A Digitized District

Moving into the 21st-century means a ton of paper has got to go.

INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero

Jonathan Lincoln of etfileMost school districts are doing something with technology in the classroom these days, but why do so many central offices still have basements bursting with banker boxes, overflowing file cabinets and ever-growing stacks of paper? Solutions exist, and may be more affordable and easier than one might think. Case in point: Built from the ground up to provide a robust enterprise document management and automated workflow solution for any size business, etfile was founded in 1998. Their flagship client/server file sharing and document storage and retrieval system enables organizations to be more efficient and productive. Easily integrated into leading ERP and CRM systems, its content management and workflow software design harnesses the power and ease-of-use of the cloud for secure web-based file sharing, online collaboration, automated workflows, and

With today’s technology, continuing to file documents in paper is the equivalent of using a typewriter to write a letter instead of email.

advanced business analytics. More than 30,000 users across North America, the UK, and the Caribbean have deployed etfile’s solution and increased document management efficiency by up to 30 percent. “We enhanced etfile’s product portfolio offering this past July with the introduction of OfficeScope, a 100 percent cloud-based content management solution designed especially for Small-to-Medium sized businesses,” says Jonathan Lincoln, Director of Business Development and Marketing for etfile. “By moving from a client-server-based model to a self-service web-based product, OfficeScope will now service new clients in any vertical market.” What does that all mean? A school district’s central office can now quite literally clean out their vault of white-box storage files, lighten (or in some cases altogether eliminate) their paper load, and enjoy the pleasure of instantaneous document search and retrieval. Just how this all works is what Jonathan discusses in this enlightening interview.

Victor: Where did the idea for etfile come from? And why “etfile”?

etfile imageJonathan: Originally, the company offered management system for small companies. The idea for etfile came when one of our early clients — an insurance agency that was using our management system wanted to get rid of their 3,000 square-foot file storage room bulging with paper. They asked us to help develop a product to get rid of all their paper.

“etfile” really stands for electronic transactional filing which is how insurance agencies filed their files – in manila folders with records that linked paper files to the records inside the management system. etfile has since been enhanced to handle more than just scanning of documents, but migrates into email content and helps educational institutions replace their file cabinets with an easy electronic search — without going into a file storage room.

Victor: What are the specific etfile features that are most relevant to education sector?

Jonathan: The content management and automated workflow processes provides a modular suite of capture, distribution, process management, and integration tools to help school systems quickly search and retrieve files. This helps eliminate the time and labor in searching for files in file cabinets, making copies, and mailing them out. It also provides increased efficiency and document security since etfile expedites file search and retrieval and transmittal all with a just a click of a mouse – in a matter of minutes.

Using etfile’s enterprise-level document management system, Leicester Public Schools’ Administration Offices eliminated 50 years of paper by archiving old records. They also streamlined the filing of future documents and can now easily share all information across the entire school district of 1,900 students grades K-12. As the former superintendent of Leicester Public Schools, Paul Soojian elaborates: “With the new system in place, we are able to search by any key word to find a document. It is a huge savings on labor and time. If a school record is needed for a legal hearing, it can easily be found with a few clicks and sent to the lawyer in a matter of minutes – not hours.”

Victor: How else do educational institutions use etfile?

CREDIT etfileJonathan: Most educational institutions are burdened with legalities that require saving old documents — at times dating back to half a century. Most of these files are stored in storage rooms which cost annual fees to maintain or in basement floors of the schools’ central offices. On a regular basis, the administrative offices are faced with retrieving various documents for staff or students which may date back to a few years — or decades. This means that staff has to spend time searching through the old files — either on or off-site — locate the document, return to the office to make copies and then mail out the documents.

With etfile deployed, they eliminate this labor-intensive task. Institutions can scan and store their files in a central repository where documents are not only securely safeguarded from natural or man-made disasters but can be retrieved and transferred with the click of a mouse.

This allows educational institutions to get rid of paper files and file cabinets — and empty their file storage rooms and enjoy great savings which they can invest elsewhere. Schools can decrease their paper related expenses and easily integrate etfile’s document management solution to seamlessly scale with daily workflow process with the added security of streamlining file management.

Victor: How many schools or school systems have deployed etfile?

Jonathan: etfile started working with school systems in 2012 and has generated a lot of interest at trade shows and events. Currently three school districts have purchased the software with many more currently budgeting for it.

Victor: Can educational institutions really go paperless?

Jonathan: Educational institutions can most certainly decrease their paper use and scan and digitize each document into their system so future search and retrieval of these documents can be easily managed. Electronically processing documents as they are received means no more file cabinets and when a document is requested, the central office can easily search for the document using the keywords and transfer it to anyone requesting the document.

Victor: What’s the biggest benefit that etfile offers to educational institutions?

Jonathan: Increased efficiency, productivity and cost savings. Educational institutions can integrate electronic document imaging, filing and retrieval system into their daily business processes. etfile’s content management and automated workflow processes offers a modular suite of capture, distribution, process management, and integration tools. Administrators can easily monitor workflow on various projects – and determine how fast or how slow a project is progressing and where the bottlenecks are. They can also access all the pertinent information and documents from a mobile device, anytime and anywhere by tapping into the central repository to retrieve a document.

Victor: What are some of the tangible benefits and ROIs that etfile’s education customers have enjoyed?

Jonathan: Educational institutions that have deployed etfile have had monetary savings by getting rid of paper-related costs (from purchasing copy paper, to files, paper clips, file cabinets, etc.). More importantly, etfile has:

• Simplified file sharing of all types of paper and electronic content

• Streamlined data storage – stimulated online collaboration with secure storage solution

• Enabled document scan with various scanning methods

• Enabled importing of contact lists into etfile to automatically get indexed to a specific contact.

• Organized, indexed and retrieved information fast

• Saved time with faster and easier email retrieval and file sharing – no more lost emails

• Enabled keyword searches in the secure central repository

• Mobile accessibility for retrieving, reviewing and emailing files from the central repository through an iPhone, iPad, Android smartphones, tablets, and other popular mobile devices

• Integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Office and other popular business applications

• Leverages advanced business analytics for added security by running customized reports on users, folders, documents and more.

Victor: Any words of guidance to the education sector?  

Jonathan: School districts relied on paper archived records decades ago because that was the only method for record keeping. With today’s technology, continuing to file documents in paper is the equivalent of using a typewriter to write a letter instead of email. Unfortunately, many school districts continue to paper file because it is an afterthought, but the longer a district archives paper records the worse the problem becomes.

The biggest hurdle is to change the mindset of the employees doing the filing. I have seen in the past office workers complain and derail advancements at an office because they were comfortable doing things the “old way”. Many managers let their staff dictate the business processes because it’s easier than dealing with angry employees unwilling to change the way things have been done for decades. This results in a less efficient and more costly office.

Victor: What’s in the horizon for etfile? New features? New versions?

Jonathan: Etfile has developed a cloud-based version of its flagship document management system called OfficeScope. This new system is designed to do everything our legacy product does, but leveraging cloud computing. As school administrative offices move towards a Cloud environment, etfile will have the filing system product that will meet all their needs.

Victor Rivero is the Editor in Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: victor@edtechdigest.blog

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