Five Reasons to Use Electronic Records vs. Paper Records
Software makes it easier to move and manage documents electronically.
- Make your overall operations more successful through digital.
- Cost and space savings.
Documents and reports are the lifeblood of an agency. It is your responsibility as an organization to report and record daily events to protect not only those you work with but your team.
According to the Criminal Justice Institute, reporting has a unique role in stewarding safety and success.
As police officers, we have a duty and responsibility to complete detailed, accurate reports on a daily basis. In many cases, police reports are used to limit or decline the same individual freedoms written about by Thomas Jefferson.
In addition, as police supervisors, not only do we have to complete these reports, we also have the added responsibility of ensuring that subordinates complete their reports accurately and correctly. Lt. C. Lee Bennett was quoted by Nicholas Meier in Plain English for Cops saying, ‘All reports need to be complete and accurate.
Officers die slow and agonizing deaths on a witness stand far more often than, thankfully, from some criminal’s gun or knife in ‘real’ life on the streets. They risk dire consequences when cutting reports short in a number of ways.
In the past, law enforcement and corrections agencies relied on paper records to support their operations. Think bureaus and file cabinets to rifle through and paper documents strewn about the office.
Now, as technology advances, new software are making it easier to move to digital methodologies. Still, you may be skeptical of both how exactly digitization works and how it will fit in with your budget.
Overhauling your current paper system in favor of electronic record keeping may seem like a big project. And you would have good reason to be wary of the costs of digital records management.
Fortunately, cost-efficient, simple-to-navigate document management software is available and may make your overall operations more successful. So, what are the primary differences between paper records vs. electronic records?
As you plan the next step in managing your records, consider these five benefits of taking your records online.
1. Save Money
One of the most appealing reasons to make the switch to electronic record keeping is the potential for cost reduction.
Think of it this way. How many overtime hours do you pay out because an officer needs a record and ends up spending hours mulling through file cabinets trying to find it?
The cost of overtime can be prohibitive on its own, but you also have highly trained officers spending their days poring through folders and binders to compound the problem.
This issue can arise even with a dedicated clerical team as officers sometimes need records so urgently that they need to go digging themselves when a document management specialist is unavailable.
With the right electronic document management, you will have several other money-saving options in addition to centralizing your materials.
By removing file cabinets from the picture, you could also potentially downsize to a smaller office space. Also, training and testing online can mitigate expenses considerably.
An online training platform allows you to develop and conduct fully customized online courses. Because employees can take your classes independently, there is no need for classroom space, instructor fees or overtime pay.
2. Maximize Your Facility Space
Effectiveness in your industry means approaching success from every angle, from finances to facilities.
Your office plays a significant role in defining the culture of your team. It’s your home base, the space you work and develop as a team. If you lose the cabinets and go digital, you can make your facility space more effective – and potentially safer.
In extreme cases, offices might need to renovate because the weight of paper records caused floors to sag and walls to buckle. Even if you don’t have that problem, you are using expensive, valuable real estate space just so that paper can sit around in file cabinets.
You need to maximize the value of your fiscal assets, and going digital lets you make the most of your building space.
3. Protect the Environment by Reducing Waste
Your work as an organization is not the only thing that makes an impact on the world. Reduce your carbon footprint, and do your part to protect the environment.
Imagine you need to get 100 officers to sign off on a new policy measure that comes in a 10-page packet. That’s 1,000 pieces of paper, along with ink, toner, staples, and folders.
All of those resources add up over the course of a year. You will notice a bigger hit especially as regulatory policies change, new officers come on board, or you have to perform an internal audit.
Furthermore, you must distribute all of this paperwork, which often involves mailing expenses or forcing workers to print, scan and email files that have been sent electronically.
Keep in mind that this is just for one update. Those 1,000 pieces of paper increase exponentially as you add more updates.
Not convinced? Consider the following information about paper consumption from the Paperless Project:
Each year, the world produces more than 300 million tons of paper. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, printing and writing papers typically found in a school or office environments such as copier paper, computer printouts and notepads, comprise the largest category of paper product consumption.
This is an alarming figure considering the advanced technology of today’s world that is specifically designed to help offices go paperless.
You can make a considerable dent in those 300 million tons by bringing your document management online. With a tool like PowerDMS, your office alone can reduce waste by 280,000 pages.
4. Simplify Edits and Revisions
Creating strong content
Creating strong content within your organization is a team effort. The information you disseminate likely applies to many departments and individuals.
For this reason, you want to involve those people in creating your relevant documents. Confusion about who has seen and revised what is one problem paper documents can create.
Avoid the potential of disorganization and worse, loss of crucial information, by going online.
Engaging in the revision process
Another important thing to remember is the documents you will create are likely dynamic. This means that over time, revisions are inevitable.
Whether government standards or your office culture changes, you will need to update your content from time to time. Updates and edits will be much more time effective when all your content centrally located.
In general, collaboration is much easier when you use a content management software.
With all your most important files in one place, you can ensure organization from beginning to end.
Whether you are creating new documents and need input from others, or editing older documents to update your policies and procedures, simplify your process by adopting an online tool.
5. Make Access and Sharing Easy
What is the most important thing about your documents? In addition to needing strong, clear, and up-to-date content, the documents you manage need to be accessible.
Otherwise, your employees won’t be able to find crucial information when they need it.
Having all your documents online makes access easy for remote employees. It also means your team will be able to find what they need when they need it when they’re on the go or outside of the office.
Electronic record keeping enables you to store everything your employees need in the cloud rather than file cabinets. This way, everyone in your organization has 24/7 access to important information via their devices.
Finding the tools necessary for compliance and job success is not the only benefit of digital record management.
Reviewing documents is important. But if you don’t know who has read what, what good is the content you worked so hard to create?
With mobile-ready content, your team will be able to quickly review and sign off on policy materials and other documents. You can quickly see and understand the complete history of your documents, and you will always know when, and by whom, each piece was reviewed, revised, approved, and signed.
Think of it this way – it may take time and finances to implement an electronic recordkeeping system. However, managing your documents online will save you both time and money in the long run.
An end-to-end digital document management workflow will enable all of your employees to interact with records from a central online portal, making things easier for everyone.