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I get by with a little help from my friends

Posted on May 27, 2014 by Marty Pittman

This is a line from the classic Beatles 1967 album titled Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. And that line, “I get by with a little Help from my friends” is repeated throughout the song to make us remember it long after the record  has stopped playing.  You don’t know it but you could have a very valuable ally in your arsenal to help streamline your business processes.

Our offices run pretty smoothly as far as communication, meeting of sales goals, achieving production numbers, etc. But we can always enhance a process here, fine tune a procedure there, or modify a policy to meet the changing needs of our clients or end-users.

To stay ahead of the curve, it’s best to anticipate the needs of the client to be ready to weather any change that comes your way. A positive first step is to think about going paperless or going digital. Storerooms dedicated to housing archived documents are a place to start. How many times have we gotten a call regarding an account, and that account information is buried in a box in a storeroom?

If we know the information is not readily accessible, we have no choice but to ask the client if it’s ok to call them back once we “locate” the information. To continue the task, we have to go to that special closet and pinpoint the box or filing cabinet housing the information. Our task isn’t complete as we journey back to the desk and call the customer back. And don’t forget, we have to return the information to the box or filing cabinet!

What happens if the file gets damaged? Bye bye account information and bye bye to company credibility! If the files are stored electronically on a server, or preserved as backup on DVD, your company is light years ahead of paper-only companies.   

Your friends at DocuScan are ready to help you take that next step by listening to your needs and recommending a solution to help you streamline your document storage and document retrieval processes.

As the song says, “Yes I get by with a little help from my friends.” 

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I want to fly like an eagle, To the sea, Fly like an Eagle, Let my spirit carry me…

Posted on April 28, 2014 by Marty Pittman

With the advent of Spring upon us, we notice the warmer temps, and the greening of the lawns. Some of us are lucky enough to have the trees in our yards to play host to families of baby birds starting anew. First, we catch glimpses of mama-bird scooting to and fro feeding her chicks. Then, over the next few weeks, we may see the baby warblers gather the courage to leave the nest and fly away to parts unknown.

That scenario is somewhat similar to going paperless (go with it) in our offices. We can stay in the nest, and be content with our processes, but we know to be really successful and forge our own legacies, we must sprout wings and choose a new course of action.

We can choose to continue to do things the same old way, but we KNOW there are better, more efficient ways to achieve our goals. Just think about the steps required to access an archived file: Receive the request, go to the storage location, locate the box where the file is stored, find the file(s), make copies of file(s), fax or send to requester, return file to box. If you have the file(s) in a digital format, you eliminate most of the previously mentioned steps by simply e-mailing the information.

Just think of the space you can save by storing your files on a cd or your company server, instead of having dozens of boxes stored in a closet gathering dust.

Did you know:

1.You can share pdf files by using Dropbox or SkyDrive? Using those two apps can allow you to share on your pc or mobile device

2. With OCR technology, you can quickly search hundreds of invoices and locate a specific name or account in moments, without having to thumb your way through hundreds of files

3. You can read, write, and edit pdf files by using Free software such as AbleWord

Once you make the leap (or leave the nest) to go paperless, you will immediately notice the benefits of NOT having tons of paperwork littering your office. You can feel secure knowing that you can copy the electronic files to create backups of your archived documents.

If needed, why not add password protection to the electronic files to limit access?  You can also take your portfolio of electronic files on the road (remember, a cd can contain over 10, 000 pages), while everyone in the office can still have access the documents.

Now that you have some additional information about document imaging, you’re ready to leave the nest and spread your wings!

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Bend me, shape me, anyway you want me ... You got the power to turn on the light

Posted on March 21, 2014 by Marty Pittman

These lyrics are from a song that came out in the late 1960’s, but I felt it could apply to pdf files of today. At first glance, they are seemingly innocent files, but you have the power to manipulate them to fit your workplace environment. With the advent of productivity enhancers like smartphones, iPads, Kindles, Dropbox, and Evernote, pdf files have the ability to be exploited. They can be bent and shaped (not literally of course, but go with it) to fit alongside the new technology available to us today. Let’s imagine we have two versions of the same pdf that appear to be similar, but we want to compare the two to check for differences. We can use Adobe Acrobat to identify the differences. Use the Compare Documents feature found on the View menu (Acrobat X) or on the Document menu in earlier versions of Acrobat. Using these features will allow you to spot changes made to the document.

