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How to Create Effective Document Management Workflows

Creating Document Management Workflows
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Businesses are awash in a sea of data. Quite honestly, it can be overwhelming to think of the thousands of paper documents and digital records that may be scattered across your desk and various online platforms.

Whether it’s accounts payable or receivable, HR, payroll, compliance or another department, document management workflows have become essential in today’s fast-paced business environment.

What are document management workflows and how can organizations reduce the frustrations and stress of organizing and routing large volumes of data? Read on.

What is Document Management Workflow?

Document management workflows are the step-by-step processes an organization uses to complete document-related tasks, including storing, routing, organizing, editing, sharing and archiving documents. Ideally, these workflows encompass the entire lifecycle of the documentation within an organization.

The Benefits of Document Management Workflows

Developing document management workflows is a critical step in minimizing inefficiencies. Workflows help to reduce errors and bring clarity to team members so that crucial steps and deadlines don’t get missed. It also helps to create transparency and accountability among team members. Another advantage is that others can more easily step in to complete tasks in the event an employee is sick or leaves the company.

Developing document workflows can seem daunting. But it’s important to note that much of the paperwork that flows through an organization has repeatable processes. For example, invoices are typically routed to designated staff and handled similarly, HR uses many of the same documents and workflows as part of new employee onboarding, and sales teams rely on specific documents when landing a new client.

Organizing various documentation is half the battle; there are several considerations to keep in mind when developing your workflows

Tips for Creating Document Management Workflows

Taking a step back and categorizing documents into their various functions can help you see the bigger picture and not feel as overwhelmed. Working from the top down rather than from the bottom up can help you get started. In other words, instead of starting by randomly organizing individual documents, begin by identifying the function (e.g., invoicing) and align the related documents from there.

You may want to begin with a single department or task instead of tackling everything all at once. From there, you can map out your workflows for other departments or processes.

Here are some basic steps you’ll want to take:

  1. Make a list of each task in your workflow and place them in sequential order
  2. Note which steps might need to be routed to others for review or approval
  3. Identify roles and responsibilities for each step in the workflow
  4. Provide completion deadlines for each task based on days or hours
  5. Optimize — always look for ways to improve or eliminate redundant processes, and invite others on the team to provide feedback

Use Tools to Streamline Workflows

To truly reap the benefits of document management workflows, it’s helpful to leverage technology. Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems are one of the best ways to do this. ECM does more than help you organize documents and streamline workflows; it can actually help you automate them. Even paper-based processes can be digitized and entered into the system’s repository.

RELATED: What is ECM? 5 Benefits of Enterprise Content Management

One of the difficulties of manually processing documents is that they arrive in multiple forms. Invoices, for example, may arrive as traditional mail, in an email, via a downloadable PDF or other method. ECM helps to digitize and streamline invoice documents into a centralized system and can even automate and trigger routing for reviews and approvals.

Features that shouldn’t be overlooked are security and compliance. ECM software is highly secure, ensuring that only authorized users can access sensitive information. A medical facility can comply with HIPAA by keeping unauthorized users from accessing patient data, for example.

The capabilities of ECM go far beyond what a traditional content management system (CRM) can do. In addition to document management workflows, ECM can provide real-time analytics, exhaustive search functions, custom dashboards, reporting tools and a host of customized features. It also integrates with a host of other softwares and applications to create a cohesive experience.

Learn more about ECM by downloading our free resource "4 Keys to Successful ECM Implementation". It can help you determine the important steps to take during an ECM implementation. We’re happy to provide a free consultation and answer any questions you may have.

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