Archive Like A Pro: 5.5 Document Management Best Practices

document management best practicesWhether it’s required by law or just seems wise, an archive stores proof of what your organization says it has done. And if your archiving system follows document management best practices, retrieving and presenting that proof should be fast, easy and efficient.

The first thing is to understand your goals with archiving. Most businesses archive paper documents and electronic files as a key element in financial records management. These materials may see only occasional use, but could be essential to ensure compliance and helpful in disaster recovery or resolving disputes with clients.

The challenge then is ensuring the information is secure against loss, damage or unauthorized use, while providing fast, easy access to those who need it for business purposes. Perhaps your goal is to give colleagues access to documents, but the system’s security is so rigorous that it’s difficult to get what they need. At that point, they won’t use the archive, leaving its potential usefulness untapped.

To help you create useful, effective archives for your organization, here are 5.5 document management best practices:

1) Build your archive to support current business processes: It’s a good idea to map out current business processes before developing archiving processes and configuring any software. For a given business process, the archive should make it easier to retrieve all relevant documents, regardless of the type, format, year or other factors.With paper documents, for example, you could streamline access to files by using one file cabinet for your production processes and a separate cabinet for your internal processes, such as human resources.

2) Less is more: Don’t make your archive unnecessarily complex or secure just because you have the technological capability. You don’t need to have every possible type of indexing information for a document. Focus on only those you actually need. Search dialogs geared toward different user groups help to reduce information overload.

3) Start small and build step by step: When you’re developing an archive system, start with just one department or business process — the simpler the better. You might think it’s best to start with your most complex process, but an easy process is better for trying new ways of working. Once you’ve worked out the kinks, expand the solution to other departments, one at a time.

4) Don’t change everything with the first implementation: When you introduce a new paperless archive system, people should be able to work in more or less the same ways as usual, but with greater efficiency. Once people feel comfortable with the new paperless system, you’re ready to move to the next phase and increase efficiency again.

5) Don’t forget your users: Try to engage your employees in the beginning of the new process. People don’t like changing the way they work or learning new software, especially when they don’t have input or feel invested in the project. If you wait until late in the process to engage people, it’s hard to get them over the learning curve and they tend to dig in their heels.

The last of these document management best practices is simple, but often overlooked:

5.5) Review and revise: Six months after you launch the new archive system, go back and do an optimization workshop. Now that your users understand the system, they’ll have ideas for improving it to benefit the organization.

Improving your archive system is a gradual process, especially if you’re introducing electronic document management tools for the first time. Don’t do too much in the beginning, but after some time passes, use the opportunity to go back and ask your users, “What could be better?” As people understand the system better, you’ll need to make changes, so be flexible and open to improvement.

Are you ready to learn more about document management best practices? Contact DocuWare today for a free consultation and comprehensive cost-benefit analysis.

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Using Business Process Analysis To Streamline Your Workflow

business process analysisIf your organization has some employees in a central office and others spread out across different project sites, it’s easy for seemingly straightforward processes to become slow and inefficient.

Let’s say you’re running a construction company that’s based in San Francisco, but working on a building site in New York City. Your vendors and subcontractors probably mail invoices and payments to your main office, while the engineers who need to check and approve them are on-site in New York. As a result of this back-and-forth process, coordinating approvals takes additional time and effort.

Process mapping is a type of business process analysis that identifies opportunities for streamlining and automating workflows. In the construction company example, mapping out that invoice process would allow you to pinpoint bottlenecks in the document workflow and then find the best solutions. By implementing a digital document management system, you’d be able to scan an invoice when it arrives at your headquarters, store the electronic invoice in a centralized document repository and automatically route it for approval.

Now, instead of mailing invoices back and forth and trying to track the approval, the process is much more efficient. An engineer on-site in New York could pull up the approval on a mobile device and review it in seconds.

As organizations move from paper-based processes to digital document management, this type of business process analysis is an important step in getting the most from your technology investments.

