Workflow Automation Software

As necessary

Via Flickr  - US ArmyThere are plenty of companies and individuals making decisions over the past few weeks and for the coming few months that are based on a get-it-done strategy.  This is completely understandable as we all face unprecedented business and personal circumstances.  Looking on the bright side of things, some of these “as necessary” reactions and solutions may just be the spark that helps a company be a little more productive, a little more efficient or a little less stuck.

So what parts of the business world is grabbing attention that otherwise gets very little?  The mail room for sure.  Filing cabinets and the documents stuck in them, absolutely.  Virtual video conferencing backgrounds so nobody sees your bedroom, I mean home office.  The quality of the mobile phone carrier and the quality of headphones will definitely get a look.  There will be plenty of stories from people forced to work remotely or otherwise change their work habits.

Make sure to ask the questions and to listen to the stories.  These will be the big opportunities for the future and will help to make little improvements right now.  These improvements will include not only technology, but also physical elements too.  For instance, how far apart should workstations or machines be?  Should any door not have auto-open or hands-free operation? 

But even the wildest imagination won’t pick up on all of it.  There will always be issues that you just have to deal with and do what’s necessary.  If you have to, stagger the workforce hours to make sure your occupancy ratio doesn’t exceed 50% of the total employees, then do it.  If scanning mail and emailing it to employees is what is needed, then do it.  But keep an open mind and see what works or could work with the “As Necessary” process that could become a version of the eventual standard.

On the surface it may look simple

via Flickr - Cookieater2009Autonomous vehicles will make driving simple.  Get in, tell the car where to go, sit back and relax.  Artificial intelligence is going to read our minds and do our work for us.  The same goes for robots.  High speed data via 5G wireless will transform our lives by making these and other advancements possible. There are hundreds of steps and parts just to make a simple pencil.

The fact of the matter is that behind the scenes lots of hard work is happening to make something seem simple for the end users.  For example, what if artificial intelligence changes its mind or futuristic fabrics confuse the autonomous vehicle system so it doesn’t recognize a person in the street?  To keep it simple requires ongoing work by the engineers and tech teams.

It isn’t really that AI will change its mind so much as the data that is fed into the engine may pose a completely different point of view.  Just like the autonomous vehicle system will need to be retrained as our physical environment changes, so too will the AI system.  These are just some of the issues that will require ongoing effort to keep the appearance of simplicity for the end user.  After all, if its not simple, then it likely won’t survive as a solution.

As an example of a situation that will require re-training of the AI system, consider a corporate merger.  Company A has always classified its legal contracts in three ways, short term, long term and specialty.  Based on the contents of those three contract templates the AI engine can auto-classify them.  However, Company B uses different classification schemes; standard, custom and master.  After the merger, someone will need to reclassify the old documents so the system can re-learn.

It’s also possible that normal business transformation will take place altering document classification schemes.  As new applications are created and sources of information expand, the knowledge base of the AI engine will need to be modified.  This is evident already today with the newest document storage silos that hold corporate information, such as in chat bots and instant messaging systems.  Soon documents will be in a blockchain database or replaced altogether by data.  AI engines will not only need to get smart but will need to have access to all these systems.

As we plan for the introduction of AI into document management systems there are several things to focus on.  First, it has to make the whole process of document management simpler for the user, that is goal number 1.  Second, it also needs to have flexible architecture given the inevitable environmental changes that will occur.  Lastly, plan for regular audits of the data.  It will take an ongoing commitment to keep the information accurate – finding the right information easily and quickly is the business goal.  

Millennia Group has been providing document management solutions since 1996.  For more information, contact us at www.mgdocs.com, info@mgdocs.com or (630) 279-0577.

We feel guilty about tiny workspaces

via Flickr - BakokoThe open office concept is all the rage, both at work and on Wall Street.  It is not only being executed in corporate offices but there is a booming industry of shared office space startups that take open office to a whole new level.  These spaces do have some intriguing features like comfortable common areas to gather and in the case of shared office spaces like WeWork, beer on tap.

However, we have also seen the demoralizingly small workspaces at some companies and we hear the grumblings of workers about a lack of privacy and inability to focus.  We are not owners of office buildings, nor space designers.  We are, however, somewhat responsible for this phenomenon because we provide the tools that have enabled this to happen – workflow and document management.  We do feel a little guilty, but enabling tiny workspaces isn’t the whole story.

It is true that the reduction in cubicle size has dropped significantly due to the fact that each employee no longer requires file cabinets for document storage.  Desktops have shrunk since they aren’t stacked high with folders containing papers that need to be approved and signed.  In fact, your desk may not even be Your desk anymore, its just a desk that can be reserved by the employee that came into the office that day.

On the flip side, a well configured document management system means documents can be accessed within seconds.  No more hunting around the office for a missing document.  No more standing over the copier for an hour because the auditors need supporting documents ASAP.  No more wondering if the partially executed document that you did find in your desk is the best version available.  There is plenty of good that has come from electronic document management.

Far more good and efficiency has resulted from the implementation of document workflows.  Folders don’t need to be circulated around the office for approvals.  Unmanageable email based approvals, where nobody knows who dropped the ball, are a thing of the past.  Organized, trackable, reportable and mobile workflows have transformed how businesses function.  Growth and profitability have accelerated due to expanded operational flexibility and control.

