Ever considered document management as a collaboration tool and a shared service?

In today’s digital environment where numerous technologies co-exist, paper is an obstacle to smooth and timely flow of information. While there is recognition of the need for reducing paper in business, there isn’t a real understanding of the benefits the approach can deliver to organisations.

So what can structured, well configured document management processes and automation offer businesses? First and foremost, converting paper to a digital format makes the former an ‘asset’. Electronic files are easy and cost-effectively stored; backed up for business continuity in safe and secure locations; instantly indexed and archived for fast search, retrieval and re-use – all of which is important for business operation.

Collaboration

Organisations typically see a document management system as a mere business application, but one of its greatest offerings is the capability to set it up as a shared service – both internally and for customers. Within an organisation, for example, establishing a shared document management system as a collaboration tool between the human resource and accounts departments eliminates duplication of data and makes things like payroll, pensions, on-boarding new employees and so on timely and seamless across both functions. In banks, often legal and corporate departments use document management processes to collaborate with traders on the floor to ensure compliance.

Similarly, organisations can extend their document management systems to clients and customers to enhance engagement. A top 20 UK audit and accountancy firm has set up a collaboration site for every single client that the firm services via its document management system. Now customers use the system as a default, secure, single location to store and share all their accounts-related paperwork – completely eliminating the need to share information via email or other means.

A joined up approach

Many organisations today have multiple offices and departments, with each workplace organically adopting its own methodology for document management. This makes it difficult for teams spread across office units to work together, as typically each would have their own styles and formats for the same or similar records. This results in unnecessary duplication of documentation, and can lead to inaccuracies creeping into data that is stored and used. An organisation-wide document management strategy ensures that there is a ‘single version of the truth’ that is accessible by all parties and teams concerned. To illustrate, a private equity and asset management firm with five offices in Russia and the Nordics has created a single, virtual office by streamlining document management – cross-teams now work on several deals and have complete visibility of the related information, which is accessible based on stringent rights management.

Compliance

With the regulatory burden growing, devising an efficient way of preserving and managing electronic records is imperative for reducing risk and aiding compliance. In the absence of automated processes, it becomes impractical for organisations to apply policies for document retention and retirement as it would require them to manually look at every individual record to decide whether to retain or delete it. This is grossly impractical. Can you imagine how impossible the situation can be for corporates that are involved in multi-jurisdictional engagements? Businesses need capabilities for version control or locking down documents, to restrict access to and to enforce accuracy of data.

In fact, as laws and regulations are not static, some banks even set up system alerts in their document management system to inform staff of critical, new developments in a timely manner.

Confidentiality

Discretion is essential for any business. Organisations can configure document management processes for security based on confidentiality requirements and internal document management policies. So security could be set at the workspace, folder or document level with users/documents automatically inheriting access rights – such as for how long the documents must be stored, who can access them, what folder structures should be used, etc. Automatic time-out sessions can be applied to documents so that information isn’t accidently kept open. Also, when documents are distributed internally, they can be sent via emails including links to a single instance. This ensures that there is no confusion on the version of the document and everyone works on the most up to date dossier.

Productivity

Significant productivity and efficiency gains can be achieved by automating document management processes. Organisations can create ‘workspaces’ where all information relating to individual client engagements, deals, functions or whatever it might be, can be stored from across data sources – everything from correspondence, images, data, presentations, policies, voicemails, contracts and more. Without automation, document management is a demanding, time consuming and costly task. A global IDC survey (including the UK) shows that information workers waste 12.1 per cent of their time per week dealing with challenges related to document creation and management – all of which translates into loss of productivity.

There is a strong business rationale for using document management as a collaborative tool. Implemented well, it can even enable organisations to devise new ways of working and differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

Jon Wainwright, Sales Director, Ascertus Limited

Image Credit: Tischenko Irina / Shutterstock