Image by: Enterline Design Services LLC, ©2015 Getty Images

In today’s ever-changing market, some previous best practices for document management are now obsolete while others are emerging as the new normal. From testing disaster recovery plans to rethinking mail, I’ve outlined five tips for updating your document management practices in 2016.

1. Be prepared for disruptive events
Over the last several years, we have seen a steady increase in the frequency of natural disasters and other unpredictable events. Unfortunately, these trends are making it more and more critical for organizations to have proper disaster recovery processes in place to protect employees and critical business assets. Unforeseen events can disrupt every aspect of a business—for instance, impeding production and distribution of time-sensitive documents, such as bills and statements—and interrupt the normal course of business for customers and partners.

Though the majority of companies say business continuity is a top priority, many are not confident in their plans, putting their organizations and people at risk. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, approximately 60% of companies do not test their disaster recovery plans, 40% do not reopen after a disaster and another 25% fail within one year of the event.

Businesses operate in a constant state of flux. Testing all contingency plans regularly gives companies the flexibility and scalability to be able to adjust to changing conditions and unpredictable challenges.

2. Make your information a business asset
According to technologist Robert F. Smallwood, approximately 90% of information was generated in the last two years, but only about a quarter of this information is considered a major asset. Yet, despite this huge opportunity to leverage a larger percentage of this data, many organizations still have not implemented mature information governance (IG) programs, believing that their records management programs fill this critical role. However, an effective IG program provides an additional level of value: an enterprise-wide framework for managing information throughout the entire document life cycle to support an organization's objectives and legal requirements.

Many enterprises find the idea of implementing a comprehensive program daunting. However, companies can no longer afford to shy away—a lack of IG leaves organizations exposed to litigation and data protection risks.

To implement a successful IG program, appoint a C-level executive to own the process and explain to key stakeholders how the proposed program will resolve pain points and mitigate risk across the organization. To win buy-in from multiple functions, detail the program’s true value, demonstrating that without good, actionable information, your company could be missing opportunities to seize the competitive advantage.

3. Automate document-intensive workflows
Businesses are under constant pressure to complete work more efficiently and cost-effectively. Many organizations, however, have not figured out how to manage the plethora of documents that need to be processed. According to AIIM, for 25% of organizations, the amount of paper flowing through processes is increasing. A recent IDC study also revealed that 39% of all business processes still require completion of hard copy documents.

Though the vast majority of organizations have integrated some technology into their workflow, many continue to use outdated technology and error-prone processes. Remaining dependent on paper-intensive, manual workflows creates pitfalls, ranging from IG issues to security gaps. Look to capture new opportunities, such as managed print services solutions or business process automation, that help aid document automation and optimization for both your back- and front-office operations.

4. Understand the total cost of ownership of your printing
Though many processes have changed in the print industry, one has remained the same: Companies typically focus on evaluating cost per printed piece, which represents a small portion of the actual cost of the document life cycle.

Companies spend 20% more than needed, because they do not take obsolescence, excess inventory or postage into account, according to our data. To make the best selection for a given project, analyze vendor proposals with an eye to total costs and select the one that best meets your objectives. Focusing on efficiency in this way provides greater visibility into your operational costs, helping to reduce unnecessary printing.

5. Re-think your direct mail budget
According to the 2015 DMA "Response Rate Report," direct mail usage has decreased as companies have balked at rising costs and difficulties deploying and tracking campaigns. However, when implemented well, direct mail continues to deliver greater results, driving a response rate six times greater than all digital channels.

Companies must be smart about how they utilize mail and realize that this channel has a place in integrated campaigns, boosting the performance of digital efforts. Personalize and bundle pieces to drive a greater return on investment, and consider implementing processes to minimize return mail, such as verifying addresses against the National Change of Address database.

As 2016 approaches, consider these tips to prepare and implement processes that will prepare organizations for an unexpected event, streamline workflows and reduce costs, helping your business become more successful and profitable in 2016 and beyond.

Ken Bechard is vice president of production services at Novitex. With more than 30 years of experience, he has a track record of designing solutions to improve both operational performance and financial value.

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