Document management is crucial to business success

alphabet-1480105We live in the information age and thanks to the internet and developments in technology, information is available whenever and wherever we need it. However, although super-fast access to information is widely acknowledged as being crucial for success in business, a surprising number of companies and organisations are failing to embrace the latest developments in document management.

Documents have been organised in one way or another for centuries: whether it’s a simple alphabetised system, or one of the highly-complex filing systems used by governments or large organisations. Businesses need to manage documentation but even in these days of digital archives and cloud document storage; there are still companies who spend far much time searching for documents which have been ‘lost.

Everyone knows this and most organisations have at least one or two employees with a reputation for hanging on to mountains of disorganised, un-filed paperwork and documentation. In the worst cases there are still some big businesses who remain unconvinced of the benefits that digital document management can bring.

It’s staggering to think that according to recent figures, 95% of the 30 billion invoices processed across Europe in 2010 were still handled in a way that required manual data entry. To put this into perspective: this means that more than 28 billion invoices were moved from desk to desk and from person to person. Phew! The startling truth behind these figures is that invoices which have been completed manually will cost 20 times more to process than those which have been processed electronically.

A report released in 2012 found that information workers spent a staggering 20% of their time looking through and searching for paper documentation. In addition, they also wasted more than ten hours each week looking for but failing to find documents, reproducing lost documents and other unnecessary, time-wasting tasks.

If we continue to use invoices as an example, it’s not just the issue of cost which is the only negative aspect of a continued reliance on outdated methods of dealing with invoices. Independent research carried out by the document management industry has discovered that during the time it takes for an invoice to work its way through a system, 20% of its time is spent during transport processing, 5% during actual processing and during the final 75% of the time the invoice is doing nothing at all!

Why does this happen? Put simply, too many businesses and public sector organisations use workflows which have been designed to rely upon large amounts of managerial or supervisor attention in order to get anything done. However, there is one major exception to this rule and that is finance departments. Perhaps unsurprisingly, finance departments are bucking the trend with 52% of finance departments working towards a ‘paper-lite’ strategy, in comparison to 26% in operations and manufacturing, and just 20% in IT.

Although finance departments are proving to be successful when it comes to making the most of document management technology, the rest of the business world needs to catch up – fast. Despite the fact that paper gets into companies faster than ever before there is still a huge lag once paperwork leaves a finance department. Despite the fact that some organisations – especially SMEs – need to watch their cash flow carefully, there are significant implications for businesses which still insist on holding on to invoices and keeping them inactive for 75% of the time. When this happens it puts a strain on business to business relationships, on suppliers and the economy as a whole because business is restricted. Making late payments is often taken as a sure sign that a business is in trouble and this in turn can lead to less favourable payments terms.

With this in mind, there really is no room for complacency when it comes to the management of documents. Document management software must be a priority for businesses large and small and thanks to the healthy document management market in the UK, there’s never been a better time to embrace everything that document management technology has to offer.


Document management systems designed to put patient safety first

Document security is incredibly important for most businesses but for pharmacies and healthcare providers, the safe storage of patient records can mean the difference between life and death.

The way in which documents are managed, stored, archived and destroyed is evolving for most small businesses and this is a situation in which pharmacies, GP practices and other small health care providers also find themselves. Bureaucracy is on the rise and doctors and pharmacists have to cope with the challenges of going through a huge range of administrative processes to meet the requirements of government bodies. Paperwork still plays a huge part from the keeping of records and the production of documents at short notice, for example.

The main concern for pharmacists and GP surgeries is that coping with the vast amounts of paperwork generated does not become an activity which takes up staff time and wastes resources; resources which are particularly valuable in this era of increasing cuts to healthcare budgets.

Pharmacies, medical practices and medical practitioners have to provide paperwork for a range of organisations including HMRC, NHS England, clinical commissioning groups, primary care trusts and product suppliers. In addition, they also have to manage paperwork for the patient-side of their businesses and this can cover everyone from doctors, patients and patient groups.

Increasing numbers of pharmacies and medical practitioners are making the most of scanning technology to systemise and speed up their document management processes. There is a common misconception that document scanning – a misconception that is held by many people, not just those in the medical profession – is time consuming. However, using one of the latest scanning systems is proving an efficient way for pharmacies and GP surgeries to store records in one place, with the facility to quickly and easily pull out individual records at a moment’s notice.

Of course accuracy is of paramount importance when it comes to dealing with and storing patient records. There is no room for error as even the smallest mistake can prove to be potentially dangerous to patients. Streamlined, efficient document management processes are a vital link in the safety chain and are essential when it comes to minimising the risk of mistakes being made. The more that document management and storage is improved, the more time GPs and pharmacies have to devote to their patients and customers.

This is where cloud storage comes in: the vision of a paperless office is still some way away but as in the world of business, pharmacies and GP practices are increasingly making the most of cloud storage technology. Being able to scan directly to the cloud offers a wealth of opportunities to those involved in healthcare provision; such as efficient storage and the sharing and backing-up of patient records or vital information.

