The story of one business’s unexpected transition to an enterprise document management system

You wouldn’t feel too lucky if your business was hit by a hurricane. Particularly if all of your paperwork -- invoices, P.O.s, personnel records, receipts, everything -- was all just paper, subjected to the worst flooding in 83 years. But that was the unfortunate plight of one particular US$ 16 million transportation dealer this summer in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Hurricane Irene Strikes

The tragedy hit the ironically named Lucky’s Trailers. Headquartered right in the middle of Vermont at the confluence of the White River and mountain tributaries, coursing floodwaters ravaged the transportation equipment provider. The priority was getting 100 vehicles and trailers to higher ground. There was no time to salvage the paper. Eventually the lot was under 3½ feet of water. Down the road the high-school had water four feet high. The Perley-Severance Farm lost 25 cows and seven vehicles, including the farm tractor. The region was hit hard.

“For two weeks we were out of business,” said John Van Vught, Lucky’s financial and systems analyst. “Documents were gone -- we had to pry them out of file cabinets,” said Van Vught. “There was a huge dumpster for all the paper, damaged equipment and sodden carpeting.”

A Flourishing Business

Lucky’s had been blessed with good fortune. In 1986, dairy farmer Russell “Lucky” Dimmick began to acquire a line of construction trailers. Sales rose quickly and within five years the family hired a staff and outgrew its Randolph Center Farm. With more business and more trailers, the business moved to South Royalton on a 10 acre lot with a log cabin for an office.

Business continued to flourish. Lucky and his family established a strong reputation for honest sales and service throughout Vermont. In 1997, the business expanded again. The family took on an adjacent lot and constructed their current headquarters in a beautiful spot close to the White River.

Disaster recovery is all about risk management. The cost of ignoring disasters can be very high, including total collapse of the enterprise. The recovery of critical business data in the wake of a disaster poses a major obstacle for most businesses. In a recent survey by Iron Mountain, 68% of sampled businesses saw disaster recovery as their biggest business challenge. Only 44% successfully recovered their information after a recent event.

“We’d been toying with the idea of electronic document management before,” said Van Vught. Like other organizations, Lucky’s never acted on it.

The Silver Lining in the Cloud

Fortunately, there is a bright spot at Lucky’s. As they were working with their local supplier to replace damaged equipment and furniture, the exec mentioned digitizing all of their documents. “Magee Office Products had really stepped up to the plate for us,” said Van Vught. “Their software system recommendation meant a lot.”

Lucky’s learned that there were easy to use, yet highly robust browser-based document management systems that would be easy to implement. It would mean the end of vast files of paper. But more importantly, it would enable the folks in sales, service, operations and administration to gain great efficiency. The decision was carefully considered.

“We knew we did not want to get caught again,” said Van Vught.

They made their selection and opted for a cloud-based solution. They chose the simplicity and reliability of the cloud technology.

“Our enterprise document management system is very user-friendly,” Van Vught said. “It took minutes, not hours, for our employees to learn how to use it. The hardest part was getting over the natural reluctance to destroy all that paper. For years and years, we’d been chained to that paper cycle.” But they quickly gained confidence as the collaborative value of electronic document management became apparent.

Employees implemented new processes without any disruption. “Documents are accessed easier now. Daily routines are far more efficient. There is a significant productivity gain,” said Vun Vught. “We’ve also found that auditors, with their requirements for lots of documents, are easily satisfied now.”

Just a few months after Vermont’s rare hurricane, Lucky’s Trailers has six sales and 15 administrators online with access to documents that were piled up on desks or buried in file cabinets. Soon, they’ll bring their second location, just up the highway in Colchester, online, too.

You certainly wouldn’t feel fortunate if all of your critical documents were destroyed by flooding, fire, tornados, hurricanes, theft -- any disaster. Think of the lost business, the compliance issues, the legal risks. But consider the confidence you’d have if all your information assets were protected. You’d probably consider yourself very lucky.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said he “would not rest until Vermont is put back better than Irene found it.” He’d be impressed by the improvements over at Lucky’s Trailer Sales.

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