As we have seen with contracts, there is a lot of data, information and work to do in the life of a company, generated by documents. Each and every document that arrives to the company - except, of course, advertisements and the like - is likely to indicate some kind of operational activity. In this approach, therefore, any document will have tasks, or a complex chain of activities involving many participants. Document creation - contracts, offers for example - also involves a number of participants, lots of tasks, approvals and so on.
As a first step, let's interpret and define the documents in the light of the above! Today, we can no longer limit the definition of a document to a collection of paper or electronic document files. The reason for this is precisely the combination of the features described above: tasks can be created not only by paper documents or Word files, but from any data format that contains comprehensible information to process. Let us expand the concept of the document accordingly. Any data that contains information to be processed should be considered a document. So what datatypes are common that meet these criteria?
It can be seen that, in the above interpretation, the concept of "document" means something quite different from the ordinary meaning. Conversely, the application of this approach is important because, if the concept of a document is narrowed to paper and electronically generated written data, information received through other channels will be "lost", that is, not necessarily processed because of its nature. For this reason, a broader interpretation of the term "document" is necessary; accordingly, when referring to documents, all types of data referred to herein, as well as others which have the properties already described, are referred to herein as a document.
Before reviewing document management at process level, we would like to suggest a possible way of organizing and categorizing documents. We can categorize our documents as described above. However, these categories will, in a sense, be the main categories, while further organization within the categories will result in sub-categories.
Accordingly, for example, the following system may be used when categorizing our documents:
Or we can define our categories by organizational unit:
Each of these main categories can be subdivided into sub-categories, so if you choose to use a document management system, the existing hierarchy in the system can be easily mapped. It is also important that a document can fall into several different categories. This method must be supported by all document management systems, that is, it shall not categorize each file and folder in a tree structure. Thus, the following cases are conceivable:
The point is that each document is logically organized, yet identifiable in many ways. The same applies to filing, archiving, and otherwise managing documents, but these are not part of this entry, as they are separate disciplines.
After defining the main categories, we can divide our documents into further subcategories, just as we did with our contracts. This allows you to further define your documents based on the additional features of such documents, and to make them easier to find later if needed. In fact, if you use a document management system, you can retrieve any of the main or sub-categories of your paper-based documents anytime you need them by pre-digitizing these. Using the above procedure, we can organize and store our documents in a systematic way in case we only manage a relatively small amount. However, the following problem arises: Almost all documents create tasks or complex chains of activities for us, so even if they are properly stored, our tasks will not be clear. What's next?
When organizing your documents, you should pay special attention to knowing what type of activities are related to each document type. This is unlikely to be determined with 100% accuracy for all documents, but can be interpreted for most document types. This way, when we receive or produce a particular type of document, we will always know what to do with that particular document. Of course, it would be impossible to keep all of this in mind or to manage it on paper, even for smaller volumes of documents, so it's worthwhile to implement a comprehensive document management system that meets your needs, effectively supporting systematic and process-oriented document management.
After we have organized our documents and mapped our tasks, we need to translate this into practice in order to be successful in this endeavor. A state-of-the-art, customizable document management system provides comprehensive document management features. For example, the categories described above are translated into so-called registries, so you always see where a document is available. In fact, if you subdivide it into further subcategories, the document will be searchable by this classification. In addition, it is important to be able to mark each of our stored documents arbitrarily - so you can find them by searching for them without having to browse through categories. The xFLOWer DMS, however, offers even more: it can automatically assign tags to documents, managing all the tags: to which client does the document belong? Who is responsible for this document? What is the document like? When did the document arrive or when was it created? It also ensures that only those people who have a job with them, or who are authorized to access it can access any document managed by sophisticated permission controls.
We have already mentioned that the power of a document management system cannot really be harnessed without process support. That is, the document management system has to handle the related processes as well, since we have found that almost every document has activities, tasks, responsible, deadlines and so on. If you are aware of which document is associated with the process (in other words, what needs to be done with it or because of what it contains), tasks can already be mapped as a business process in the workflow engine of our DMS system. Accordingly, when a particular type, category, or otherwise identifiable (tagged) document is uploaded into the system, the workflow will immediately 'know' what process to start with the document. Accordingly, the workflows associated with given documents run through it, and the system checks that all required actions are completed, monitors deadlines, lead times, and document changes, in short, anything that is needed to complete the process.
In conclusion, the first step in eliminating corporate chaos is to organize your documents, as this is where most problems can occur (I can't find it, lost, not the right version, accidentally deleted, where is the email, etc.) and saves us most wasted time and resources. However, as administration can be a heavy burden on small companies, the real solution is to implement a document management system that supports process management and workflows too, and is tailored to the budget of SMEs.
If you liked what you have read so far, stay tuned as we will review the subject of approvals and denials from the perspective of efficiency in our next post. (How much time does a company spend just having to wait for someone's decision ...?)