Paper chase

Document management has finally reached a state of technological maturity - but many pitfalls await regional customers who rush into buying a system. Imthishan Giado reports.

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By  Imthishan Giado Published  November 3, 2007

Kumar's key issue post-implementation was security. Many of his branches and departments have dispensed entirely with hard copy - directly saving huge sums in printing costs - while his core banking reports are archived directly by his workflow document management system. The departments that can view or print these reports are limited by their access rights, as determined by Kumar and his team.

Vaghele reinforces the importance of access rights with the example of Renault F1, an Oracle client, which has a technical document known as the ‘bible' which contains the entire specification for its car. It represents critical intellectual property and, in the wrong hands, would irrevocably damage their competitive advantage. However, it still needed to be shared with the suppliers who build parts.

To combat potential leakage, user rights are stored on a central server at Renault, which assigns read, edit or print rights depending on the user's security clearance level. In the event of an employee leaving the firm, or a supplier changing, access rights can be revoked instantly, rendering all copies in circulation unreadable.

One of the biggest obstacles with deploying any new system is overcoming resistance to change from the end users. Gale says that with their early involvement, this can be minimised.

"My personal belief is, people have resistance if they're told ‘this is what we're going to do.' But if people are involved in the process of making that change and are architects of their own future, then they accept the change, work with and want it to take effect. For example, when you look at a helpdesk, 40% of their calls are printer and copier related - imagine if you could take that headache away from them. If you've studied IT, you don't want to be fixing driver issues, or refilling paper," he states.

Kumar adds that his staff initially put up resistance but soon came round: "Now if my workflow system is not available for any reason, I can feel the pressure - they [my staff] cannot survive without it. It's slowly gotten into the organisations' culture and habits."

Apart from his employees, Kumar also had to sell the new system to upper management. Indeed, he quotes change management as one of his biggest challenges.

"These types of projects have to be driven from that level so that the next level gets used to it. It all depends on management's aptitude for such changes and technology enhancement. For document management, what we highlighted was the value addition to customer services and how we would require less turnaround time to serve the customer," he says.

Change management isn't over once management comes on board - the entire organisation needs to rethink its approach to documents.

"How do organisations incentivise their people to share more information? You have a document management system to store information. Fine, but it's no good just storing it, you have to share this stuff with the people that work there, and use that information for your business benefit. So one of the biggest issues about document management is how do you get people to actually adopt it," explains Vaghele.

Finally, Gale reminds organisations to constantly review what they've achieved so far: "If you wait six to 12 months to see where you've gone, you'll certainly have fallen short of your expectations. So at every stage there should be sign off points: is it the right solution? Is the service level correct? Have we received what we asked for? Are people adherent to the service level? Are we getting what we want and what we paid for? It will still be a journey, I guarantee you, because this is not something out of the box. That said, it shouldn't scare people."

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