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By Stephanie L. Jones

RISMEDIA, Oct. 14, 2008-If you’re like most people, your desk is piled high with file folders. Your inbox is full. Your outbox is full (because you don’t have time to re-file). While a desk like that usually means a lot of work is being done, there is another way. A huge reduction in paper and a big increase in productivity can result when you implement a Web-based document management system.

Document management, or document imaging, is the practice of digitizing, indexing and archiving both paper and electronic documents for easy storage and retrieval. Many real estate agents and brokers are turning to this technology to keep track of mortgages, deeds, loans, affidavits, and other legal documents they are used to storing in large closing files.

Is this something that would work in your office? Let’s look at five reasons why you should consider document management:

1. You can save money. With a document management system, you can reduce the amount of paper you buy and virtually eliminate postage, photocopies, fax machines, couriers and off-site storage. You can also decrease your paper consumption costs because you can directly e-mail or fax documents instead of printing and mailing cumbersome paper files. Using this tool, your employees will quickly become more efficient and productive – giving them more time to focus on other tasks – which will save, if not make you, money.

2. You can save time. With document management, you can have instant access to files. Scan documents once and never print them again. No filing or searching for folders. View documents without leaving your desk. If you or your key employees frequently travel for business or work from home, you can easily access original files through any Web-based document management system. At the airport or in your home office at 3 a.m., you can pull up the files you need using index or keyword searches.

And, if you have multiple offices, you won’t need multiple copies of documents. Storing them in a central location will let employees retrieve them from anywhere – even simultaneously. By placing e-mail correspondence in the same electronic filing cabinet as contracts, leases and other documents, it will be faster and easier for your employees to look at client information and correspondence. No more putting people on hold. Most document management systems will work with your current contact management software, so you won’t need to store files in both places. If you change contact management providers, your electronic files will remain intact and available.

3. You can free up space in your office (or garage) by eliminating old files and filing cabinets. Electronic files are legally accepted as the original. Shred cumbersome paper files, save space and turn filing cabinet areas into productive work areas. “We were out of space until we started using document management,” explained Jim Longstreth, Your Neighborhood Realty, Inc. of St. Petersburg, Florida. “We now have an agent in the space our filing cabinets occupied previously.”

4. You will be creating a disaster recovery system. Meaning natural disaster and man-made disaster – like a lawsuit. Floods, fire, hurricanes, earthquakes, vandalism and theft place paper files in jeopardy each day. With a document management system, you can rest assured that your company is still in business when disaster strikes. The more you scan, the less you have to lose! Most document management systems will help you meet Federal privacy and security regulation. As a bonus, you’ll meet industry and city, state and Federal rules and regulations regarding record keeping and retention.

5. You can be part of the “green” movement. With Web-based document management, you can virtually eliminate all of the paper you file today. It takes one tree to make approximately 85,000 sheets of paper. How many trees can you save this year by printing documents electronically instead of traditionally?

Real estate professionals will be surprised at how quick and easy it is to learn and implement most document management systems. Many document management providers, like eBridge Solutions of Tampa, Florida, provide training entirely online in less than two hours.

“We realize that implementing a document management system in a traditional office is a big change,” explained Leslie Haywood, CEO of eBridge Solutions. “We try to do as much as possible online while new users are at their desks. This allows them to put the new technology into practice right away.”

Stephanie L. Jones, MBA is the Marketing Director for the Web-based document management company, eBridge Solutions, in Tampa, Florida.

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