Yes, we do feel a little guilty for those employees that find themselves in less than ideal work environments.  But at the same time, those employees can thank workflow and document management providers for eliminating a lot of daily frustration and wasted time.  We won’t feel guilty when you can solve a big customers problem from your couch on a Saturday during the big game.

Millennia Group provides workflow and document management solutions to businesses that are ready for a change.  Contact us at info@mgdocs.com, www.mgdocs.com or (630) 279-0577. 

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.

It’s Tax Day – Do you know where your Supporting Documents Are?

IRS Publication 4837, otherwise known as “Achieving Quality Examinations through Effective Planning, Execution and Resolution” published by the IRS Large Business and International Division, indicates that it would be wise to have supporting documents readily available when audited.  Because you want to defend your position and you really don’t want the cost of responding to the audit to be greater than the potential tax impact.

The IRS will make Information Document Requests (“IDRs”) to support claims made on any entities tax return involved in an audit.  Various types of documentation support revenue recognition and expense claims.  It is highly recommended that this documentation being organized, accessible and easily reproduced – sounds like a perfect scenario to justify an electronic document management system (“EDMS”).

Some types of documents that support revenue recognition are contracts, leases and licenses.  To support transactional events like acquisitions or dispositions, closing binders will have the required documents.  Expenses are of course supported by vendor invoices or contracts and payroll reports.  Other documentation includes bank statements, journal entries with supporting documents and even market reports (mark to market).

If your business is ever involved in an audit and the IRS issues an IDR, it is good practice to assemble the requested documentation in electronic format and retain an exact copy of the information provided.  That way as the IRS reviews and responds to the new information, you are looking at exactly the same information that they are.

Supporting documentation that is organized and electronic will speed up the audit process and reduce internal costs to respond.  Supporting documentation in an EDMS that can export the files and retain the organizational structure will greatly reduce response costs.  Supporting documentation actually linked to the specific tax forms and line items is a dream, possible, but a dream at this point.

Millennia Group, LLC, Information [Found] is Power – www.mgdocs.com, info@mgdocs.com, (630) 279-0577 x122

Do we really need a Secretary of the Future?

Via Flickr by Maurizio PesceThere are plenty of references in our daily lives to the future and yet, somehow, we don’t always spend time to really consider the future. Songs refer to the future, books refer to the future, so do TV shows and movies, the news and much more. Even the Government is now talking about a Secretary of the Future.

In fact, it may be very useful for all of us to spend a little time each week to consider the future. Not the dreamy type future, but the realistic future that is occurring right before our eyes. For instance, will you need a pen ten years from now or will every contract be signed digitally? Amazing how a simple thought like that can set a process of critical thinking in motion.

Try this to start focusing your critical business thinking in the right direction. Don’t ask yourself what the future will bring. Instead, try asking yourself what will be missing. Steering wheels? Laptops? File cabinets? Email? That’s right, if we only want to communicate with people in our network because email creates too much noise, we can use a Chat tool or LinkedIn.

Start thinking about the future and quickly all the possibilities and how they could benefit you and your organization get clearer. We see this future based thinking already in our client base. As our clients grow or move they make decisions about the physical space requirements and already they are eliminating the need for file cabinets. A little forward thinking is saving dollars today and well into the future.

So make sure you carve out some time on a regular basis to look at what is happening around you and what it may look like 5 or ten years from now. It really can be quite fun and produce tangible benefits at the same time.

For information on Millennia Group’s document imaging, workflow and management solutions please visit www.mgdocs.com or contact us at info@mgdocs.com or (630) 279-0577 x122.

Poor Man’s Business Intelligence

During a recent lunch conversation a comment was made about the great benefits of business intelligence (“BI”) – a tool used to connect lots of information dots to generate useful data. However, that was quickly followed by a second comment about the often failed attainment of those benefits. The culprit seems to be bad or incomplete historical data, ie data stuck in documents or inconsistently entered data.

Another discussion at this lunch centered on co-tenancy, a complicated topic that impacts the commercial real estate industry. As an example, a co-tenancy clause could allow one tenant to reduce its rent if another, typically significant, tenant exits the property. The significant tenant is a draw to the property that benefits other tenants. So how do these two topics relate?

Well as it turns out, there is a great need to connect lots of co-tenancy dots for property owners. When a national retailer goes bankrupt, many property owners scramble to find out which properties had that significant tenant and then what other tenants in those properties had a co-tenancy clause that would allow them to reduce rent.

This type of situation can easily occur in other industries as well. Think about the situation where a drug is now known to have bad side effects. The connection of the drug to all the patients out there is probably only a handwritten note on a piece of paper – not very connectable in the BI world.

So what is the answer beyond an extremely costly process of reading every document and putting all of that data into a database? Although not perfect, the use of full text search in conjunction with digital documents associated with good data can help. Scan a document and associate that document with the patient’s social security number. If the document has the drug name in a typed format, you could do a search for the drug name within all digital patient files. If the documents are associated with the SSN, the search results will contain the names of all those patients.

For the commercial real estate industry, the search could be for “co-tenancy” and “significant tenant name”. The results are all documents with a co-tenancy clause for “significant tenant name” and if the documents are associated with the right data, the results will be very useful. Note that there are some limitations to this approach, but with the right prep work, the results will generate big benefits.

This poor man’s BI is available in all of Millennia Group’s document management systems, because our implementation process always includes associating documents to key lists of data like tenants, patients or customers. If you would like to learn more about our solutions, please contact us at info@mgdocs.com, (630) 279-0577 or visit www.mgdocs.com.