Workflow Automation Software

Yep we need that

You or your co-workers have been away from the office for a long time now. What are you missing? That is not a question about certain people or favorite lunch spots. It’s a question about information. Has this experience exposed deficiencies or nurtured already advancing digital processes?

Some companies are finding that there were still some hard copy documents that they needed access to.  Maybe it was just random documents that were slow to enter the digital realm.  These are the documents that come in to certain people directly, but take a long time to become digital and accessbile to all.  Maybe it is a certain type of document like drawings or archived customer files that have been more difficult or costly to convert.  It may be time to re-evaluate the cost benefit of getting those documents scanned or implementing a centralized digital mail room.

Continue reading “Yep we need that”

Kicking off our 25th Year!

Let's Do ThisAs we kicked off our 25th year in business in September, Millennia Group did not wait around for the New Year to start anew. Here’s what’s new:

New Facility – We’re moving to a new facility on December 1st, 2020 with a configuration to maximize our security, efficiency and office flexibility.

New Employee – Welcome to Kevin Turner our new senior software developer.  He comes to Millennia Group with 11 years of experience at a national software solutions provider.

New Equipment – All new high-speed scanning equipment to help you convert those critical paper documents and plans/drawings to mobile friendly digital and a new IP phone system for even better customer support.

New Features – FileStar has new features and benefits (A/P workflow, new integrations, improved notifications and more.)

New Tools – FileStar Agent to keep your network drive in sync with your EDMS.  Call us to learn more.

What does this all mean for our customers and future customers?  It means we will be more efficient and more effective in providing our customers with workflow and document management solutions, document scanning services and data migration services. 

As we start our 25th year in business, we are as dedicated as ever to being the best service provider in the document management industry.  If your new flexible workplace rules have resulted in employees struggling to gain access to critical documents or your work processes have bogged down, contact us now!

Pandemic Pajama Plan

via Flickr - Nelson PavloskyThese 9 suggestions are meant to help your company come out of this pandemic with a fresh, invigorated attitude and a platform ready to take advantage of the opportunities that come your way.  And, if your company has a document management system, substitute “network drive” with the name of that document management system.  Good luck and can’t wait to see you on the other side of this.

Top 9 Pandemic Pajama Plan Items:

  1. Purge old electronic files.  Have employees purge files from their personal folders or shared folders that are not necessary for company purposes.  The three main records retention classifications include: legally required, operationally required and historically important.  Don’t destroy records that are need for legal or compliance reasons.  Don’t destroy records that are needed to support current transactions or contracts.  Don’t destroy the first ever drawing of a new product.  Give employees some clear instructions of what falls into the various definitions.
  2. Purge old emails.  Same story as purging old files.
  3. Clean up the directory structure on the network drive.  Rename folders to sort correctly (ie. last name, first name) or to create a perfect match to your core business system.  For instance, include a customer number in addition to the customer name, include a product ID and product name, etc.  Get rid of all folders on the shared drive that are someone’s name, especially if that someone is long gone.
  4. Remind all employees not to save files on their local computer drives.  While you are at it, remind them to move those legally required, organizationally required or historically significant documents to the company network drive.
  5. Take a survey of all employees and ask what information is hardest to get at now that they are working from home?  Then get a plan together to fix that issue.
  6. During your quarterly security awareness training, because I am sure all companies do quarterly security awareness training for all employees, remind them that the CEO\CFO\COO will never ask them via email to wire money to anybody, any time or anywhere.
  7. Go through the company CRM and purge old, bad contacts.  Those contacts just create confusion.
  8. Confirm the contact information for all customers and vendors in your ERP – delete the rest.
  9. Spend 15 minutes a day clicking every single button and menu item and running every report in the most complicated software applications that your company uses so you can see that you won’t break it (stay away from the Delete function).  This will eliminate your fear and turn you into a rockstar.
Millennia Group provides workflow and document management solutions using our FileStar platform and our document scanning services.  Contact us at info@mgdocs.com or find us at www.mgdocs.com.

So you think your data is clean

Via Flickr - Elizabeth

Having clean data is important for running any business.  Clean data being defined as accurate, suitable for its use, organized and complete.  Clean data means revenue is maximized, the IRS stays at bay and your strategy sessions are effective.  However, what once seemed clean can end up looking very dirty when that data is exposed through a different lens. 

What worked as good data in the old accounting system may fall short in a new system.  A well-organized network drive full of supporting files can look like a spaghetti bowl when trying to migrate the files into a document management system.  No big deal if the data isn’t perfectly clean, it’s worked so far.  That may be true, but what are you missing out on?

