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Subject: Re: "Paperless" - was Preserving Media Forever
From: "Hilliard, Mary" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Records Management Program <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 7 Oct 2003 18:09:39 -0500
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I am just playing catch up on this topic, but feel I have to weigh in with my thoughts.  I have been in the IT world long enough to remember the early 80's when the paperless office was considered to be just around the corner.  I am fairly new to Records Management and come to it from the vantage point of my role as an analyst involved with a document management system.

Our document management system was born in response to requirements to back up some vital records - and the majority of the documents in our repository are scanned images.  When we converted to a new system two years ago, we gained new capabilities - including the ability to commit documents directly from Word, Outlook, etc.  From our vantage point, if the value of a document is in the information and not the media, and the users can get the value from utilizing an electronic copy, then the extra labor involved in creating a paper copy and scanning it is a waste of labor.  But that does not mean we don't have lots of paper - and many users and storers of paper - and will continue to have them.

While many people worry about the issue of migration, the fact is that Microsoft has not been negligent in making sure that old documents and applications, even those from early versions of Word are still accessible and if for some reason that changes, there will be a huge industry devoted to making tools for converting these documents - the fact is that there are way too many of them out there - whether they are only the unmanaged "convenience" copies that are, in fact, what many people have and use daily, or the electronic copies in many repositories.

The crux of the issue is what works for the users of a business process. My job involves educating management on what document management tools are and how the system works, analyzing the business process that is involved, and determining who needs to retrieve the documents and what the security requirements are, then working with the users to find the correct mix of indexes to make committing the documents as efficient as possible while making retrieval easy and comprehensible to the users of the documents.  This is a continual learning process, but one which is working very well for us.

The range of departments who are using our document management system are diverse.  The one I want to mention here is part of our legal group - a section that involves two attorneys and three assistants.  This particular section has not created a paper document since January of 2002.  They have requested that most documents that are sent to them be sent in electronic format - some of these are email, some Word documents and come are already .PDF or .tiff images.  They commit the documents using the same database the department has always used for tracking the matters they are working on - plus adding indexes to indicate the document type and the retention period.  Most of their documents do not have long retention periods - 7 years is the average.  To date, they have over 11,000 documents in the repository.  They do still use paper at times, but have found that this system benefits them in terms of ease of records management (every document already has a retention period associated with it), finding documents (some of their files have over 50 documents in them - now they sort by date or document type instead of flipping through pages), storage, availability (a paper file that is out of the drawer is no longer a problem).  Our system has enough backup capability that they have never been unable to retrieve a document when they need to.  I could go on.

This would not work for everyone - but for this group, it has made life easier and they are very pleased to have less paper to shuffle.

Mary Denker Hilliard
Systems Analyst
Office of Information Resources
University of Texas System
201 West 6th Street, 2nd Floor
Austin, Texas   78701
(512)499-4557
fax (512)494-3408

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