Here are three key benefits of going through this exercise:

  1. Greater transparency: Process mapping gives you greater insight into how a process is moving along and who’s working on it. This transparency is critical to eliminating inefficiencies.
  2. Improved coordination: A common bottleneck in business processes is when an individual is out of the office or unavailable. If you send a paper document to someone who’s out of the office, it probably sits in an inbox until that person returns. Streamlining and automating your processes includes identifying tasks that could run in parallel (rather than waiting on a single preceding task) and defining replacements.In a digital workflow, defining replacements or alternates means your system automatically reacts when the normal approver is out of the office, rerouting the electronic invoice to a replacement approver.
  3. Time savings: Streamlining your processes and automating steps allows employees to spend less time on basic actions like searching for and assembling information.

Within the context of document management, process mapping consists of identifying the ways information flows through your organization in order to refine that workflow structure and increase efficiency. Essentially, you’re making a functional model of your organization to use in business process analysis. This model helps you define two aspects of the process: one, the information flow through the company, and two, the kinds of electronic or paper documents and where that information is stored.

Once you’ve defined those aspects, you’re able to determine the most effective arrangement of components. Perhaps a simple, inexpensive solution suits one business process, while another requires a more complex or more expensive solution.

In the end, going through the process mapping exercise and setting up an efficient digital workflow does take effort. You may want to consider working with consultants or a professional services company to help evaluate and improve your systems.

Are you ready to learn more about business process analysis? Contact DocuWare today for a free consultation and comprehensive cost-benefit analysis.

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Digital Workflow Do’s And Don’ts For Every Office

digital workflow tipsSome companies struggle when it comes to managing their digital workflow: As documents and data flow here and there, information could get lost, and a lack of structure might result in redundant steps that sap your organization’s productivity. How do you ensure the right documents are going to the right people at the right time?

Here is a list of quick do’s and don’ts that every office could use to improve its digital workflow. First, here are four do’s:

  1. Do think through and document your current workflow process: To improve your digital workflow, you first need transparency into what employees are doing and how they are doing it.
  2. Do get input from current users: Interviewing and observing people that use the processes you want to improve helps you to develop a central document repository and other elements that support a better workflow process.
  3. Do start small: Incremental process improvement is the key to lasting change, so focus on making smaller processes better. You don’t have to start with the absolute best digital workflow that solves every problem.
  4. Do make digital workflows flexible and adaptable: Often, workflows are determined and configured by an administrator. But that means every time users want to change the workflow, they have to call the administrator. A good system allows for users to make adaptations without always needing to call IT.

And now, three don’ts:

  1. Don’t increase the complexity of workflows unnecessarily: Many workflow systems are highly complex, requiring many people to design them. But the workflows themselves should be as simple as possible.
  2. Don’t go it alone: If you’re implementing a new system for digital workflows, get professional assistance and expertise.
  3. Don’t underestimate the impact of improving digital workflows: When you take the time to automate and streamline the process, you’re better able to focus on the content of that workflow. In other words, the more you can automate in the background, the more time and energy your employees have to focus on tasks that drive revenue.

One challenge for many companies when it comes to improving workflows is that the opportunity costs are relatively easy to ignore. Doing nothing may be costing them money every day, but that cost isn’t always obvious.

Digital workflow optimization is an investment that should pay for itself many times over, both by increasing productivity and decreasing the frustration of your workers, who no longer have to spend so much time trying to work with a less-efficient system.

Are you ready to learn more about improving your process efficiency? Contact DocuWare today for a free consultation and comprehensive cost-benefit analysis.

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5 Ways To Save Time With Document Management

save time document managementIt makes good business sense to take advantage of tactics for improving efficiency and productivity, especially when they apply broadly, instead of only to a department or project team.

Document management (or enterprise content management) systems offer many efficiency gains, and because these systems are tightly integrated with the rest of your IT infrastructure, they have the potential to save time across your company.

