While it’s good to be informed about the basics of the process, it can be additionally helpful to see how others have navigated the process. I believe that we can learn a lot from each other’s stories.
This chapter will introduce you to several organizations like your own, who have successfully implemented an ECM.
You may recognize yourself in their challenges, and I hope you’ll be encouraged to see how easy the process has been for them. You’ll see the benefits that ECM has provided to real-life customers, and the ways it has improved their business.
My hope is that these stories will give you the confidence you need to take that step forward toward your own ECM project.
How One Organization Used Batch Scanning to Empty Filing Cabinets
Community Action Partnership of Suburban Hennepin (CAPSH) is an organization that works to improve the lives of low-income people in the suburbs of Hennepin County, Minnesota.
CAPSH utilizes outreach, energy assistance programs, home ownership services and financial counseling to help people achieve self-sufficiency and to break the cycle of poverty.
One of CAPSH’s largest departments is Energy Assistance, which is also one the greatest producers of paper files. It processes about 15,000 10 to 40-page applications every year. To make things even more complicated, CAPSH is required to keep these applications on file for four years.
These requirements resulted in thousands of files, and a huge storage issue. Cindy Hamilton, Electronic Document Management Systems Coordinator at CAPSH recalled the mess. “Files at various stages of processing were scattered among a number of different filing cabinets. A file inadvertently placed in the wrong cabinet could take hours to find.”
Finally, at the end of 2008, CAPSH found itself out of space to process and store applications. They began to look at electronic document management software.
After seeking advice from several other CAP agencies that had made the change to ECM, CAPSH selected and purchased Laserfiche.
Cindy, who had never worked with a document management system and claimed only basic computer skills was chosen to scan and organize the documents. She worked with a Laserfiche engineer from Solbrekk, to make the process as efficient as possible.
As they worked, they noticed that all application files had a page printed from E-Heat – the department’s main software application – which they used as a cover sheet for batch scanning. This page included all the information they needed: client first name, last name, social security number, household number, and program year. However, over the years the E-Heat program had changed, and so had the location of this important information on the printed page.
To remedy this problem, the Laserfiche engineer created a Quick Fields session that could find the information, regardless of the year it was produced. They were also able to use Laserfiche Real-Time Look-Up to validate the accuracy of the information by retrieving information from E-Heat and comparing the values.
Armed with this powerful Laserfiche Quick Fields session, Cindy was able to scan large batches of application files at once. The program separated the batch into individual applications, named the files, created folders, stored each application in a folder and populated its index fields.
Using this process, Cindy was able to completely empty 14 four-drawer filing cabinets the first year, and by the second year, every department’s documents were scanned and recycled.
“I remember the mess we had before,” Cindy said. “But now, with Laserfiche, any application file can be found in just moments.”
With the implementation of Laserfiche, CAPSH has been able to spend less time on frustrating paper issues. Now, they focus that time and energy on meeting the needs of the low-income families, and helping them find their way to financial independence.
How Laserfiche Workflow Increased One Agency’s Ability to Help Others
This article was originally published by Meghann Wooster on the Laserfiche website.
It is being used with permission and has been modified for this book.
Community Action Partnership of Ramsey and Washington Counties is a state agency that runs the largest low income home energy assistance program in Minnesota. This organization helps people who are struggling to pay for heat and basic utilities.
“In 2009, we had more than 25,000 active applications stored in 30 extra-deep, four-drawer filing cabinets,” explains Catherine Fair, Director of Energy Assistance Programs at the agency. “Due to State regulations, we need to keep past applications on file for three years, so we had even more paper stuffed into two on-site storage rooms and an off-site storage garage.”
Paper files slowed staff down, but they also complicated the energy assistance program’s twice-yearly audits. Fair explains, “As a State agency, we’re regularly audited to ensure that applications are accurately processed. Files are randomly selected by the auditors, and it was a daunting task to find the ones they requested among 25,000 others! Something had to change.”
Fair began researching content management solutions and found that Laserfiche’s name kept cropping up. “The tech sites I visited all mentioned Laserfiche as the industry standard for government organizations.”
