Managing documents without the headache

Keeping a tab of the paper trail has made a mockery of the idea of the paperless office. However, a document management (DM) system could provide the ideal solution

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By  Caroline Denslow Published  July 17, 2005

|~|main_doc_mgmt.jpg|~|IT managers have to find a suitable solution to effectively managing an increasing amount of documents while juggling ever-decreasing IT budgets.|~|While we may be immersed in the digital age, the notion of having a paperless office is nowhere near reality than it was more than 30 years ago. It’s quite the opposite, actually. Our use of computers, e-mails and the internet has made the role of paper more prevalent than before. Instead of hampering paper use, digital technologies have, more often than not, increased the amount of printing we do. It’s no wonder that the printing industry is booming. As we continue to plough ahead in what is now popularly called as the knowledge economy, expect data to grow so much more. In fact, we have produced more information in the last 30 years than in the previous five thousand — which is roughly the entire history of civilisation. Companies, for instance, consider documents as the lifeblood of core business functions. A Xerox research indicates that 90% of customer communication is supported thro-ugh documents, as are 80% of employees’ activities. This dependency on document content can have a significant impact on an organisation’s bottom line. How well you manage your documents can sometimes reflect on how well you manage your business. For example, how quickly can you find a document that you knew you had somewhere when you need it right now? Do you know what kinds of documents are kept in your filing cabinets or in your storeroom? How sure are you that documents containing sensitive information won’t fall into the wrong hands? If your answers to these questions are not what you hope them to be, it may be time for you to look at a document management (DM) system. ||**||Keeping track|~|main_filenet_rossi,graziell.jpg|~|The implementation of DM has many factors in its favour, says Rossi.|~|n its most basic form DM is about organising, managing and keeping track of documents so you can easily find them when needed. A DM system acts as a virtual repository that can keep track of relationships between documents and allow you to readily search and retrieve files. DM tools are especially handy in increasing employee productivity. According to IDC, without a DM strategy in place, a typical knowledge worker can spend about 37% of their time dealing directly with documents, of which 54% is spent looking for information. Half of the time they do not find what they need. As a result, 27% of the time they spend working on documents become ineffective, says IDC. Putting a DM system in place will reduce the time needed to search for a particular document. Many DM systems currently available have indexing features that let every word in every document completely searchable. This is especially useful when you need a document that you know references a specific phrase or word. However, while searching, retrieving and archiving documents are core features of a DM system, sometimes these are not the main reasons why companies adopt a DM strategy, says Dan Smith, office product manager, Xerox Middle East and Africa. “They are primary functions, however, they are not the main purpose of DM. Archiving is one of the first things that people understand simply because of the cost implications of keeping large amount of paper documents in offices. There are other issues that DM can address, such as disaster recovery,” Smith says. The main functions of DM have advanced over time to keep up with users’ evolving requirements, adds Lars Jeppesen, managing director, Dicom Middle East. “We can do so much more with the new [DM] technology that is available now than in the past,” Jeppesen says. “In the past, you use DM tools for archiving to reduce costs by saving space. But now we can also improve business processes. Large organisations, for example, can reduce the time to process information internally.” Having a DM strategy in place is becoming more important for companies facing regulatory compliance. Regulation such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Basel II and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) are forcing organisations to keep documents for a longer period of time. “Everything has to comply with some regulations,” says Graziella Rossi, FileNet’s marketing director for South Europe, Middle East and Africa. “You need to prove to auditors and other external entities that your business comply with regulations. Document content and processes are the key pieces that can be used to prove that you are doing things in the right way.” However, the most compelling reason for investing in DM is its ability to reduce operating costs. An IDC/Xerox survey shows that on average 14% of a company’s operating revenues is spent creating, maintaining and distributing paper and electronic documents. “When you look at IT, people have shaved their budgets to a bare minimum, and they are still looking for ways to drive costs down to their business,” says Ben Gale, general manager, Middle East and Africa, sales and marketing, distributor operations, Xerox International. “If you are spending 14% on documents alone, that’s a big area of potential savings for a number of organisations.” “An office worker on average produces 900 pages of output a month. Those 900 pages, if they are not properly managed, can just be a drain on a company,” Gale adds. It can create a ripple effect, such as the extra cost for an employee to recreate missing information. The time lost unsuccessfully searching documents and the time spent recreating documents can lead to a delayed invoice, a delayed deal or a customer ignored, for instance — opportunity costs for an organisation. ||**||Quick and easy|~|main_ebla_arnaout,anas.jpg|~|ailure to understand your business results in poor definition of DM processes, says Arnaout.|~|Implementing a DM plan can be a quick and easy activity. First of all, companies do not have to invest heavily on additional hardware resources. “A typical IT set-up is more than enough. You don’t need additional hardware unless you need to scan images. In that case you need to buy a scanner. You can get production scanners that yield a few hundred pages per day,” elaborates Jeppesen. “I think in terms of hardware, that’s where most of the concerns go: how to identify the right scanner. That is a place where you don’t want to waste your time. You want to create good image quality because the whole process depends on the quality of the images that you have,” he continues. The challenge of making your DM plan work is not so much about the sophistication of the technology involved but rather the processes and people involved, says Gale. “IT has a huge role to play in DM and most definitely can lead DM services, but people need to make sure that they have analysed what each users’ needs in terms of DM. DM systems are very much not just about hardware,” he adds. “In my opinion, it’s about the people, the processes and the technology. It’s getting those three to work together in harmony. If you just concentrate on the technology, your DM plan will not deliver. If you just concentrate on people, again it will not deliver, and if you just look at the processes, again it won’t deliver,” Gale says. The best foundation for an effective DM implementation, according to Rossi, is having a deep understanding of how your company operates. “Understanding the way you are organised and who has access to what is the most important first step. When designing a DM system you need to involve both business users and IT users of your company. If you don’t involve all, it will be a huge mistake because all that you might be able to provide could be something that nobody will be able to effectively use,” Rossi explains. Failure to understand your business results in poor definition of DM processes, adds Anas Arnaout, director, pre-sales and quality control, Ebla Computer Consultancy. “A lot of times companies take their manual systems — the way it works — and just implement it the same way into an automated system. The right kind of process that is being done manually may not work if you just basically automate it. You need to reengineer the process to fit an automated system,” explains Arnaout. “If you try to analyse and design a bad system, you will end up having bad output to the system. If you take your manual steps and apply them into an automated system it could be useless. What works on a manual system may not work on an automated system. You need to see how your company works, find the gaps in your operations and address these gaps using an automated system,” Arnaout says. Jeppesen agrees that process reengineering is vital for a proper DM implementation. “If you don’t change your processes, if your new applications still has to go to your manager for his signature, that’s still manual. You didn’t do anything except automate an existing structure,” he notes. “The main misconception with users is that they look at the fancy stuff that they can do first, and then afterwards, they go for the basics. I would advise users to look at the basics first; look at how physical processes are taking place. People are looking at too high a level. They don’t go into too much details when it comes to some basic issues,” Jeppesen says. Companies should not feel overwhelmed at the thought of rolling out a DM plan. Although a DM project is something that you should not take lightly, there are experts in the field who can walk you through the whole process, says Smith. “The best practice is to get somebody in who is well experienced in DM, who knows the pitfalls and who can help guide your business process,” he says.||**||

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