You can use Dropbox to access your pdf files on the go! Load pdf files in Dropbox on your desktop at the office, and access your files on your smartphone or mobile device in the field using the app. Did you know your pdf file can speak to you? If you so desire, open your file (Acrobat X), and from the View menu select Read Out Loud.  If you’re using PDF Converter Professional 7.1, go to Tools – Read PDF-Read Current Page. These are just a few of the wonderful things you can do with pdf files to help you achieve maximum efficiency in your workplace.

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Oh ho ho it’s magic you know. Never believe it’s not so…

Posted on Febuary 13, 2014 by Marty Pittman

If you’re a frequent reader of my blogs, you probably figured out that the titles are always lyrics taken from songs. I try to find lyrics that are pertinent to the subject of the month. This month’s subject is about pdf files, and why DocuScan uses pdf files as the go-to format upon conversion from paper to digital.

First off, the PDF (portable document format) was created by Adobe Systems in 1993 as a way for organizations to exchange information electronically. It’s basically an electronic carbon copy of the document(s) that can be transmitted via email if you like. (Hint: No more FAX MACHINE)

Another bonus of pdf files is the fact that they are compatible across multiple platforms. Essentially, if you are using a Windows pc, you can send the files to a Mac user and they will still be able to view the files you sent. Who wants to create a document and send to an end-user only to have the document lose formatting? And as an extra bonus, pdf files can be enlarged substantially without losing clarity. So if you get a pdf file of a schematic diagram, or an engine part, zoom in on it and you can still maintain precision.

Because pdf files are compressed from the document’s original format, they can be opened quickly, and makes it possible for thousands of paper files to be converted and compressed onto a cd, dvd, or USB flash drive. A rough guideline is this: An electronic document converted to a pdf file compresses to around 25 to 30 percent of its original size (a 20kb Microsoft Word document is compressed to 5-6 kb) which makes it possible for thousands of pdf files to be stored on a server!

Did you know that in 2000, the U.S. Federal Courts adopted the PDF file as their electronic document of choice? Ever go to a website to download an application, tax form, or other legal document? It’s a pdf file right? This means the pdf format will be around for years to come.

Possibly the best part is that viewing the PDF files can be retrieved, viewed, and printed with FREEWARE! Adobe Acrobat Reader can be installed on all computers in your organization, and you can download it for FREE from the Adobe website! You and your external customers can view and print the files at no cost!

Now that sounds like magic!

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Time…Flowing like a River

Posted on January 22, 2014 by Marty Pittman

How much is your time worth? Seriously, just think about it. Think about all the things that impede your production. What are the speed bumps that crop up at inopportune times to keep you from being efficient?

How many times have we driven to work only to be late because of unexpected road repair? I mean, you planned on an on-time arrival, but the road crew and re-routed traffic had other plans.

From my own personal experience, I can remember being totally prepared for a copier sales demo, and my worst fear came to light: As the office manager, the decision-maker, and several key users watched my sales pitch, the copier kept jamming. It would make 2-3 copies and inexplicably…jam. I spent more time clearing the paper jam and apologizing, than touting the benefits of the copier!

I cite these examples to show that no matter how prepared we are, and how ready our company appears to be, sometimes the fly in the ointment can tarnish our reputation, and make us look less than perfect. If we have too many of these “hiccups,” we can’t be surprised if we see a decline in customers, and a decline in revenue as well.

Time can do several things to our companies. It can make us complacent, and make us rest on our laurels, unwilling to adapt to a changing environ. Or, time can teach us to test the winds and examine the data, to stay ahead of change. By watching the tendencies and monitoring the needs of our clients, we can always be ready to make slight changes to our course and stay on the cusp of emerging trends.

Imagine a situation where a customer calls and wants some information or a status update on their account. Now imagine that the documentation resides in three departments: Accounts Receivable, Shipping and Receiving, and Customer Service. Yikes! Trying to lasso the information from various departments in a timely manner can be counter-productive. And what if your go-to person is not available in a specific department? The negative impact can be tough to overcome, and as I mentioned earlier, too many of these (hiccups) can make us look inefficient.

An electronic document management system can help you optimize your document storage and retrieval process. Give me a call today, and I’ll be happy to help you chart a new course!

