How to Manage Paper & People in the Digital Workplace
Despite digital technologies that have transformed -- and that continue to transform – the workplace, “traditional” technologies and problems still exist. Paper and people are still very much a part of the business landscape. Paper just won’t go away – it’s used to print digital documents; it arrives daily from the postal service; and it lives forever in old files.
In fact, the merging new digital technologies with traditional ways of doing business exacerbates old problems and creates new ones as enterprises struggle with the best ways to manage both digital documents and paper documents, while staying on top of the processes that people need to carry out.
While some type of document management system is likely to help with the organization and storage of documents, unfortunately, most DMS stop there. What really needs to be accomplished is to manage the intersection of paper and digital with people and processes. This is accomplished with through Business Process Management (BPM) based in the framework of a robust Electronic Content Management (ECM) System.
BPM: The Manager’s Friend
If you’re responsible for managing a department or an entire business, you know how much goes into keeping information moving, errors at minimum and managing the employees responsible for getting work done. Business Process Management helps managers stay on top of things by automating workflow, integrating enterprise applications, and allowing organizations to manage paper, people and processes in a digital environment. Start with paper.
As our article, Top 10 Reasons for Document Scanning (in the new economy) points out, document scanning and the use of digital documents is more important than ever. As the economy continues to improve and businesses grow, the labor market tightens. Growth and change mean more paper coming in and out of your company; more data to track. But the tight labor market means fewer available employees to do the work.
Digital document management, workflow automation and cloud access to information and data make it possible to be more productive without adding new hires.
Companies who make use of BPM benefits with:
- Increases in process efficiency and productivity
- Ability to maintain continuous process improvement
- Improvements in process quality, consistency, and compliance
- Enhanced organizational agility and flexibility
How Does BPM work?
Digital BPM relies on the ability to move digital documents or digital content through multi-step processes. Daily work processes are broken down into steps required for completion and the persons responsible for each step are identified. Each step is identified and tracked as content moves through a workflow, with either specified people or -- in some cases -- application robots processing the information.
This results in a workflow that is predetermined by logic and that streamlines business processes to enhance productivity, ensure quality. Automated workflows to drive operational efficiency. The core benefit of managing processes in this way is the ability to enable continuous improvement of that process.
What Happens to Paper?
The slowest moving part of a process slows the efficiencies of any process. In an office, the physical routing of paper documents impedes the efficiency of the process. Furthermore, paper-based processes are difficult to secure, monitor, and measure, which are requirements for BPM. This means that organizations that want to achieve the efficiencies of BPM must pay careful attention to managing the intersection of paper-based and electronic processes. This intersection usually occurs in the mailroom.
By eliminating paper at its source, businesses gain control of processes and reduce costs by stopping the influx of paper. A Digital Mailroom automates and accelerates the incoming mail processes. All incoming business mail is scanned upon receipt and delivered electronically to the appropriate department or process. Usually these documents are “structured,” i.e., forms, orders, invoices, delivery dockets and vouchers. But, in many in consumer or citizen-facing organizations, these documents will also include hand-written letters, application forms, change of details, supporting certificates, and other “non-structured” data. Circulars, brochures, magazines and junk-mail aren’t scanned.
The core technology of a Digital Mailroom is scan-to-process. Scan-to-process includes intelligent recognition, extraction, validation and routing of useful data from the document or form, then triggering a workflow to start a specific process. Scan-to-archive may be part of the operational sequence, but this is incidental to the scan-to-process.
Refer to our article How a Digital Mailroom Makes Your Company More Efficient for additional information.
BPM Requires a Robust ECM
In the research titled ECM vs. DM - Rivalry by the Numbers, AIIM describes ECM as neither a single technology, methodology, or process. Rather it is a concerted effort of strategies, methods, and tools used to capture, process, access, manage, measure, store, integrate, preserve, and deliver information supporting key organizational processes through its entire lifecycle. It enables searches within the structured and unstructured data of a document according to business rules established at the capture stage. It is these business rules that become the basis for Business Process Management.
A Document Management System, however, is designed for one thing only: to manage all an enterprise’s documents that have been digitized and that need to be used in various departments. So, document management refers to the storage and handling of documents in such a way that information can be created, shared, organized and stored, but a DMS does not effectively support BPM.
How Important is BPM?
We've found that Business Process Management (BPM), which was once considered a luxury that only large organizations could afford, is now considered a critical part of business operations -- regardless of business size. In fact, BPM may be even more important for small to medium size organizations if they want to stay competitive. Refer to our article, Why Even Small Businesses Need Business Process Improvement for an in-depth discussion about the importance of Business Process Improvement for all sizes and types of organizations.
Where to Start?
For many businesses, especially those that are small and mid-sized, the entire process of BPM seems way beyond reach. Already working at capacity to get things done, it seems that taking time from traditional processes that work (albeit inefficiently) to figure out a better way to do things, is just too much! Add to that the necessity to research and compare the ECM solutions necessary to start the ball rolling and many organizations give up before they even start. But, it doesn’t have to be that difficult.
By delegating one or more IT-intensive business processes to an external provider to administrate and manage the selected processes based on defined and measurable performance metrics, your business benefits from BPM in a way that is seamless for the business and transparent to the customer.
Outsourcing is not a new concept. Companies have been outsourcing labor-intensive tasks that are not critical to their core competencies for years – call centers, order departments, etc. But, as those tasks have been replaced by web-based services (on-line chat and on-line ordering, for instance), BPO has emerged as a more data-driven process. With the advent of cloud computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and sofware Bots, routine workflow processes can be more easily outsourced and controlled through automation.
Small and medium sized businesses can now outsource a wide array of finance and accounting activities, as well as human resources, records management, Digital Mailrooms and Robotic Process Billing. The cloud makes it possible to outsource activities ranging from complex decision-making and analytics support to high-resource, low-complexity transaction processing.
With today’s technologies, your company can off-load accounts payable/receivable or the management of complex cash flows. You can off-load a simple payroll or an entire HR department (payroll, tax services, insurance and benefits, time and labor, workers' compensation, COBRA and ACA compliance, and more). By working with a business process service provider any company can significantly reduce operating costs, improve cash flow and nearly eliminate human error.
Today, some MBAs recommend outsourcing anything that is not part of your core business…and, by using the right vendor and technologies, nearly anything can be outsourced.
With the right vision, planning, strategy and process, you can reach your business goals. Learn more about how to Maximize Your Workflow with Electronic Content Management. Your business will be better, your employees will be happier and more efficient and you'll be able to sleep at night knowing that costs are minimized, tasks are being done on time with fewer errors, and your customers are well served.