Last and by no means least, there has been a significant shift in the way in which medical practitioners and pharmacists think about storing paper documentation. The latest developments in document storage and management have demonstrated that there are very few documents which need to be stored in their paper form, whilst the rest can be disposed of securely. This shift in thinking is proving valuable when it comes to reducing the paperwork mountain and streamlining processes which is good who provide care and great for patients.




The pros and cons of cloud data storage

Document storage has changed with the times and the impact of cloud computing means that increasing numbers of businesses and organisations are turning to the cloud to meet their document management and storage requirements.

In essence, cloud storage is the term used to describe data which is stored remotely. Cloud storage is now widely recognised as a great way for businesses of all shapes and sizes to store data securely whilst freeing-up valuable physical storage space. However, although cloud storage offers a wide range of benefits, it’s important to understand the pros and cons before opting for a complete cloud storage solution.

One of the most positive yet overlooked advantages of moving to a cloud storage system is the benefits it can offer in terms of disaster recovery. Storing data in a cloud undoubtedly makes life easier: seemingly limitless in its capacity, easy to access and use, cloud storage is suitable for businesses large and small. However, by relying on cloud storage for backup, there is the danger of becoming reliant on an unstable environment. Cloud computing services are usually delivered by a shared wide area network such as the internet. Cloud storage relies on the centralisation of data whilst the users of the cloud are distributed far and wide; this type of environment tends to be subject to instability, which can in turn put entire storage systems at risk.

Experts in the field, suggest that failure to address an instable network is likely to lead to increased disaster recovery costs and so it is crucial that organisations that rely on cloud storage ensure that they have an established, fully equipped network with the capability to handle the increase in traffic that cloud will inevitably bring.

There are other options for data storage and if using cloud storage seems like a daunting prospect, traditional disk-based or tape-based back-up could be ideal. Disks can be stored off-site which can prove to be ideal for organisations which require the shortest possible recovery times in the event of a disaster, but are unable to bear the cost of copying all of their systems to a duplicate data centre.

Another issue which must be considered before moving to a cloud storage system is the technical requirements. Data which is ‘stranded’ in cloud storage is useless so it is very important that business critical data can be recovered quickly. Limitations in bandwidth at the cloud storage provider’s end must be considered carefully as limitations have the potential to reduce recovery speeds. Virus or corruption which spread slowly over time can put data at risk if the cloud provider only stores a limited quantity of data available for restore.

Last and by no means least, don’t overlook the history and business health of the cloud provider you choose to use. Bear in mind that cloud providers are popping up all over the place and in some cases with very limited funding. Putting all of your corporate data into one of these providers could put your business at risk. In some recent cases, even providers with reputable, well-known sources of funding have failed, leaving businesses exposed to loss of data. When it comes to disaster recovery planning, it’s wise to make sure that both data and applications are sufficiently covered.


The future trends in electronic content management

document management

The way in which we work is changing and thanks to developments in document management and electronic content management, there is a very real possibility that the paperless office could become a reality in the next decade. This is great news, not only for the environment but for businesses seeking to streamline their processes and reduce administration and storage costs. Electronic content management offers huge potential but what are the future trends and how will it shape the way we work?

You’d have to have had your head in the clouds (excuse the pun!) to have missed all the talk of ‘cloud storage’. Just in case you don’t know, cloud storage simply refers to the practice of using a network of remote internet servers to store, manage and process data. It looks as though cloud storage is about to go mainstream, largely thanks to the benefits it can bring in terms of reduced storage costs, document control, the ability to work from anywhere and disaster recovery.

Although there are still questions to be asked over the security of cloud storage this isn’t a problem that’s unique to the cloud alone. It could be argued that any form of document storage can present a storage risk but because the benefits of cloud storage far outweigh the risks, this trend in document storage is set to stay.

The way in which we search digitally stored documents – this often referred to in the trade as ‘findability’ – is predicted to be something which will really take off. Findability shouldn’t be confused with search-ability as the two are very different: findability is used to describe how easy it is to find information on a website, for example, whilst search-ability is the ability to find information by using known information such as a keyword or phrase.

At some point in the future, the way in which we search the web and data will take into account who you are, where you are, what you do and what you already know; providing you with search results that are unique and relevant to you alone. The search engines have been around for some time now and they’ve demonstrated that there’s an awful lot of information out there and that it can be hard work finding out what you need to know. Wouldn’t it be better if we could direct relevant information in the user’s direction? Of course it would and with this in mind the document management technology of the near future will be built to make content as easily accessible as possible.

Last and by no means least is the trend towards document management and electronic content management moving from the side-lines towards the centre stage. It’s predicted that document management will become the new email – remember when email was a real novelty? That’s the way in which document management is still seen by many businesses but in a couple of years’ time there’s unlikely to be many businesses that aren’t making the most of it – exactly like email.

How will document management move into the mainstream? Well many businesses already recognise the benefits that it can bring in terms of profit and increased productivity and this is contributing to a slow but significant shift in thinking. This is why content-rich document management processes are likely to become increasingly commonplace with user action triggered by commands such as ‘save’, ‘move’ or ‘open’. Although this doesn’t sound like a particularly major development, no one who runs a business wants to set out on a very steep learning curve, watching their employees get to grips with a brand-new information system. Content-rich systems will enable employees to get to grips with document management from the word-go and will help the flow of the right information from one place to another.