One of the unexpected “surprises” we hear from people all the time when they go paperless and scan the contents of their filing cabinets into a document management system is that they can suddenly find all sorts of files they thought were lost.
Filing cabinets are notoriously bad when it comes to document storage. They are simple things with no brain. Having only a drawer and perhaps a key lock, they can’t provide any advice on where to put documents, tell you exactly where documents can be found, route documents to the right people in workflows, or revoke access to information by taking away the key. Filing cabinets leave it entirely up to you to do all the work.
One of the problems this causes over the years, as any number of people in the office file, re-file, (and sometimes not return) documents to the filing cabinets, is things get a bit mixed up. Everyone organizes to their own standards, and documents get filed in the wrong places. Next time a file is needed, it can’t be found.
When the contents of filing cabinets are scanned into a document management system using OCR technology to capture the text and make it searchable on a computer, lost documents can often be searched and found in a matter of seconds. For example, a vendor invoice from five years ago that was misfiled in the wrong folder… chances are it will be found in an instant by simply searching the system for the vendor’s name. Or, an HR record that was thought to be lost… a quick search on a related subject matter could locate the file.
For most people, finding old lost documents isn’t the main reason to scan filing cabinets and go paperless with a document management system, but it’s certainly one of the nice side-affects.