County courts across the country are eager to eschew cumbersome paper records and filing cabinets in favor of streamlining operations by leveraging document imaging and other conversion services.
In August, The Daily Leader reported that the circuit clerk's office in Lincoln County, Miss., has made significant strides by scanning more than 1,500 documents dating back nearly three decades, with the hope of becoming "as close to paperless as legally allowed" by the end of this month, according to county circuit clerk Dustin Bairfield.
Iowa's Cerro Gordo County is also in the midst of a transition to a paperless business process management system. KMIT-TV reported the County Clerk of Court's Office will save an average of 300 pages per case upon foregoing the use of paper documentation, a switch that will officially occur on October 1.
"It's where everything's going right now," County Attorney Carlyle Dalen told the news source. "Computerization and software programs to make life easier and make information more accessible is the future."
In addition to boosting the accessibility of important documentation, there are several other benefits to establishing a paperless office.
1) The environmental impact
When most people consider how going paperless can impact the environment, their first thought probably has something to do with saving trees, and County Attorney Dalen is no exception.
"The volume of paper that goes through this office is unbelievable," he said, as quoted by the news source. "The copies that we make and that we have to file [as] part of our filing system is just unbelievable, so if saving trees is part of this I'm all in favor of it."
In addition to using trees – its most famous component – the paper-manufacturing process involves copious amounts of water and chemicals. In this regard, finding paperless alternatives also means less water is wasted and a reduced amount of chemical compounds are released into the environment.
2) The organizational impact
The more items that are crammed into an office space, the higher the potential for clutter and disarray. Even the most organized of office managers might struggle to keep things straight in the face of a seemingly endless barrage of paper – and after everything's been properly stored, they still have to contend with all the space taken up by filing cabinets and other storage receptacles. Not only do electronic documents take up zero physical space, but they also remove the barrier of workers needing to be physically present at an office in order to access information.
3) The security impact
Organizations that boast offices with streamlined paper filing systems might think they can rest easy in the knowledge that specific documents can be immediately located – but what happens when the system gets compromised, either as a result of human error or some kind of act of God? The one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy battering the East Coast last October is rapidly approaching, which should act as a red flag to companies that still store their records – and any backups – in one place.
Indeed, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently released a risk alert recommending that financial advisors shore up their disaster recovery and business continuity plans to minimize the destruction wreaked by future natural disasters, but the agency's warning holds true for professionals in all industries. Specifically, the SEC advised paying attention to alternative location planning, key vendor preparedness, reviewing and testing, telecommunications services and technology, communication plans, and preparations for widespread disruption.
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