When it comes to rock-solid proof of responsibility or fault, few pieces of evidence are as useful—or indisputable—as a photograph. That’s why restaurants, auto insurers, apartment management companies and health inspectors take millions of photographs every year. In case of a dispute or lawsuit they want to mitigate their risk by being able to prove they were in compliance with all relevant laws and codes.
Despite the value of photographs, however, most companies haven’t integrated image management into their IT systems. This not only makes it difficult, if not impossible, to provide potentially exculpatory evidence, but it is also a significant barrier to establishing formal protocols for using photographs in existing inspection workflows.
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This happens every day in just about every industry: A man falls down a flight of stairs and claims it was due to a loose tile or a wet floor. A health inspector walks into a restaurant right after a spill and doesn’t believe the floors are usually kept dry. A driver misplaces the snapshots she took of her car after an accident and now has no way to prove who was at fault.
It’s hard to overstate the value of reliable access to images. Avoiding liability is just one way inline photographs save business owners money. Photographs can be used to show proper procedures were followed when constructing a new building or renovating an existing one, to ensure a restaurant is up to code, to document damage in a rental apartment, and many other key business processes.
Bringing order to chaos: Implementing a system to manage inspection photographs
What if a building owner or restaurant manager could instantly access timestamped photographs proving the floor was clean and the tiles were firmly in place? What if the driver could send photos directly to her insurer through a mobile app, eliminating the potential for loss? Suddenly, the facts can easily be uncovered thanks to mobile technology and the power of inline photographs. All it takes is a system to manage them.
For most companies, that system is probably broken. Digital photography makes taking pictures easy, but companies often lack a means to store and access images. Instead, individual employees store photos on their phones and email or text them as needed. There’s no organized search option, no standardized timestamping, and no way to link photographs directly to the events or items with which they are associated.
This inefficiency can be costly even before factoring in liability. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, 7.5 percent of all company documents go missing, and finding a lost document costs $122 on average. Recovering 750 documents would cost more than $90,000—without even factoring in the time and resources required to recreate lost items.
Every company can avoid the risk and attrition of chaotic and separate systems by integrating inline photography through a mobile platform that gives users the ability to take digital photographs and automatically upload them to a centralized system, appended to the right inspection or audit.
It’s easy for professionals in the field to record valuable evidence if all they have to do is point and click, and management can find any image they need at the push of a button. Photographs offer a simple way to record a given moment in time. IT teams need to find a way to leverage them effectively to drive business value and reduce liability.
Insurers such as Allstate are already integrating inline photography to streamline their claims processes, and I urge companies in any industry where visual records pay dividends to follow suit.