Fair notes that Laserfiche Workflow, a business process management tool that enables organizations to automate manual processes, was a major factor in their decision to purchase Laserfiche. “We knew that automating our application approval process would make us more efficient and accelerate our ability to help households in need,” she says.
Laserfiche’s use of the TIFF file format was another big point in its favor. “Laserfiche stores files in the TIFF file format, which all computers can read,” says Fair. The IT department at the agency wisely steered them away from closed-file formats like PDFs. “If you choose a file format that’s controlled by a single vendor, you invite a lot of unnecessary risk from both an IT and an information governance perspective.”
After researching its options, the agency settled on Laserfiche Avante, an ECM solution for organizations with fewer than 100 users, from Solbrekk, a Laserfiche reseller in Minneapolis. This model fits their needs since multiple staff members frequently need to access the system at the same time.
“Another important feature,” says Fair, “is that the functionality and appearance of the Laserfiche user interface is similar to Windows. The familiarity is comforting for our less confident computer users.”
The agency threw a party to get their employees excited about Laserfiche and created a movie illustrating the way things were before Laserfiche, showing how easy the new process would be. They also provided training on how to use Laserfiche workflow to empower their staff.
Now that Laserfiche has been implemented, the agency is finding that it’s easier to complete the work they set out to do: help people.
“We receive thousands of calls from clients anxious to know if we can help them,” says Fair. “Before Laserfiche, these kinds of calls were hard to field, since staff didn’t have the relevant information in front of them.”
“Today, the calls are much more productive. We can find a client’s application immediately by looking in Laserfiche, and can then let the client know exactly what he needs to do to complete his application.”
The Laserfiche Workflow has also significantly changed things around the office. “By digitizing applications and automating the approval process, we have significantly improved crisis response time,” says Fair. “When an application shows a disconnection in progress, we route the file to an expedited queue simply by changing a template field. We can also sort through income documents much faster to determine grant amounts as soon as possible.”
Fair also appreciates Laserfiche’s security features, such as Windows authentication and named user access. This helps to protect client information, such as social security numbers. “The agency would face hefty fines if we had a breach of data security. With more than 100,000 files in four locations, we were taking a big risk.”
“Laserfiche protects sensitive information while making our business processes more efficient,” Fair concludes. “It has helped us tremendously and we hope that other non-profit agencies that deliver federal programs can learn from our success!”
How an ECM Helped Oral Surgeon Prevent Devastating Water Damage
Esthesia Oral Surgery Care prides themselves on their ability to combine excellent patient care with leading-edge technology. They work hard to make sure patients feel welcome and cared for throughout their visit.
Part of that is making sure that patient records are both secure and easy to access. For the head of Esthesia, Dr. Thomas Keane, getting patient records digitized felt like an important step in this process. Patient files were being stored in 4-drawer filing cabinets and were taking up valuable space.
With a HIPAA compliance deadline approaching, Dr. Keane decided there was no better time than the present.
Esthesia had been utilizing Solbrekk for IT network support for several years, so it felt like a natural progression to have them install a Laserfiche document imaging and management solution.
The staff was able to quickly and easily scan all patient records, files and forms into a central repository. They are now available instantly through a keyword or phrase search.
While many in the healthcare industry were scurrying to make the HIPAA deadline, Esthesia was already HIPAA compliant. They are also one step closer to Dr. Keane’s goal of a totally digitized office.
Each day, paper documents are scanned immediately into Laserfiche, and by the end of the day, they are paperless again. Any patient file can be viewed through Laserfiche in any room of the clinic. They have also been able to streamline their operations without disrupting the care of their clients or changing their daily routines.
Recently, Dr. Keane was called into work on a weekend by the property manager. There had been a water leak in the building and he needed to assess the damage.
Other building tenants were panicking. An employee at the medical clinic borrowed a digital camera to take pictures of the serious damage: hundreds of patient records were completely saturated and irreparably damaged.
When they asked Dr. Keane how many patient records he lost, he was able to tell them the wonderful truth: none. All his records were stored safely in Laserfiche and were backed up. He had nothing to worry about.