True, the old data might have seemed like it worked just fine.  But there is some reason that a new system was chosen, maybe that was part of a merger or the old system was inadequate in other ways like reporting or analysis capabilities.  And don’t forget, that data might look clean to a user that has been with the company for 10 years, but a new employee might think otherwise.

Trying to get data clean can be a difficult and costly task.  Assigning new codes to data or modifying existing flags to meet new requirements takes time and effort.  Be prepared to spend serious time taking a deep dive into your existing data to understand how it may relate to the new solution.  Don’t forget that there should be a benefit from this analysis, like creating a better view of customer demand or finding errors that have caused higher costs or lower revenue.

Generally speaking, more granularity in the data is better, but getting there costs more.  For instance, maybe your client contracts contain a renewal notice date, but that date was never recorded in your tracking database.  The solution is to open each contract, find the data and enter it in the new system.  Or possibly all documents that were inherited as part of an acquisition were scanned as one big client PDF and now you want the contract separate from the correspondence and statements.  All of this takes time, but it will pay off.

Look at the needs of the company.  Look at what additional information and uses can come from better, cleaner data.  Understand how your existing or new solutions can utilize this new data.  Then make some assumptions about the costs and you will be able to determine if the effort is worth it.  Just remember, at some point, a change will most likely be necessary, so start to chip away at what looks like clean data but maybe is not.

Millennia Group provides workflow and document management solutions including data clean up and migration services.  For more information go to www.mgdocs.com or contact us at info@mgdocs.com.

Going to the grocery store is a teaching moment

via Flickr - Brian, Thin MintsWe have all encountered the situation on our way into the grocery store where a young girl in uniform is selling cookies.  Or maybe it’s someone dressed as Santa ringing a bell.  In both cases, the story doesn’t end there because you have a second encounter when you exit the store.  So the issue is, which do you prefer, addressing the situation on the way in or dealing with it on the way out?

This post is not really about the Girl Scouts or the Salvation Army of course.  This is an analogy for how your company deals with its critical business information.  Either your company has a well-defined process and structure to identify information as it enters or it relies on advanced search capabilities to find information where-ever it may hide.  Or, oh no, it’s a free-for-all at your company.

There is obvious business value when the right information gets into the right users hands at the right time.  And conversely it is a detriment to have users wasting time trying to find information or worse, finding the wrong information.  Therefore, it is highly recommended to have a strategy to make sure information is accurately tagged and easily accessible to your users.  There are different ways to try to accomplish this.

First, you can implement a document management system and create some policies and procedures that users are supposed to follow for putting documents into the system.  The system will naturally need to have a structure to it that makes sense to the users and the classification process will need to be as easy as possible.  For instance, keep meta data tags to no more than six in number.  There is no doubt that the risk here is user apathy. 

A second method would be to use AI and smart search engine capabilities to programmatically classify and return search results to users.  This search engine would do all the work so that users can “throw” files into the system with little to no meta data.  In fact, it could be a version of federated search where the engine finds documents located in multiple repositories.  This is simple for users, but the risk is unstructured or inaccurate search results.

We have mentioned it before, but we generally see a mixture of methods.  Working files tend to be on a shared network drive with control based on department and users browsing or searching in hopes of finding what they need.  No meta tagging at all.  Archival or record type files tend to be in a document management system with some meta data requirements as files are added. 

The use of AI can help simplify the identification and classification process and make it better than it is today for both working files and record files.  Ideally this should be part of the front end of the process.  There is no need to take the risk of the search finding the information you need when the solution makes the process friendly and easy on the way in.  Improving your approach on the front end will make the back end result that much better.

Millennia Group has been providing workflow and document management solutions since 1996 and continues to develop better ways to make information easy to find.  Contact us at info@mgdocs.com or visit our website at www.mgdocs.com to find out more about the latest AI centered solutions we are working on.

Downsizing and De-cluttering

via FlickrIn essence, a good records management policy and effort helps companies continuously downsize and de-clutter.  That is not to say that the company moves to a smaller space or reduces headcount.  In this context it is the systematic process of eliminating information that is no longer legally required or relevant to the business.  This sounds fantastic for every company and every employee doesn’t it?

It sounds great to have less irrelevant information to sift through and maybe clearer lines of site to people in cubicles around you, unless you like to work in a bunker.  New office space configurations and the wave of digitization have reduced the chances of boxes piling up.  But even those pesky digital files need to be purged every once in a while.  So why is it so hard to do?

