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How To Make Your Document Work-flow Effective

Everyone in today's organisation deals with documents. Most create, some edit, but everyone reads documents. Some documents are long and complicated, like a client proposal, a product manual or the staff handbook. Others brief, like client letters, brochures, CV's. Even the humble email is a document.

The question is not how to avoid documents, but how to manage them.

Creating and archiving documents.

In the paper-based world, documents are received, scanned, forwarded to the relevant person and finally archived. The workflow is focused on one person at a time and each work process is manual. This leaves you open to any number of risks:

  1. The document is received, but not logged, and the document gets lost in reception/the post room. Noone knows it arrived.
  2. The document is received, logged and scanned, but the scan is filed in the wrong folder and the hard copy is lost in the archivists in-box.
  3. The document is received, logged, scanned, filed, but only one person has access to the file. Noone else knows of its existence.

This is, hopefully, an extreme case, but it highlights the benefits of a consistent document management system.

  • No document passes reception without being scanned. The DMS system logs and files automatically.
  • Everyone (with the right permisions, i.e. sales, accounts, customer service) has visual confirmation of the existence of the document and can query its further progress in your organisation.
  • The person targeted by the document can work on it and his/her actions are recorded. Colleagues can pick up the task in case of absence.
  • Never again will anyone have to break into a colleagues email account in an emergency to retrieve a client document, when that colleague is away due to illness, holiday or have just gone home early.

The same issues are present when a document originates from inside your organisation, i.e. client proposals, brochures, client support letters, even document templates.

Document modification and change control.

By now most people agree that in a purely paper-based organisation document modification and change control is virtually impossible. For instance, the writer of a document submits it (on paper) to a superior for approval, only to receive it back with copious notes and corrections in the margin. The document gets changed and then resubmitted to the superior. In optimal circumstances it will now get approved and can be sent to its intended target. However, only the writer and the superior knows of its existence. If one or the other is out of the office, the document creation process gets delayed. If the document just awaits final approval, but the superior is traveling on business or is on holiday, releasing the document may be delayed for weeks for a process that would have taken one minute to complete.

The same document workflow could be finalised from the superior's mobile smartphone or laptop computer without having physical possession of the document.

In environments with more than one person working on the same document, only one person at a time can 'check-out' a document. It can be changed by others only when 'checked-in' again. The 'check-out'/'check-in' process secures that work is not duplicated by other staff, while continuously allowing others to see what is happening.

Document workflow.

In today's team-based business environment the 'lone wolf' manager is extinct. team-workflow-document-lifecycle-managementThe 'inclusion' philosophy in the workplace is underpinned my multiple theories promoting personality and management styles. Teams with diverse personality styles perform better than those with homogenous styles. For important work processes many people are required to have both an input and a decision role. Powered by the IT revolution, these people are often geographically dispersed. It is clear that the old-style, paper-based work-flow can not keep up with this world.

So, whether you agree or not, it is likely that your current organisation already contains at least part of these elements. How you harness them is up to you. If people in your organisation currently email documents to each other and it works - fine! If people name their documents differently and even append document version numbers differently, but it works - fine! If one central person has access to everyones email account so can intervene in emergencies when someone is out and that works too - fine! But, if you want to go further with your business than where you are now, you have to ask yourself if it is worth the risk, the cost and the hassle to continue this way.

Why not give us a call for a non-binding discussion of your requirements?


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