“An effective document management strategy should also enable continual improvement across the business – of workflows and processes, of access to insights, user experience and more”
In the breakneck race towards digitalisation, it’s easy to lose sight of the important role the document continues to play. Whether printed or digital, document management continues to be a challenge and an opportunity for organisations of all sizes.
Even in today’s virtual workplace, paper dominates. The average UK office-worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper a year, and according to a recent Loudhouse survey, 37% of office workers in 500+ seat companies printed more than they did a year previously. It seems the decades old vision of a paperless office has yet to come to pass – and is now considered something of an outdated concept.
There’s no shortage of digital documents either. These are held, in dizzying volumes, across organisations. And the numbers are growing. Even in the paper-heavy sectors such as retail, finance, the legal sector, and education, the use of digital signature and ‘scan and send’ applications (often utilising cloud) has exploded. Aside from the speed and convenience benefits of a digital document, the ability to add metadata tags dramatically improves search, identification, categorisation and access.
Yet, whether physical or digital, documents rarely stay in one place. Workstyles are changing and today’s teams are highly distributed, often working flexibly, and more mobile than ever before. This means documents have the chance to travel – intentionally and unintentionally – further than was previously possible.
But everywhere they go, they need to be managed. Documents control is a must – not only to protect against loss or theft, but to ensure compliance with data protection regulations like GDPR.
The Evolution of Document Management
In order to understand the document’s journey, let’s go right back to the 1980s.
This is the decade where document management evolved with the increasing availability of computer technology. And its transformation has continued ever since. Even today’s document management services are unrecognisable from those of just five years ago.
It now encompasses all physical and electronic documents and files. It provides metadata storage, security and indexing and recovery functions. All of this allows companies to easily store documents, keep databases organised and – most importantly – index documents so that they can be quickly retrieved.
All This has Led the Way to Managed Document Services
Nowadays, true document management solutions optimise the entire document output process – from capturing to archiving, workflows to security. Whereas conventional managed print service (MPS) options typically focus solely on print output, managed document services (MDS) offer a move beyond that.
MDS creates a controlled print, copy and document environment that delivers hard and soft business benefits. MDS solutions usually combine hardware, software, servicing and elements of strategic consultancy.
The driver of most MDS deployments is cost reduction by rationalising print fleets and streamlining document workflows. Modern MDS deployments also increasingly deliver soft business benefits such as improved employee productivity, policy compliance and outbound customer service.
How to Make the Most of It
While managing the vast volume of documents is no easy task, it’s not solely a volume issue. Value is key too. How and where do we access the every-day information we need in our jobs – whether that be expense claims, customer communications, process guidelines and more? And, can we find the information within the files and documents – not just the documents themselves? It’s an increasingly complex environment, where ensuring both the management and smooth flow of documents can be a challenging activity.
Luckily, MDS can help you get it right and allow you to reap the rewards. Here are some practical ways it can help you streamline your workflows:
Example One: Simplifying Invoice Processing
Efficient invoice processing is a daily challenge. Each invoice must be reviewed, approved and processed in a timely fashion. Paper remains the primary delivery mechanism for many organisations. However, by digitising and automating this complex workflow, significant efficiencies can be realised. The below automated workflow is quick, easy and auditable at every stage. All related documents and information pertaining to a vendor can be found quickly with an efficient process of approval.
- Invoice received via email with a printed document attached and checked against vendor directory.
- Scanned and digitised using optical character recognition (OCR) software – capturing data and identifying meta-tags such as date of receipt, invoice ID, type of document.
- Invoice is automatically routed via content services software to be stored in both the invoice folder and inside the vendor directory.
- Having been identified as an invoice, an associated invoice workflow is triggered – for example, requesting a review from named individuals across the business.
- Review complete, the invoice is sent for final review and then back to accounts payable for payment.
Example Two: Digitizing Logistics Workflows
Logistics workflows goods can be complex, interconnected processes involving fleet management, inventory control, materials handling, order fulfilment, supply and demand planning, and the management of third party logistics services providers.
The number of documents is considerable. By digitising these paper-based bills of landing, freight bills, commercial invoices, certificate of origin, inspection certificates, export licences and so on, and automating the process in a similar way to the invoicing example, significant benefits can be achieved – in terms of accuracy, auditability and speed.
Example Three: HR Workflow
HR is a paper heavy discipline: CVs and reference information during the search process, tax-related data visas/immigration status, offer letters, contracts, training plans and so on.
Important documents need to be digitised, stored, managed and be readily and quickly accessible for authorised HR employees – so access controls are important. There will also be requirements to store documents for extended periods of time. Bringing all this personal data and documentation together in a single record with a structured document management process saves time and money, and assures compliance.
How Others Have Made the Move to MDS
Companies around the world are deploying new document management strategies:
- Deloitte introduced new MFDs and document accounting software to increase management control, streamline back office work processes and enhance environmental responsibility. This allowed the company to halve the number of devices and reduce paper consumption by 20%, leading to significant reductions in printing costs. Read more here.
- B Braun managed the move towards electronic document processing and standardised all its printer and copier systems. This resulted in cost savings, improved workflows and 75% less storage space for archived documents. Find out more here.
- Popular Polish bank mBank’s document workflows were transformed, becoming faster and more efficient by optimising the device fleet. The level of device availability increased, while costs fell by approximately 25% due to the low TCO of KYOCERA devices. Read more about mBank’s journey here.
Holistic Document Management Strategies
A one size fits all document management strategy is inappropriate in almost all cases: every organisation is unique, with differing operational structures, information requirements and workflows.
To ensure success, it’s important to first define the business need and project goals – then conduct a detailed analysis of the current information environment. For example, where are your documents stored, are they in paper or digital form, and how will they be accessed? Similarly, are there certain workflows where document processes are particularly slow, unreliable or expensive? It’s also worth looking longer term to gage the direction of travel of the industry/sector and consider the impact this may have on document management needs in 3-5 years time.
Uncovering the answers depends on collaboration across the business. True document management solutions are holistic in nature so it’s important to include all relevant stakeholders from the beginning of the project – this way the business is more likely to get a positive result. It also engages relevant parties, helping to expedite the final deployment and win user buy-in.
Does it Seem Like a Big Job?
Luckily, for many, this is a task already underway courtesy of the requirements of GDPR. But it is by no means the last word – not least because GDPR focuses only on the management of personal data and doesn’t require the holistic view of all information and documents necessary to drive the kind of transformation organisations need.
Next comes solution design and deployment – tasks increasingly outsourced to document management specialists who are more able to address the complex interdependencies of hardware estates, software options, workflows and the specific business requirements of individual firms.
But it doesn’t end here. An effective document management strategy should also enable continual improvement across the business – of workflows and processes, of access to insights, user experience and more. Optimising your deployment requires detailed, ongoing assessment and clear reporting to action insights and improve.
As you can tell from the above, it’s a big job for any organisation. But the results can speak for themselves, and make the hard work more than worth it.