To programmatically or systematically delete files that are no longer legally required or relevant to the business (“Records”) means there must be a few things in place first.  The company will need a records management policy that describes the document classifications (legal record, business record, junk), specifies generally what files fall under each classification and then states the legal or business retention period.  The retention period is the duration (months/years) the file must be retained before it should be destroyed. For instance, retain the customer contract for 3 years after the term expires.

So instantly this highlights some basic challenges.  All files will need to be classified when the file is created or received, including the date of the file.  Secondly, there must be a way to search through all of the company files, where-ever those files reside, to find the ones that meet the criteria for deletion.  Then, and here is the most difficult part – someone needs to actually delete the files!

The benefits of having a records management program in place, as previously mentioned, include less clutter so good information is easier to find and less space, in this case, less gigabytes of storage, which might save some money.  There is also better security over sensitive data and lower exposure to litigation.  Even if it is an ethical, well run business, frivolous lawsuits still cost money and therefore, the ability to quickly prove that no smoking gun exists, is a benefit.

Many document management systems provide the ability to classify documents when they are added to the system.  Many also have the ability to programmatically find and list documents that meet the retention periods and are ready for deletion.  But users still don’t always delete those files, despite wanting the benefits of de-cluttering. 

We have added the ability to hide “retired” information from standard searches into our document management solution.  We have also added the ability to highlight information that is old, but maybe not at the point where it has met the retention period.  So while we understand the benefits of decluttering, we also understand the fear of wiping out information that could, just maybe, once in a blue moon, possibly, come in handy.

Millennia Group provides workflow and document management solutions that are flexible, effective and smart.  For more information – www.mgdocs.com, info@mgdocs.com or (630) 279-0577 x122.

Security shaming is working

Via FlickrOkay, maybe security shaming is not the proper way to describe security awareness training.  No matter how its labeled, it’s working.  We don’t receive emails with employee or patient lists attached.  We aren’t given access to a Box account where we can see all company information instead of only the one folder we should see.

More and more we recognize the need to share information in a secure manner.  Nobody wants to be the one who accidently released a million names and social security numbers.  Security awareness training, a standard ritual now at most companies, is effective at helping to prevent accidental releases, but ensuring that information is securely shared could be a lot easier.

Its already commonplace to ask Siri and Alexa to answer a question, and they do quite accurately.  Cars can park autonomously.  Rockets can blast off and come right back down to a standing position.  Why can’t all software applications enforce secure sharing of information?

Applications are designed to be as easy to use as possible for the intended purpose; find contact information in the CRM, enter transactions in the accounting system, find a document in the document management system.  At the same time, the information needs to be protected; don’t allow all users to export the entire list of contacts, don’t allow users to send financial statements to just any email address, and don’t allow users to download all of the R&D documents to a thumb drive.

Security in most applications is good at preventing access to information based on role or some other factor.  But some applications are not good at placing control on the information once it is accessible.  Information generally should not be allowed to be emailed as an attachment, however should be a secure link back to documents or information.  The link should expire at some predetermined date.  The application shouldn’t allow batch downloads of documents without some administrative oversight and possibly require all data to be encrypted if downloaded.

The developers of applications can achieve the ease of use they want and also have controls where it makes sense.  Nobody wants to be shamed for the release of sensitive information, especially not the creators or administrators of the applications you use every day.  Take a look around your applications to see if the controls exist and if they are appropriately applied and avoid being shamed.

Millennia Group has been providing workflow and document management solutions since 1996.  Contact us at info@mgdocs.com, (630) 279-0577 or visit our website at www.mgdocs.com

Looking well beyond the next quarter

Millennia Group just wrapped up being a sponsor and participant in the 19th annual Realcomm IBCON tradeshow in San Diego.  This is a show dedicated to the understanding and use of technology in the commercial real estate industry.  As one might expect for a technology show, there were some familiar topics including robotics, artificial intelligence, blockchain, virtual reality and renewable energy.

The current news touches on these topics, but from a different angle; the death of the retail industry, the reshaping of office workers and their environments and Amazon warehouses – they’re popping up everywhere.  After 19 years of participating in this industry trade show, it is still very clear, there is a long term focus in this industry, well beyond how these external forces will impact the next quarter.

Based on the content of the breakout sessions at the show, it appears that approximately half was dedicated to how technology could make the use or management of real estate more efficient.  The other half was dedicated to how technology could impact the business today and in the future. 

Vendors are promoting and owners/occupants are evaluating options for reducing energy consumption, improving customer engagement, eliminating friction to onboard new tenants and streamlining the valuation of properties and getting those things done now.  Both vendors and owners/occupants are simultaneously factoring in the potential impact from disruptive technologies and how to deal with that for tomorrow. 

