Sixty percent of remote employees say they spend more time looking for documents and data than sending email. Nearly 90% spend time during the workday searching for documents. These findings are evidence that, even in the digital age, many companies still rely on analog procedures for document processing and (meta)data searching. Unfortunately, every minute spent flipping through file folders is time that employees cannot invest in productive work.
Analog approaches in a digital environment pose major challenges when customers and peers alike expect things on the double. To solve this problem, our company made process optimization a cornerstone of our digital transformation. While not every organization can or should follow our exact roadmap, I think plenty can learn from our experience.
In a Digital World, Analog Approaches are a Time Sink and Risk Factor
Consider modern enterprise arrangements. An organization with 1,500 employees might be spread across 40 or more official locations, with remote employees elsewhere. Given the company’s size and distributed nature, there’s a good chance it has some disjointed procedures in place and systems nearing the end of their lifecycle.
In many cases, companies like this employ manual and legacy processes for tasks, such as accounts payable-related activities. That means paper filing and spreadsheets for receipt and invoice processing, maintaining historical records, reconciling inflow and outflow, among other responsibilities.
This approach leaves companies open to risk. What happens if an invoice gets lost in the shuffle? The misplaced document could be a minor issue, or it could mean an angry customer and lost business. Missteps with financial reconciliation might even lead to unplanned third-party audits and regulatory scrutiny.
External factors, like supply chain shortages, only exacerbate customer service-related challenges. Disorganized purchase orders may impede a manufacturing organization’s timely procurement of raw materials, leading to production delays.
Data and document storage is only one part of the challenge enterprises experience. Even if organizations store information well, finding the right document can still frustrate teammates. Not every data or document storage platform offers metadata search functionality. A lack of metadata search makes it hard to locate information using order number, part number or other easily identifiable description of the document in question.
Analog procedures and legacy tools without modern functionality are major reasons why people spend so much time looking for documents. Along with being a major time sink, these approaches to data management also introduce unnecessary risk. Solutions to these problems must provide efficiency and risk mitigation.
Modern Technology Helps, but Solutions Must be Multi-Faceted
Outdated technology and analog processes are major causes of data-management concerns. Yet, business leaders would be remiss by simply buying new technology and washing their hands of the problem. Solutions to suboptimal processes include planning, technology and training.
Before turning to new solutions, companies must first understand the major obstacles they face to more efficient document handling. Are there bottlenecks to introducing changes? Are existing systems equipped to integrate with new solutions? There is a litany of questions leaders should answer before procuring new technologies.
With a plan and answers in place, enterprises can focus on digitalizing manual workflows and paper-heavy processes. Finding a digital solution that automates manual processes, including storage and search, will help companies:
- Create a centralized records repository, so employees in all departments, even in different office locations and time zones, can easily access the information they need. The repository would also need to be secure, with granular access controls to mitigate risk.
- Streamline workflows for every department, freeing up employees to focus on other projects or enhance their own skill set.
- Increase transparency by improving accountability. The solution would have to keep track of process documents like receipts and invoices to mitigate the risk of losing crucial material.
Enterprise leaders can also incentivize training. Many solutions and service providers offer training courses for using their technology. Incentivizing training will encourage employees to learn new systems, update their current skill sets and otherwise grow professionally.
Employee training must include education about proper data handling and technology use. Adopting digital tools is crucial to improving document-related workflows, but digital data storage must comply with a dynamic regulatory landscape. Many data breaches, even with modern tools in place, occur because someone within the company makes a mistake. Employees must first understand the risk that information mishandling introduces, as well as how to mitigate that risk.
Thoughtful Digitalization Improves Processes, Camaraderie and Company Preparedness
Our company had challenges like those of our hypothetical example. By devising a plan, implementing technology like Laserfiche and training our workforce, we automated much of our document-handling processes across departments.
Our digitalization initiative:
- Shortened the invoice-approval process from four days down to five hours.
- Reduced sales and tax information compiling and processing from three days to four hours.
- Simplified our internal and external audit processes. In fact, OSHA and ISO auditors have been pleasantly surprised with how easy and quickly we pull information together for review.
Even more importantly, overhauling our processes transformed the way we work as a team. Reducing the time spent searching for and processing documents improved productivity and reclaimed time for employees. With reclaimed time, they could truly take ownership of their roles and focus on driving the company and their careers forward. Now, we have a blueprint in place for scaling these efficiencies across departments. As a result, our organization is more resilient than ever and prepared for new challenges.