Here are five ideas for saving valuable time with today’s document management systems:

  1. Searching for documents: The average employee wastes 3.5 hours every week searching for documents that they ultimately fail to find, according to research by the IDC. With digital document management, time spent searching drops to seconds. Especially if your system offers powerful, automated indexing, you don’t need to worry about losing documents or remember how to find them again.
  2. Increasing the speed of business processes: Whether you’re routing an invoice for approval, processing applications or managing revisions to a price book, these different projects require sequential or simultaneous collaboration on documents and then a way to route the final document for approval across departments. And managing these approvals, according to the IDC, takes the average employee 4.3 hours every week. With ECM, that time can be reduced significantly as the process owners see immediately where documents are held up and can take action accordingly.
  3. Automating workflows: Running paperwork back and forth takes time and introduces the potential for errors. A digital workflow, however, allows you to combine electronic documents and workflow rules that automate the process. For example, you could create a rule that ensures any invoice over $5,000 is automatically routed to a senior employee, and any invoice for less than that goes to another employee for approval. The result is fewer errors and greater transparency, and better process efficiency.
  4. Reducing busywork: People spend lots of unproductive time simply reformatting documents. The average employee spends 2.4 hours every week moving documents from one format to another, according to IDC, and 3.8 hours converting from multiple formats into one document format. Digital document management helps you save that time by automatically standardizing the document formatting according to your preferences.For example, you could elect to have all documents automatically converted to PDFs, or keep documents in their original file types (Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, emails). It depends on how you plan to use these documents. If the content is likely to require additional editing, you might want to keep the original file format. If you want a stable record, you’d typically convert it to a PDF and distribute the information that way.
  5. Improving cross department collaboration: Integrating all of your document types, including emails and paper, makes it easier for employees to work together on projects and share information. If you’re at an engineering company, for example, your proposals might include a Word document, a CAD drawing and a spreadsheet. Before submitting a proposal to the customer, you could “staple” these documents together and send them to different departments for review. Viewing software – as part of your document management system – makes it possible for team members to view the CAD file even if they don’t have access to a CAD application.

Those are just a handful of the ways your company could save time by applying document management to common tasks and business processes. A document management system also makes disaster recovery far more efficient, while providing an audit trail for better financial compliance and security. And because document management performs best when integrated throughout your company and IT infrastructure, the potential benefits are widespread.

Are you ready to learn more about choosing the right document management system for your organization? Contact DocuWare today for a free consultation.

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5 Mistakes To Avoid When Choosing A Document Management System

document_managementWhen the file cabinets loom in the corners and desks overflow with paper forms, it’s definitely time to look for a document management system — but be careful. Many organizations make costly mistakes when choosing a platform and vendor. After a little time passes, what you thought was a complete solution may turn out to not solve enough of your organization’s document issues.

These mistakes are easy to avoid, once you know how to identify them. Watch out for these five common mistakes:

  1. Difficulty defining goals for document management: When people start planning to implement a document management system, many haven’t thought through what they want to accomplish — and that increases the risk of choosing a less-than-ideal vendor. It’s a good idea to take the time to define a few basics, including which departments the system is primarily intended for, the document types your company handles and the specific business processes you’re aiming to improve. This lack of definition makes it difficult to select the right vendor.
  2. Confusing basic document storage and document management: These terms sound similar, but mixing them up could lead to problems. Many organizations already have ways of storing their documents in a central place, whether it’s a company server or cloud-based storage space like Dropbox or OneDrive. But having everything stored in one place doesn’t mean your employees won’t waste time searching for documents. Document management includes that basic storage function, but goes far beyond it, with powerful indexing capabilities that store documents in a structured way.Having the possibility to find all documents relevant for one business process is where you find the value of enterprise content management (ECM) systems in general. Having your documents organized in a central repository is the foundation, allowing you to integrate document management into your existing applications and manage your workflows and business processes.
  3. A limited perspective on how to use document management: When people lack a comprehensive understanding of what’s possible with a document management system, they tend to look for a solution to only the most obvious problems. Perhaps your company only has a pressing need for an efficient way to store and retrieve documents. Later on, you might realize the efficiency gains you’d make by also electronically routing these documents through the organization, only to discover that the ECM software you chose doesn’t have what you need to create and manage a digital workflow.

