Company-wide document management efforts should consolidate the document management needs of specific departments so that the whole company benefits, says Paul Mullon, information governance executive at Metrofile.
Paul Mullon, information governance executive: Metrofile
Much has been said about the information lifecycle in recent years, with attention being focused on how documents and records move through a business, from creation to use and final destruction. Consideration has involved understanding the overall benefits an organisation can derive from managing its document environments by following the lifecycle of each record, knowing what storage requirements will be needed at certain stages in that cycle and complying with legal stipulations regarding retention and destruction when appropriate.
Although the documents produced and handled by each department in the organisation may be equally important, they do have different impacts on the company, different legal requirements regarding the storage of those documents, and different destruction needs. This needs to be kept in mind when undertaking organisation-wide document management initiatives.
Money makes the world turn
Accounting and financial documents are critical to the organisation. They are responsible for ensuring that money due to the company is collected and that money due by the company is paid. Therefore, the management needs for these documents are different from those generated in a department such as HR. If accounting documents are not managed properly, the company stands to suffer great losses through slow and reduced revenue receipt. If an invoice or proof-of-delivery cannot be found, the company makes itself vulnerable to payment disputes, which, without the documents in question, are difficult to win.
Another issue faced by accounting departments is the legislative and corporate governance requirements that state that all financial records must be kept for a stipulated length of time. The department must ensure that this is done in the most cost-effective way, while still enabling the easy retrieval of necessary documents.
Accounting departments have much to gain by being able to quickly and easily find appropriate documents, or reproduce copies when necessary.
Legal and financial problems can arise if proof-of-delivery documents, the staple currency of distribution departments, go missing. Without these documents, clients can deny having ever received an item for which payment is being billed. Without proof that the customer signed for the receipt of that item, it is a case of the client's word against the company's, which translates into a poor argument in court.
Without proof of delivery, the customer is not obliged to pay for goods bought, and should they pay, this payment can be delayed for as long as the customer can prolong it.
Making use of document imaging technology is a solution particularly suited to this department. Once signed proof-of-delivery documents are returned to the company, they can be scanned and matched against purchase orders. Discrepancies can be resolved immediately, documents can be retrieved easily, and at the end of their lifecycle, they can be destroyed appropriately.
Paper wells over
International research conducted over the past four decades has consistently shown that a large proportion of corporate turnover is tied up in the management of documents. After all, many businesses today are document-intensive and the number of people and processes involved in managing documents continues to expand. This is particularly true in administration departments.
Therefore, it is important for these departments to gain a clear understanding of the processes followed in managing documents they generate; to know where these documents are needed and their movement through the organisation; and to introduce improvements to the processes that will enhance productivity and reliability.
Often, improvements lie in implementing document-imaging technology that enables the department to make all documents available to any authorised staff members, at any time and any location. Understanding the specific management needs of the different documents in the business enables the organisation to ensure that legal, financial and efficiency loopholes are effectively plugged.