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One is the loneliest number…

Posted on December 16, 2013 by Marty Pittman

How valuable is a piece of paper? A single, solitary piece of paper? Without giving it much thought, one would assume it has no REAL value. Make no mistake, a single document can be just as powerful as a multi-page essay.

Think of all the things we do to a piece of paper in our workplace. We ball it up and toss it in the trash can. We rip it up into a dozen pieces and let it flutter to its final resting place, or we sometimes fold it into some kind of aeronautical creation and watch it float to a refuse container. One would get the impression that the life of paper in our office is one of notoriety and despair.

But that same paper is essentially the life-blood of our businesses. Without it, our offices would find it difficult to meet the demands of our clients. A single piece of paper has many functions: It can acts as a memo between employees. It can outline an agenda for an important meeting. It can act as a contract entered between two or more parties. It can let us know how our office stacks up with other offices in the region, or it can sum up a request from a customer.

If that wasn’t enough, some documents get further treatment: They need signatures for approval, or they get forwarded elsewhere, or copied, or placed in a storage area for archiving and retrieval.

As we can see, the paper record performs a host of functions that enable a business to remain viable in the marketplace. In some ways, it acts as a central nervous system for the office. Whether shuttling information to and fro, outlining business policies, chronicling production numbers, or updating an important account, the paper record is an absolutely critical component in the business world.

It’s important that we take a moment to realize how vital our records are. If we allow them to become lost or misplaced, they act as a barometer and direct reflection of our companies. If we can’t respond to a customer request in a timely manner because of lost documentation, it makes us look inefficient. If we lose track of an invoice or a legal document, our business reputations no doubt will suffer.

A comprehensive backup system is a smart way to be proactive! Don’t wait for that moment when lost or misplaced documents create that unwanted exposure. Consolidate those loose documents that are spread around several locations, and place them in a central electronic document repository. Go electronic, go smart!

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OCR? Say what ....

Posted on November 18, 2013 by Marty Pittman

Ok, so you realize you have a paper problem, and you are contemplating having said papers scanned for digital archiving. But you have this feeling that you won’t be able to retrieve the specific files in a timely manner. Thousands of pdf files in your possession, and you wonder how hard it would be to locate a particular record?

That’s where the magic of OCR comes in. OCR is an acronym for Optical Character Recognition. OCR software can convert scanned text into a word processing file. Once the conversion process is complete, you can search for specific documents using a keyword, a name, a number, or a phrase. Let’s say you’re searching for an invoice, but you don’t have the day or month it was generated. Simply type in the invoice number, and voila! The file appears on your screen. Imagine how much more efficient that is over searching through filing cabinets for a document.

How does OCR technology work? Well I’ll attempt to present a quick, non-technological, anyone can understand, description:  The software looks at a scanned document, and compares the characters to a database or template of bitmapped characters. When the “image” corresponds to the database, the program identifies that image as the comparable plain text character.

OCR is not perfect, and there are limitations. For example, the software will not recognize text that has been highlighted, and it may not recognize graphics. Handwritten notes or signatures are nearly impossible to match. Also note that scans of faxed documents may not yield the best results. To ensure the best outcome, a high resolution scan will produce better character recognition. Documents scanned at less than 200 dpi will produce a less-than-optimal result.

As you see, electronic storage and OCR technology are powerful tools that can help you and your office become the epitome of efficiency!

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Breach – a gap in a wall, barrier, or defense

Posted on October 24, 2013 by Marty Pittman

When we’re trying to protect something, anything for that matter, the last thing we want to discover is a breach. When a breach is uncovered, we’re normally numb for a moment, then our minds race as we try to grasp the magnitude of the possible damage incurred.

No one likes to face the possibility of having private, sensitive information leaked to the unforgiving eyes and ears of the general public. Trade secrets, attorney work product, medical information, are all critical data that can damage the owners or clients if it lands in the wrong hands.

Some data breaches are of the low-tech variety. Documents that are placed in the recycle bin instead of the shredder. Sensitive data left out in the open for prying eyes, or critical papers misplaced or lost all contribute to data breach incidents.

Take a look around over the next few weeks and months and you’ll no doubt run across a news segment or read an article about lost or stolen documents, and the repercussions and ramifications of such a loss.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has a website that posts a list of breaches that occurred in the health sector that affect more than 500 (yes 500) individuals. Sort the information by state (in our case: NC), and look the type of infraction. Note that “Paper” is still one of the items at the center of data theft.

