One of the most challenging and beneficial tasks one can do when evaluating a product or service is a Return on Investment (ROI) analysis. It is also one of the most difficult since lots of assumptions need to be made and empirical evidence to support the analysis is hard to come by. However, that is simply not the case when performing an ROI analysis on Document Scanning solutions.

So what makes Document Scanning solutions different in regards to ROI analysis? Well for one thing, everyone can understand the concept of a Document Scanning solution. We have all waited while somebody rifled through a filing cabinet looking for a contract, patient file, or some other document to no avail. I have personally spent countless hours looking for enterprise software license contracts which are more often lost than located. One can only imagine how uncomfortable it is explaining to a customer that you don’t have any record of the special terms and conditions they negotiated 3 years ago for a 5 year contract.

A lot of us have also had the pleasant experience of locating these same types of documents using an electronic Document Scanning solution. The documents are typically indexed by multiple criteria which make them very easy to locate. More and more Document Scanning solutions are also utilizing web based architectures which makes it easy for any individual or organization to access documents. All they need is a web browser, a user ID and a password. Since they are in an electronic (or digitized) format, they can be either printed or sent as attachments to emails.

The next reason it is easy to do an ROI for Document Scanning solutions is that the criteria being measured can be easily quantified.

Following are examples of these types of criteria:

• Physical storage cabinets and the floor space required to house them are easily identified. One can also determine the cost of this space as part of office space or other building overhead, and we must also include the additional space that is required to store copies of these documents in a remote location. These remote locations also need to be remote enough so that they won’t be impacted by the same natural disaster that affected the primary site. Also, of course there are costs associated with getting these documents to the remote locations and then filing them.

• The cost of storing digitized versions of documents can also be easily quantified and compared to the hard copy approach. We have all benefited from the drastically reduced cost of electronic storage. Disk space is one of the best values in the world today and many Document Scanning solutions store documents indefinitely. It is also much easier to access electronically stored documents in remote locations should the primary storage location be affected by a natural or operational disaster.

• People costs are also easy to compare between physically storing and accessing hard copies and electronic Document Scanning solutions. The comparison of scanning documents and physically filing them can be similar at low volumes but the cost of scanning can be reduced significantly when volumes are high. The cost associated with locating and accessing documents using a Document Scanning solution is significantly easier, faster and more cost effective. Most Document Scanning solutions include sophisticated indexing solutions which make it easy to locate and access scanned documents anywhere in the world.

• Productivity gains should also be included in any ROI analysis of Document Scanning solutions. As with any other solution, the biggest savings are always related to people costs. Increased productivity associated with Document Scanning solutions can lower the number of people needed to perform the document storing and accessing process. Users can also access documents themselves rather than relying on members of the administrative staff. More importantly, highly paid employees cannot do their jobs when they are trying to locate documents. I recently had an experience with a major software company that couldn’t locate an important contract that I needed. I estimated that I had to make at least 15 phone calls, received 10 phone calls and either sent or received 10 emails to finally get the contract. Cost savings associated with “people costs” can be easily calculated by estimating hours saved per year and then multiplying that by cost per hour per employee based on their hourly compensation.

• Customer satisfaction is not always as easily quantified but we all know how important it is. It is also easy to understand how irate customers can become when important documents can’t be retrieved. One would be surprised how often Account Managers for high tech companies are forced to ask their customers to locate contracts for them since they can’t locate their own. Ouch!

• Security is also an important factor when evaluating Document Scanning solutions. Hard copies of documents can be inappropriately accessed much easier than their electronic counterparts. That of course is predicated on the document accessing services having adequate security built in. Standards are in place for document storage security and it is easy to determine if a Document Scanning solution meets these standards. Another very important consideration is that electronic documents cannot be accessed without creating an audit trail. Audit trails are difficult to create for processes associated with physically accessing stored documents and since they are labor intensive, they are also very costly.

Document scanning solutions are becoming implemented widely across corporate America and the world. One reason for this widespread acceptance is the fact that ROI analysis can be easily conducted which justify the cost of implementation. I would strongly suggest that anyone evaluating the implementation of a Document Scanning solution to require each vendor to provide an ROI analysis for their solution.

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