How to make document management sexy? Talk about the bottom line

Document management may not sound like the most glamourous term, evoking images of rusty old filing cabinets overflowing with paper. But, like it or not, document management is big business.

Sharing information is an integral part of business efficiency, creating more efficient, more cost-effective and greener organisations.

This piece will delve into why document management, a system used to store and track paper and digital documents, should be considered by the C-suite as a boardroom discussion, and what benefits effective document management solutions and processes can bring to a company as a whole.

Business sense, ‘green’ sense

At its most fundamental, document management is about more efficient use of paper. This might not sound like one for the CEO, but it can make a big difference to your business with the right, company-wide approach.

Firstly, there is big money to be saved. There is simply no longer a need to buy and run individual photocopiers, scanners and printers, for example.

Multi-functional products (MFP) can do all of the leg work. By consolidating office equipment with an MFO, organisations can reduce waste materials, electricity and toner- reducing emissions and costs.

Less paper means less waste. Print technology can help, but this needs to go beyond technology. Those at the top should drive initiatives which reduce paper waste, such as encouraging employees to think before printing, print double-sided, etc. This can reduce paper wastage by as much as 50 per cent - simple, yet extremely effective. In a large organisation, print management can easily be £100,000+ pa.

As well as saving you money and improving processes, this also helps you to reach those all-important environmental commitments. This makes you a more attractive organisation to do business with and in some cases can be critical to winning business from the growing number of organisations with rigorous environmental policies.

But this goes well beyond printing - it is about the company’s whole technology strategy. New technologies such as interactive whiteboards for conferences or tablet devices are ushering in a new age of security and collaboration.

From a cost perspective, money can be saved by sharing digitally, whilst also bringing many other benefits from increased security to data analysis opportunities.

From paper to people

One of the greatest benefits of document management is it shifts the focus from time-intensive and costly processes to higher value ones. With improved technology and solutions at their fingertips, staff can use their time to innovate, collaborate and offer creative ideas. Document management also improves productivity by eliminating the manual effort that comes with many admin jobs.

CEO’s should engage with this process because the results of document management offer important business insights and opportunities. Paperless working and digitisation of records free up crucial space and time for customer-led innovation.

Exploiting the benefits of client data can influence such innovation. Improved technology also ensures better internal communication within a company, a crucial part of empowering staff to innovate.

Change comes from the top

For any change management policy to successfully take place, those at the top of the chain need to 'buy in' to it.

Lessons can be learned from cyber security. 2014 has been riddled with stories on how cyber security is finally getting the boardroom recognition it deserves. Major financial institutions are leading the charge in bolstering their cyber defences, with many public and private sector organisations following suit of this integral issue.

Document management is equally crucial as it is the lifeblood of multiple business functions. So, why is it still being considered by many CEOs as an afterthought?

Implementing streamlined and automated document management systems should already be standard practice, something embedded within company operations. The right systems can ensure the smooth running of internal business processes, thus improving business performance. Furthermore, by decreasing the volumes of paper, you become more efficient and staff productivity levels soar.

Businesses need to respond to change to compete. This can only ultimately come from the very top. Effective document management can drive forward flexible working schemes, greater use of personal devices for work and increased availability of corporate data. Organisations that have yet to take the first steps to automating processes and digitising their business should not wait around much longer.

Alan Mason is director of outsourcing operations ah Ricoh UK.