    Another example is indexing. Early on, a company might not be aware of different indexing methods available, or become fixated on only one approach. A limited indexing capability could prevent you from being able to automate certain processes down the road. That’s why it’s important to choose a platform that includes multiple indexing options, from manual indexing and full-text search to external database use.

  4. Overlooking the total cost of ownership: This mistake is common to a variety of IT projects. Try not to mistake the initial purchase price for the total cost of ownership. Look into the future and figure out what you’ll spend on training your employees, configuring the system, and providing support and maintenance. As with any investment, taking the long view is essential to making good choices.
  5. Forgetting about the user experience: When companies start looking at document management software,they may initially focus on the back end and overall functions and features. Instead, they should be asking, “How well would this system work for our average user?” Having the best functionality isn’t worth much if half of the people on your team can’t figure out how to use it. Keep in mind that document management is a cross-platform application that everyone should be able to use. To get the most from document management, it needs to be usable for everybody, from accountants to engineers to factory workers.

Overall, many of these mistakes come from making a decision based on current requirements, rather than thinking about your organization’s long-term needs. A lot could change in your company, and your document management system should be robust and flexible enough to keep up with that evolution.

Are you ready to learn more about choosing the right document management system for your organization? Contact DocuWare today for a free consultation.

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Are Document Silos Killing Your Process Efficiency?

document silos killing process efficiencyWhen your employees lack access to business documents they need, it creates a bottleneck that steals your productivity and process efficiency. Here’s an example: Let’s say an accounts receivable clerk calls one of your customers to ask why they haven’t paid an invoice that’s now overdue. The customer replies, “Well, the product you sent isn’t what the salesperson promised in the proposal.”

To resolve the issue and collect on the invoice, the clerk first needs to find out what the salesperson promised. Unfortunately, the salesperson saved the proposal on his local hard drive, and all the clerk sees is that an invoice is open. So, the whole process stalls until these questions are answered.

This scenario above is typical of the problems caused by documents being stored in a variety of different physical or electronic locations – many times not accessible for team members or colleagues when these documents are needed. These document silos become a major burden for the whole organization. To overcome these obstacles you need to be able to identify the silos in your organization and then break down the barriers with a document management system or enterprise content management system.

What exactly is a document silo?

You might think of a document silo as a storage location which prevents your employees from having easy and fast access to all documents relating to one business process.

First of all, document silos are created by different document formats: paper documents stored in file cabinets, emails in Outlook folders, MS Office files on local hard disks or a server, and separate databases to keep documents for business platforms such as accounting software and customer relationship management (CRM).

In addition, different departments, such as sales, accounting and production, many times create their own document silos by using individual filing structures and procedures for their documents.

Both type of silos make it very cumbersome and time-consuming to find all relevant documents of a customer file or transaction and many times it involves asking multiples colleagues.

Detecting document silos

Here are some signs that you have a document silo issue:

  1. Documents reside in a variety of storage locations, both physical and electronic, which leads to time-consuming searches.
  2. People don’t have the access they need and end up asking colleagues for documents.
  3. Employees are using different versions of a document.
  4. Duplicate files are being stored in local hard drives, email folders and file shares.

To improve your process efficiency, eliminate these data silos, unburden your employees from tiring searches and reduce reliance on certain departments or individuals for access to documents or data.

Breaking down silos with document management

The only way to fully eliminate these silos is by implementing a document management system or enterprise content management system. Essentially, these platforms capture all of your organization’s documents, store them electronically in one central location, and then automatically organize and index the documents to create a consistent structure.

With digital document management, all of your company’s document silos are replaced with one document storage location, called a “document pool” or “document repository.” This central location gives you and your colleagues the ability to quickly file and retrieve documents, and uses automated indexing and powerful search tools to find information for specific business transactions, customers and other criteria.

Of course, you can assign very specific access rights to every user so they can only see the documents they are supposed to see!

You don’t want to just dump all of your silos into a big pile of unstructured data, or else you’re still not going to be able to find and access the information you need without sorting through lots of irrelevant data. That’s why effective document management systems also index and structure the information in ways that are meaningful for your organization and align the documents to specific business transactions.

