By Jesse Wood, CEO of eFileCabinet
The era we live in is not defined by freedom, nor is it defined by productivity—it’s defined by chaos, and the chaos begins at the level of the document life cycle.
One of the biggest roots of chaos in small to mid-sized organizations is a lack of document lifecycle management. Organizations thrive or fall on this single precept, yet managers and executives frequently fail to address the import of the document lifecycle discussion.
Claiming organizational chaos can be attributed to poor document management may seem like blaming a small cause for a big problem, but documents sustain businesses as much as cash flow, especially since we live in a knowledge economy attempting to harness unstructured data, content, and information life cycles to its benefit.
However, there is nothing wrong with these objectives; the problems arise when inadequate tools are used to reach them. This frequently results in confusion, as the document life cycle problem sits right under organizations’ noses.
As microcosms of this issue, small businesses, departments, freelancers, and independent consultants can perform a technology gap analysis, in conjunction with reworking their document life cycle, to identify the snags in their current processes, and use the technology necessary to eliminate document bottlenecks.
Diagram Your Existing Document Life cycle: 5 Kinds of Documents
This step involves answering the ways in which organizations take ownership of documents and their respective document life cycle.
In other words, understanding how a company takes ownership of a document is the first step to identifying where its document life cycle (and subsequent problems) begin.
The Very First Steps: Document Adoption vs. Document Creation
The most common starting place for organizations striving to fix workflow gaps involves looking at processes at the document level, and compartmentalizing documents that the company receives from touch points outside the organization versus documents born within the organization.
This subtle distinction matters because a document received from an external source usually has more stringent storage, retrieval, and indexing parameters than one created within an organization, and therefore requires less legwork to fix.
Of adopted and created documents, there are an additional 3 document categories: Company workflow documents, department workflow documents, and employee workflow documents, which are respectively defined as follows.
Further classifying documents into the 3 subcategories below helps examine document life cycle more closely.
A company workflow involves document lifecycle at the most basic level. In a Venn diagram, company workflows overlap with department workflows, and department workflows overlap with employee workflows.
They are all interwoven, but separate in transitional areas.
Pinpointing the hang ups in your current workflow involves defining how the document life cycle works in the context of these distinctions and overlaps.
Company workflow is usually the hardest workflow component in the document life cycle structure to diagram and identify, therein making it the hardest to fix.
This difficulty exists because of all the document life cycles in an organization, this life cycle is the most complex. Although rarely discussed in the management consulting context, this information life cycle is imperative to effectively running a company.
The 3 most pervasive problems in company workflows to be fixed at this stage of the document life cycle include but are not limited to the following:
- Interdepartmental communication
- Interdepartmental document routing
- Document approvals
Even if it’s unspecified or undefined, a department workflow exists in every department of every organization in the world.
A department workflow directly affects the document life cycle by affecting how well siloed departments perform in reaching their own objectives, which can, depending on the department, have a significant impact on organizational efficiency, compliance, and security measures.
This is where the most divisive knowledge silos occur, because they have the most far-reaching impact on organizational outcomes and business objectives, which complicates document life cycle management.
The 3 most pervasive workflow problems of the document life cycle to be fixed at this stage of workflow gap analysis include but are not limited to the following:
- Unwritten processes
- Unstructured email content
- Lack of plan continuity
Individual Workflow: The Simplest yet Hardest to Control Stage of the Document Life Cycle
This stage of the document life cycle is very difficult to control and manage as all knowledge workers are given some leeway to perform tasks in the way they see fit, and are infrequently subjected to broader document strictures by higher ups within an organization.
Although this lets individuals customize their working experience, it does little for augmenting the importance of their specific roles within the organizational context. This also depends heavily on an employee’s disposition.
Most knowledge workers tend to be introverted, meaning the document silos they do create wind up undiscovered in interpersonal contexts, detracting from the informational advancement of business objectives.
The employee workflow is where the knowledge silos begin and fester within companies; they each
This pertains more to financial advisers, CPAs and other consulting-oriented roles, primarily in terms of security measures.
That said, the 3 most prevalent document life cycle issues at this stage of the organizational workflow include but are not limited to:
- Document silos
- Collaboration roadblocks
- Information synthesis and reification
Exponential Document Chaos
When the two major categories of documents and their subcategories adjoin within an organization, the consequence is information chaos.
Without a system to control all of this, it’s nearly impossible for an organization to plan effectively, drive growth, and sustain itself over the long haul.
To make matters worse, failing to ignore the complexity of digital transformation at a small level will severely limit the ability to Expand your business.
Features Best for Repairing Document Life cycle by Industry
The best tools for repairing broken document life cycles will vary by company size and industry. Larger organizations tend to need highly complex enterprise content management tools, whereas small to mid-sized organizations (A large majority of registered business in the United States), need document management solutions designed to repair broken workflows without too much downtime for planning.
Here are the best features of document management solutions (and other technologies) for repairing the document life cycle by industry.
Document sharing, file retention, role-based user permissions, retention
Jesse Wood is the CEO of document management software vendor, eFileCabinet. Founded in 2001, eFileCabinet, Inc. began as a cutting-edge tool to digitally store records in accounting firms. As it grew in popularity, eFileCabinet developed into a full-fledged electronic document management solution designed to help organizations automate redundant processes, ensure security, and solve common office problems.