff member going to the file, copying the document, replacing it and then faxing it. "We estimated that this process could take thirty minutes per request. Considering the volumes involved and average administrative costs, we were wasting over seventy thousand Euros every year on this activity," says Radix.
Paper-based systems are not only costly; they are inaccessible and less secure than electronic alternatives. Many of Noble's clients are international companies based abroad, operating in different time zones, with little overlap in the working day. Communication and document sharing was often delayed because it would have been inappropriate for Noble to fax confidential financial and legal documents during their working hours, only to have them sitting on a fax machine until the start of the recipient's work day.
Building on an effective fileplan
Noble had relatively simple information management requirements. Says Radix: "We were confident that the filing structure we already had in place was effectively designed. We simply needed to eliminate the time and cost associated with paper handling. We needed a structured, electronic filing system that would accurately map onto our existing fileplan, enabling us to scan and store all incoming mail so that it was instantly available. We also wanted to store documents of electronic origin (e.g. Microsoft Word and Excel) in the same location, and share these with colleagues, agents and customers around the world, as required."
Specialist supplier for SME
Noble evaluated a variety of products, most of which lacked functionality or were massively expensive. A return on investment in excess of three years is not feasible for most SMEs, whose criteria generally focus on security, reliability and value for money - as well as functionality.
In 2005 Noble found Cygnet ECM, a specialist supplier of electronic document, record and content management solutions (EDRM and ECM) to the SME market. Cygnet ECM offers fully functional EDRM and email management capabilities that incorporate capture, archival and workflow as well as online creation, editing and retrieval.
Cygnet ECM is a browser-based solution accessed via the Internet from any workstation at any time, wherever it is located, thereby eliminating all geographical retrieval limitations. Corporate data, client files and incoming mail are stored within a robust database that runs on any standard, inexpensive web server or hosting service.
Despite its simplicity and reasonable cost, Cygnet ECM has been designed by specialist engineers with accounting, legal and administrative expertise. The system is robust and highly secure, enabling only authorised users to view or modify each document. A sophisticated rules-based system allows the administrator to tailor individuals' security rights, thereby assuring corporate data protection at all times.
Sampling the solution
Noble accepted Cygnet's offer of a thirty-day free trial, during which an extended classification system was developed. Based on their existing paper-based fileplan, this classification system introduced a range of new naming conventions. Noble found the software extremely intuitive and easy to use. Not only did productivity soar, but customer service improved and users experienced greater job satisfaction.
The Cygnet ECM document management and knowledge base reporting system has now become the lifeblood of the organisation. Its central repository stores all documents of paper or electronic origin, and is used to manage all business critical email. Cygnet ECM extends much further than a typical filing or database solution; its powerful email management system enables contacts, related documents and e-mails to be retrieved from a structured, intelligent archive. All processes are inter-linked to ensure that retrieved information is accurate and current.
Noble's electronic legacy files were imported directly into Cygnet ECM from their existing locations. Current, business critical paper-based documents such as contracts, Articles of Association and tax returns were scanned and archived. Other paper-based documents with limited shelf life were scanned on an as-needed basis. All newly generated electronic files and incoming paper documents are stored in Cygnet ECM.
Reaping the benefits
According to Radix, "The development of an effective fileplan and naming convention is crucial, as this underpins the effectiveness of the entire system. Once these elements were established, and users overcame their initial reluctance to shred critical documents such as invoices, implementation was straightforward." Since installing the system Cygnet ECM has enabled:
- Rapid access to up-to-date, accurate information
- Real-time, online document editing
- Faster responses to customer enquiries.
- Direct, round-the-clock client access
- Improved customer service at lower cost
- Reduced operating costs (faxes, photocopies, time etc.)
- A more tidy and disciplined office
- Greater security and data protection
- Enhanced job satisfaction
In the past, administration work was very interrupt-driven. A large proportion of incoming emails and calls required administrators to retrieve invoices, statements and suchlike, then report back or provide copies. By allowing clients direct online access to their own data, during their working day, Noble's administrators can focus on the job in hand, deliver higher quality results and work at a faster pace.
"Cygnet ECM has truly revolutionised Noble's way of working without incurring substantial cost or causing any significant disruption to our business," concludes Radix. "We are more productive, more profitable and more responsive. Cygnet ECM's web-based solution has eliminated all geographical and retrieval limitations of our old paper-based filing solution, and it's hard to imagine how we managed without it in the past!"
More info: www.cygnet-ecm.com