“Move fast with stable infrastructure.” – Mark Zuckerberg
Document archiving and management can be very inefficient when not handled properly, and can also be a considerable pain point in large organisations.
To get some perspective, here are some facts that Pam Doyle found out about document handling in a 2010 research study:
- Professionals spend 5-15% of their time reading documents, and up to 50% of their time looking for these same documents
- The average document gets photocopied 19 times
- Users send and receive 133 emails a day (on average)
These kinds of facts highlight how inefficient document archiving and management practices can negatively impact productivity, but how does one address this?
Here are 3 tips that an I&O (Infrastructure and Operations) Leader can implement for better document archiving and management:
Complex workflows can be simplified by doing the following:
- Always capture content close to the data source: Ideally, your IT Infrastructure should allow for documents to be digitised without having to scan them.
- When digitising processes, also improve on existing paper-based processes: When you’re setting up a new digital process, there is an opportunity to streamline existing processes, instead of replicating inefficiencies.
- Use consistent naming conventions and/or indexing of documents: Make sure that your indexing system is aligned with business needs, and that you’re not gathering unnecessary data, as this puts pressure on IT infrastructure. Naming conventions need to be consistent, so that there is no variance of file organisation over time. The best way to do this is through custom document software that digitises and archives documents in a generic way.
2. Prioritise, Automate and Measure Business Systems/Processes
You can only measure the value of an implementation if there are quantifiable measures in place to benchmark and track progress. Often, businesses act too hastily and don’t put controls in place, so there is no way to measure if the digitisation process has been successful or not.
A few pointers:
- Identify and prioritise key business processes: First target 3 or less painful and document intensive processes- typically, the accounting or operations functions have the most paper intensive processes because of the need for signatures (i.e. quotes, purchase orders, invoicing, statements, proof of delivery, etc.). Firstly, define the functional outcome; this could be anything from reducing document storage costs, improving document accessibility and collaboration efforts, or ensuring POPI compliance. It is important to define these clearly and measure them against agreed upon KPIs e.g. “the organisation aims to improve the turnaround time on the processing of an invoice from 10 mins, to 2 mins within 2 months”.
3. Outsource or Insource Your Functions
Experts need to get involved to properly implement a new document management process.
Here are some things to think about when considering insourcing or outsourcing expertise:
- Is there enough expertise in-house?: Typically, businesses don’t hire I&O professionals to specialise in document management, because this isn’t a core function. If an organisation wants to build up in-house document management expertise, they must decide if there is enough expertise and man-hours available to dedicate to completing these project deadlines.
- Budget considerations: You pay for what you get, so a quality solution will cost you more than an average solution, but it is better than cutting corners (especially when considering a CAPEX on improved efficiency). A specialised skill-set is expensive, so be wary of potential suppliers and/or consultants who do not charge a premium, and identify your preferred supplier by seeing what POC (proof of concept) solution they come up with and what value they deliver.
- Capacity: The law requires a business to have all relevant accounting documentation ready for an audit, at any given time. This is a challenge when it comes to digitisation, because many businesses have warehouses full of legacy documents that are being kept, but which also need to be archived. We recommend outsourcing this kind of “dog-work” to suppliers who will respect confidentiality and can readily host old documents in a secure server which will not put strain on the business’ IT infrastructure.
When it comes to document archiving, workflows, and management there is a great opportunity to improve business practices and gain measurable outcomes in the long-term, as long as your document management strategy integrates with your overall IT and I&O strategy goals.