There were robots wondering the show floor – will that mean office or industrial jobs will be eliminated and will that mean no more need for lunch rooms or restrooms?  People were testing virtual reality – will that mean no more trips to the store to touch and feel a product?  There were sessions on how blockchain will impact transactions and discussions of Teslas dropping off people and product – where will that lead?

Every industry is dealing with the impact of these issues.  It is good to see that the commercial real estate industry is looking technology in the eye to see how it can benefit.  How can cloud based workflow make my operation more efficient?  How can technology help me track and lower energy consumption?  How will people and businesses need and use real estate in the future?  That is not an evaluation for the next quarter, that’s a long term, full time effort and that is a professional approach.

Captains of Industry are Building Conglomerations

via Flickr HRP2911I heard a story about how there is a push to bring the “Hipster” crowd to Eau Claire Wisconsin, a family oriented, affordable, city of 150,000+ in Northern Wisconsin.  My first response was that with current technology, people can choose to live wherever they want, so why not Eau Claire.  Having this opportunity is not a new concept and in fact, people working remotely is very commonplace already. 

However, what it brought to mind was that it’s not just your remote employees that you need to plan for these days.  Today some portion of your business process may be outsourced and you need to plan for those workers as well.  Where are those workers and how will they be included in the process?  How does your technology support this new conglomeration?

Who is part of your organization and where they are located is blurring.  Companies and their systems need to function efficiently and securely with traditional networked employees, remote employees and these third party participants.  The dreams of some early technology proponents and visionaries to getting work done wherever you are is getting closer to reality.

Phone systems can reach someone on any device no matter what number was dialed.  Messaging and email systems can include any user in the communication chain.  ERP systems, which manage the accounting and production process, are now web based.  It is much easier to make people feel like part of the team with Skype or GoToMeeting or other desktop sharing, video meeting systems. 

And of course file cabinets are now online providing access to drawings, specs, reports and other documentation that is needed to perform tasks.  And with web based workflow and digital signatures, virtually any business process, whether it involves internal users only or includes external users, can now be done via the web. 

Processes that involve employees in the office, remote employees or remote third party users, can now be structured to be the optimal process, not the optimal process under the physical circumstances.  You too can be a titan of industry – use technology to build your conglomeration. 

Millennia Group provides web based document management and workflow solutions with integration capabilities to ERP systems.  For more information, please visit www.mgdocs.com or contact us at info@mgdocs.com or (630) 279-0577 x122.

Active vs Final Documents – Co-habitation?

Via Flickr - Stuart BassilA technology issue that companies deal with on a regular basis is using one application for managing active or working documents and a separate application for the archived or final documents. Active being defined as documents in the creation or working stage and final being final or executed.

This situation exists because of how and why these documents are created, accessed and shared. Certain employees are document Creators and others are document Users and their needs are very different. The Holy Grail is one application to manage both. The reality is you need two applications. Let us explain why that is not a bad thing.

Speed and flexibility is demanded by the document Creators. The Creators just want to get their job done and get it done quickly. But that is inconsistent with the rules imposed by a document management and retention system. The document Users need the documents to support the sales, accounting or customer service functions and they need the information to be exactly where they expect to find it – it’s all about rules, control and process.

For Creators and active documents, the most common “applications” for managing the files are a network drive and folder system or a file sharing application. These applications make it very easy to create and store the files and share them via email or upload. The lack of rules allows each Creator to do their own thing in the way they work best. Employees don’t want to spend time filling in 6 description fields for each document, checking it in and checking it out. This is especially difficult when outside parties are involved, like contractors or lawyers.

For Users of final documents, companies have realized that a document management system is the only way to ensure that employees are accessing the right documents to make critical business decisions. Without a document management system, files are lost due to a lack of naming consistency or the documents are hard to find due to the share volume of folders to click through. A document management system helps force minimum descriptions and controls access to the documents.

The solution to the issue is to have a process and training to ensure that the final document goes into the document management system and follows all the rules in the transition. This can be handled via a workflow process or by establishing formal procedures. All relevant information needs to be captured and all required documents should be accounted for. There is even the possibility of migrating all working files into the final archive so that the entire history is available, but not cluttering up the Users view.

It is very difficult to build one application that is both flexible and open and yet have the control and security needed. It is more efficient to build a process that connects the two applications while letting each divergent set of user’s work how they work.

If you have questions about document management and workflow, please contact us, we would love to hear from you.

www.mgdocs.com, (630) 279-0577 x122 or info@mgdocs.com.