Don’t let document silos frustrate your employees and create bottlenecks that steal your productivity. Implementing digital document management is a great way to eliminate silos and improve your process efficiency.

Are you ready to learn more about improving your process efficiency? Contact DocuWare today for a free consultation and comprehensive cost-benefit analysis.

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What Does Digital Document Management Have To Offer Your Business?

digital document management for your businessIf you walk around your office today and see someone searching through a stack of paper documents, that person isn’t doing their real job. No organization would hire people just to shuffle paper — they hire people to tackle important accounting, engineering and sales tasks, to name just a few examples.

One of the main advantages of digital document management is that it helps all of your employees focus on what they’re really here to accomplish. A good document management system frees employees from the time-consuming and cumbersome tasks of paper and document handling. By eliminating these obligations, you improve productivity and process efficiency, and unleash your employees’ true energy and creativity.

If your organization doesn’t have digital document management in place, much of your important business information tends to end up in file cabinets, email folders and local hard drives, which seriously limit your access to the documents. This lack of access produces bottlenecks in your organization’s workflow.

For example, let’s say that you’ve been asked to approve a vendor’s invoice before the accounting department sends out the payment. Looking at the invoice, you realize you need to first check it against the purchase requisition and most recent price list, so you set out to find those documents. After looking through your email and local files, you might start asking other people for those documents, which ends up taking a long time. In the end, you put the invoice back in your inbox, and the approval (along with the vendor’s payment) waits until another day.

Clearly, poor access to the documents you need creates inefficiencies and frustration for an organization. Unfortunately, these inefficient workflows are quite common. That’s why a digital document management or enterprise content management system is the foundation for efficient workflow management and process improvement.

Here are some of the advantages of replacing your paper-based processes with digital document management:

  1. Powerful search functionality: Indexed documents and full-text search help you find documents in seconds, improving productivity.
  2. Frees up storage space: By going digital, the space you currently use to store documents and file cabinets could be repurposed for more constructive use.
  3. Cost savings: Stop paying for paper, printing, postage, shipping, copying equipment and maintenance.
  4. Easy access: Digital document management improves access to important information, even from your mobile devices. Version control allows several people to work on the same document and ensures you always have the most recent file.
  5. Data security: No documents get lost in the shuffle, and security measures prevent unauthorized access to sensitive files. In the event of a security breach or natural disaster, your digital backup helps ensure business continuity.
  6. Ability to set multiple permissions levels: This functionality helps to streamline workflow management and ensure compliance.
  7. Automatic audit trail: You’ll always know who accessed a document last and what changes were made.

Once you have digital document management as your foundation, you’ll be able to streamline many routine tasks through digital workflow management. When organized and relevant information flows easily to and from the appropriate employees, it’s relatively easy to automate invoice approvals, for example. And that allows everyone in the organization to get back to their real jobs — including you.

Are you ready to learn more about digital document management and process improvement? Contact DocuWare today for a free consultation and comprehensive cost-benefit analysis.

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Pediatric Associates, Caring for the Entire Business

iStock_000011393387Large

Patient medical information at one of the nation’s largest pediatric practices is seamlessly integrated with existing medical software now that paper charts are converted to digital records with DocuWare .

Physicians only have to login into one system to review a complete medical history – including lab work, x-rays, immunization records and more – or to add a diagnosis or notes to a patient’s chart.

Key benefits: instant access to records across seven different offices has improved patient services and provides better compliance with HIPAA regulations. The transformation of paper storage space into eight additional exam rooms allows the practice to see more patients. Additionally, the clinic no longer has to pay for offsite document storage.

With DocuWare in place, the clinic‘s seven locations can now operate as one, streamlining logistics, improving information access and patient service. Future plans include going digital in HR and their Business Office.

“DocuWare has definitely made an impact on patient safety and customer service. Having important information be secure and easy to access is very key for our organization.”

