Managing Documents Globally
Learn how Inmarsat uses KnowledgeTree across its global team to create great business documents.
Document Management Solutions
Each day, your company creates hundreds or even thousands of documents. These contracts, agreements, presentations, and proposals are generated, stored, and shared en masse by your team. But with each new document comes a management challenge.
How do you ensure that the right documents are created? How do you help teams to work together to create great content? How can you securely manage your documents so they are easy to locate? And how can you quickly access your documents when you need them?
Document Management as a Solution
Document management tools have emerged to address the challenge. These technologies help teams to create, store, and share documents in a secure vault. They have had a significant impact on productivity, letting users efficiently share information. And, by helping to organize files, they overcome document chaos.
However, traditional tools are often hamstrung by their complexity. They tend to emphasize new functionality without recognizing user needs for efficient processes. As a result, professionals struggle to get documents added and shared, and the efficiency gains from document management evaporate.
Cloud as an Approach to Managing Documents
Cloud-based document management solutions have emerged as alternatives in recent years. Their economies of scale and “anywhere” availability have made the cloud mainstream for business use. The scale of the cloud means that mid-sized companies and teams within larger organizations can get enterprise-class functions at a lower cost. And they can get started much faster, without the hurdle of hardware and other capital expenses.
Document management as a process has also capitalized on this trend, with cloud-based technologies now available. As with any tool, it is important to evaluate how it fits into your organization’s processes. This paper steps through how a cloud-based approach can help you regain control over your document lifecycles.
The lifecycle of a document often begins with a group effort. Teams may submit different threads of content, edit it, and add refinements and comments. These teams are often spread across multiple offices, and may even be in other geographies.
As a result, the flexibility of cloud-deployed tools becomes a valuable asset for content creation. Simply emailing copies of documents between parties leads only to version chaos. Similarly, relying on shared drives – in the cloud or on your network – is an unmanaged approach and only leads to more complexity.
An alternative is to co-author documents online. Frequently used technology lets users access a browser-based document editing tool to add and modify content as they would in a standard word processor. This is especially useful for users that are highly mobile and when teams are widely spread, as cloud-enablement avoids VPN issues and makes distance irrelevant.
Similarly, some cloud-based document management tools offer integration into Microsoft Office. This permits users to create content and share it via the cloud without leaving the tools they are used to. Document management tools without this integration, cloud-based or otherwise, are less likely to be adopted by users. After all, changing processes is difficult and it is important that a good solution not get in the way of use.
Many documents are created not by a single user or team of users, but en masse. For instance, you may have large volumes of invoices that are automatically generated. Or, you may need to scan and store paper-based files. Or, documents may arrive from a fax server. An effective cloud tool will integrate with fax and scanning servers to automate the import of files into the document management solution.
Manage Document Processes
Because documents are often generated by multiple people, it is important to control their lifecycle. That means establishing workflows that documents can follow from creation to completion. With some cloud-based document management tools you can establish workflows and automatically enter documents into a controlled approval process. The cloud assists this process by allowing even remote approvers to OK documents via the Internet.
Documents are living entities that change over time. So, users need to stay on top of change. As new content is added to a proposal you need to know what’s changed, and revert if necessary. You should be able to subscribe to documents of interest so you can stay on top of their evolution. Again, accessibility of your documents via the internet lets you quickly spot unwanted changes, or access the latest version as needed.
Also, documents often have specific timeframes attached to them. For instance, a budget may need to be reviewed at a set date. Or, a contract may need to be renewed on a certain date. Document alerts should be available so you or your team can be prompted when a review is needed.
Because documents evolve over time, you should look to share insights from team members in order to help enhance document quality. So, you should have commenting capabilities and usage tracking to monitor what colleagues think about a document and how it can be improved. The cloud again provides an ideal collaborative platform, as users can connect and comment from anywhere.
Documents are created to be used. That requires that they can be easily found by your colleagues. To do so, your documents should be well organized. Typically, this involves creating a structure based on folders. So, you may have a “finance” folder and “accounting”, “audit”, and so forth as sub-folders. The structure will of course depend on how your organization consumes information.
But some documents apply to multiple folders, defying a strictly hierarchical approach. That is where “web-like” approaches to organizing documents can be valuable. For instance, tagging documents with descriptions allows documents to be grouped based on several topics. So, a “new hire” document could be grouped under HR, Company Policies, and Employee Tools, all at the same time.
This approach to organizing documents lets users browse for what they are interested in, or using a search function to locate what they need. Good tools have advanced searching capabilities that search in document names, descriptions, or even in the document content itself. For instance, within the text of a PDF document.
The highest quality document is useless if it can’t be easily accessed. Here, cloud-based tools are particularly useful. The global nature of the cloud means that authorized users can simply login to their vault and view, modify, or download documents.
On-premise document management tools often suffer from an inability to access documents when on the road. This can be especially crippling for auditors, accountants, lawyers, and other professionals that frequently travel or work offsite.
Sharing documents with colleagues is an important element here. Tools that allow you to share links or send files as attachments are relatively standard. But it is important again that access is available. A link is irrelevant if the recipient is on the road and can’t access it. Cloud-based tools offer that accessibility. At the same time, when dealing with sensitive documents it is important to monitor how a document is shared. Auditing the accessing and sharing of a document helps avoid compliance issues.
© 2012 KnowledgeTree Inc. All rights reserved.