Kenn Fulk decided it was finally time to draw the line.
For the second time, Sterling Commerce Inc.'s Finance and Administration Systems department had outgrown its space and was moving.
Fulk, director of the department, was once again facing the task of storing the department's 300,000 pages of files. He'd have to build rolling files into the new space, at a cost of $50,000.
"We said, 'Enough is enough,'" Fulk says.
He found out Columbus' Fireproof Records Center had the capability to electronically image all the documents, and intellinetics Inc. in West Columbus had a software product called intelliVUE that would digitally process, store and manage large quantities of documents while making them Web-based and accessible to Sterling's 600-strong sales force in the field.
The sometimes major production of finding, copying, refiling and faxing a file suddenly became a one- to two-minute task that could be completed right from the employee's desk.
Matt Chretien and his father, Mike, founded intellinetics about 10 years ago, at first focusing on software for data and document management for the public safety market but later adding corporate clients and other federal, state and local government entities.
"IntelliVUE enables organizations to reduce or eliminate costs related to traditional records management," Chretien says. "And probably more important today, it allows organizations to enhance existing service levels and/or create new service abilities."
Sterling's cost to implement intelliVUE was $45,000 -- less than the structural improvements Fulk would have had to make for the rolling files.
Chretien says costs vary greatly from client to client because of three main factors: document volumes, the client's available technology and any necessary integration with other systems. In addition, some clients, like Sterling, find their own source to electronically image their documents, while others choose intellinetics to handle the entire process.
For Sterling, even just going through the set-up process would provide a benefit: The department would be able to clear out and organize the files.
"Instead of taking one or two people to do it, we spread it across 600 and allowed the problems to be identified by the users," Fulk says. "We did find out what kind of state our files were in, and it also helped us develop document flow processes to make sure we had more accurate information."
* The risk of someone misfiling a paper document was eliminated, and the documents would not deteriorate and could not be modified. "All the issues that come back with handling hard copies kind of disappeared," Fulk says.
* The product was simple to install and use, yet it allowed Sterling the capability to fax documents directly to a customer -- without ever touching paper.
* "We did a training session that must have lasted all of about 20 minutes," Fulk says. "We just set people loose on it because it's sort of intuitive."
* Sterling trained about 10 people originally; they shared their knowledge, as did others, until all 600 could use it.
* The ability to enlarge contracts that were often in very small print let the sales force eliminate uncertainties that could have been caused previously by the document quality.
* The process gave Sterling more backups of its documentation, previously available only on paper.
* Temporary employees who spent the majority of their time working with files now are put to better use in other functions, such as collections.
Sterling is moving to electronic document management in its other operating groups, which were consolidated into one with Sterling's acquisition last year by SBC Communications. Sterling is switching to a new image-viewing application and document-management system from a company in Dallas. The new system will, among other benefits, allow its contracts group to work with contracts online.
The new application also happens to be the most widely used application for legal firms in the United States, Fulk says, so the company knew it would have support in any location.
In all, about 1 million pages of documents will be available on the system.
"The total cost, when all is said and done, for the million documents accessible worldwide via the Web with security -- hardware, software, training and all," Fulk says, "will be under a quarter million dollars." How to reach: Kenn Fulk, Sterling Commerce, 793-3740 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Matt Chretien, intellinetics Inc., 921-8170, email@example.com or www.intellinetics.com; Fireproof Records Center, 299-2121
Joan Slattery Wall (firstname.lastname@example.org) is associate editor of SBN Magazine in Columbus.
How it all stacks up
* The average document is copied 19 times.
* White collar workers spend 70 percent of their time processing paper.
* Prevailing private industry estimates indicate that a worker performing in a typical department will take 12 minutes to process a document. Nine of the 12 minutes are spent searching for, retrieving and refiling the document, while 3 minutes are spent processing it.
* It is estimated that electronic document management technology will reduce time spent on nonproductive activity by as much as 75 percent.
* American businesses generate more than 2.7 billion sheets of paper that go into file folders every day. On average, the number of active files is growing 25 percent annually, and record storage costs are doubling every year. Source: Matt Chretien, president, intellinetics Inc.