Document management has become one of the most elusive business concerns of the information age. Those that aggressively seek to improve operations are now finding that their document production and management engine has been traditionally ignored as products and services have continually improved. That's because, for many companies, the "document" has been looked at as a necessary evil. However, documents are continually growing and, for most companies, they are one of the most important assets a company has.
The most troubling thing is that many forward-thinking organizations, moving into the digital era, tend to think that the "document" is going away. This is because, more and more, the physical document is being phased out for an electronic presentation, and people often see a "document" as a piece of paper. This view is shortsighted; documents, in various forms, still exist and are becoming harder and harder to manage.
This monthly blog in partnership with the DOCUMENT Strategy Forum will focus on the steps to maturing your document domain. We will cover defining what a document is, the document life cycle, a enterprise document management maturity approach and ways to mature enterprise document management in your company.
Defining the document: The first step
"A document is a container of information."
Documents make it possible to organize, present, manage and preserve information. The way the information is organized and presented in the document provides meaning and context—this is the message or the content. The message delivers a communication to a customer. In addition to the message, there are important characteristics of a document, like logos, branding, address blocks, barcodes, form codes, identification numbers and other such information that define how the document operates. Documents come in many types: letters, spreadsheets, memorandums, forms, templates, records, reports, websites, text messages, even photographs or video clips are documents. The most important thing is that a document is both physical and electronic. Yes, electronic documents reduce costs associated with printing, mailing and storing, but there are still costs associated with the major activities (creation, delivery, receipt and manage) associated with a document, regardless if it's physical or electronic.
Understanding that documents are both physical and electronic is the key to understanding that documents are truly not going away. As a matter of fact, due to their importance from a compliance and regulatory nature, documents are becoming even more important. Also, documents are becoming much more complex. Over 20 years ago, physical documents were fairly simple, but today, the document can be a myriad of things: an email, a PDF, a JPG, a text message, a chat stream, a social media post and much more. As we move more into the digital age, security and regulations around these forms of communication are going to make them even more difficult to manage.
Due to this importance and complexity of documents in the digital age, it is very important that we develop a better way to mature our document management. Following the information-herd and moving away from the term "document" causes a myopic view of the issue. Using the word content, information or customer communication stovepipes you into one silo of document management, just like only looking at something like records or forms management.
Regarding a content view, for example, from a legal standpoint, if you must reproduce what was sent to a customer for compliance reasons, showing them some content in a library will never work. Regulators want to see the original document that was actually sent, with all its pieces and parts. Expect this to soon be true for web pages as well. There will come a point where the auditors and regulators will want you to fully reproduce what your customer viewed on your website when they actually viewed it. In a world where the web is very virtual and web pages change dynamically based on who is reading it, this will pose a significant challenge. You will be required to figure out how to store exactly what they saw for reproduction—the document. Thus, a content management view, although important, is only a piece of document management.
The first step in your document maturity journey, regardless of the size of your business, is to fully understand and accept what a document is and just how important it is as an asset to your company. Due to the minimalization of the document, because it is seen as a piece of paper that is going away, enterprise document management has taken a back seat to product and service improvements. Redefining that a document is a container of information and a crucial asset to your company is critical to your success in today's digital era. Compartmentalizing your thoughts into terms like content, information or communication devalues the container itself and limits your capability to mature it from an enterprise view.
For more information on the DOCUMENT Strategy Forum, email jdunkel@EventEvolution.com or call 866-378-4991.