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Searching High and Low

Posted on September 24, 2013 by Marty Pittman

Search - to look into or over carefully or thoroughly in an effort to find or discover something

I was speaking with a business owner last week, and I was discussing the merits of having his files stored electronically. At first, he thought the idea seemed far-fetched, but I asked him one question and he realized that his current “storage” was cumbersome and antiquated.

I asked him to tell me what happens if a customer calls and has a question about an invoice, and let’s say the invoice was a year old. He told me that he would get a key, climb the stairs to an upstairs office and try to find the files which were stored in boxes. The boxes were marked with a Sharpie that indicated the month and year of the contents.

The more he talked, the more he realized that even HE couldn’t find a specific document at a moment’s notice.

I showed him several examples of scanned documents which were converted to pdf files, and I also pointed out to him how easy it is to find any PDF file at a moment’s notice:

Open Adobe Reader (FREE download from Adobe.com)

Press CTRL + Shift +F

Click the ALL PDF Documents in (Folder or Browse for Location…)

Type in the word or phrase you like to search for, and the search is on for every PDF file that contains the keywords you entered!

I asked him to imagine the ease and speed of simply being able to search the company files by using a surname, a date, a part, or an invoice number.

He told me he wasn’t a tech junkie or a “big computer person” but even a novice can appreciate the efficiency and advantages of electronic document storage.

Converting from paper to digital isn’t hard at all, and the benefits are many. There’s no time like the present to take advantage of all the functions and features of electronic data management!

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The Times They Are A-Changin' 

Posted on August 21, 2013 by Marty Pittman

I was lucky. I’ll go ahead and admit it. I was lucky. Many years ago (the mid 90’s to be exact) I had the good fortune to be a sales representative for an office equipment company. Back then, just about every company worth its weight had a copier. Most of them had fax machines, and even some had printers.

My job was to go in and evaluate the need, look at the document processes, and recommend a copier, fax machine or printer. Some office environments were easy to assess, and some were rather difficult to navigate as they contained labyrinths of bureaucracy, or multiple layers of office politics. No matter the environment, the plan remained the same: Present an easier, better (and sometimes a more cost-effective), way to help the company achieve its goals.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was sitting on the crest of a new age in office products. The analog age of copiers was about to phase out, and the sleek, aerodynamic age of digital MFP’s (multi-function printers) was about to transform office automation for the better.

Initially, I found that customers were reluctant to give up on their old copiers because they liked the familiarity of the unit. There was a certain comfort in knowing that the old duplicator was still chugging away next to the fax machine, which was situated beside the bulky printer.

That devotion to ancient technology dissipated when I showed them the ease and simplicity of the digital copier/printer/scanner/fax. The quiet, the space that it DIDN’T take, and the parts that it DIDN’T require were enough for clients to say adios to analog and hello to digital! I found that a lot of offices had no idea the technology was out there. It gave me a sense of purpose knowing that I made a difference in helping to chart a course for the customer.

Flash forward to 2013, and again I find myself on the precipice of office automation. Just about every office generates huge amounts of paper. That paper is either a record of information or a vehicle used to transfer information. In either case, the amount of paper generated piles up over time.

To access that information sometimes requires painstaking procedures. Is that important file labeled in a user-friendly manner? Is it located in some file cabinet in a storage area? Is it located off site? Is it in some box labeled “2010 files?” And what if the records get water damaged or fire damaged?

It would be so much easier to have those vital records preserved in an electronic format. The contents of that filing cabinet can easily be placed on a CD or DVD, and the required files can be called up with a few clicks of the keyboard and mouse. If need be, those files can be password protected to restrict viewing. Why would someone want to physically locate a hardcopy file and stand at a fax machine hoping that the transmission goes through on the first try? Electronic files can be e-mailed at the click of a mouse! Why carry a folder full of papers, when one can have PDF files stored for viewing on their smart phone or iPad.

Now, I’ll admit, I can’t help you with the problem of what to do with that freed up filing cabinet space or the room normally reserved for boxes that contained years of paperwork. That’s up to you. But I will admit I feel lucky to once again to be sitting on that crest of technology.

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