Brock Morris, Chief Information Officer for Pediatric AssociatesBrockMorrisProfile Pic_PediataricAssociates

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9 Corporate Document Management Secrets Revealed

document-management-secrets | Photo Courtesy of ThinkStock http://www.thinkstockphotos.com/image/stock-photo-top-secret-red-stamp/465520533Many businesses and organizations today are saddled with an invisible burden: inefficient document management that squanders resources and wastes countless employee hours.

Even when company leaders realize there’s lots of room for process improvement, they may have misconceptions about what a corporate document management system would truly entail.

When you hear about electronic document management systems or enterprise content management, you might envision a complex, highly technical system that’s difficult for businesspeople to use. This is a common misunderstanding.

Many people also wrongly assume that a document management system would cost a lot of money, take a long time to set up, and probably require you to make disruptive changes in your IT infrastructure and established ways of doing business. As a result, too many organizations struggle along needlessly while their competitors surge ahead.

Here are nine surprising facts about corporate document management, from how much inefficient systems really cost to the process improvement that’s possible with digital document management:

  1. Your employees probably waste much of their time shuffling paper: The average employee spends 30 to 40 percent of his or her time just trying to retrieve information that’s locked in document silos such as email accounts and filing cabinets, according to facts from the Paperless Project.
  2. A paper-based office is a costly choice: If you start adding up what you’re paying for the supplies, shipping and postage along with the expense of buying and maintaining printers and copying machines, the total is a lot higher than you’d think.
  3. Document management affects your core business functions: While the resources taken up by inefficient document management has an immediate impact on employee productivity and operating costs, it also affects your core business. How your business handles its document flow has the potential to either burden your business or differentiate you from the competition.
  4. A digital workflow doesn’t require extensive training: In fact, a digital document workflow resembles your existing paper system, except it’s even more intuitive and simple to use. For example, when you stamp a digital document electronically, it looks the same as if you’d used a paper stamp. But with a digital document workflow, you could have the document automatically forwarded to the next person in the workflow instead of sitting in a paper outbox.
  5. Finding any document should take seconds: In a digital document management system, documents are automatically scanned and indexed, resulting in powerful index search and full text search capabilities. Let’s say you’re trying to find information on a device you bought or sold 15 years ago. Just enter the serial number, and you’ll immediately pull up the invoice, packing slip and other relevant documents.
  6. Integrating with existing systems is no problem: It’s possible to integrate powerful corporate document management within your current business infrastructure. In an accounting platform, for example, you could add a button that gives you immediate access to all accounting documents related to the content of your current screen.
  7. Scanning physical documents is fast: These days, the speed of scanning allows you to create digital versions at a rate of 30 to 60 pages per minute.
  8. Document management is for all document types: A good document management system is comprehensive, organizing not only paper documents but also digital files, such as email and Microsoft Office documents.
  9. Digital workflows offer simplicity and speed: Rather than increasing complexity, a document management system makes it easy to streamline workflows, such as your invoice review and approval process, and automatically create audit trails that save countless hours down the road.

At many companies, there’s lots of room for process improvement in terms of how they handle documents. Now that you have these nine facts under your belt, there’s no reason to let misconceptions about corporate document management hold you back any longer.

Are you ready to learn more about improving your corporate document management system? Contact DocuWare today for a free consultation and comprehensive cost-benefit analysis.

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New PaperScan Version

The color/grayscale tool can be accessed directly from the page view.

The color/grayscale tool can be accessed directly from the page view.

Aside from fine-tuning PaperScan’s user interface, we recently optimized its black-white functionality. When converted to grayscale, scanned documents are much more contrast-rich, making them even better suited for text recognition and DocuWare Intelligent Indexing. Even records like register and sales receipts – which are easily wrinkled or torn – can be read much more accurately with grayscale conversion. Creases in the paper are no Problem! Grayscale Conversion is an option found in a new toolbar on page view. Users can access the tool even faster from this spot than before.

The new version of PaperScan, with its enhanced functionality, can now also be downloaded onto Android systems version 4.0 and higher and iOS version 7.0 and above:

Apple App Store
Google Play Store

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