Monday, January 21, 2013

Learn a little more about Document Management

Since the first large businesses and contemporary institutions came into being, man has had the onerous task of overcoming the cumbersome difficulties involved in managing information.

We know the importance of information in the administration of companies, and all of the processes involved, so this isn’t just consumables that a company needs to operate. Information represents constant operations and output that people in an organization carry out. That is, businesses and institutions don’t just need information to function: they themselves also produce tons of it.

If a business doesn’t keep on top of the flow of information, it’s certain that its management is headed for disaster. However, the management of everything that information represents isn’t an easy task, never more than when businesses reach a certain size and a certain degree of bureaucratization. At that point, documents take on a fundamental role in the lives of organizations, not only for operating and controlling every process at an internal level, but also because legislation in countries demand that businesses maintain a certain amount of control over all of the documentation that a company produces. As such, information and documentation, as the way in which it is stored, also demands to be managed.

Managing this documentation certainly generates costs, and not just in economic terms; it also represents an expense of time and, until we were well into the 20th century, great expenses for space, too. Imagine how it must have been, towards the end of the 19th century, for businesses like daily newspapers, hospitals and other large organizations to organize and access all of their documents – literally, tons and tons of sheets of paper, stored in never-ending rows of files, that somebody had to run up and down, day after day, to organize and classify contents. Rooms with rows that had been ploughed between stacks of paper, where finding that one specific, particular piece of paper could turn into a complete odyssey.

Imagine, too, what could happen to a business if, for any particular and unfortunate reason, years and years of documentation fell victim to, say, a fire, or something as natural as a moth infestation or the passage of time. How much money must those businesses have had for the upkeep of storage facilities, paying people to manage – and, more than anything, how much money must they have spent, once upon a time, on paper?

Businesses were screaming for solutions. Thank Heaven that we haven’t stayed stuck in the Age of Paper! Computers, databases, general digital storage systems and, above all, the introduction of the real concept of Document Management have all meant a dramatic change in the way of we do the dirty work behind the day-to-day operations of businesses.

What hasn’t changed significantly since those dark days of the filing room: needs which are solved by the solutions that document management can give:

  • Documents, by necessity, don’t provide structured information, something that complicates their organization and classification.
  • Since physical documents take a physical form, they’re susceptible to deterioration and disappearance, either by the passage of time or the actions of third parties.
  • The more documents you produce, the more trouble you’re going to have storing them and accessing them – each and every one of them.

However, as we were saying, document management came into being and, as a result, the applicable technology also progressed. So, what is document management? It isn’t anything more than a collection of technical norms which are used to administer the flow of documents within an organization, which then translates into simplicity, speed and savings in both the access and storage of information in a business.

Document management gurus arranged it so that we could count on systems that were less flashy and which allowed for better control when bringing documents into the system – as less time was needed, owing to digitalization of physical documents, the geographic space got smaller and the traditional storage of documents (and the associated costs relating to upkeep and care) also decreased.

Nonetheless, for reasons of security and legal requirements, getting rid of so much paper seemed like a Utopian fantasy. Although digital documents were used, these never had the weight to prove the validity of something, nor did they have the legitimacy of traditional documents. As a result, businesses dedicated to taking charge of storage sprung up, usually located in the outskirts of cities, where space costs ended up being lower.

There’s no doubt that there was a lot of room for improvement and solutions ended up moving beyond the role of simply “copying”, which was what digital documents had been doing. A lot of work was needed for security, for legislation and culture, to change that perception, so that, more and more people could access digital documents. Currently, efforts are being directed in this way, as long as this perception is not totally disseminated. Nonetheless, in the case of Spain (which has, since 1995, been involved in a process of digitalization which has been promoted by the State), we now have a legal framework which allows for the use of digitalized documents that are equally valid as the traditional documents for the average citizen, even for large organizations which make up part of the fabric of the public sector. These days, in this country (with improvements such as the electronic ID card, electronic certificates, digital signatures, and everything connected to the digital signature), citizens and government agencies can access a flow of information that is faster, more flexible and safer to use. Even the private sector has seen various improvements, such as with mobile communications companies, where traditional invoicing is giving way to digital invoices.

At Athento, we’ve been on this wave of modernization for some time, in order to offer our clients document management with top technology, and, more importantly, to adapt ourselves to the needs of the client. The question is this: Is your business still in the Age of Paper? If the answer is yes, there’s no doubt that we know how to help you.

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