The popularity and proliferation of online applications and cloud computing solutions for business has transformed how organizations manage activities, people and resources. The Internet-connected marketplace has introduced both opportunity and challenge for businesses of all sizes, and much of this focus has been placed on the management and control of digital documents and data.
Electronic document management has been commonly used in professional services business for many years, yet has not always been viewed as an essential technology to apply in the context of organizing and structuring the processing of the document. As clients of these professional firms continue to generate and utilize a great deal of paper documentation and written information, firms continue their reliance upon paper files, shared drives, and other more traditional methods of organizing the work, and storing or controlling access to documents. However, key trends in the industry are causing these approaches to be increasingly burdensome for professional service firms, including:
- Need to support multiple offices, geographically disbursed team members, and mobile workers and devices
- Increasing use of email as a primary tool for collaboration
- Introduction of new risk elements accompanying new technologies
- Increasing numbers of forms and document types coming from clients
- Rising expectations of clients and increased market competition
- Growing need for businesses to increase earnings and profitability with fewer resources
- Increasing requirement for knowledge management supporting sustainability, creating the ability to retain and reuse best practices and work produced
Advances in the design and underlying technology supporting many document management solutions today have delivered great capability to firms adopting electronic document management approaches.
Benefits of implementation include the ability to create a centralized, searchable documents base which includes all client-related content, including email communications as well as documents and data files. Easy search, access, collaboration, and re-use of information are enabled, and complete audit trails may be retained. Electronic document solutions also reduce physical document storage needs, reducing costs associated with managing and storing paper files, and can better serve business disaster recovery and continuity initiatives.
While today’s electronic document management solutions may address many of the challenges involved in working with large volumes and varieties of documents and data, there are few solutions on the market which address fundamental issues relating to document processing workflows and how they are impacted by various business or data-driven events, or by the availability of people or resources to facilitate the process.
The growing problem facing businesses today is the volume and variety of information which must be organized, processed and archived. The market is sold on the idea that electronic communications and record keeping will simplify things, but the reality is proving otherwise. Businesses are hoarding information at unprecedented rates and with the ability to collect and generate increasing volumes of digital data, businesses have not simplified their information processing, they have only created a greater need.
Generating and collecting data is not the issue created, nor is ultimately the archival and storage of the information. Rather, the problem created is in organizing the work related to processing this ever-increasing volume of documents and data.
Businesses dealing with documents and transaction-based activities should not only attempt to structure workflows necessary to support the various processes, but must also seek to normalize as much as possible, developing a consistent and methodical approach to the work which results in predictable and consistently high quality service delivery.
The efficiency gained through this structuring and standardization of the work allows the professional services firm to achieve a greater level of profitability for outsourced processing engagements, which are often viewed as low-margin and low-profit activities.