The Document Management Playbook Simplified

As the NFL prepares to kick off its regular season in September, fans are mulling over their favorite teams’ playoff chances, how well recently drafted rookies might perform, or perhaps whether the Philadelphia Eagles can repeat as Super Bowl Champions this season.

Coaches, however, may be wondering if their newest players will grasp the nuances of their complex playbook.

To most, an NFL playbook can be nearly as indecipherable as ancient runes. Some playbooks run as much as 800 pages long.

Rookies have a steep learning curve when they arrive at training camp – they have to rapidly move from learning core schemes to memorizing multifaceted variations based on team-specific alignments and on-field changes. A single play can have dozens of options.

Once the season begins, the playbook changes and grows, requiring players to rapidly recall even more complex schemes – all while huge and quick players on the opposing team attempt to counter every move. This process is so complex that Sports Illustrated once asked a neuroscientist to analyze it.

Consider the challenges those NFL rookies face the next time you have to train a new hire on your own internal document management processes.

You may be thinking: “certainly our document handling processes aren’t as complicated as these playbooks – full of football-speak, dots, letters, arrows, and abbreviated instructions? Documents are created or received. They are copied, distributed and filed. It’s all quite straightforward.”

Except that it’s not. If you are still handling and distributing documents in your organization manually, there is likely a laundry list of special instructions for certain types of documents or certain scenarios/ Most of those protocols exist only in the heads of veteran employees in the mailroom, or the office management staff.

Some managers request a copy of every document that passes through their department; some could care less. There are high-priority documents that must be distributed to multiple parties as soon as possible. For example, while Jim in accounts receivable is on vacation, all of his mail has to go somewhere.

New employees generally only learn the nuances of these processes through experience, and then only after making numerous mistakes. Some organizations tackle this problem via knowledge management – wringing the information from existing employees and finding some way to aggregate and communicate it to newbies.

A better approach could include automated document management. By combining high-speed automated sortation and scanning with advanced document management software and analytics, you can take the guesswork out of document handling.

Optical character recognition, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and rules-based routing and archiving technologies can greatly streamline document management. Once documents have been scanned and entered into the data stream, they can quickly (often automatically) be categorized and distributed without any manual sorting or copying. This not only eliminates hours per day of labor but also increases the security of the documents, since multiple copies are no longer being made.

Electronically tagged and stored documents can also be retrieved more quickly than paper items. Rules can be established so that documents are rerouted based on employee availability and document contents.

In addition to making documents flow faster and more accurately through your organization, automated document management makes it easier to bring new employees up to speed. Unlike an NFL rookie, they won’t have to memorize and learn new procedures on the fly, or risk getting caught flat-footed when they forget a play and find themselves running in the wrong direction. (Dolphins rookie Kalen Ballage got kicked out of a huddle recently for exactly that problem.)

So consider yourself lucky. There’s no way to automate the use of an NFL playbook, but your document management process doesn’t have to be complicated, cumbersome, and challenging.