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October 3, 2019

The Importance of Uncovering Your Data Heat Level

Alex Fielding

(Kocsis Sandor/Shutterstock)

How many times have you walked by rows of file cabinets or paper-filled boxes at your office, and thought to yourself, “How can we possibly have so much paper? Can’t we just toss it? Everything’s digital now.”

Believe it or not, we are nowhere close to eliminating our use of paper. The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year. So even if you were to get rid of the space-hogging paper storage, it would likely quickly be replaced by even more paper. It’s a vicious cycle countless organizations struggle with, but what most aren’t even thinking about is the value in on all those dust-collecting documents – the “data heat.” How much current and potential revenue could be accrued from the information inside each of those boxes or file cabinets?

At this point, you likely have a lot of questions – mostly centered around, “how in the world is that possible – to extract valuable information from all that paper, some of which is more than ten years old – without breaking the bank on resources?” Let’s look at two key pieces to the puzzle: modernizing your approach and understanding the cost vs. the benefit of enlisting a partner.

It’s 2019, Stop Scanning

Picture this scenario. You have 2,000 boxes of paper stored in your office, and more than half of those boxes contain documents from before the Internet era. It’s easy to think, “there’s nothing useful in information that old.” I work with companies daily who quickly realize that this couldn’t be further from the truth and that their data heat temperature is actually quite high.

What undiscovered data gems are hidden in those files? (Andrey VP/Shutterstock)

In fact, I recently worked with some of the world’s largest oil and gas service providers, helping them digitize and analyze thousands of archived oil logs and documents that were untouched for more than a generation. The result? The service providers uncovered $4 billion in “new pay,” industry jargon for pockets of oil in existing fields that had not been previously identified.

This is just one of many examples. There are timeless industry insights at every company that can equate to answers to today’s work problems, increased revenue and more. Yet, even if you’re convinced that your organization’s data heat is melting hot, it’s understandable to be overwhelmed by the task at hand – just think of all the staples that will need to be removed, let alone the total amount of time needed from a team senior enough to be able to identify what is and is not important.

You have the option to take your 2,000 boxes to a scanning service, like those provided by Office Depot or FedEx, yet the quality is often disappointing and in the end your left with a massive PDF document that can’t be analyzed or searched through with even the simplest keyword tools. What good has scanning really done you?

Thanks to the proliferation of both AI and cloud technology, there are exciting new methods available to help you turn your data heat into data gold.

Consider a Partner to Help you Digitize

You may now be wondering – how do I assess my company’s data heat before diving into a major document capturing initiative? Let’s look at a retail example.

Retailers increase their in-store workforce during the busy holiday months. Let’s say that a large retailer hires 4,000 temporary workers to get through that time of year. When those contracts expire, it’s likely that many of those workers will file a claim for unemployment even though they were temporary workers.


Now, the retailer’s HR department will need to revisit the initial HR paperwork connected to each temporary hire. And time is of the essence in a situation like this. But what organization has time to sift through more than 4,000 pages of application papers to uncover the details of each contract. Going through an audit is one alternative, but at a price tag of $100k or more, and with the potential of failing the audit, is that really a viable option?

In this scenario, you’ve uncovered data heat in the form of saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in audit fees. So would it be more cost-effective to bring on a modern technology partner to help you turn the documents around quickly? Probably, especially when you view the partnership like an insurance policy – you need to have the data digitized and searchable, for situations like these, because going through and possibly failing an audit would be too catastrophic.

Just several years ago, you probably wouldn’t have been able to find someone that could help you turn something like this around quick enough to make a difference. But today, digitization can be greatly simplified by leveraging advancements in relationships between computer systems and robotics. This technological progress means there are now options available that not only help organizations physically and robotically sift through papers, transcribe information and convert it to digital formats, but even more importantly, ensure the information is collated, classified and structured appropriately for smart, AI-driven analysis and evaluation.

At the end of the day, it all goes back to the data heat concept. Answering the question – “should I bring on a digitization partner?” – should be answered by how high your data heat temperature is. If you know you have loads of valuable information, just waiting to be uncovered, you may be tempted to fill one or more new positions to address the need. At, let’s say, $20/hour, that’s $38,000 per year for just one person. Does this provide you a greater ROI than a digitization partner? The answer is likely no, especially considering the benefits of today’s smart technology that uncover information and analyze data in ways humans are just incapable of doing – especially at speed and scale.

So, the next time you find yourself staring at your rows file cabinets, perhaps your perspective will change from woe and worry to excitement around what is possible.

About the author: As CEO, co-founder, and member of the board of directors for Ripcord, Alex Fielding is responsible for the leadership, vision and execution of the company. Fielding started his career as an engineer at Cisco Systems and Apple, where he worked on multiple generations of MacOS, PowerBook, Network Server and was part of the first iMac team. Fielding co-founded Wheels of Zeus with Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak in 2001, which was sold to Zontrak in 2006. Alex was CTO, Federal Government at Power Assure and then VP at Vigilent before starting Ripcord. Alex sits on the board of directors of The Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME), is a board member of the Code Warrior Foundation, and is a founding member of Singularity University. He is an Orange Telecom mentor in their Mentor Fab startup accelerator and an Advisor to Astra Space.

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