A document management workflow is, on the surface, exactly what the name implies. It's a system used to produce, track, edit, store and manage documents associated with a business process. Most businesses have piles of paperwork involved with day to day operations. With expense reports, purchase orders, acquisition forms, payroll and more, business operations can be tedious and document-heavy. In order to keep things moving, documents get passed from one department to the next, requiring approval or changes at each stop.
Problems with the Process
Here's an example of how this process works without a document management workflow in place: an employee sees that a certain item is needed, so they fill out a requisition form, including the item specifics and cost. This form gets passed on to their manager, who approves it, then sends it to the accounting department. Once in the accounting department, this request is considered and maybe even passed along to another manager. Once approved, a purchase order is created and sent back through the chain to the employee who initiated the request. Depending on the makeup of the company, that purchase order may then be handed off to another employee who actually does purchasing.
With the example above, it's easy to see how documents could get lost in this shuffle. Bouncing from desk to desk in a sea of other documents, there's a good chance this process takes much longer than it should; and that's if the paperwork doesn't get lost.
Paperwork that doesn't get to the right person, or gets misplaced or overlooked, slows down your business. As you know, slow operations can affect growth, which can have an impact on your bottom line. That's where document management software comes in.
What is Document Management Software?
Document management software creates workflows that help streamline processes. The documents don't go away, but they become digital and able to be processed more efficiently. By enabling electronic document management, paper documents become the lowest common denominator to transfer information; by decreasing paper shuffling, the unreliability and inefficiencies associated with this method of transfer are in turn reduced.
Streamline the Paper Shuffling
Document management software, such as M-Files and SharePoint, replace piles of paperwork with electronic versions, allowing users to edit, approve, file and pass along within this digital medium. Users can see documents that are in their queue for review, start a new document, follow the path of a document they've created and more. There is an icon for each stop in the process, so it is easy to see a document’s status and where it is located. Plus, all documents are viewed and stored within the software, and reviewing them is as simple as clicking "approve."
Improve the Process
With document workflow management software, users can tell when they have work to do, and managers can monitor the steps within workflows. Alerts can be set up to:
- Notify a user when there is work to be done
- Notify managers (and other user levels) when a certain step takes place
- Alert users if any individual step in the workflow is taking longer than scheduled
This allows managers to easily monitor workflows and identify and assist with issues.
But document management doesn't just help prevent missteps. It also helps automate complicated processes and keeps things from getting lost in the shuffle.
Remember that example from before? The process looks much different with document management software. If an employee notices a product is needed, they can have the system automatically generate the appropriate form. Once completed, the form is automatically sent to the person that gives final approval, while still allowing others that need to be informed the opportunity to review and make any changes. Instead of shuffling from one desk to another, the document gets to the right place right away.
Customizing Document Workflows
Document workflows can be configured to forward a document when approved (the requisition form, for example) and automatically generate a notification that’s sent to the appropriate person. Setting certain parameters can also make things run even more smoothly. For example, if a purchase order is over $1,000, send the document to person X; if it's below $1,000, send to person Y. Document management software is capable of many things, so the processes can be as simple or as complex as needed.
Another way to improve processes is to be able to step back and look at the big picture. An additional advantage of document management software is the ability to see an overview of workload. You can see which employees have a queue of work to do, and which have lighter loads. This allows work to be redistributed according to employee availability. Having the big picture view will keep projects moving along at their necessary pace and balance the workload among employees.
What's the Benefit of Document Management Workflow?
Document management workflow benefits businesses in numerous ways by improving internal productivity, collaboration, morale and accountability while decreasing the amount of resources used. All of these things combined work to save money and improve the bottom line. And in case you were wondering, the biggest benefit of document management workflow is the assurance that things will operate properly and efficiently. Document management software provides:
- A central hub where all important documents are stored
- A security system where only an approved person can view a document
- Flexibility to meet the needs of any business
- Easy access to materials employees need to do their jobs right the first time